An Essence in the World | Veneeta Singha 2013
As the discourse of ‘nirvana’ in the Seventies gradually gave way to an urbanized social paradigm, Eastern Philosophies, particularly Buddhist spiritualism, became known to have given spiritual and life-fulfilling support to many people thrown about in urban angst and alienation. Taking a Postmodern perspective, it is common these days to find skepticism of these spiritual notions - some of them have been transposed into mere buzzwords and catchphrases for the jocular and the pedantic. Transcendental modes of thought, however, continuously prevail and offer solace to the world weary and the needy of spiritual sustenance. There remains, though, a schism or a chasm between those who embrace and appreciate Buddhist ideologies and those who find them divorced from the real world and its multiplicity of existential modes and melee.
Spiritualism in relief
What promise does a Buddhist notion hold for a person relatively in sync with the outer world? What inner world guidance does it offer for the restive soul? Living in Nepal has its philosophical perks – there are statues and art of the Buddha by the multitudes; centers and monasteries that welcome those in search; and Stupas and Spiritual Guides visibly present in our cityscapes. Have you read the book titled The Buddha of Suburbia? It failed to capture my imagination but it did pique my curiosity. Has Buddhism, for the ordinary man and woman, been relegated to a level of post-modern curiosity and this, too, in the land where the Buddha was born? I hope to visit Lumbini someday – should I not, then, have found some enlightenment through the teachings of the Buddha? Sometimes mistaken as a pop culture symbol for the three-dimensional of persuasion, Buddhism - in all its manifestations - must mean more even to the skeptics.
Cynics would argue that these spiritual ideals offer little more than fanciful escape routes and semi-idealistic visions which do not reflect a modern consciousness. To me, through years of having lived and learnt, they are almost mystical and, thus, mysterious. Sometimes I think going for meditation or even just meditating should not be perceived as quite so ‘up in the clouds’. I read, once, about Tantric Buddhism. It was laden with even more complexity and metaphysical awareness. We must have lost the meanings to myths.
When people approach spirituality, many are careful not to impose or take away too much. I am fortunate to have found this opportunity to reflect on Buddhism in the present day. Does the 21st century herald a new chapter in spiritual dialectics and, hence, in the Buddhist way of life? Repudiating the ‘instant gratification’ and ‘money is everything’ idioms is not difficult. It is a trying task, though, to find the true essence of Buddha’s teachings brought to bear on the present beyond the clichés, sound bites and modern beliefs.
The real world is multi-dimensional. Oftentimes, one’s own lot seems not unlike that of the two protagonists in Waiting for Godot – endlessly waiting but endlessly experiencing, nevertheless. The archetypal man or woman of the world may have lost the parables and the hyperbole, but people do often turn to study, meditation, spiritual guidance, and the freedom that lies within much of Buddha’s renunciation and enlightenment. Where does the tipping point really lie or is it even necessary? Inculcating a simple approach to life and to all living beings cannot be a cataclysmic turning over a new leaf, surely? Learning about a spiritual philosophy that ‘grasps the wholeness of life’ and, thus, is ‘an awakening’ in and of itself could, however, be a difficult undertaking. Nobel Laureate Hermann Hesse starts his renowned book Siddhartha with these words:
“In the shade of the house, in the sunshine on the riverbank by the boats, in the shade of the sallow wood and the fig tree, Siddhartha…grew up with his friend Govinda.”
[Original posting: my TUMBLR blog]