In this reflexive piece the author has invoked Gautam Buddha, and reflected on the moment of awakening.
Uttam a theater activist and writer situated in West Bengal.
As I look at the sky and see the full moon, I feel extraordinary joy as well as intense pain. Yes, there is great joy because the radiant moon takes me closer to Gautam Buddha, I get enchanted by his enlightened face filled with love and compassion. But then, there is pain because I become immediately aware of the fact that I live in a world characterized by all-pervading darkness; with ugly religion and ugly politics we seem to be far away from the path that Buddha showed us. Yet, I believe we should not lose hope, we should not stop our quest for the eternal light of illumination.
I live in this phenomenal world. I pass through its cycle of pleasure and pain. I am earthly; my ego, my material desire, my human vulnerability remain with me. Yet, whenever I contemplate on Buddha, something happens to me. Possibly, I pass through some sort of inner churning. I begin to feel that our desire or greed is the root cause of our suffering, our ‘dukkha’. Yes, I know that with my embodied existence I need food, clothing and shelter to survive. But then, I keep thinking why this organic need gets transformed into greed–desire for more, desire for possession, desire for immense material wealth and power. And with this neurotic desire I become violent–eternally restless, insecure and and envious.
These days consumerism or the principle of conspicuous consumption has become the new religion; malls and market sites have become ‘sacred’ spaces! As we begin to see ourselves as consumers with never-ending needs, we fall into the trap of ‘dukkha’ or pain–always unhappy, always living with a sense of lagging behind.
Is it that we fail to distinguish the temporal from the eternal? The euphoria of ‘success’ or the curve of ‘failure’ is temporal, fleeting; nothing remains permanent. The car that fulfils me today becomes old-fashioned tomorrow; and I begin to see myself as ‘poor’ unless I buy a new car which too will become old-fashioned after a couple of years. In other words, I am trying to hold what is essentially temporal; I am equating life’s purpose with temporal pleasure. As a result, never do I succeed in coming out of this trap? My body will decay; my physical beauty will wither away; I will die. Yet, with fashion/beauty industry, all sorts of insurances and medical technology I tend to entertain the illusion that I will be immortal. I invite pain: the inevitable breakdown of my faulty ego.
No wonder, old age, death and pain emerged as revealing stories that altered Prince Siddharth, and led to his quest for ‘nirvana’. This ‘nirvana’, as I cognize intellectually, is not a psychology of mourning or depression; nor is it a doctrine of retreat into passivity. Instead, it is this ‘middle path’–the nuanced art of living with minimal needs and clarity of vision–that restores calmness, freedom from violence, bad words and bad deeds.
True, my world is a site of desire causing violence, be it the violence of the state or the market. True, like many I too am violent, aggressive and conflict-ridden. Yet, as I see the enlightened face of Buddha in the luminous full moon, I begin to believe that possibly a flower inside my soul is trying to bloom. At that very moment, life acquires a new meaning.