Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Buddha in My World

I just finished reading Pankaj Mishra’s, ‘An End to Suffering’. Don’t worry, I don’t do reviews.

I just thought I would put down some of it here, stuff which spoke to me at a personal level. These are thoughts which I too have ruminated about at different times in my own life (my god, how old do I sound here?!), thoughts which I wanted to express but hadn’t gotten around to saying them, and anyway, couldn’t have said it better even if I had tried. So here goes…

“…I had so little to speak of, so little to claim for myself. I couldn’t stop being awed by what seemed to be their confident sense of who they were and what they could do. The privilege of having settled opinions and a steady view of the world: this was what people like Vinod and myself, all of us who had yet to know ourselves, longed for in different ways.”

“…Much of my life had been sheltered, spent in reading and daydreaming.”

“…But now I was settling into my new self- the self that had traveled and imagined that it had learnt much. I didn’t know then that I would use up many more such selves, that they would arise and disappear, making all experience hard to fix and difficult to learn from.”

“…In her own world- the streets and crowds of London, the vegetarian restaurant near London University where we presently went to have lunch- she appeared diminished.”

“…But there seemed something so particularly zestful and sympathetic about her, so without guile, that fantasy couldn’t but come tainted with guilt.”

“…things which that morning had added to my nervousness and made me think that I had arrived in the middle of a long and complicated film.”

“…the oppressive solitude that one could know in a large city, the lives of private longing and frustration which many of the people in the crowds seemed to lead, on whom the glittering past of the large metropolis that attracted a visitor like myself no longer cast its spell.”

“…they wanted to be accommodated beyond the life they had so far known, where they could shed the narrow racial or national identity they had been into and devote themselves to the making of money, the pursuit of learning and the search for love and freedom.”

“…To the more frustrated among them modernity already appeared as a tall mountain, where a few people already occupied the summit, watching others inch up the steep slopes, occasionally throwing down a tattered rope but, more often, giant boulders."

“…about the impulse to divide life into manageable parts, about the city as a collection of solitary individuals brought together briefly by a few shared interests.”

“…man as a psychological complex, who is a consequence of his past dispositions, of how and what he thought and said and did.”

“…He grasps them all but without clutching them, and he soon allows them to escape from his hands so as to run after new enjoyments.”

“…The constant striving for achievement, for the fulfillments that were small and brief in retrospect appeared empty, the effort to simply maintain a way of life that affirmed one’s identity, the hardening of social roles- all of this I had begun to see in my own life and understand more clearly.”

“Walk alone.
If they answer not thy call, walk alone;
If they are afraid and cower mutely facing the wall,
O thou of evil luck,
Open thy mind and speak out alone.”

And finally,

“Whatever beings may exist- weak or strong, tall, broad, medium or short, fine material or gross, seen or unseen, those born and those pressing to be born- may they all be without exception happy in heart!
Let no one deceive anyone else, nor despise anyone anywhere. May no one wish harm to another in anger or ill will!
Let one’s thoughts of boundless-loving kindness pervade the whole world, above, below, across, without obstruction, without hatred, without enmity!”

In unrelated news, discovered a bright clean scratch- probably made by a sharp metal object like a key or pocketknife or something- right down the whole left side of my car which caused me a lot of heartburn.

Darn, must have been one of those kids in my apartment complex who have been going berserk, playing Holi, today. Or could it be the guy who parks his motorcycle right next to my car? Or could it be the old fool with whom I had an argument in the park a couple of week’s back? Had he tracked me down and wreaked his vengeance upon my prized possesion?

When something like this happens, notwithstanding any amount of Buddhist philosophy that I may read, a small good part of me dies.

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