The Fulbright is the vehicle that brought me to India, but really this is a journey of spirit as much, maybe more, than of intellect. Of course, they are all tied up together–mind, body, spirit–and imagination as well. The Buddha and the Hindu Upanishads both stress inquiry as part of the spiritual path, and I do honor the intellect, yet who we are, our essence isn’t the mind, nor is it the body. I suppose that’s what the soul-spirit-consciousness is.
I don’t know of any other country where the spiritual is so integral to the culture as India. Rakhal, my liaison at the college told me that for some Hinduism is a religion. For others it’s a philosophy, a way of life. I’ve never really explored Hinduism before. It seemed confusing–all those gods and goddesses. That’s one reason I’m drawn to Zen rather than Tibetan Buddhism. Too many deities to keep straight and I’m at a place where I want simplicity. But I’m developing a deeper respect for these complex religions. I especially love the way Hinduism embraces all. Jesus is a Hindu saint, probably to the chagrin of some of the more fundamentalist factions. Buddha, too, and Ghandi. They’ve all made their way into the pantheon of Hindu immortals.
And I’m beginning to grasp the value of having so many different aspects of the divine–and in a sense of ourselves. The gods aren’t reality but rather metaphorical representations of reality. They hold our egos up for examination and show us both the good and bad of who we are.
The Buddha and other mystics have also taught that we all have the potential for enlightenment, that God is inside us. It’s up to us to uncover it. Even Immanuel Kant wrote “God is not an external substance, but rather a moral condition inside us.”
I’ve met some truly wise people in my life, and some with a fire in their hearts and a breathtaking passion for living, but I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone I consider truly enlightened. I know I’m nowhere close and doubt that I’ll achieve it in this lifetime. But I’ll continue to sit on my cushion, and o, what a journey it is.