I rarely venture to try to write on this subject , mostly I think because of my lack of definition to what that word completely entails and also in the recent times the word has been mauled so much that people wonder how any self respecting rational person can talk about rationality and spirituality in the same breath .
Anyways after reading a article yesterday and sleeping over it , I decided to express my views on certain points in the article , essentially because I needed to clear up my head on those ideas .
Here is the article that I am referring to .( The article is the last one on the page , his address to india today conclave )
So why do I think i should comment on this article? I took a course with the isha foundation a year back and have been a regular follower of all their courses and talks ever since . I can see how much difference that has had on me in the past one year , so I have some kind of experience that I can speak from .
The other reason is that I have always been generally interested in spirituality , questions on life , after life , death and so have been following and reading up a lot on these subjects , primarily more so in the last year.
Here is what Akhtar says .
"Now, if you leave your mind what do you do? You need the Guru to find the next station of consciousness. That hides somewhere in the spirit. He has reached the supreme consciousness, he knows the supreme truth."
Leaving the part about the what the Guru tells you , Akhtar questions the need for having a Guru . In our life at every instant we have a teacher trying to teach us something . Parents teach us how to behave in the society , teachers at school teach us math and science , mentors at work teach us how to get around at work , so why is it that in this one sphere we so abhor the idea of having a teacher . I can read all the Vedas , Upanishads or whatever I want , but it could be possible that I did not understand what was written in them , is it wrong for me to approach a spiritual teacher at that point of time ? I would think not.
I think the reactionary feeling to the word Guru is primarily because of its misuse in English language and also the prevalence of hoax Gurus all around .
Akhtar then talks about the Gurus trying to paint a picture of a supreme cosmos , trying to lure people into believing that there is something out there that only the Guru understands and that is why we need to go to him . So I dnt know if a supreme cosmos exists or not and at this point it does not matter to me , but looking at this rationally why do we go to a engineerning college to pursue further education , because we believe professors at the university know have a deeper understanding of that subject and I would like to learn from them . I dnt see how this is different than from going to a Guru who has a deeper understanding of the spiritual subject. Also it can happen sometimes that our professors really dnt know anything and we end up pursuing other sources or figuring it out on own , I would expect the same intelligence to carry over when you go talk to a Guru . We should be able to figure out if he really knows the subject or not .
Next he talks about
"You see that the clientele is well heeled, it is the affluent class."
He claims that only the rich and powerful are the people who go in search of a Guru and so you see the Guru chooses to hang out with only affluent people because that has some kind of material perks for him. One thing I want to make clear is I have disregarded all kinds of hoax Gurus from this conversation , I am talking about the few genuine ones.
So at isha this is not essentially true , because I know they do programs with prisoners , villagers and all too because their belief is that no matter where the individual is in his life , there exists the possibility of a him being a happy person . A happy person would then translate into everything else a good person , a good citizen etc .
Anyways coming back to the point , why is it that most of the times the clientelle is rich
1) From a poor man's perspective , there is always something higher that he desires and has a belief saying once I get that it will give me happiness . So there is always a yearning for something bigger that keeps him going . Again this does not apply to every one , there could be a lot of people who are poor and very contented , I am saying it does for most people. But if you look at a rich man's life there comes a point where there are very little desires left in his life that have not been fulfilled , and there is a certain kind of frustration that creeps up in his life , he thinks I have everything I want , why is it that fulfilling all these desires still does not give me any kind of contentment . If they are the thinking types they would then go ahead and start looking at the nature of desire , contentment and how to derive that .
We have all been taught "Ohh be content with what you have" , but the problem is there is a big difference between knowing something and experiencing it and that is where the Guru comes in according to me , giving you guidelines as to how go about the path of contentment , acceptance and ultimately bliss.
2) Another reason I think is that only when a society is free from the problems of sustenance only then can they explore other areas of life . Like art does not florish in a poor , malnourished society , why is that? It is because all the subtle aspects of human nature would show up only when people's mind are free to explore these aspects . If I dnt know where to get food for my family tommorow , I am very unlikely to go around painting a nude women .
Sprituallity and self awareness are also very subtle aspects of human nature which need a certain balanced environment to flourish .
3) Why is that the Gurus always target rich and powerful people ? So like I mentioned before a happy and a balanced person would translate into a good friend , good husband and a good citizen but imagine only if the president of your country was in the same state , how much more difference can he bring to the world . If the President is a man of extremes , has family issues , personal issues , alcoholism , mental diseases , physical diseases , how do you think he is going to rule the country vs a President who is balanced , healthy , can think consciously in stress situations , has a loving family . The future of 300 million people could be changed entirely by having such a president . So it makes sense to have Spiritual people in seats of power because the future of a entire nation can be changed by that .
Next he talks about life events
"Then there are other people. Who are suddenly traumatized. They lose a child. The wife dies. The husband dies. Or they lose the property, they lose their business. Something happens that shocks them and they ask - why me? So who do they ask? They go to the Guru. And the guru tells him that this is Karma. But there is another world if you follow me. Where there is no pain. Where there is no death. Where there is immortality. Where there is only bliss. He tells all these unhappy souls - follow me and I will take you to the heaven, to the paradise, where there is no pain. I am sorry sir, it is disappointing but true that there is no such paradise. Life will always have a certain quota of pain, of hurts, a possibility of defeats. But they do get some satisfaction."
So Akhtar tries to say that the Gurus are mechanism of providing people with solace . In my experience that is not true . A popular misconception is well these Gurus would just do some magic to you and get you going but a true Guru is not a pill that you can pop in , but a exercise regime that you need to practice to get into a physically fit state . All I have learnt as Isha is that this life does not always happen the way you want it to . You can either give up , blame life for being unfair to you or you can accept it and then see what to do about this . Acceptance and taking responsibility I think are the two main pedestals to leading a happy life. No true Guru will ever tell you , come to me and all your problems will be solved , he will actually go ahead and warn you , only if you are willing to sweat it out in a marathon come to me , or else go home there is always the option of having virtual avatars run the race for you :-)
"You may ask me, that if I have this kind of ideas about religious people, why should I show such reverence for Krishan and Kabir and Gautam? You can ask me. I'll tell you why I respect them. These were the great contributors in the human civilization. They were born in different points of time in history, in different situations. But one thing is common in them. They stood up against injustice. They fought for the downtrodden. "
I am a little ambiguous on this but will try to answer this too . I think this is a case of revolt vs reform . What method do you choose to do away with the injustice . There are two ways of doing this fight the system or reform the system . I think by trying to address issues with our leaders , the Gurus are trying to take the later approach . I know Jaggi Vasudev is regularly a part of economic forums trying to talk to world leaders about the economic policies they implement. Does that mean these spiritual leaders have given up on the poor people , i dnt think so , they run schools , adopt villages and work with prisoners . It is just a matter of how do you want to do it , by means of running a revolution or by silently working your way up in it . In todays times revolution would not be a viable option i would guess , also given that we have media , technology and other things at behest we might be able to lead a more silent revolution that can bring about big changes.
Overall I think Akhtar missed out on looking at the complete picture but just used his perceptions to come up to the argument .
Having said all this I think it is time I put forward my own definition of spirituality .
1) First I dnt understand , or know anything about a higher consciousness and so I decide to skip over that in my definition
2) To me this world is the highest definition of anything . Nature is GOD and no other GOD exists
3) Spirituality to me on a personal level means being self aware and honest with onself
4) It is about having a balance in life - most of the times we are so pulled away by outside forces ( animal instincts i call them ) that we are always operating in some kind of extreeme . Extreeme sadness , guilt , anger , excitement . The problem with that is such emotions is that they are like glue , pulling you down to the ground , emotions should be like water , have fun stepping into the puddle of water but then when you choose you can move on .
5) And ultimately spirituality is about understanding the transitory nature of life , we are born and will die one day , neither our birth nor our death will cause any major changes to this world , it has and will keep moving on .
So all we need to do is have the maximum fun while we are here because as they say " The holiday will end sooner or later "