A NOTE ON EASTERN SPIRITUALITY
Dr. Vincent Sekhar, S.J.
Spirituality is often like a live fish that slips off from the hand even before we could hold it. The term defies all definitions. Spirituality is not a finished product or a commodity for sale. One can not name it or purchase it for ready money. It is like the clay, which evolves into a pot of different shape and size. It is never stereotyped but provides space in choosing the shape and size one wants to suit oneâ€™s temperaments. Spirituality is primarily an inner (r)evolution that guides and motivates the person, as a relevant response to the environment. Its process is like the birth of a child, which is both painful and which ...view middle of the document...
Truly the context shaped their spiritual outcome and the surrounding which molded their Spirit. There is no dichotomy in the understanding of spirituality either in the East or in the West. But it is not difficult to point out certain features that distinguish the East from the West.
Eastern Spirituality is primarily a search: a search for direction and meaning. It is a search into the meaning of life and death, sorrow and joy, engagement and retirement, relationship and solitude, and so on. It is a search for the foundation(s) of all of these. The founders of Brahmo Samaj, the Arya Samaj, the Ramakrishna Mission, the Theosophical movement, and persons like Sri Aurobindo, Sri Ramana, Sri Narayana Guru and a host of others were seekers and pathfinders. Eastern Spirituality recognizes diversity as a basic attitude of any search. The pathfinders of eastern religions based their reflections on experience, personal and social, and discovered the self as the centering place and the focal point, the beginning and the end but reaching out to others. But ultimately their search for meaning brought them closed to their very self. It was an inward quest or interior journey, often contrasted with the material, physical and the external. But on the contrary, this very inward quest sought the hidden dimensions in the materialistic, external world. Hence to discover the self or oneself, according to the Wise, is like the search for the fine pearls or the field (Mathew, 13:44-46), which contained life-treasures. That was the source of variety, of creativity and dullness, potentials and liabilities, ease and dis-ease, joys and sorrowsâ€¦It was, to the pathfinders, a passage into and a discovery of the sacred!
They also found that by discovering oneself one should be able to discover the other, illustrated by the Golden Rule â€œas it would be to youâ€¦ so would it be to others.â€ It was the knowledge of the self that was the boat to cross the river of boundaries of time and history, of physical and empirical, and so on. To be personal (open to the self) was the stepping to be trans-personal (an entry into the mysterious, the difficult other), a strategy of our time, much used for success in the marketing and business world. One needs to understand the other, the customer. It sounds paradoxical to say that self-knowledge leads one to self-transcendence!
As one is in touch with the self, one could listen to and discern the voice of the many spirits at work, a primer to active engagement in life. It amounts to say that Eastern Spirituality is primarily contemplative. It contemplates on the different experiences of day-to-day life, of ideas, events, environment and the like. It is experience-based and engagement-oriented. Many would like to see Spirituality not as a mere idea or concept, but as lived praxis. It should resonate with the longings of the human heart for something permanent and lasting, for peace and joy. This was the concern of Buddha too....