Sunday, February 3, 2013

The iPad monk

We just experienced a heat wave last week with temperatures reaching mid 40s. My new lawn and plants screamed for water by the end of each day.

Fortunately the weather has improved and I have just woken up sitting up in my bed enjoying the respite provided by the awesome power of nature. It is as if the Universe has decided to let us know - not to take things for granted and enjoy the value of each day presented to us.

I hear the familiar "Triiing" sound coming from my phone, telling me I have an SMS.

"Surrender to divine authority means liberation from physical illusions, not from the delights and the comfort of physical life" - an SMS from my daughter.

"Dad do you remember our discussion about the monk we saw who had an iPad?" she followed with another SMS. What a heavy subject so early in the morning.

Of course I remember the discussion we had, it revolved around the topic - should spiritual enlightenment be synonymous to poverty or living in abstinence?

Our discussion centred on a monk we saw in a shopping centre who had an iPad in his hand. He also had a number of shopping bags drabbed over his shoulders. I remember thinking the monk stood out like a sore thumb, as if a monk with an iPad shopping in an up-market shopping centre does not belong to each other.

The SMS from my daughter makes so much sense as it hits the nail right on the head - surrendering to divine authority does not necessarily mean spiritually connected people should live a life of poverty and in servitude.

"Indeed a good discussion" Universe started.

"Oh you have an opinion about this?" pulling out my iPad.

" I have a question?"

"Shoot" frantically typing away on my iPad. (I am not a monk)

"Why do you assume that a Buddhist monk, or indeed any religious person, OUGHT TO live in abstinence, stripped to the most basic level of subsistence living, devoid of normal human physical needs, comforts and convenience of everyday modern life?"

I had to think about this question and after about 5 minutes the best I could scrap up is...

"That is normal. Everyone knows that and I also see most religious people doing just that. They sacrifice their lives for spiritual growth"

"What is normal may not necessarily be natural"

"Smoking has been considered normal behaviour for as long as you can remember and in some societies a mandatory mark of adulthood. People caught in fires generally die of asphyxiation through smoke inhalation and not from burns and yet we fill our lungs out with the same smoke that kills. Would you call this normal behaviour natural?"

"OK, I see your point - are you then saying that religious figures can then be multi millionaires, drive BMWs and live in grandiose mansion?" A good question I thought.

"Heard of the saying: Man does not live on bread alone?"

"In 1 Corinthian 6:12 it is also said "Everything is permissible for me, but I will not be mastered by anything"

"Siddharta Gautama did not achieve enlightenment until he lived a balanced life and stopped submitting himself to a life of rigorous ascetic practices"

"Countless pain and suffering are being brought about by people trying to find salvation through deprivation of the body. The only way to find salvation is through the body not away from it."

"And your point being, the only naturally way to head towards a spiritual life, is striking a balanced lifestyle, one that is right for us individually?"

"What I am saying is, deprivation of the natural needs of the body does not guarantee anyone a path to attaining spiritual growth. We all have our individual paths as we fulfil the agendas of our souls. We all have a reason for being on this earth in our physical forms and the only way we experience our agendas is through the temple of the spirit called body. So look after it, care for it, fine-tune it as it is only in this physical body form you receive salvation"

"So it is our perception that categorises what being spiritual is all about? Up till now I have automatically assumed that when someone dresses in some form of uniform, deprive themselves and live a community of relatively simple life and practice some form of religious rituals  - is more spiritual than me. I almost automatically give the person respect because of this perspective of mine. In fact I always feel inadequate in their presence and yearn to have what they have or what I perceive that they may have. And if they live 'our lives' like shopping in a shopping centre and having a haircut, we automatically assume that they have succumbed to our non-spiritual lives. I am kinda stuffed up you would say."

"You want to stop beating yourself up . You must remember you too have your own journey"

"So what you are saying is: I may be as, if not more spiritual than those monks or religious figures I encounter in my life?"

"I repeat, you want to stop beating yourself up and stay in the know that you too have your own journey"

"OK ok"

"I have more questions. What does a balanced lifestyle mean? What is right for me may not be right for the others? How do I know if enough is enough? How do I know I am not depriving myself?....."

"You will when you know"

"What kind of answer is that? It does not make sense.... I need more answer"


I guess the Universe has enough.

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