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 one’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 causes great joy.
No one can reap good without incurring danger and if someone succeeds in preserving life amidst danger, that s/he is sure to earn great benefits (Mahabharata, Shanti Parva, 140.34). A person who cleans up the chimney has to be tainted by smoke. Buddha spent nearly 6 years at Uruvilva almost tearing his body almost to death in rigourous ascetic practices before he could really find what it was to be a spiritual person. His spirituality came out of a search for meaning through rigorous tests and failures. He and several other Indian and other ascetics and mystics spent their lifetime to discover that vision and way of life that made them truly spiritual. But it is worth spending one’s lifetime in order to discover that which makes life worth living.
The essence of spirituality is the same in both the West and the East. It gains its distinct flavor in meaning and practices through its placement in the human and the natural environment. For instance, both Buddha and Mahavira, founders of Buddhist and Jain religions gave shape to their spiritual discovery in a context of ethnic rivalry, class oppression and state violence. They promoted compassion and sense of respect for life, congregational living and equitable sharing, etc. Truly the context shaped their...