Day 163 – sensorial meditations

I am watching The Buddha, narrated by Richard Gere. It is a documentary about the life of the Buddha, which means the ‘enlightened’ or ‘awakened one’. Using interviews with scholars, Buddhist monks and some animated depictions, the documentary chronicles the mythology surrounding Siddhartha Gautama from the time before his birth. Before achieving enlightenment, Siddhartha spent six years as an ascetic, forgoing food, drink, sleep or any other indulgences of the flesh. By denying the body all but the bare minimum to survive, the ascetics attempt to let go of their desire and find enlightenment. After six years, Siddhartha realises that he no longer has the strength to even meditate and on the verge of death remembers a time of unity he felt as a child, watching the insects in the ground at a spring planting festival. This connection to nature reminds him of the beauty of the simplicity of life. He eats and then finds the energy and the resolve to sit under the bodhi tree until he can find the answers to his questions about suffering and the transient nature of life. The documentary explains that Siddhartha moved away from the Vedic tradition that was steeped in ritual, and did not find solace in the renunciants path either. The tradition of Buddhism that he spread into the world is for every man, it is the middle path. It is neither the indulgence in sensorial pleasures nor the denial of what is necessary to survive.

I sigh as I step into the bath tub that smells of muscle relaxing salts. I realise I am at a crossroads in this meditation journey. Half the time I am delving deeply into the sensorial pleasures of meditation such as this bath and then every morning I spend an hour at least doing Sadhana in the austere Himalayan tradition, sitting rigidly with a straight spine and looping my breath endlessly. I know that I am walking closer to enlightenment every day, however I am not sure if I am on a straight path. It is true that I can now find meditation in nearly everything that I do, but I also find that I need the time to sit and be still and silent at least once a day. Like Buddha, I must find the middle path. I must find balance. I don’t believe I need to choose one path and follow it rigidly, but I think consistency is important and being a typical Vata personality, living in a busy, fast-paced city, I am in danger of being all over the place.

The Buddha says:

In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.

And:

It is better to travel well than to arrive.

So perhaps my two paths are not so different after all. Maybe it is better to take the scenic route to enlightenment and enjoy every last drop?

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