Sunday, July 02, 2006

Mnemonics of Conscience

Religion, in the sense of cultivation of enlightened sensibility, is an ancient and living force in India. It is like a river that ever absorbs other strands and streams in processes of renewal. The Buddha spoke of "the wheel of Dharma", which he turned through his teaching. He is a key figure in the renewal and revitalisation of Sanatana Dharma, or age-old Religion, which is a natural heritage of humanity

Personal religious practice, as explained in the religious scriptures, is a means to transcend the bonds imposed by one's ego, which in turn is subject to the sensations of flesh. Desire and grasping become the cause of endless suffering as action and reaction feed one another in cycles of birth and rebirth. Lust, rage, greed, attachment, ... are the basic pernicious weaknesses to be combated. Liberation or Moksha lies in dwelling in cosmic or divine consciousness, free from the clouded perception of ego-driven consciousness, or maya.

The path advocated, to go from maya to Moksha involves the nurturing within oneself of higher aspirations, sensibilities and faculties. Sustained personal practice in this direction, in an existential sense, built upon a foundation of unswerving faith, and centred around a Guru or teacher, is each person's road to liberation.

In this context, there abound mnemonics of conscience: the Eight-fold Path; the Three Jewels; the Four Virtues; the Six Evils; and so on. All of these seek to act as incendiary capsules in the seeker's consciousness, whose activation recalls with force the straying seeker's mission. They are means to enable such a remembrance to be induced involuntarily. Thus, for instance, the number six, or six objects, or the sixth of a month, all prick the conscientious seeker's conscience, making him redouble his efforts.

To further embed triggers of conscience deep within the seeker's consciousness, there are tales, like those in the Buddhist Jataka, illustrating specific human qualities, positive and negative. Through their symbolic language, imagery and microscopic view of human behaviour, such tales have powerful resonances in the seeker's psyche. Hence there has always been a close link between India's living faith and her fecund literary imagination.

(I was at a complete loss trying to select an image to accompany this narrative. I’d like to direct readers to this website which has some calligraphic treasures.)

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Greets to the webmaster of this wonderful site! Keep up the good work. Thanks.
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Yves said...

Your calligraphic image is an inspired illustration! I followed a guru (known in India as Balyogeshwar, but he left for America at the age of 15) for 30 years, which in retrospect seems foolish. I'm afraid I see the guru system as intrinsically corrupt, and also find myself an iconoclast who would like to make a big bonfire of the old religions: not to destroy their scriptures, but to discourage their worship. Perhaps it is in "the West" that they cannot be properly understood. (I have not wanted to use this expression "The West" without understanding it too. Doesn't it mean "the self-styled dominant world caste of white people"? I am white but shudder from the implications.)