Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Ajahn Sumedho - Sense of the Sacred

Very cool new article.
Sense of the Sacred
Ajahn Sumedho

I spent six months in India this year [2003]. And as soon as we arrived in Bombay I felt this sense of being at home. In countries like India and Thailand, monks, sadhus or holy men, or whatever you want to call them, are so much part of the culture that you feel unquestionably accepted there. Even though most people in India don’t know much about Buddhism, they know you are someone who is trying to live the holy life, and you feel this incredible acceptance. In India everything fits in, no matter how weird, diseased, strange or eccentric it might be. The fact that you are there means you belong. So I found it to be a very pleasant country to be in.

I spent two months in Benares, which is a holy city for the Hindus, and I always find it one of the most interesting cities in the world. I was staying right on the ghats, right near the main ghat, in fact, just watching life going on; you see marriages taking place, corpses burning, pujas, and people bathing. The Hindus love to bathe in the river Ganges, and they go by their thousands to do it; the cows and water buffaloes also bathe in the river, and the sewage goes into it, and human and animal corpses are thrown into it, and they also wash their clothes in it ― it takes everything.

So, India is an interesting place to be ― once you get over the initial shock that it gives Westerners; it is a culture in which the sense of the sacred is still very much alive, still active and functioning; and Benares in particular is a city where everything is sacred, no matter how good or bad, clean or dirty, or right or wrong. The sense of sacredness is palpable in that place; in fact the whole city is like a puja to the great river Ganges, and there is this powerful devotion to the various deities ― Shiva, usually, or Kali or Ganesha ― and there is this sense of recognising something beyond just the material world and individual needs.
Read the whole article.

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