Saturday, July 16, 2011

Spirituality 4

Story Method

Swan, Malahide Estuary, March, 2011
There are many methods of learning from the Socratic Method which proceeds by the radical questioning of assumptions, through the linear reasoning of logic and mathematics, then the formulaic method of laid out questions with the prescribed scholarly answers (as in the catechistic approach) all the way down to brain-storming all the possible solutions to a problem or to what Edward de Bono calls Lateral Thinking.  However, since ancient times there is one vital method called teaching and learning through story - associated with the great religious and spiritual teachers like the Buddha and Jesus Christ.  One could certainly argue that the Buddha never founded a religion, but rather a method of coping with life through the practice of meditation.  One could also argue, though somewhat less categorically that neither did Jesus Christ, and with other scholars who emphasise that it was St Paul and his allies who founded the Christian Church.  Admittedly this last point is a very moot and controversial one indeed, and is far from the tenor of this post.  Suffice it to say, that both the Buddha and Jesus were marvellous story-tellers and by using this form of teaching they captivated their audience.  Their stories were meant to make their listeners question their own motivations, assumptions and presuppositions and to get to know themselves and to live a good and authentic life based on principles of justice and truth.  I have written much on the role of story in these pages before as clicking on the story label will verify.  Socrates also wished his followers to question their own motivations, assumptions and presuppositions, but he preferred to do so through logical argumentation.  Now, as I promise I will recount a few stories to make the reader wake up, as my teacher Anthony de Mello succinctly and authentically puts it:

Story 1: A Buddha Story

One day a man was walking down a country road somewhere in India when he saw the Buddha approaching from the other direction.  This man had never heard of Siddhartha Gautama or the Buddha, but he noticed that there was a radiance that surrounded this individual.  He looked joyful and serene.  So the man asked this impressive stranger,

"Are you a spirit?"

"No," replied the Buddha.

"Then you must be an angel so?"

"No," replied the Buddha.

"Ah, you must be one of the gods in that case?"

"No," answered Siddhartha Gautama again.

"Well, what are you so?" asked the man

The Buddha replied, "I am awake!"

Implications of the Story

Malahide Estuary, March, 2011
 In Sanskrit the word "Buddha" means "the awakened one" or again the one who has woken up through being aware, through living in the NOW.  Jack Maguire in his wonderful Essential Buddhism, (Simon & Schuster, N.Y., 2001) and from whom I have taken the above story and summarised it in my own words, tells us that the word "Buddha" derives etymologically "from the same Indo-European root that gives us the English word bud.  In this sense, the Buddha was a sentient being who managed to bud and then bloom into total consciousness of his nature, or, to use a more traditional expression, into enlightenment.  The amazing truth of the matter is that we are all potential Buddhas, perfect and complete right in this moment, but very few of us realize it." (Op. cit., p. 2)

A Story from de Mello

In One Minute Wisdom (Anand Press, India, 1985, 1990) de Mello offers us the following story under the title Spirituality and the implication is so obvious that I hardly need spell it out here, but seeing as this post is about wakening up or being aware, I will state the obvious: for de Mello spirituality is equivalent to AWARENESS.  Now for the story:

Even though it was the Master's Day of Silence a traveller begged for a word of wisdom that would guide him through life's journey.  The Master nodded affably, took a sheet of paper and wrote a single word on it: "Awareness."

The visitor was perplexed.  "That's too brief.  Would you please expand on it a bit?"

The Master took the sheet of paper and wrote:  "Awareness, awareness, awareness."

"But what does the word mean?  said the traveller helplessly.

The Master reached out for the paper again and wrote:  "Awareness, awareness, awareness means AWARENESS."

(Op. cit., p. 9)

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