Opinion Op Ed 30 Jun 2016 Mystic Mantra: Buddh ...
Swati Chopra writes on spirituality and mindfulness. Blog: swatichopra.com

Mystic Mantra: Buddha & Brexit

Published Jun 30, 2016, 2:00 am IST
Updated Jun 30, 2016, 2:00 am IST
When Gautama Buddha left his home, family and kingdom, it was an exit whose reverberations would continue for 2,500 years and benefit countless beings.
 When Gautama Buddha left his home, family and kingdom, it was an exit whose reverberations would continue for 2,500 years and benefit countless beings.

On the face of it, the heartburn around “Brexit” is about continental and global politics, economics, attitudes to immigration, and so on. But at its core lies an emotionally complex space — of familial division. The earliest humans figured out by instinct that they had a better chance of surviving if they stuck together rather than go it alone. It was simply easier and less dangerous to hunt, gather, farm, raise families and live, if done collectively as a group. And therein lay the seed of family and society — the benefit of togetherness.

Even so, living in close proximity was never easy. Rules and laws came to be established to govern behaviour as soon as the first humans began living with one other. What was acceptable and what wasn’t continually changed over millennia and became increasingly complex as societies evolved. The task of rule giving and enforcement often fell upon the pater familias — the authoritative male head of a social unit, who would in conjunction with other patres familias, ensure that order and status quo were maintained and perpetuated.

Challenge to authority, to the way things are and have been, continues to invoke an almost primal fear of the group’s disbanding and a return to a pre-societal reality where one stood alone against forces beyond one’s control. While the family, as the first rung of social organisation, is almost indispensable to human community, it can also be the purveyor of illiberal authoritarianism. A “happy family” can be one where dissent is suppressed, and where difference of thought, belief or lifestyle choice is ironed out through a conspiracy of silence among its members. Because of the emotionality in which familial bonds are rooted, any attempt at separation is bound to cause suffering and pain to all members.

To find a way out of the suffering of samsara, which comprises relationships, family, society and community, there exists the timeworn ideal of the sramana. He or she is a seeker who steps out of the layers of co-living, literally as well as spiritually, and steps onto the open road, searching for a greater meaning to existence. A seeker who, by this act of opting out of the theatre of human community, challenges status quo and opens the door to new ways of thinking and being not just for his or her own self, but ultimately one that could translate into a wider revolution of the spirit.

When Gautama Buddha left his home, family and kingdom, it was an exit whose reverberations would continue for 2,500 years and benefit countless beings. In these days following Brexit, we might want to remember how a break from the past can enable an incubation of the new. We, as individuals, too might want to consider those situations that hold us back in our lives, exit them, and move towards states of being that offer greater balance, fulfilment and, ultimately, create meaning for ourselves and others.

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