spirituality, education & andre gregory

I don’t normally participate in formal social gatherings and avoid like the plague, the ‘spiritual’ get-togethers – especially the ones that proclaim to teach some particular species of meditation or healing or, oh well, even the nirvana, if you will. There is no major reason for it, apart from perhaps a very personal and an intense sociopathic attitude. Probably I am yet to grow up, and am childishly & endlessly curmudgeonly – these are very valid explanations too, I agree.

But, a few years back, I attended a gathering (of some good souls, many of whom happened to be thoroughbred Gandhians – except one, you know who that was) and there was this oddball young lady who kept looking at me, me with my flowing beard, unkempt hair, hardcore Tamil accent,  tasteless jokes and a sagely pretension – lost in a reverie.  Presently she moves closer to me asks me in a reverential tone, if I have a regular spiritual practice. I ask her – may I know why you want to know; she says – I follow some spiritual practices, so I want to know. I say – sorry, ha ha, but I am a teetotaler. She is slightly embarrassed, but asks again – no no I mean meditation & yoga. I got bugged and asked her – do you think I am a spiritual person just because I fit the physical stereotype? She is taken aback and asks – yeah, but are you one? I merely tell her – I have a beard because I am lazy, that’s all. I shave once in two months, okay? I am not anything special. She gets puzzled (read: deer in the headlight) and moves out of focus; of course I was (and am) arrogant, but, unfortunately, in those days, I did not gladly suffer fools. (these days, I of course do – because I am forever suffering myself)

But, I also feel that one need not carry an identity card (and wave it about incessantly) and loudly claim that one is spiritual and therefore is not interested in mundane thingies. This is because, I believe that, any kind of spiritual or inner-work is very, very intensely personal. I also think that spirituality (or whatever!) can not be seen as a practice separate from the normal day to day living. Just because a person sits in isolation and – desperately & irritatedly tries to focus the thoughts and reigns in a wandering (and wondering) mind, it does not mean anything about that person being spiritual. But if one genuinely struggles, perhaps, this struggle by itself could be spiritual. A show of a stereotypical ‘spirituality’ is worse than committing a veritable crime.

But the spiritual shows go on, some folks learn and move on. Sometimes the veneer of pretension gives way. Some folks even become happy. Most other folks carry on with their put-on cloaks of spirituality, strutting about like virile peacocks… What fun!

I think, spirituality, examined-life and work ethic go together; there need be no dissonance nor any incongruence in  dealing with these ideas. The joyous ordinariness of our everyday lives could itself be spiritual, if only one pauses to mull over it.

This reminds me of an anecdotal recollection of what Andre Gregory wrote to one of his friends:

“You know,”  Andre Gregory writes, “somebody once told me that in France in medieval times, if you wanted to go on some kind of spiritual journey, if you were really lucky you would meet somebody who might have been a teacher (you were never quite sure), and that person would say to you ‘What is it that you wish to do?’ And you would say, “Well, I want to be a shoemaker.’ He’d say, “There’s a wonderful shoemaker in Lyons who may be somebody quite spiritual. I’ll send you to him and you can apprentice with him. The only rule is that you must never, ever discuss anything spiritual with him.”

And so you would go off and work for this person for four or five years as an apprentice, and then you would really get to know how to make shoes, and he would say,  “You know, you really know how to make very good shoes now. There is an opening in a partnership in Dijon with a very special man who makes shoes. I can get you that partnership, but you must never, ever discuss anything spiritual with him. You must concentrate on making very beautiful shoes.”

And so off you’d go to Dijon and work for years, and shortly before his death, the old man would say. “Well, soon this business will be yours. You’ve become a really fine shoemaker. Now, one of these days, someone who is younger than you, may come wanting to learn something spiritual from you. Only tell him about making shoes.”

(excerpt from Chop Wood, Carry Water – pages 123-124)

So much for business, spirituality, spirituality business, business of spirituality, spirituality in business…

IF you did like the take of Andre Gregory, you may like The Legend of Matajuro.

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Comments

  • Radha  On November 20, 2010 at 12:31 am

    Good read Ramjee 🙂

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