“I don’t envision a single thing that when tamed, guarded, protected, restrained, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind—when tamed, guarded, protected, restrained leads to great benefit.”
Ekadhamma Suttas: A Single Thing
translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
The gradual evolution of a socio-political struggle encircling the India still suffering from the colonial hangover marks the focal point of modern historiography. As an integral component of the process of breaking free from an orthodox perspective, this new mode of history writing reached out to the deeper core of India’s energy—the people. While ecolinguistics takes its own sweet time to react and respond, depending on the topographical scopes and people’s capacity to adapt to a necessary change beyond the apparent visibility, a process to strengthen that change stays liberated in the background; a process that would change the concept of freedom over time.
Renaissance in the 21st century India stands to be that concept of an ongoing fight and struggle for freedom. With the development of an aggressive and lethal form of capitalism in India, a sense of distorted nationalism dries out the elixir of our core values asa we keep focusing on the glossy slough of the shining urban and digital India. Hence, for some, the struggle is a couple of centuries old while some others are just learning what the very concept of freedom might mean. The misguided race toward material hoarding has resulted in a society which is devoid of emotions and empathy towards fellow beings.
In order to make this existence harmonious, instead of living through discontentment at the experience of constant failure of an evolving history that is being passed on to posterity in all its physical shape and experiences, our desire for liberation can be transformed into a creative energy. Such an effort can ultimately change and strengthen the course of reform in social spheres. It will help modify our response towards taboos and fetishes that relate to local, national, moral, and religious practices of the masses, and bodily practices of the individuals. What better way to share the satisfaction and innate happiness and contentment other than practising it?
In the backdrop of the absolutely restless, fast-paced cosmopolitan environment, only a true artist can create a nook of contentment. A nook that will not only fulfil the artist’s own desires but will shelter all of them who want to attain a higher and deeper level of satisfaction easily lost among the many mundane shades of everyday life. Having set up his workplace in Shantiniketan and Jalpath (a scenic establishment near Kolkata), artist Alok Som has tried to create this corner with the help of his friend, whom he fondly calls Balai da. The property belongs to Balai Adhikari. All the tremendous efforts here to make it a sanatorium, to heal the catastrophic impact of modernisation, can be safely credited back to Alok Som as well as to the unlimited exuberance of Balai Adhikari who has unequivocally supported all of Alok’s endeavours to teach a disciplined yet carefree lifestyle to his students and fellow artists – by practising it himself.
Here in Jalpath, Alok engages in weaving, pottery, dyeing, printmaking, Dokra, architectural designing, and landscaping. Fellow artists and his students are welcome to join him in any workshop and also spend time separately with friends and family in a residency-like setting. The only thing that gets all the focus here is the discipline – mental and physical.
In olden times, people used to have different kinds of social and physical customs which would require rigorous physical discipline which in turn would be taking care of the mental health. Physical discipline is important, as it is the primary aadhar of all the goodness while it is easier for the mind to acquire the negativity and keep it locked inside for a longer period time. However, a healthy, disciplined and therefore contented sharir knows the value of sangyama and controls the mind so that it does not fall into a “mindless” trap of collecting unnecessary sentiments, emotions and expectations with having nothing to contribute to a self as well as to a society.
“Aamar ei dehokhani tule dhoro
Tomar oi debaaloyer prodip koro”
Sharir, in its true sense itself is an offering, a lamp for the ultimate worship, as Rabindranath Tagore said in his song from which the above lines are taken. And Alok Som, in his poem says that his worship is not material-centric. The small things matter in the world that are created with matter. Sharir, which again is created with matter, has a deeper connection with the sovereign whole – the soul. However, it is the practice and the consciousness that empower the body to attain this connection. His poem portrays his empathy perfectly. Let us read it:
The Other Habit
Mosquitos may bite! I sweat profusely.
Water drips in my room.
I spend the night starving. A lonely self.
It plays the dual roles of the hero and the heroine.
I’m not a wanderer, but entirely social.
It is a different society of people who haven’t achieved anything,
Nor will they do.
I keep awake among all; that is what I want.
I can’t hear others cry through the night though.
I just want everyone to be happy.
My identity is the smiling face of the morning.
Not the dominatingly adulterated forest-fire
My worship is not expensive.
Still, I decorate my offerings with blankness.
And, pause frequently to learn a lesson from them.
Alok and his friends focus on the aesthetics and the smallest detail in everything around their daily routine. As he says, it is crucial to know how to create beauty even in the smallest moments that one spends with another. These are not new concepts. In the Indic context, these have been in practice for centuries, but then forgotten as we started to ‘progress’ and focus on material acquisitions alone. Now, the question is, since there is no end to the material gain, what will be the new benchmark for our next generation? What will they embark upon? The simple way seems to be a genuinely simple, aesthetic outlook towards one’s own life and those around him/her. It will require training one’s own body in tandem with the mind – and understanding the concept of giving back everything that is being accepted as the unconditional contribution of Mother Nature. Alok told us that he engages in gardening and landscaping as part of his daily chores and this revitalizes his being. Music and cooking wholesome meals are also close to his heart – each of these activities, either in concert or individually, trains him to share goodness in every feasible way.
The calmness, easily visible in Alok’s confidence is quite different from that found in our times. However, there is something intrinsically more modern in the demeanour of all his efforts and activities, which certainly comes from an internal energy, an adhar, a light. Acceptance is that light. It is the strength of a disciplined soul which is in greater communion with its body that taught it to be strong. It does not judge or question others’ decisions nor is it influenced, impacted or bulldozed by others’ actions. Because it knows that we cannot change or modify the course of anything that happens around us. However, we can try to put a little bit of us in everything – a little bit of goodness to take away the pain and discontentment. Sharing the simple way of living through a holistic training of the body and mind to keep the organic sensitivities close – keeping an eye for the aesthetic details in material, physical and, mental arrangements can be the signs of the new renaissance, which will lead to a better, stronger and more enlightened life.
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