Buddha and Now: From selfie to self

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Have you taken a selfie with the Buddha yet? Puzzled! Think it is not possible! Probably it is, the answer is simple, look inside yourself, you will find the Buddha within. And, when you do so, your journey from the selfie to the self will begin.

As per an estimate, more than 1 million selfies are being taken each day. While clicking a picture of oneself could be seen as an art form, the problem begins when we get infatuated with our self-image. We keep seeking that perfect pose which will get our social profiles buzzing. From the Buddhist perspective, this may give rise to the risk of creating an image that is equivalent to feeding one’s ego.

“We are so obsessed with this entire worldly viewpoint, that we forget our real self. I have seen many people running day in and out after money and their run never ends; burning midnight oil for getting those illustrious degrees that become redundant after a point in time; while some sacrificing their happiness for a perfect family photo with everyone giving fake toothpaste-ad smile. And, that’s when we forget to know ourselves, to take out even some crucial minutes to stop and do some self-analysis, to understand what we are really doing!” says a veteran who believes in the philosophy of humanity.

Is technology alienating us?

Technology has entwined most of us in a way that we are now starting to have a symbiotic relationship with it. Think of a day without Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google. Think of a day with your mobile phone being switched-off. Technology has changed the way we relate to each other, and in some cases it has created significant impact on people.

We developed technology to help ease our work, create some processes, bring discipline in our lives. Instead, it is technology that has started controlling us. We are obsessed by social networking sites, our tastes are dictated by what others are following, watching or sharing. Khayati Nagpal Taneja, a homemaker, says, “We have become a different generation of ‘showoffs’. We want to tell our friends how cool, rich or intelligent we are by posting profile pictures that could put even professional models to shame, by displaying brazenly our new smartphones or by quoting some perfectly abstract sayings which even Shakespeare might have difficulty to comprehend! We crave for their ‘likes’ to feel appreciated.” The point is, we do not realise what we are doing till we decide to pull the plug.

We are all BUDDHAs!

Here’s how Buddhism is helping in unwiring us and seeing what is real.

Love yourself! It was a rude shock to read about so many young people and celebrities committing suicides, off-lately. While therapy and medication have its own impact, the core belief of loving yourself will help in creating positive aura around a person with suicidal feelings. As the Buddha said, “You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” Learn the importance of loving yourself. Feel loved. You are important.

We lose who we are: In our daily lives we are dependent on others. We are constantly looking for their approval, and, hence we forget about our own existence. We have our mother, father, brothers and sisters, the people who really matter and we just don’t have time for them. Take another instance, the food we eat is the collective work of others—the farmer who grows the food, the driver who transports the food, the seller who sells it, and so on. There is an entire chain that works relentlessly to bring us food on our table, which we don’t have time to think or consider about or even eat. We are so busy in our ongoing thoughts that we forget about people who really matter and we remember only the ones who click the ‘like’ button to give affirmation to our existence or make us feel better. What we forget is to appreciate little things around us and lose our identity in the process.

The real ‘me’: When we overcome the concept of false ‘me’, and embrace the traditional concept of ‘me’, we will be able to connect with our true self, without the outward drama and mask, as per Buddhist philosophy. The traditional concept of ‘me’ focuses on our state of being, the simple activities that define us—such as eating, sleeping, talking etc. While, the false ‘me’ is about the hype we create around these simple activities—the way we showcase how we are eating our food, enjoying our vacation or talking about our achievements. This craving for self-importance of ‘me’ works as a fodder for ‘ego’ and pride, enveloping us in an illusionary world. In our daily lives we are so engrossed in the fight between traditional ‘me’, and the false ‘me’ that we don’t have time to understand what is the ‘real me’.

Start with communicating for real: Buddhism focuses on moments, we should be aware of each and every moment. Ask yourself, when you click on the ‘like’ button, do you really appreciate the post, image or opinion, or is it just a superficial gesture of appreciating something to be a part of the herd. Break the chain of ‘likes’ and have meaningful communication with yourself and others. Instead of saying some sweet ‘nothings’ over social platforms, understand your real self first. It’s only after connecting with yourself, you will have real conversations with friends, family or anyone else.

Buddhism in today’s world

Some believe that Buddhism is a lofty and sublime system that cannot be practised by ordinary people in today’s world. That one needs to retire from the everyday world to a monastery or a cave to find the true meaning of Buddhism. But, that’s a misconception, due to lack of understanding about Buddha’s teaching. People often reach this misplaced conclusion based on their assumption about what they have heard or read about Buddhism, giving them lopsided or partial view into the realm of Buddhist teachings.

Truth is, the Buddha’s teachings are meant not just for the Buddhist monks, but every other ordinary person in the world. Not everyone can become a monk or retire into a cave. But, that does not mean that the masses cannot imbibe the teachings of Buddhism.

“I believe Buddhism focuses on dealing with internal conflicts rather than focussing on external factors. In a way, this approach strengthens one’s threshold to external intolerance and acceptance of others as who they are. Buddhism is a practice of peace, leading to peace within ourselves and the environment,” says Shine Kapoor, an avid blogger (blog.shinekapoor.com) and a marketing professional.

Renunciation is not the only path towards Buddhism

Buddhism is a philosophy, it is a way of life. If one is able to understand the core of Buddhism, one may follow and practice it without renouncing their daily lives. While some may find it easier to accept Buddhism through alienation from the society, others are able to assimilate the concepts of Buddhism with the help of their community. One does not really need to renounce the world to find the true meaning of Buddhism. In fact, as per Buddhism, true renunciation does not mean physically running away from the society.

As per Sariputta, chief disciple of the Buddha, “One man might live in the forest devoting himself to ascetic practices, might be full of impure thoughts and ‘defilement’. Another might live in the village or a town, practice no ascetic discipline, but his mind might be pure and free from ‘defilement’.” And, “Of those two,” said Sariputta, “The one who lives a pure life in the village or town is definitely far superior to, and greater than the one who lives in the forest.”

In fact, there had been several references in Buddhist literature that focus on lives of ordinary men and women who had been able to practice Buddhism successfully, and even attained Nirvana, without renouncing their family lives. The Buddha himself gave reference to such people when he was asked whether common people would be able to attain high spiritual levels, despite leading a family life. The Buddha had replied that there were not just a handful of such people, not hundred or five hundred, but many more common people, who were able to reach higher spiritual states. While some may find it easier to live a retired life at a quiet place, it is definitely more courageous and commendable to practice Buddhist teachings while being a part of the society, serving the community for creating positivity. Further, when a common person follows Buddhism as a way of life, he or she is able to walk the path of the Buddha’s teaching in its truest sense—which is based on compassion, loving-kindness and equality.

The Buddha established the Sangha–The Order of Monks and Nuns, for those people who were willing to devote their lives for servicing others, along with developing their own spiritual and intellectual well-being. For a monk or a nun, without any worldly ties, is able to devote his or her entire life, following and sharing the Buddha’s teaching, which focused on doing good, spreading happiness and compassion in the world. Further, the Buddhist monasteries are not just spiritual centres, but have been developed as centres of learning and culture over the centuries.

Buddhism: A way of life

Buddhism as a way of life is preached in a very simple manner. For the common man, it consists of five simple precepts – do not kill, do not steal, do not engage in sexual pleasures through wrong means, do not lie, and do not take intoxicants. These simple precepts, taught by the Buddha thousands of years ago, are still relevant in today’s world. However, the Buddhist way of life does not just end with these precepts.

In a world driven by terrorism, climate change, war, economic instability, unemployment, individual alienation, depression and so on, we need a solid foundation to place our foot on, even before we climb the stairs of social development. And, that’s where Buddhism is helping in developing our collective thought-process in the modern day.

Truly, Buddhism is ‘Akalika’, meaning “timeless”. It is for every generation and for every era. Go ahead, click that selfie, find the Buddha in you!

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