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March 17, 2020 Tuesday 12:00:25 PM IST

In Search of Buddha

Art & Literature

After a long while, I got my hands on a used motorcycle -2014 model Mahindra Centuro 110 cc. Not a big one by current standards but a tad powerful than the Suzuki Samurai I once owned. Perhaps, it was the right time to get this machine just ahead of the two months of vacation for my daughter.

Motorcycles are ideal for long trips and of course, vacations. No wonder we find many men and also young women with back packs, climbing on the Royal Enfield for upcountry rides to the Himalayas. Any bike is a synonym for freedom having observed my daughter Diyah learn bicycle with some difficulty. Now it gives her the freedom to move around and along with her friends -being with nature.

Robert M Pirsig in his bestseller,The Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (Bantam Books, 1974) took long trips with his son Chris and wife sometimes accompanied by friends John Sutherland and his wife Sylvia." You see things vacationing on a motorcycle in a way that is completely different from the any other. In a car you're always in a compartment, and because you're used to it you don't realise that through that car window everything you see is just more than TV. You're a passive observer."

The author gets into conflict with John because of their differing views on motorcycle maintenance. Every biker needs to have in addition to a pair of dresses, utensils for making food, shoes and medicines, a set of tools to take care of the machine along the way. Many a time when the engine is hot, riders still release the choke to have more petrol in by flooding an over-flooded engine.  On other occasions furiously kick-starting a number of times to start the engine without checking the fuel gauge.

The paperback with its cover edges torn and pages has turned yellowish-brown. This has been my constant companion on travels or when I need to get into pensive mood.


Grandma’s Delight

On a hot summer night and being a Saturday, I find my daughter reading her favourite author Sudha Murthy’s Grandma’s Bag of Stories.  Grandmother Ajji eagerly waits for her grand children Raghu, Meenu, Anand and Krishna to come for the vacation holidays. It took us back to my own childhood vacations spent in my mother’s ancestral home and nearby houses belonging to uncles and aunts. The best part of the holidays for Raghu, Meenu and others is listening to the wonderful stories from grandma.  

The very first story Doctor, Doctor itself was an interesting piece about Ravi, a shopkeeper who gets a magic pitcher with healing powers that the villagers flock to him for curing diseases. On a hot summer afternoon, an old man comes to him seeking water and he drinks whatever was left in his pitcher. This act of kindness helped Ravi to have the pot always brimming with water. And he became the darling of the people but as greed and selfishness took over, he lost all his powers. There were still more insightful stories such as that of King Amrit and Minister Chandan who devise an ingenious way to find out whether the citizens were happy as they claimed to be.

Cure for Depression

Even for diehard workaholics, a vacation, a break from daily routine is a must. The hilarious adventure novel Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome begins with the author, George and William Samuel Harris smoking and thinking of their bad health. They think of all possible diseases afflicting them. Days later they gather again, refill glass, lit their pipes (No Statutory Warning as shown in Indian films is here though!). And again talk of the disease. They are all unanimous that they are all afflicted by overwork. Who is not in this present age? Rest, a complete change is what George thought is required. "The overstrain upon our brains has produced a general depression throughout the system. Change of scene, and absence of the necessity for thought, will restore the mental equilibrium."

Of course, there was the Montmorency, the dog to keep company.  (In stories as well as in real life dogs are a delight to most. Who can forget Timmy of the Famous Five series of Enid Blyton or Buster in Five Find Outers). Jerome has this to say about their favourite dog- “To look at Montmorency you would imagine that he was an angel sent upon earth, for some reason withheld from mankind, in the shape of a small foxterrier. There is a sort of Oh-what-a-wicked-world-this-is-and-how-I could-do-something-to-make-it-better-and-nobler expression…”


The Right Path

Many are the reasons for taking a break- boredom, seeking adventure, learning and entertainment. But for many global travelers to India who have now earned a place in history- it was to understand Buddha for he only knew the route to eternal wisdom or the right path.  A Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms by Fa-Hsien, the Chinese traveler and a devout pilgrim is a revelation. His journey was in search of Vinaya-pitaka, among the earliest of the Buddhist sacred texts. Monks had inscribed the original versions in palm leaves and was available in the monasteries. The objective of another Chinese pilgrim Hiuen Tsang was also to seek Buddhist wisdom.

Much of the writings of Megasthenes, the Greek traveler who came to India seems to have been lost. However, his account of amazing new animals he found in India still survives whether they are exaggerations or real is a subject matter of dispute. He talked about the high plateau in the east beneath which there were mines of gold. Ants the size of wild foxes and equally good sprinters used to dig for gold. Some clever people in the neighbourhood would place some pieces of meat near to the mines to distract the ants and take the gold away.

The Search

The travelers of the serious type I suspect keep on searching for the elusive meaning of life. For Robert Pirsig it resulted in something which is neither a treatise on motorcycle maintenance nor an authentic book on Zen Buddhism. He realized motor cycles do have personalities of their own which are molded or destroyed by its owners. How people could become anti-technology and lose the sense of rationality that should come from scientific thinking. For him the flight from and hatred of technology was self-defeating. The Buddha, the Godhead resides quite as comfortably in the circuits of a digital computer or the gears of a cycle transmission as he does at the top of a mountain or n the petals of a flower. To think otherwise is to demean Buddha. That is perhaps this simplistic thinking that led Larry Page and Sergei Brin to keep their home page simple and functional –with only the Search Bar.  



Sreekumar Raghavan

Sreekumar Raghavan is an award-winning business journalist with over two and a half decades of experience in print, magazine and online journalism. A Google-certified Digital Marketing Professional, he specialises in content development for web, digital marketing and training, media relations and related areas. He is the recipient of MP Narayana Pillai Award for Journalism in 2001 and holds a bachelors degree in Economics and Masters Degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Kerala University.

 

 

 

 


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