Q: Can you speak about the sacred, in the Eastern tradition?
A: Actually, in the East there is no sacredness, because there's nothing profane. So everything is sacred. So sacredness is just a different level of profanity, or profanity is just a different level of sacredness. Maharaj used to say that gods are former demons, and demons are future gods. Only time separates them. In India everything is sacred. That's why you have children running and laughing in the middle of the most sacred temples. During the Teyyam ritual, when they cut the head of an animal—it used to be a human head—you have people laughing and talking. Nothing is separate. In the West we have been taught in this very dualistic fascist tradition, which separates right from wrong, sacred from profane. In the East, there is no such thing. Everything is profane, everything is sacred. To eat is sacred, to make love is sacred, to fight is sacred, to kill is sacred. To build a castle is sacred, to rest is sacred, to write is sacred, to do calligraphy is sacred. There is nothing which is not sacred.
You'll see that if you look into the profane, actually it is not profane, it is sacred too. But it is harder to see it for you. And when you call something sacred, that means you have an easier openness to it. For instance, most people feel more open when their body is healthy. So, when they’re healthy, they feel holier. When they're sick, they feel more profane.
So, there is no difference. Even in the West, during the Middle Ages all activities were considered sacred. At the Renaissance, the democratic movement of humanism replaced God at the center of the heart with the human being. This decadent fantasy created sacred and profanity. Actually there is no such a thing as sacred and profane, sacredness and profanity.
But we could agree to say that if you feel something is sacred, it means that it's easy for you to relate to. If you feel it profane, I would say look deeper, and the deeper you look into it, the more you will see that what you thought was profane is actually sacred. We think that to be born is beautiful and to die is horrible. When we look at it in a deeper way, we will realize that to die is as beautiful as to be born. It is only our mind which separates the two. In the East—at least the traditional East, I'm not talking about modern East, which has really nothing to show us—there was this wholeness, and so there was no difference between sacred and profane.
We are born into the world as one and we have no idea of ‘me’, the separate self, for some time until it is gradually instilled upon us by the environment and our developing mind.
Contentment counters and overrides our constant tendency to grasp and chase after things
Renunciation is realizing that our nostalgia for wanting to stay in a protected, limited, petty world is insane
Vikram Zutshi In Conversation With Evan Thompson This article was first published at the Sutra Journal…
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