Term Paper: Western Civilization Has Been Developing

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[. . .] Therefore, their reinforcement could be perceived as an allegory for the strong being meant to help the weak.

The fact that the name of the story is Krishna and Arjuna indicates that the central idea is not based on the remote contrast between water and fire, but on the great friendship and effective teamwork comprised of the two eponymous characters. The association may also further suggest that two polarities who work in harmony are destined to achieve a favorable result. Hence, I believe that the message intended is to acknowledge and harness the opposing aspects of our lives, in order to achieve balance and make progress on our individual spiritual paths.

Concentration is a short Buddhist story. A young archery champion challenges a skilful and old Buddhist monk. In response, the monk calls for the youngster to follow him. Together, they reach a high mountain point where an unreliable-looking log is placed across a deep chasm. The monk walks on it, draws his bow, and hits a tree some distance away. Then he steps back off the log with ease and beckons his opponent to repeat the exercise. However, the young champion cannot take the same risk and refuses to meet the challenge.

The idea which stands out the most is that a mastered, calm mind is the key to balance. The monk walks confidently on the unsteady log, targets a far-off tree and shoots an impeccable shot, then returns gracefully. By comparison, although he is a big archery talent, the young man is paralyzed with fear and unable to move, let alone shoot arrows. Lack of training for the purpose of mastering his mind holds back the normal expression of all the other abilities in the case of the youngster. This is perfectly understandable to me. Archery aside, allowing fear to take command of the mind has a crippling effect for anyone's mind, regardless of what they're doing.

Another aspect that surfaces in the short story is the very realistic and recurring conflict of old vs. young, in the context of the latter's overconfidence, ignorance, or arrogance. Nowadays, it is a frequently met happenstance when a young person hurries to make the assumption that one's elders are somehow obsolete. Most notably, this scenario is visible within a familial setting. It was the same with me: I contest most of the decisions that my parents make, and they just never seem to see eye-to-eye with me. Nevertheless, wisdom comes with experience, and this is a universal truth that shouldn't be overlooked, thinking that past has nothing left to teach.

Longing for Darkness is special because it's an autobiography. The section of Longing for Darkness which is based on China Galland's encounter with the Dalai Lama presents the series of events which precluded their meeting, up to the point of their actual conversation. Having been delayed by an assassination attempt in Delhi, the author is headed towards Dharamsala where she is to meet the Dalai Lama after months of trying to make the arrangements. When they finally meet face-to-face, she presses him for his thoughts on the matters of laymen teachers, female teachers, and female deities.

The Dalai Lama says that Buddhism does not draw any lines between men and women, in the sense that a human being can reach enlightenment in any of these forms. Furthermore, he adds that, according to tradition, Tara could be perceived as a feminist figure, as she chose to hold a female form and reach enlightenment through it, due to the fact that it was too much of a rare occurrence, and hence make a statement.

Chapter 6 of China Galland's Longing for Darkness is a very inspiring read because it presents the account of her meeting with Dalai Lama as part of her spiritual quest and longing for the feminine face of God, which she envisions as being fierce, compassionate, but purposefully kept in the shadows. The author travels through this darkness. In fact, darkness is a major symbol throughout this work, because it stands for incubation, transformation, wisdom, insight, and encasing protection.

In this chapter, the author's extended spiritual journey is motivated by discovering connections between Tara, a female Buddha from the Tibetan tradition, and Western images of the Black Madonna. What is truly inspiring is China's acted out resolution to lead a spiritual life that includes and celebrates womanhood. To some extent, it reflects my own opinion that the feminine side of divinity is just as real as the male one, albeit much less publicized.

Siddhartha by Herman Hesse tells the story of a person who embarks on a journey for enlightenment with only his heart as compass. In the beginning, the protagonist is born a Brahmin and has all the means for a comfortable lifestyle, but is unhappy with his setting because he cannot find any meaning in it. Therefore, he makes the decision to leave home with his friend Govinda, and they both join a group of ascetics called Samanas for three years, in an effort to transcend the body's limitations. Shortly, Siddhartha comes to the conclusion that he cannot settle with simple renunciation, which is why he moves forward and joins the Buddha in pursuit of enlightenment. He actually meets the Buddha, who explains that his teachings are meant for escape from the cycles of suffering. Unsatisfied once more, Siddhartha leaves again with the conviction that the truth which he seeks is attainable only through practical experience.

Thus, he dives into a perfectly pragmatic way of life, where Kamala the courtesan trains him up in the pleasures of the flesh and Kamaswami the merchant instructs him in the secrets of commerce. He grows more powerful by the day, but at some point he becomes depressed and quits everything to return to the river. Siddhartha thinks about committing suicide and encounters Govinda, an old friend of his, but then comes across the ferryman and asks to commence an apprenticeship in his service. His and Kamala's son joins them for a while, but soon abandons the river in order to follow his own path. Initially, he is devastated, but Vasudeva helps him transcend his troubles by showing him the voices of the river before passing away, and Siddhartha continues to do his job. Here, ferrying people across the river, Siddhartha finally attains enlightenment by learning to tune into the unity of the river, then helps his friend Govinda do the same.

The person who achieves enlightenment is supposedly awed in the exact moment of revelation. However, in order to reach this stage, one has to tread an arduous path. Psychologist Carl Gustav Jung termed the whole process individuation, which clearly suggests the course of an individual endeavor, independent of other people. Siddhartha is taught to acknowledge that teachers are not enough to assist an individual in reaching enlightenment, as one needs to concentrate on reaching it by using his or her own powers. The demise of the exterior in favor of what lies within occurs as a strenuous process.

Gradually, as it becomes clear to him that these external spiritual compasses do not succeed in bringing him the knowledge and guidance that he needs, he forsakes them completely, and submerges in the material world, commuting to yet another external source in his quest. Siddhartha's final attainment of enlightenment does not come from someone imparting the wisdom to him in some way, but instead it is made possible through an internal connection to the river, which he acknowledges to contain the entire universe.

A connection can be identified between the main theme of Herman Hesse's novel and the short story, Searching for Buddha. In both of these stories, the protagonist is a man who seeks enlightenment, which is ultimately delivered by a river. As a matter of fact, Hesse's crafting of Siddhartha's journey shows that understanding is attained not through scholastic, mind-dependent methods, nor through immersing oneself in the carnal pleasures of the world and the accompanying pain of samara. Nonetheless, it is the completeness of these experiences that allow Siddhartha to attain understanding.

In essence, the young man subjects himself to a series of encounters with individuals who profess to have something to teach Siddhartha, and whose teaching he comes to deem shortcoming is some way. The Brahmins provide scholarship that induces intellectual proficiency, but that does not provide happiness. The samans provide Siddhartha with ascetism that brings on nothing but stoic perseverance. Kamala teaches the art of love, but fails to create a loving spirit. Kamaswami the merchant uses his complex experience in order to assist Siddhartha, but this only generates a series of difficulties with regard to possessions, eventually making it possible for the protagonist to understand that material values are not important.

I relate most to the hero's private journey, which serves to underline the importance of wisdom acquired by making mistakes, by gaining experience, fulfilling the duties of the householder, rejecting established dogmas and materialism, and seeking harmony… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Western Civilization Has Been Developing.  (2013, September 17).  Retrieved April 20, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/western-civilization-been-developing/2087192

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