The Great Escape

The world today has a long list of pressing problems: the time bomb of environmental issues, struggling economies and the credit crunch, social complications like crime, and the widespread poverty and deprivation of millions, to name but a few. In a recent conversation, somebody proposed spirituality as convenient escape from such realities – a comfortable retreat away from the real problems that plague our existence. As the spiritualist absorbs his thoughts in death and the afterlife, he conveniently avoids the real world surrounding him… the world that he is too lazy (or too scared) to face.

I explained how the Bhagavad-gita is not disconnected from the social context we live in. The teachings are geared toward creating spiritual solutions for the prevailing issues of the day. When someone is admitted to hospital, then help is provided from the nurses and the doctors. The nurses attend to the day-to-day comfort of the patient, while the doctors painstakingly rack their brains to perform an operation that will provide the permanent solution. While we appreciate the comfort that the nurses offer, who would want to be in a hospital full of nurses, but devoid of doctors? The spiritualists can be likened to the doctor – those who have the broader vision and knowledge to find out the root of suffering and address that directly. Those who have the insight to create a permanent change.

As I reflected later, that point of escaping reality struck me as a great irony. Of all the ‘real’ problems in the world today (problems that seem to periodically come and go with the times), the one real problem that everybody faces but nobody wants, is the problem of death. The irony is that the spiritualist, who is trying to address this universal and strikingly ‘real’ problem, is being labelled the escapist. On the contrary, the spiritualist is moving closer to reality – addressing the issues that nobody else can really touch.

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