We (the human race) seem to be characterised by an intense interest in the world. We are even fascinated by it, avidly curious about its workings. Why is it the way it is? How does it work? What does it mean?
Modern science most obviously exemplifies this interest, and now takes us beyond reasoned understanding into a reality that confounds common sense. In a lively new essay, Jnanavaca explicates one branch of science’s search for truth and shows how its findings shade into the insights reached by the Buddha over 2,500 years ago.
But it is not just knowledge and understanding that we seek. We also care. There is an urge within us to help, to move beyond our individual wishes and act for the benefit of others. It is this pull that took Ambaravajri and a friend to Calais recently to offer practical help to some of those who needed it.
If these drives for knowledge and connection are not alive in us, not activated, we will gravitate back into narrow self-interest and fall prey to the modern norm of individualism, which is only really a refined dissatisfaction.
Thus, Aloka fills out the picture as he talks to Barry Copping about his life as an artist, and how he works with these pulls in the wider context of the Sangha, or spiritual community.
It is friends in the Sangha that Shubha has depicted in her collages, elegantly bookending this latest edition of the London Buddhist.
What then is Sangha? It is not simply a group or a club, but a shared responsiveness to the highest and most positive ideals, and the willingness to make the effort to move towards them using common practices. In doing so the search for knowledge eventually manifests as wisdom (prajna): a direct non-conceptual experience of reality. Our desire to help the apparently material world eventually becomes compassion (maitri) – acting in ways that are of real benefit – once the last traces of our egotistical tendencies have been overcome.
It is possible for us to realise Wisdom and Compassion fully – but to do that we need the challenging and supportive context of a spiritual community, or Sangha. I hope this new edition of our magazine and programme give you a taste of how the Sangha might express itself, as we launch into another year at the LBC.