It is important for all of us to have spiritual moorings. To be able to negotiate the vagaries of life, a spiritual support is essential. Sharon Salzberg’s informative book Faith is a personalized account of the necessity of faith. Talking from her experiences as an American Buddhist teacher, Salzberg offers readers several insights on the subject.
One of the main concepts spoken by Salzberg is the ‘discovery of truth’. Citing Buddhist understanding of cognitive processes, she reckons that human senses are not adequate to comprehend spiritual insights. To be able to get enlightened, disciplined pursuit of truth is necessary. Salzberg talks about how her own spiritual journey was marked by phases of doubt and confusion. Indeed, it is these challenges which make knowledge concrete, pulling away from its conceptual abstractions. In her own case, she encountered confusion whether to follow the Burmese or the Tibetan tradition of spiritual contemplation. She states that such challenges are a rite of passage for entering a higher realm of consciousness. Even when it comes to techniques of meditation there are numerous methods. As far as spiritual awakening is concerned there is no one text-book method to follow. Spiritual progress is a personal journey and it is achieved through the individual’s own striving. Salzberg contends that although Buddhist teachers can offer guidance, the ‘truth’ cannot be revealed through instruction. Salzberg cites her own experiences as an abused child to explain how Buddhist philosophy can come to aid. Having been abandoned and abused by her parents at a very young age, Salzberg was yet able to overcome such trauma. It was purely as a result of Vipassana meditation, that she successfully conquered her past. What more, the example of her life is in itself an inspiration for many of us with similar childhoods. Salzberg forewarns that though the fruits of meditation are undeniable, attaining them requires lots of patience and persistence. Buddhism does not offer any quick-fix solutions but instead takes the seeker through trials and tribulations. It is only those with conviction and faith that come through this arduous journey. Salzberg implores us to take up this challenge, for the fruits it bears are invaluable.
I personally subscribe to what Salzberg has said in her book. Although I am not a Buddhist, I am able to see the value of Buddhist contemplative practices, especially meditation, for healthy living. It should be remembered that most modern illnesses are stress related. So, for practical benefits, if not for obscure goals like spiritual enlightenment, one should embrace meditation. In my own life, I used to be prone to depression when I was young. I found meditation to be a very effective tool to keep depression at bay.
In conclusion, I agree with most of the points raised by Sharon Salzberg in her work. After reading her book I am motivated to take up the practice of meditation. Beyond the ultimate goal of spiritual enlightenment, at first I would aspire to gain practical benefits. For example, I hope that it will make me a better person – one who is socially responsible and morally righteous. But with sustained practice, I hope to eventually mature and experience spiritual awakening. Sharon Salzberg’s success in her journey of faith will always continue to inspire me.