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A new path...

Renuka Singh's path to the Buddha has led her from the intellectual to the experiential. ANJANA RAJAN speaks to the prolific author whose latest work has just been launched.

Photo: S. Arneja.

The Dalai Lama releasing the book "The Path of the Buddha" edited by Renuka Singh in New Delhi.

RENUKA SINGH, editor of "The Path of the Buddha - Writings on Contemporary Buddhism" was understandably beaming as the Dalai Lama formally launched her latest work, a collection of essays published by Penguin Books. Describing the book as "very contemporary" while also speaking "about the past and the future of Buddhism", she intends it both for the layperson and the advanced learner.

With a doctorate in Sociology from the Jawaharlal Nehru University, where she currently teaches the subject, her interest in Buddhism was part of her "intellectual and spiritual quest". Moulded by a typical Western academic approach to education, with a degree from a "radical" university like JNU, and hailing from a Sikh family she describes as not religious, she feels her association with the Dalai Lama and the learning gleaned from her study of Tibetan Buddhism has changed her life.

It was during her doctoral studies in the mid-`80s that she "wanted to understand the nature of mind". Studying Western-oriented sciences like psychology did not bring her answers. "I was looking for a teacher who could answer my questions." The turning point came when a friend suggested she meet a Buddhist monk, Lama Yeshe. "Something just clicked," she recalls. This led her to deeper studies of Tibetan Buddhism.

Then she had the opportunity to undergo a three-day teaching with the Dalai Lama. "I heard that a teaching was being organised for the Yuppies in Delhi - just about 30 people. I was lucky to get in," says this transformed intellectual who feels that meeting the Dalai Lama is a question of one's karma. "If your karma has ripened, you will meet him."

Over the years, the author of numerous books on spirituality as well as gender issues - "The Little Book of Buddhism", "Path to Tranquillity", "The Transformed Mind", "Women Reborn", "The Womb of Mind", among others - found her rapport with the Dalai Lama deepened. There was no conflict in her mind between the intellectual pursuits she had been engaged in all her life, she says, mentioning, "I found His Holiness so logical and dialectical." At the very outset though, he advised her to start meditating. "He told me no amount of readings will help you. You have to start meditating. That's how I came to the experiential aspect." For the past 10 years she has been the director of the Tushita Mahayana Meditation Centre in Delhi.

A major difference this journey has made to Renuka Singh's life is that she is able to view external phenomena from a balanced perspective. "I used to think you could change society. Now I realise the major change is inside you," says this social scientist, whose attempt is to "contribute whatever I can" to the movement."

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