After leaving the Mount Baldy Zen Center, Leonard Cohen came to Bombay late in 1998 to study with Ramesh Balsekar. During that stay, Ratnesh Mathur met the Canadian singer-songwriter and came to know him during his visits to India. In Leonard Cohen, India, & Me By Ratnesh Mathur, Ratnesh described his relationship with Leonard and aspects of Leonard’s experiences in India. Today’s post focuses on the spiritual significance of that journey. I have edited the text, primarily to put it in colloquial English and reorganized the content for easier reading.
Relief From Depression Vs Spiritual Enlightenment
Much has been written about how Leonard’s trip to Bombay cured his life long depression. Both Indian-based tribute pieces in which I was involved, Bird on a Wire: How Bombay helped Leonard Cohen find his voice again (Scroll.in) and When the light got in for Leonard Cohen (BBC India), chose titles that implicitly featured the depression cure notion. And, indeed, Leonard himself testified to the depression and its dissipation to both Sylvie Simmons and me, but it somehow became the key aspect of his stay in India. The importance of the lifting of Leonard’s depression notwithstanding, it was actually a side-effect.
Leonard came to India as a religious seeker – not a novice but a man deeply knowledgeable about Indian philosophical thought (i.e., the Upanishads/Vedanta and Buddhism). And, here in India, Leonard found answers to his spiritual questions through a mix of street/cultural life and Vedantic and Buddhist wisdom.
My contention is that Leonard Cohen’s quest – the subject of his seeking – has somehow been shunted aside in previous reports. In realigning the focus, I have found the following articles most relevant: