31 August 2010

Love and Darkness

Love for Arts
Image via Wikipedia
When I am in love then nothing hurts me. I become impervious to greed, lust, anger. But when I am out of love each of these impulses becomes a true enemy – strong, powerful, opposing, and almost unbeatable.
To try to beat these enemies is like fighting with darkness. Darkness cannot be beaten away, cannot be defeated by any amount of fighting but even a tiniest of lamps is sufficient to dispel ages of it.
Such is also the case with these enemies. They are nothing by themselves but are a mere indication of absence of love. A heart touched by love’s light is immediately rid of these dark shadows no matter how long they have inhabited its corners.
But how to awaken love and can love be awakened? How to know what kills love and how to act upon this knowledge? What do I love? Who do I love – anyone, anything? And why does love lose its magic touch by withering away or becoming an obsession when it goes un-reciprocated? And then, is it really love or is it another manifestation of its absence? Is it possible to hold on to love or is the very attempt to hold on one of the many ways to lose it? Is love a practice, an acquisition or a gift of grace?

29 August 2010


Miracle in a flower....
What does one consider as a miracle? Is it an unexpected outcome or an inexplicable one? It is important to distinguish between the two.
All man-made things can be explained while with all non-man made things one sooner or later reaches a level of abstraction beyond which they cannot be explained and hence become worthy of being categorized as a miracle. However, since the outcome is not unexpected we do not really consider a miracle even though it is of sorts.
Take for example the journey of a tiny seed towards becoming a full-fledged tree. Even though all parts of this journey cannot be explained they are expected and predictable and hence lost upon us as a miracle.
Is it then that the occurrence of something unexpected, shrouded in some shade of mystery, is considered a miracle – healing for example?
It is then our expectation that stands in the way of our seeing everything in this Universe as a miracle, as something inexplicable and also quite unexpected by the same virtue.
There is, however, another aspect to a miracle and that is our tendency to tie it to something ‘positive’. If a plane crashes and no one is hurt and no one dies, we consider it a miracle. However, a plane crashes for no known reason (unexplained and unexpected) and all aboard die we call it a disaster and not a miracle. Is this distinction based on vocabulary, structure of language or is there something deeper in the human psyche that influences this choice of judgment?
A miracle then is that which is unexpected, unexplained, and with a positive outcome for the affected. If any one of these three elements is missing we fail to recognize it as a miracle. So to live a life without expectation, in wonder, while seeing everything in a positive light would be to live a life full of miracles at all times.

28 August 2010

Fortune Telling

When it comes to fortune-telling there are many charlatans out there.  There are, however, also some who actually can foresee and predict future. This presents a Black Swan problem. Namely, a billion white swans are not enough to disprove the existence of a black swan but a single black swan is enough to prove that not all swans are white. Then the question becomes – what makes fortune-telling possible?
Even if everything was pre-determined there are millions and millions of event that will need to be taken into account for any such valid conclusion to be drawn – kind of like a mathematical equation with a trillion inputs that would eventually lead to an accurate answer unless the input themselves were flawed or tainted in some respect. Even if one were to assume availability of complete and accurate data it would still take many supercomputers to come to an answer within any practical time limits. And yet there are people who are able to tell the future without such intensive calculations. How?
What if there was another way that did not require computation at all.
Could it be so that we are unable to see the future or the very distant past because we don’t believe we can do so or because we lack the mental ‘skill’ needed for the same? It is recorded that in the moment of enlightenment – when Buddha’s mind became absolutely quite – he could clearly see all the millions of his past lives. So is it a chattering mind that keeps us from looking into distant past or future? Or is the ability to see the future to be considered a gift (or a curse?) bestowed on a chosen few by this Universe?
Future prediction, however, is not to be confused with a future expectation. If I drive for six hours from Place A to Place B, which is about 6 hours drive from Place A, I expect to arrive at place B at the end of this travel. It, however, may not be my future. This is so since the expectation of an outcome – my reaching B at the end of 6 hours – is not the same as the actual outcome – an accident, flat tire, being lost etc.  And the probability by which the expectation differs from the actual outcome is what makes life unpredictable, unforeseen and above all – insecure.
The future, however, where predicted, is usually stated with a warning to be careful (if it were a precarious future) as if it could be avoided if one was aware of its coming. And in some ways it is. So future is not entirely determinate. It can be interrupted, changed, or affected. There exists an element of free-will to it. Indeed all matter is subject to laws of nature. However, that which moves matter itself must surely be free of it?
There is another way of looking at this problem. Consider a ball that is set rolling in a giant maze (we will assume that the ball is self-propelled) and a camera is mounted on the ball through which one can report on the immediate events that the ball is experiencing – turning, falling, rising etc – at any given moment. These events constitute the ball’s present state. If, however, an overhead view of the entire maze could be had one could ‘predict’ the ball’s ‘likely’ future. Perhaps similar is the case when it comes to predicting people’s future or fortune.
This would imply that there is a ‘higher plane’ of existence from where the events, participants, and their trajectories in the present plane can be witnessed and reported upon, should one choose to do so. And the ability to access this plane has a lot to do with the allurement of the masses towards spiritual practices that claim to bestow such powers.
The bottom-line, however, continues to be the basic question of human existence – how does this relieve people of their suffering? Should people live in perpetual fear and consult oracles and soothsayers for every step of their lives? And even if they knew of what was coming, would that make them more secure or would it add to their worries, fears, anxiety, impatience, or greed? In essence – what place does fortune-telling have in cessation of human suffering? If none or insignificant, then what is the point of pursuing such powers?
Suffering is of the mind. A restless mind, like a poisoned spoon, would make impure anything that is presented its way be it of the past, present or of the future. A serene mind that is in command of itself on the other hand is composed enough and intelligent enough to not ask for anything from the past, present of the future. It is fully secure in just being. Only such a mind is a religious mind and only such a mind truly knows that there exists no future outside the present.

Ashes Come From Burning

“Ashes come from burning” These were the lines once told to Gurdieff by his father.
Are ashes only that which remains at the end of being burnt by fire or are ashes the remains of what once was? If latter then that is what becomes of everything eventually – of life, of things, of people, of ideas.
To realize this is to also realize that everything is on ‘fire’, everything is burning, everything is changing. No matter how long a thing may burn, it eventually will and does burn out – only ashes remain – of the stars, of the moons, of the planets, of civilizations, of people.
Ash, however, is not the eventuality. It but marks the beginning of yet another journey – a journey that starts from losing one form and moves towards realizing another. Ash mixes with its environment to become a plant, a fruit, an animal, a person, a rock. Ash re-invents itself, recreates itself. Everything is a cycle, endless and eternal. Nothing remains as we know it and nothing of what we know ever goes away – the world burning to ashes, the ashes morphing back into a world.
In this ever-changing world of things, is there something that is changeless, unchangeable, everlasting and eternal against whose backdrop all else is changing? Behind the movie of this Universe, is there an unchanging screen on which it is being played? Is there a smokeless flame that burns nothing and produces no ash but burns luminous nonetheless?