03 June 2012

The common journey of a unique life

All our lives are spent in hunting and gathering for tangible and intangible things that would add to our happiness. Yet the irony of it all is that the greatest moments of our life’s joy are marked by self-forgetfulness.

Happiness is as fleeting and as available through so called worldly pursuits as it is through so called spiritual pursuits. In reality, the spiritual pursuit is nothing more than wisdom applied to our worldly living. Whether one seeks the state of joy through yoga or through relationships or through power or through wealth, there are times when we feel we have made it and then there are moments when we fall short of our own demands and expectations. The so called witnessing consciousness is witness to our rise and to our fall regardless of our pursuits. It is ever available and ever fleeting.

Human life is fraught with combination of joys and sorrows. A spiritual seeker’s pursuits as well as a worldly person’s aim are both congruous. They both seek to come upon a state of joy devoid of suffering by use of their faculties of body and mind and through running after a self-created or borrowed image of possibility of such an existence. Both paths are marred with frustrations of failure and of discoveries of delight. In truth, these seemingly different paths are like the many different rivers, all coalescing towards the same ocean - seemingly different and yet formed of the same origin and merging into the same eternity.

Spiritual seeker carries the pride of renouncing, the worldly person is burdened by the arrogance of accumulation. The spiritual seeker sees the latter as greedy while the former is labeled as lazy. Yet it is like the person blaming his own image in the mirror as if it were someone else.

I know joy is real since I have experienced it. I know some paths that lead to it and others away from it, which too I have experienced. I also know that no path that I have traversed thus far has succeeded at retaining joy perpetually. Sooner or later, no matter what the means, it has met its demise.

Life then is not an arrival but a journey. A journey in which there is much gained and much lost. A journey in which we learn much and unlearn a lot. A journey in which we experience the grace of togetherness and are burnt by the harshness of loneliness alike. A journey in which no matter how much we give or how much we receive, our lives continue to oscillate between the fullness of our hearts and the emptiness of our hands. A journey in which the desire to arrive is the only constant companion.

On such a journey one asks oneself what makes one carry oneself day after day. What is it to which one rises to each day and wishes to dream of every night? For some it is the a relationship, for others it is a passionate scientific or artistic pursuit, for some others it is a self created goal of achieving something that they consider meaningful. And yet there are some for whom none of these exist and yet they wake up each morning and go about their day knowing that this journey, which could end any instant, is not over yet and that, which seems to come quite easily to many, requires on their part courage drawn from the deepest core of their beings - the simple ability to place one foot in front of the other.

However, regardless of one’s disposition, the idea of finding lasting fulfillment through activity, whatever that activity might be, is as fictitious as the idea of the sun shining through the night. One may get indications of such possibility just as the moonlight validates the existence of the sun at night time. However, the indication of a thing is never the thing itself. Only in the dawning of contentment is there completeness of action. Action that spurs from a place of incompleteness fails to dispel restlessness. 

When faced with an unending night one may deny the sun, ignore the moon or make other philosophical claims. Yet when the sun does dawn, words give way to silence, doubts dispel in experience, and the acute longing of a lifetime finds solace and respite. The journey continues.  

21 May 2012

A journey from living to being truly alive

That who suffers in you, suffers in all suffering everywhere. None cause hurt to another unless they are hurting themselves. This understanding is the beginning of compassion, is the room for forgiveness, and is the place of love.

With the innocence of a child be completely convinced at all times of the following truths:

1. Everyone loves me
Ignore any and all of another's seemingly insolent acts, rooted in ignorance, in the  same way as a mother ignores the outcries of her child while continuing to attend to her child's needs with great care, love and compassion.

2. I love everyone
Regardless of what negativity may arise within, act and speak only from a place of great love. Truly care for the well being of those around you regardless of their attitude or action. Speak less, speak well.

3. I want nothing
Life has taken care of you this far and it will continue to take care of you. Have unflinching faith that your needs will be taken care of. And realize that the need is not always for food, sometimes the need is to experience hunger; the need is not always for acceptance, sometimes the need for us is to experience alienation. Only one who is not afraid to till the soils of scarcity gets to experience the true joy of fields of abundance. Continue to diligently attend to your duties in life without demand for anything.

4. Whatever I have is for the service and good of everyone
Do all the good that you can, in all ways you can. Do not hold back, do not calculate. In any situation, always ask what is needed and how can I help?

5. Commit to happiness
Above all, do not let your happiness be a victim of your circumstances. When something makes you upset, make it a point to truly and genuinely smile from the core of your being, your heart. No negativity would be able to stick to you, your heart would be free of all resentment. Declare your freedom to be happy unconditionally - for conditions are always changing.

02 May 2012

The Human Divinity, Determinism, and Free-will

‘God created man in his own image[Genesis 1:27]’. The Supreme Spirit, which manifests itself as everything in this Universe - from rocks to humans - created humans as the closest clone to its own nature. To this effect, just as figs do not sprout from mango seeds, abject slavery is not born of infinite freedom. To believe otherwise is false understanding.

Man’s freedom, though not unlimited like that of the Supreme Spirit, does exist (it also has the potential to be that supreme freedom, when freed from the ‘I-am-ness’ of itself). This freedom, though limited, is real. It may be referred to as the free-will or it may be called as discrimination - the power to choose or to act based on the contents of one’s consciousness. The only entities who are devoid of free will are those who are either not human (which is why human birth is of such great significance since only through this birth form is it possible to realize the Supreme) and those who have actually attained the state of enlightenment while living in the human body. The enlightened beings in human form have no personal self and are a mere instrument of the Supreme will. Every other human has the capacity to exercise free will in accordance with his/her knowledge/experience/memory. This discriminatory power or intelligence may be used to elevate oneself towers life’s greater truths or be ignored at the risk of miring oneself down with its illusions. The choice is there. This is why in Gita it is said that one's own mind can be one's greatest ally or one’s worst enemy.

This can also be understood through the example of a hospital patient. Although the patient does not have the same freedom as the person who is not in the hospital, within the hospital the patient does have some degree of freedom, which if rightfully exercised, could lead to an expedited expulsion from the institution, although it does not guarantee such outlet.

Same is the case with man. Man has the ability to exercise discretion/intelligence over the contents of his consciousness towards attaining greater wisdom or demerit. And although such efforts do not guarantee that one would realize the Truth, they certainly improve upon the possibility. Hence the paradox - one cannot attain the Truth by effort alone but effort is essential nonetheless.

One cannot so easily dictate the circumstances of one’s life but the response, based on one’s knowledge at the time, is definitely within one’s reach. Hence all scriptures emphasize the use of one’s intelligence. Hence we are able to make choices and learn from them. Hence we do not have to burn our hand every time on a hot stove to know that it hurts.

Free will exists in the form of discrimination. It is not limitless because its quality and extent are limited by the contents of one’s consciousness. The contents of one’s consciousness are a gift from consciousness itself, as is the ability to play with them and to refine them. This 'play' is also governed by inescapable rules. Rules such as the inability to give up the search for joy, rules which enable an inherent understanding and struggle to decipher right from wrong (when all is one), inevitability of the death of that which takes birth, inability to deny or to ignore the truth forever, the rule of karmic cycle (what goes around, comes around), and more. The entire play is set up for man to see it for what it is - a game. For man to learn to play an active part while recognizing oneself to be not the player. The only meaningful lessons from this game of life are about moving from being a token on the game board to recognizing oneself as the detached witness of the game. Man’s ability to learn is man’s ability to exercise choice. These choices can serve to expand one's consciousness by virtue of greater inclusivity or to shrink it by denial or negation of that which is. As the expanse of one’s consciousness increases, one’s freedom also accentuates.

In addition, man is not dictated to always act on the strongest impulse or loudest thought either. The ability to be in the company of these loud noises and stay unaffected is called awareness.

Also, space is not a helpless impotent comatose patient. Space is the most alive, living, and vibrant entity in this creation. Even science is unable to find anything more alive and active. It is this space that is us, the Universe, the consciousness, and that which is even beyond the consciousness. Space is not only the spectator. It is also the play as well as the stage on which it is being played. It is Space in which all knowledge arises and then manifests in human beings as intuition or insight, the source of all of our  knowledge. It is Space in which all knowledge and everything else eventually dissolves.

Human beings have free will. It manifests itself in their ability to learn and to apply that knowledge towards greater wisdom. Life as a human being is of immense significance because only in this life form there exists the possibility to live either like an animal, or like a human, or like an Angel, or to be the Buddha. All choices are available.

However, although the exercise of one’s discrimination to seek the Truth may create the possibility of coming upon the Truth, it does not guarantee it. Just as keeping a window open makes it possible for the sunlight to come through but cannot force the sun to shine. Discovery of truth, like the happening of Love, is a gift from the Supreme. And upon whom the Supreme chooses to bestow such a gift, is part of the Supreme’s free-will, of which we are a tiny but a precious part.

18 April 2012

Time, Universe, and I

I wonder what is time. Latest scientific research states that there was no time before the Big Bang. Also, that time disappears when inside a black hole. So the very thing which gives rise to the sense of eternity is itself ephemeral? What is this strage phenomenon that we know as time?

To me time is a measure of change. If nothing ever changed there would be no sense of time. It is because things change - people age, stars birth, days come and go - that we have a sense of time. Even if one were to sit in a dark room for ages one would still have a sense of time because the body is changing, breath is moving. No being, outside of deep meditation, can know that timeless state of being.

However, within me, and I would gather within each of us, there is a sense of youthfulness that does not age. A sense of "I feel un-aged even though my body's aged". Is this who I am? If this is me and if this me does not age then this is perhaps that what we call as the divine  - that which is beyond time, ageless, changeless. If this is so then to know oneself as anyone other than this being would indeed then be ignorance and a fundamental cause of sorrow and suffering.

And if something is changeless and timeless then it can surely have no beginning and no end. Hence it is eternal or beyond time. And hence it stands to reason that "I" am eternal and timeless. This is perhaps what science is unable to come to terms with since it assumes a beginning, and thereby an end. And even though it is convincingly right about the coming about of this known material Universe but what about that which was before, continues now, and, by same reasoning, would outlast the known structures of matter, energy and space?

Stephen Hawking, the renowned Physicist, in the documentary "Does God Exist?"concludes that there can be no God given that the rules of Universe exist all by themselves and that Quantum theory proves that things can come into existence out of nothingness all by themselves. To him the Universe is the biggest free lunch ever. Eventually he denies the possibility of God and of reincarnation. He says "...there is no heaven and perhaps no afterlife either. We have this one life to appreciate this grand design of the Universe and for that I am extremely grateful".

But who is grateful? And to whom? What is life? How is it different from matter, from energy, from space? What is the ability to ask question, to be curious? What is intelligence? What is compassion? What is love? And what is that nothingness from which everything spawned?

Stephen Hawking is right. The God, as he understands, does not exist, cannot exist. If God is a maker of things, of time and bound by time, then of course there can be no such lasting entity. Science has answered many questions and we of scientific temperament may have convinced ourselves of having solved the mysteries of this Universe. But I, an individual, am unable to grapple with the miracle of my tini tiny existence that has been granted the immensity to question and understand the infinite. Who am I, I still do not know.

All I know is that everything in this Universe lends itself to doubt - a star that is like the sun but does not appear to be so, a sun that is a star but looks so different, a mirage that looks like water but is not, a dream that feels real but is an illusion of the mind. But of one thing I am always sure and aware - I am. Whether asleep or awake, whether with people or alone, whether in sorrow or in joy, whether young or old - I am. But Who am I, I still do not know.

07 February 2012

Who (not what) is it really about?

I love movies. Especially the ones with a message. Very few directors know how to make a movie that conveys the message without overpowering the story. It is an amazing art but not so important to my own story tonight. 

I just returned after watching the movie “Big Miracle”. It is a (true) story about three whales that get trapped under ice off the coast of Alaska and need to be rescued. The story unfolds like an avalanche, starting small and then gaining momentum of global proportions. As with most stories this too has several characters. Each character is a story in itself. One is trying to improve her image, another is trying to build a new image, another is trying to do the right thing but within the limits of what he deems as appropriate, others are trying to make the most of the situation financially, and then there are one who is actually at the heart of it. This story is about those one or two people who keep the heart of an issue beating and alive. It is about those who risk being labeled crazy as they attempt to keep us sane about where our priorities need to be. 

This movie’s director was not the taciturn type who conveys the message in a subtle way once or twice during the course of a couple hour movie. He was instead the type who believe in bombarding the message at every step possible, and then some more. It was evident every few minutes that there were many parties involved - from a little boy living in Alaska to all the way to the ambitious man in the White House - each seeking to strengthen personal gain through participation. 

There is, however, this one girl who is not there out of self interest. She was one person who was there because she loved the Whales. For it is ultimately them, who the story is really about. At first I found the girl quite annoying since she reminded me of all the annoying people who carry a chip on their shoulder acting as if they are the world saviors while everyone else is pushing the world towards its doom. 

However, as the story unfolded I noticed something different. I noticed that no matter how many hours, days or weeks had passed until the event started, she never lost her way. I noticed that she was always about the same one thing from the beginning to the end - to save the whales. I noticed that she did not just talk, she acted, even at the risk of her life towards her commitment. I realized that she was committed to saving the whales. I realized that she was not in for herself but for them. I realized that she was truly selfless. 

Another funny thing I noticed - she was the linchpin that held everyone and everything together. Her devotion inspired great things in people around her. I also noticed that when the goal is clear the decisions were easy and obvious. In fact they were no decisions at all since the choice was just that evident. It was only when either our fear or our self-interest intervened that we became confused about what needed to be done. When it became a question of ‘what about me?,’ it was then that we were not really clear about what needed to be done or how to go about doing it.  

I learned a big lesson today. Behind every action there is a driver. That driver is either that of fear or that of greed or that of love. The fear and greed drivers are about the self and they want to use every person and situation to quench the fire of inner insecurity. The driver of love alone acts from a place of total abundance and concern for the well being of another. The driver of love knows nothing about self preservation or about self interest. For love there is no other but just one. 

It is thus important to ask of all situations - who is it really about? Who really suffers if we fail? Whom are we really failing by not coming together? When we decide to not serve or serve half heartedly based on our convenience, who is really losing? When we put our convenience ahead of another’s need, who loses? And when another loses at our gain, is it really a sustainable win for us? 

At the heart of all our efforts it is imperative to keep asking the question - who is it really about? Who is it really about? Who is it really about? And if through our thoughts, speech, and action we seek to bring about a world of joyous togetherness, if we are to be a force of change, if we want to inspire others to great action, if we wish to have a fulfilled life, it had better not be about us as an individual. 
Your next thought, word, action - who is it really about?

In the end, the commotion, the effort, the engagement was not about the environment or about the whales or about saving lives. It was about answering to the fear and the need for help in another being, who no matter how big or strong, was vulnerable. It was about acknowledging our own timidness and limitations and yet consciously coming together in an effort to test the limits of our capabilities and of our courage. It was about comforting another in their pain with a strong conviction of "I'm here for you", even when the conviction may be rooted in fear or self-doubt. It was about conquering our own inner fears so another can take heart.

31 January 2012

The honest perspective

When we are truly honest with ourselves we realize that all events in our life and in this world are neutral. Tsunami does not come about out of ocean's anger, nor does tragedy befall us because we are a bad person, nor does fortune favor us because we are so kind. The meaning we associate with an event is a reflection of the evolution of our own consciousness.

To grow spiritually is to move from having perspectives that bring us misery, to having perspectives that make us strong and happy, to eventually moving away from all perspectives and seeing things exactly as they are - which is freedom, which is unity, which is love.

However, paradoxically, the more we are in need of regaining perspective under trying times, the harder it is to come by. Which is why it is important to contemplate on higher truths about life while one is not afflicted by sorrow. These truths can then be our true guiding light through difficult times.