Tuesday, June 27, 2006

You cannot not act

When you tell anybody that he or she is not the doer, there are two immediate reactions: ‘This is fatalistic’ and ‘If everything is happening by itself, why should I do anything?’

The problem is, even if you want to, you cannot not act.

Try out this experiment. You lock yourself in your bedroom and decide you will lie down on the bed and not to do anything at all. You think, ‘So everything just happens by itself, huh? We’ll see.’

Your experiment begins now.

Suddenly…you hear a tap dripping. You have decided not to do anything at all but your programming hates dripping taps. So you decide you will turn off the tap and then begin the experiment. You are just back in the room after turning off the tap and about to resume the experiment and guess what. You hear a child wailing. Now, the way you are built, you simply cannot bear to hear a child cry. So you decide you will quieten the child and then begin your experiment. You do that and then come back to resume your experiment. And then the aroma of grilled cheese sandwiches wafts across from the kitchen. You discover you are ravenously hungry. The experiment can wait a bit, let me first have a sandwich...

Of course you didn’t do anything!

The quintessence of the Bhagavad Gita

The beauty of the Bhagavad Gita lies in its compassion for the spiritual seeker. Lord Krishna is the Guru, Arjun is the typical spiritual seeker. Arjun is in turmoil - full of doubts and questions and, like all seekers, burdened with a zillion misconcepts. Lord Krishna plays the perfect Guru - at times patient, at times cutting and at all times compassionate. He is a spiritual surgeon who cuts to heal. Fondly-held concepts are peeled away and the Way is pointed to again and again, from this angle and that, using down-to-earth examples. A glimmer here and a glimmer there till there is blazing light that annihilates the darkness of ignorance.

The other beauty of the Bhagavad Gita is, it serves you wisdom customised to your programming: if you are a bhakt (given to devotion) it will endorse and consolidate your devotion; if you are a karma yogi (given to action), it will urge you to go forth and act; if you are a gyan-margi (given to contemplation), it will make you contemplate deeply on the nature of reality. So each one sees in, and takes from, the Bhagavad Gita different things.

In shunyayogi's take on the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna deals with four important concepts, offered here almost telegraphically with a view to aid contemplation (and, yes, for minds to disagree!):

One, the vital difference between inaction and non-action.

Inaction is, in fact, volitional action - a 'me' entity, an entity claiming to be a name-and-form, deciding not to act.

Non-action is non-volitional action - acting with the full understanding that one is not the doer of that (or any) action.

Also, inaction is not possible for any length of time since every impact on the senses will produce an action based on the programming of the body-mind organism. (Read the posting that follows: You cannot not act.)

Two, the concept of doership.

No entity is the doer of its action. The 'me' thinks it does everything - it is in charge of not only its actions but also the consequences of its actions. Not the case. The 'me' is merely a programmed instrument through which certain consequences are achieved. As the Buddha said, events happen, deeds are done but there is no individual doer thereof.

Three, the concept that time is linear.

Time isn't linear. What was, is. What is, is. What will be, is. (Check out an earlier posting titled Elastic time.)

Four, the concept of karma.

Actions must have consequences and consequences lead to actions. That is indeed true. However, there is no individual karma, only impersonal karma since no individual does anything anyway. Drawing from point two, if you are not the doer then to whom will accrue the consequences of the action that happened through you? And drawing from point four, if time isn't linear then the action and its consequence co-exist. So what happens to your concept of individual karma?

The clearing of these four concepts leads to the gentle dropping away of the sense of doership. And when the total irrevocable understanding happens that one is not the doer, that 'event' is referred to by many as Enlightenment.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

As Of Now

Life’s been kind
Ya baby you’re mine
Swearing vows
But honey y’know
In life you n’er know
All y’can say is
We’re together…
…As of now

As of now, as of now
Why does it always have to be
As of now?
Nothing’s forever
Nothing at all
Everything’s true
Everything’s real
As of now

Merc in the driveway
Villa in Spain
Wraparound babes
Ragin’ fire in the groin
Honey they’re all mine
All mine, oh yeah all mine…
…As of now

As of now, as of now
Why does it always have to be
As of now?
Nothing’s forever
Nothing at all
Everything’s true
Everything’s real
As of now

I think I’ve cracked
The Open Secret
Found the gateless gate
To Reality
Think I’ve finally understood
Life's big myss'terry
…As of now

As of now, as of now
Why does it always have to be
As of now?
Nothing’s forever
Nothing at all
Everything’s true
Everything’s real
As of now

- shunyayogi

Monday, June 19, 2006

Relative irony

There is so much irony in relationships.

Take parents, for instance. I read somewhere that you spend half your life ingesting your parents and the other half digesting them.

Take marriage. Each partner works so hard to realign the other’s programming to match one’s own. And then, if and when the other becomes more like one…why, they obviously become boring! How ironic: a romance that was born in resonance fizzles out as an echo.

Then take children. We want them to be like us, see them as an extension of our own egos. We preen when they look the way we do; we gloat when they like what we like and when they do we what we do the way we do it. Then comes payback time. With horror we realize they picked up not only what we considered the best in us but also what we hated most about ourselves. And guess what, they are around all the time to remind us of it. (Of course the tangy irony in this is: having ingested us, the poor darlings are trying so hard to digest us!)

Sunday, June 18, 2006

As you flip, so you flop

Every spiritual seeker will tell you about the ecstasy and the misery of the flip-flop: a period of lucid clarity and being-ness followed by a spell of dark doubts and denseness.

And of course the seeker wants one and not the other. His misery is compounded by the fact that the more he wants the lucid state to continue, the quicker it slips out of his fingers. The more he strives to get it back, the further it flees from him.

Nothing in existence is without purpose - though the purpose may be one that the mind cannot fathom or the 'me' ever know it. So, it follows, that the flip-flop serves a purpose too.

The key word here is acclimatization.

Console yourself with this concept: The flip takes you to a new base camp; the flop acclimitazes you to that stage of your seeking.

Just a concept, okay?

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Programme Patch

It was six thirty in the morning. The three school-going brothers were sleeping on separate divans in their room.

Their father believed only asuras (demons) slept on after sunrise and he had his sadistic devices for waking them up: bhajans on All India Radio, switching off the fan at seven in summer...

Today it was the radio.

Filtering through their sleep was DV Paluskar's bhajan (devotional song) 'Thumak Chalat Ramachandra' playing on Bombay B radio station. Someday MS Subbalakshmi would seep into their sleep, on other days bhajans by Purshottamdas Jalota and Sudhir Phadke.

The boys slept on, doggedly fighting off the bhajan intrusion with hastily reworked endings to their ongoing dreams. They slept on, oblivious to the new programming that was being inputted into their existing programming.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Ashtavakra's Pointers to the Realised One

Ashtavakra Gita, the dialogue between Sage Ashtavakra and King Janak, variously describes the Realised One thus:

"The wise one who lives on happily doing what comes to one to be done, does not feel troubled in activity or inactivity."

"For the wise man there is nothing to be renounced nor accepted nor destroyed."

"He who has attained Brahman cannot be distinguished from other men of the world, either in their dress or in their behaviour...He wears no external signs."

"The Realised One lives like other men of the world...only those like him can understand him...such a person ever feels his oneness with ALL."

"Seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, eating, taking, speaking and walking, the great-souled one, free from all efforts and non-efforts, is verily emancipated."

"The Realised One does not feel any desire for the dissolution of the universe nor aversion to its existence."

"The man of ignorance does not attain peace either by action or inaction. The wise one becomes happy by merely attaining the Truth."

Phenomenal wisdom

If you want to leave your footprints on the sands of time,
don't drag your feet.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Passing the spiritual baton

It was late into the night in Vrindavan, near Mathura. Four young sannyasins – two couples – from the bhakti marg (the path of devotion) were huddled around the bed of their sadguru who had chosen to take samadhi – in this case, to give up his body.

The two young men were brothers. They were both gold medalist engineers from VJTI, a prestigious engineering college in Bombay, and had been very successful businessmen when their heart led them to sannyas. Fortunately, their young wives too had been simultaneously touched by vairagya (dispassion, non-attachment) and were as keen to take sannyas. They had already found their guru and he had summoned them to Vrindavan. So they wound up their business and households and began, in August 1954, their new spartan life as sannyasins with their loving and spiritually demanding guru.

They had spent three intense years with their father-mother-mentor-sweetheart guru and now…he has departing.

It was a little after midnight when their guru breathed his last. Now with heavy hearts and a calm mind they had to get down to follow their guru’s last instructions.

And the instructions were precise; they specified not only what they had to do on his passing but also where and how they had to locate his successor.

The two young sannyasins set out immediately to locate their new guru. They had no one to ask directions of in those desolate lanes and bylanes, and in their heart of hearts they felt they had no need to…their guru was with them every step of the way. The village lanes were rudimentary, dusty and cratered and so narrow in places it was difficult negotiating them and the stray dogs in the shadows were robustly inimical to shaven-headed strangers walking through their sleepy village. Unmindful, the young sannyasins walked with hastened steps from one dark village to another. Come what may, the successor had to be found before sunset for only he could perform the last rites of a realized sage.

Around three that morning, the two young men finally landed up in a sleepy hamlet lying alongside a sacred pond. Their hearts a-racing, they started moving towards the location their guru had verbally pinpointed.

They reached a spartan hut. They had barely peeked inside when a crisp voice called out: “So, you have come. Let’s go. There’s no time to waste.”

How does shunyayogi know all this? The two young men were his paternal uncles.

Monday, June 12, 2006

What They Didn't Teach Shvetaketu

Young Shvetaketu, twelve years old,
was sent away from home to learn
what custom said that he should know.

At twenty-four, his education
seemed complete and he came back,
proud of all that he had learned.

His father said: "But have you learned
to question what you do not know?

"And have you ever asked yourself
how you may learn what has not been
already learned, how you may think
of something that is yet unthought;

"How we may know reality
beyond the bounds of seeming knowledge
that our partial minds conceive?"

Shvetaketu is taken aback by this questioning, and he has to admit:

"No, I haven't been taught this way.
I do not know quite what you mean.
Just what could such a teaching be?"

His father replies:

"Consider, then, a piece of clay.
Throught it the substance "clay" is known.

"And thus, in knowing just this piece,
the common nature of all clay
is known, and tells of other things
that also may be made of clay.

"Through differences of name and form
in different objects made of clay,
one common substance "clay", is known.

"And thus, beneath appearances,
we recognise reality
beyond the bounds of name and form
our changing minds appear to see."

A little later, Shvetaketu's father points to large tree, whose fruits have fallen to the ground. Shvetaketu is asked to pick up a fruit and break it open. It has tiny seeds in it. Shvetaketu is asked to break a seed and say what he finds there. He has to reply: "Nothing, sir. The seeds are far too small."

So now the father says:

"And yet, within each tiny seed,
there is a subtle something which
your eyes don't see, something unseen
from which this spreading tree has grown
and now stands manifested here.

"This subtle something is that
'this-itself-ness' which is all this world.

"That is the truth. That is your Self.
That is what you really are."

- From the Chandogya Upanishad, Chapter Six.

Excerpted from Ananda Wood's essay 'The Upanishads - Asking for Simplicity'

Friday, June 09, 2006

Oh God, you thief!

This is the story about the well-known sage, Tukaram, narrated by Ramesh Balsekar this morning:

Tukaram was a bhakt, an ardent devotee, of Lord Panduranga. Day in and day out he would pray to Panduranga,"My Lord, you may grant enlightenment to whomsoever you want. All I want is the opportunity to worship you incessantly.”

Then, when the Final Understanding happened, Tukaram rushed to Panduranga: “You thief! You knew you and I were one yet you extracted so much bhakti out of me!”

What’s the difference?

Heard this story from Ramesh Balsekar:

There was a simple practice at Swami Nityanand’s ashram at Vajreshwari. When devotees offered him fruits, Swamiji would pass them on to one of his disciples so that they could be cut and offered to all devotees as prasad.

One day it so happened that the disciple forgot to cut and distribute one particular lot of fruits to the devotees. Worms devoured them instead.

The disciple rued to his Master, “Guruji, the fruits went a waste.”

Swami Nityanand replied, “They went to who they were meant for.”

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Mother Nurture

The boy is around ten, it is evening time and his mother is taking him over his Gujarati homework – Gujarati is not his mother tongue, merely his second language at school. She is reading something from the textbook when she pauses and remarks in Hindi, “Kan kan mein Bhagwan.” (In every atom, there is God).

The scene changes. It is night time and the child is sitting on the floor next to his mother. She has finished her kitchen chores and is wearing a pale lilac sari. The sari has a special reassuring fragrance, a wonderful subtle blend of her sweet body sweat, her talc and the almost imperceptible traces of kitchen spices. She is yet again helping him with his homework. At some point he hears her say, “Uski marzi ke bagair ek patta bhi nahi hil sakta.” He vividly remembers her saying this, though he cannot remember the context in which she said it. “A leaf cannot flutter unless it is His will.”

As he grew up, went to college, began working, ran headlong into heady pleasures and lacerating pain, the child forgot all about this.

But then, may be he didn’t.

For, when the pieces of the puzzle intellectually fell into place, it all came back to him…sharp in every sensual detail.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Get lost

What do you have to do?

Pack your bags,
Go to the station without them,
Catch the train,
And leave your self behind.

-Wei Wu Wei in the 'Open Secret'