Monthly Archives: January 2019

Essence:  Still Eluding the Enquirer

Essence: Still Eluding the Enquirer

I wrote in my last article about how the Irish squander their hard-earned grace and inner connection, the essence, without a second thought, within five days. Not to criticise or be caustic about them; it’s just that I am living here amidst them, and their ways and celebrations are all new to me.

This phenomenal, negligent behaviour is not just specific to the Irish though. It is the ubiquitous human nature. It transgresses religions, geographic boundaries and cultures. It percolates into our very innate nature.

The wise men of yore, of every religion, gave us guidelines or directives to help us lead a life keeping the connection with the creator alive and strong. Vedas, which are known to have have come down to us as instructions ‘Shruti’; and are our oldest known scriptures, even before Hinduism, got its suffix of -ism and became a religion. They have given us a set of instructions on the ideal way to live and staying connected to the source. The etymology of the word Veda is: Vid- to see, or to know. What is there to see or to know is our next question. Once we read the Vedas, we realise that they are based on 3 founding principles; Sambandh: to know our relationship with God (the source or the creator), Abhideya: to revive our relationship with God, and Prayojana: to establish oneself in this relationship. These scriptures had a very definite goal for the readers: to know, see and maintain this relationship with the Essence or the creator. Acknowledge and experience that we are all a part of this ever-pervasive essence.

Christianity has the Ten Commandments, which, as we are all aware, are a set of biblical principles related to ethics and worship. They play a pivotal role in both Judaism and Christianity. The essence of these teaching is again the same. Worship the Lord. Honour your parents. Stay away from blasphemy, theft, dishonesty and other similar practices. It emphasises that we keep the Sabbath and keep it holy. After six days of work we asked to remember that the seventh day is exclusively for the Lord, in His remembrance. That is why we attend the church and offer our prayers, our way of re-establishing the connection with the creator, of communicating with the lord.

The five pillars of Islam, the core religious practices, are also in the same vein. They are declarations of faith, prayer, fasting, charity and pilgrimage. They unconditionally believe that ‘Allah is the only one worthy of Worship’. The way to connect with Allah is to offer prayers and gather spiritual strength and peace of mind. And, this is done five times a day, very assiduously. They recognise that wealth is a blessing from God, and it is their duty to spread it by giving it to the needy and poor, not hoard it. Ramadan is one month of fasting, a time spent in intense spiritual devotion. Lastly, in their lifetime, every Muslim strives to go on the Haj, a pilgrimage to Mecca, in Saudi Arabia.

Every religion has this common denominator. Live a life in constant remembrance. Do everything with awareness of the divine presence in the sub-conscious. Till the conscious mind does not learn to work with the sub-conscious mind we are likely to fumble, go off track, get engrossed in this myriad of illusory enchantments offered on a platter in our daily life. Pick any religion, we see the same advice or words of caution ingrained in the scriptures. The seers knew how forgetful we are. They had zero faith in our earnestness to pursue the true goal or to be able to retain the connection with our creator. I sincerely apologize for singling out the Irish in my last article, because the issue is all pervading.

Today, we have distanced ourselves from these places of worship. We used to go every day, then once a week, and it has trickled down to these big celebratory gathers, like Christmas and Easter. Hindus, even with their countless festivals, are unable to keep alive the inner connection. Most of our actions are mindless and automated. We have a severe paucity of time, too many distractions, and an inexorably long gestation period in getting answers from the Lord almighty. In this age of quick fixes and instant gratification, we had valid reasons for our straying further away from the essence.

The image of the boxing champion Muhammad Ali comes to mind. As he enters the arena, walking towards the boxing ring, he wears a huge hooded cloak, a very ornate one with his name emblazoned on it. Within the garment is the real man, who will unveil himself once he steps into the ring, fighting for the name and title inscribed on the cloak he cast-off. We also seem to be wearing this temporary cloak over ourselves when we enter our place of worship and try to communicate with Him, seeking moments of solace and inner strength, answers to unanswered questions and guidance. It is a small light showing the right way. Yet, the second we step out of the sanctuary the cloak is off, and we snap out of the forced reverie.

The cloak the boxing champion steps out of is temporary, and he does so with every intent of wearing the prized robe again as soon as possible. His goals are always aligned with the name and title inscribed on the cloak. All his battles are for that very inscription. We also cast off our cloak the minute we step out of our place of worship, divesting ourselves of the sheath of equanimity and grace those moments of introspection offered us. Actually, we would be better off, stitching it to our bodies. This very fabric is our protection, our connection to our inner self. This sliver is all we have, a hope for our re-union with the ultimate. This has our essence, the semblance we have with our creator. Today’s enquirer has a mere passing curiosity, a whim which ekes the spirit of inquiry, but lacks the steadfastness and sincerity of a true seeker. We are lured by mirages and caught in our self-created mires, and then we wonder why the essence still eludes us.



Eluding the enquirer: Essence

Eluding the enquirer: Essence

Happy New Year and a Joyous Life to all of you, again.

My sister said that the article I wrote was a little too sombre-ish and ill-suited to the light-hearted spirit which prevails during this festive season. I’m attempting this: an article equally insightful yet with a little humour interlaced in it.

This holiday season I was witness to a few paradoxical events. Between 24th December to 2nd of January Ireland celebrates two momentous occasions, and very uniquely too. The whole country is shut down from 24th December to 26th December. The families meet, attend church, rejoice, and spend time with each other. The whole country wears an exuberant, festive air. A very aware and alive festive mood prevails on these three days. The bars are shut down, even the airport is closed on the 25th of December. I never knew of any airports being closed for any festival anywhere in the world. The fiscal loss is mind boggling and can be a deterrent to any other materially focused developed or developing nation, but not to this unique country. This country truly honours and reveres their Lord and walks the whole nine yards in acknowledging the importance and overwhelming presence Jesus has in their daily lives. This is probably the only modern economy still grounded and rooted to its values and culture.

We live right next to a church and I was amazed to see the number of cars parked, and the throng of people in the church on 25th December. Even I get caught up in their frenzy and set up a Christmas tree. I felt very tempted to attend their mass and pay my respects, partake of the offerings and soak in the atmosphere of the church. They were unmindful of the damp weather, the incessant drizzle, the chilling wind piercing through their many warm layers; their countenance radiated pure joy and love. Every being who exits those huge doors carries a piece of Him in their hearts and that atmosphere inside the church becomes their inner climate. It is a miracle how they retain their inner warmth and buoyant spirits; a sharp contrast to the atmosphere outside.

A very paradoxical scenario played out on the 27th of December, at the Dublin airport. We were standing in line, waiting for our turn to board the plane to London. In front of me was a lady on her phone, very urgently crunching some numbers with the person at the other end. I was admiring her capacity to be so engrossed in her work when the whole country was still luxuriating in their holiday zone. She had a sandwich in one hand, phone in the other and was gently trudging the suitcase and inching her way forward in the queue. Next minute, the phone was cradled between her ear and shoulder and the free hand dived into her bag and she flipped open her tablet to clarify some details to the person on the phone, still eating and still pushing the suitcase with her leg.  Now, she was at the counter and it was her turn to show her boarding pass; she is not flustered in the least. Amazingly, and very smoothly, she puts the sandwich on the counter top and the free hand fishes out the boarding pass and flashes it. So, at that moment she was juggling five different things with absolute ease and totally in control! Of course, it was too good to be true. All hell broke loose when the uniformed lady politely informed this busy bee; “Ma’am, you are standing at the wrong gate”!

The play of expressions on her face is indescribable. Pandemonium ensued, followed by a string of epithets about how the airport was to be blamed, and how she will sue the airport for the loss of business because of their negligence! Needless to say, she missed her flight and beyond that I don’t know how the story ended. I can only conclude that between 25th December and 27th December this poor lady had totally lost control of her inner climate and whatever little portion of church atmosphere she was carrying within her was gone too.

I was mulling over this incident and my therapist mind wondered if this could be a dissociative personality disorder or something akin to that.  Then, this happens on 1st January 2019, at 3:30 am: I was about to sit down and meditate to welcome the new year on a ruminative note. It was my time to introspect, to re-align my goals and promises for the coming year. Suddenly, I heard loud jeering and slurred singing and laughter from outside! A group of inebriated men and women were making their way back home at 3:30 AM, wishing each other a ‘Happy New Year’. They could barely walk. They dragged their feet and one was supporting the other from falling on the road. They were all singing too, at the top of their voices. Nothing coherent or even close to a tune! It lasted for about 2 -3 minutes and the voices died down as they made their way uphill. I actually found it cute. The Irish were living up to their party spirit reputation.

When the same scene replayed itself every time I tried to meditate, it quickly stopped being cute or funny. I was irate and ready to open the door and pick a fight. From 3:30AM to 4:30 AM people were returning home and would certainly sleep through 3/4th of the New Year’s first day. Not only were they totally out of their own climate and atmosphere, this intermittent, noisy intrusion was marring my climate and atmosphere too!

In a span of five days they forget, abandon and lose that inner climate they so cherished and carried in their hearts on the 25th of December. That is how long it lasts! The connection and the essence we so carefully gathered on the 25th of December is decimated even before we can truly imbibe and make that essence a part of our inner self. Luckily, we have Christmas every year and we can partake of that essence atleast once a year. Maybe with time, we will outgrow our frivolous obsessions with the outside, and learn to cherish the atmosphere of the 25th of December and make it our own permanent climate.

Free of Freedom

Free of Freedom

Free of Freedom

2018 began on a very sombre, subdued and introspective note, but its closure is bringing hope and new prospects with it. I am eagerly looking forward to the dawn of 2019. With the number of grieving moments far outnumbering the celebratory occasions which spanned the year, life’s questions kept resurfacing. Every news of a death or grave illness made me realize how ephemeral life is, and I felt the urgency of having to accomplish whatever I set out to achieve in life. I awakened to the verity that my life is slipping through my fingers; like the grains of sand I refused to let go from my vice- like grip, yet very effortlessly they always manage to break free.

On the other hand, news of a wedding or a birth makes me feel as if life has just commenced, or a new opportunity has just opened its doors, and I have ample time to ponder, plan and proceed; life would perpetuate, be my ally. This oscillation between the feeling of imminent mortality and lasting immortality, depending on the supervening circumstances and events of life, summarises my 2018. The year rolled by with me updating my bucket list on one side of my journal and the prospective ventures I planned to start featuring on the other.

Interestingly, during the first half of the year, I had a barrage of all-time low experiences. Everywhere I turned, I encountered some dismal news, personally and professionally. It was as if each passing day was telling me to close my affairs as urgently as possible; I may not live to see a tomorrow. So that is how I lived the first six months, like there is no tomorrow. Learning to live in the moment, savour the moment, to be a part of the journey and stop fretting about the destination became my mantra. Living in the moment and experiencing it, be it of sadness and pain, or of pleasure and joy became a transformative learning. I could live a lifetime in that moment of pain or pleasure and yet remain unaffected and equanimous within, by being the observer. Alternatively, I could revel in that feeling of pain or pleasure, become bonded to it and allow every other experience to bypass me, by getting engrossed in this one experience. The option of being in its grip, or free of it; this is a choice I always have. This was a revelation to me.

The second half of the year went away like a breeze, with many celebrations and success moments; yet, my inner climate never reached the satiated stillness point. It craved for something else, something more. Not encumbered by anyone or any situation on the outside; my inner climate, my perpetual embroiled state with my own situation and environment kept me shackled. So, to sum it up, I was free in the literal sense of the term, yet I felt chained. Life is such magical web, it seemed to ensnare me further and furthermore, never allowing me to free myself of desires and wants.

“Ashtavakra (and I agree with him) does not believe in emptiness of action. Action here is never born out of self-interest, i.e., out of what is good for me. Action derives from what is good for the whole.

Void of action refers to the action of the wave becoming the ocean. The essence of the wave in the sea is not described by the shape of the wave; it is the water.

The question is, do I realize that I am awareness? Can I observe the essence, the state of alone, the void of action? Can I be the wave but never forget the awareness of the essence, which is the ocean. This is what Ashtavakra mean by cutting the bondage.” (Third Sutra – page 45; Bitten by the Black Snake by Manuel Schoch)

If I were a drop of water trying to make my way to the ocean, all this knowledge of experience becomes a vicious cycle, my bondage. Resultantly, these very insights become a hinderance for the drop to merge with the ocean. It gives me the illusion that every pond (experience I have) is an ocean, and I have arrived, reached the culmination. This knowledge is robbing me of my spirit of enquiry and lulling me into an illusory ephemeral state of peace. The lasting true merger is only possible if I can sell this knowledge and buy confusion (innocence and the wisdom to wonder).

How could I break free of this loop with a string of goals to achieve? All of them were my goals, and I was actively engaged, motivated, earnest about all my dreams and wishes. I was a wave which reached a pond or a stream and thought it to be the ocean. Temporarily, if the wave could forget its exclusivity, the wave and the ocean became one, but very soon something would happen, and the wave separated itself from the ocean, creating an all new experience for itself. The wave swept the shores and unlike the ocean was never able to leave behind the debris. The high tide came, and the wave danced with joy and went further into the ocean, unable to divest itself of the desire to retain its uniqueness. Unfortunately, this very desire to be free became my biggest bondage and I spent 2018 like this wave; making its way to the ocean but forever forgetting the essence.

To be free of freedom, I had to abandon the thought and desire to be free. Live like a wave with awareness of the ocean. That’s our essence too; we were always free. We are caged by our own thoughts, desires and fears.

Here’s wishing ALL of you a free of freedom filled 2019 and every year after.