Two hours into a circular discussion on action/ karma and destiny, I realized that one of my friends had been unusually silent. Curious, I asked about her thoughts to loop her back into the conversation. ‘This whole discussion is annoying me,’ she said. ‘I mean, what is the purpose behind this? How does it matter if you know or not, what destiny has in store for you? How would it help? Just act. Do whatever it is that you’re doing and if you suffer the consequences, learn and move on. What is the point of this questioning? What are we hoping to achieve? After all, we all know that we don’t know what’s going to happen in the future.’
Without really knowing or intending to, this friend had administered a final blow and hit the nail on the head. So, while we had been ‘discussing’ our need for what is true, purposeful action, she was actually experiencing it!
Her annoyance over the seemingly purposeless action of questioning and discussing was no different from a similar annoyance we all feel when so many of our actions make no sense or seem like a total waste of time. Yes, just as my friend was irritated by what she felt was totally lacking in purpose, so too, do we all feel the need to question when we find ourselves feeling rudderless and acting routinely, habitually and without conscious reason.
We question our actions, our motives, our ideas and our beliefs because we want to discover their source. Generally speaking, our actions proceed from desire and hope, or anxiety for the future or from a set of beliefs and values. It is through our questioning that we can see this fact. Also weighing on our minds and aborting conscious, awakened action is that vast body of second-hand knowledge, which we have acquired in a bid to substitute our ignorance. This mindless accumulation of knowledge too, hasn’t given us clarity. Not only has our ignorance not disappeared, it has been further compounded by knowledge we our selves know nothing about.
But contemplation and reflection are such strange and unusual pastimes. Do they serve any purpose? Do they achieve anything for us that we can parade around as an accomplishment?
Must questions only provide answers? Are only those questions valid, that ‘have’ answers? In a similar vein, is only that action good that can achieve something?
I feel that because we sense a purpose to our existence, we wish to act purposefully.
But, we tend to confuse individual desires with purpose, thinking all the while that our individual destiny is all that matters. If we argue that life is intrinsically intelligent and everything within it seems to by default, fulfill a purpose; and by virtue of such an observation we can be certain that we are anyway fulfilling our purpose, then why is it, that in spite of us being conscious beings, we are not conscious of it?
We act, driven by our desires and we suffer the consequences of such actions time and again. Yet, we refuse to learn from such suffering and see that there is something fundamentally wrong with such desire-motivated action. It’s almost always destined for failure. We do not even want to explore the possibility that there may be other ways to motivate action.
J Krishnamurti’s beautiful and elegant elucidation on suffering is that ‘it is nothing but the poverty of a limited consciousness.’ Through questioning, we’re hoping to expand our consciousness. We’re wondering if we can act in a more awakened state- not out of reaction, compulsion, or fear or to fight or for flight, or desire for personal success and glory. The question is, is there another way to act?
Where does action proceed from? When it proceeds from desire or fear or anxiety, you can be certain that it proceeds from a limited, individual consciousness. If my thoughts, my beliefs, my values, my concerns are centered around me and only me, my actions are also going to be self-serving and limited. If however, my actions were to proceed from an expanded consciousness something that went beyond me and mine, I would slowly sieve out and separate individual desires from purpose and perhaps see –with an awakened mind- what in truth is my reason to be.