Wait. Watch. Listen.

The mind is a cheat. And it will cheat, if it is left to its own devices. It will suck you into a spiral of thoughts, trick you into believing their baseless ‘knowledge’ and completely hijack your attention to act on their ‘plans and desires’.

How are habits of thinking formed? How are memories reinforced and strengthened? What lies beyond this mind with its memories and desires and fears? Why is it that one feels imprisoned and bound in that which gives one the greatest feeling of safety and security? Which one of us hasn’t felt confined within and limited by our own minds? Why does a freedom beyond our safe and secure prisons beckon us?

The substance of all that is the mind (memories et al) is accumulated knowledge- a medley of remembered experiences, reinforced by our continuous expression of it through language. The mind remembers everything that seems significant and meaningful to the ego- that part of our selves that is interested in stringing together a story about itself or in ‘arriving’ somewhere.  Our knowledge of language with its words and their commonly understood meanings is very often a handicap rather than an advantage. Having reduced language to a mere code whose meanings can be sought in a dictionary, we end up with a corrupted and stereotyped understanding of the one thing that shapes and structures our mind-and that is our unique experiences. Knowledge can be so impressive and seductive that we find ourselves unable and unwilling to feel anything other than what our knowledge of words and their meanings allows us to feel. ‘A mere verbal understanding of something’, noted J Krishnamurti, ‘is no understanding at all.’

Instead of communicating that which our senses perceive and feel, we’ve used language to educate our senses. We try to fashion our senses by overstating or embellishing what we truly feel. Without knowledge, without the means to name and identify, we seem to be diminished in our eloquence and consequently in our ability to impress another with our story. We draw sustenance and nourishment from being acknowledged by others and we’ll end up doing anything for such nourishment- including impressing others with more than what we actually feel.

Riding secure in our knowledge of words and what they generally mean, we may draw great comfort from their common, shared perceptions, but we’re also prone to feel great disappointment when our  ‘reality’ does not conform to the general interpretations of it. For example, you may be in a relationship with another, but it may not at all live up to the ‘standards’ of a typical relationship. Your ideas (shaped and structured by language), of love and trust may often create conflicting states in your relationship. If you enter a relationship with ideas of how it should be (being completely blind and disinclined to appreciate how it is), chances are before you know it, conflicts will begin to gnaw your mind.

Words and their community- language- have given us a false sense of knowledge and understanding. For most, knowing the language basically is enough. We don’t acutely feel the need to transcend it, when in fact we must. Language and words after all, are merely symbols of feeling and insight. We’ve grabbed the words and discarded the ability to feel deeply. In watching out for how we feel, in trusting the intelligence of our senses, we summon up and gather all our attention to simply being present to the ‘now’ and watching. It’s in the silent watching and in the vigilant application of our attention, that understanding comes to us. The noise and clamor of ideas is absent and the prison gates of the mind are thrown open, becoming that window of understanding we’re all so graciously and divinely blessed with. Knowing that such a window exists is the first step in throwing your mental space open to a breath of fresh air that can drive out the stale air of recycled knowledge. That window must be a window by which you can wait, watch and listen.

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The Purpose of Purposefulness

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.

The Aesthete

There’s an aesthetic pleasure

Awaiting us in every circumstance

In every human condition

 

In emptiness, in ambiguity

In the naive and the silly

In the silent and the unsaid

 

Even the repulsive

Is pervaded by a grace

Over and above its own character

 

Perception depends on the perceiver

Wisdom says

The seer and the seen are one

 

Truth by virtue, can belong only to the truthful

And beauty too, can belong

Only to the truly beautiful.

 

The aesthete is not simply

A cultivated man

He is a realized man

 

A man at first

With good sense

And therefore, with good taste.

 

He is beautiful

Because he is unconcerned

About how beauty ought to look.

 

A seeker of the true

He is attentive to every detail

But disinterested in crafting effects.

 

The aesthete can sense

Much before an average man can

The gifts that remain imperceptible to common taste.

 

 

Work

All work is about facilitating…

Making easy…

Making possible…

Making a difference…

 

I look at myself…

Small…limited…

And confined

Within myself.

 

I wonder…

How do I make easy,

Make possible

My own freedom?

 

By what means will I make a difference to me?

Understanding Change

Change is not only a fact of life, but also a power and privilege bestowed upon intelligent life. We can change according to our will- this we intuitively know. However, what invariably baffles us is our own inadequate understanding of what exactly is that thing called ‘will.’ By what actions is it characterized? Generally, ‘human free will’ is loosely understood as being a conscious, determined and individual effort. If that were so, then why do almost all our individual resolutions to change end up being so short-lived and prone to failure? How often, even our most sincere attempts to ‘reform’ our selves, or others, or our circumstances are met with difficulty, frustration and failure. If we agree that change is a natural fact of life, why then, must our ‘will to change’ be such a challenge?

We can look back into our lives and clearly see that none of us have remained the same- unchanged; neither have we really resisted change. What then about introducing our will to the process of change, complicates it? Perhaps, the problem lies in our poor understanding of both the process of change and our will. Change occurs in our life-that is certain. But what are the mechanics of change? How does it work? It’s important that we know; for when a deep change is required, we hope to be able to distinguish between a superficial reformation and a fundamental transformation.

On careful examination, one can see that change is a process and not a planned event. And what exactly is the action of such a process?Even as we- a group of friends- discussed ‘change’, I noticed that the conversation progressed in a slow, lingering mood. We ‘saw’ our ideas of change; we ‘listened’ to what the others had to say, we ‘watched ‘ our own individual experience of ‘change’; we ‘defended’ some ideas, we ‘adopted’ new ones and we ‘shed’ or ‘let go’ of others.

Whenever we have witnessed our selves changing, we have seen our selves surrendering, trusting and moving with faith. Also, when we have, in our relationships with others been expected to change, to step out of old patterns and comfort zones, we have successfully done so only after we have carefully ‘examined’ and ‘watched’ our own cherished ideas vis-à-vis their point of view. And it is then that we have realized that we cannot truly allow in change by merely posturing a charitable stance towards another. We must first understand and be forgiving and charitable towards our selves. Analyzing another’s motives and reasons is futile if it is not accompanied with a careful analysis of ones self.

Our will i.e. our freedom to change- on close scrutiny- is most weak when handled and provoked by our thought, but most powerful and potent in our subtlest capacity to wait, to watch, to surrender, to trust and to believe. It is by way of these subtle actions that change, in its proper scale and proportion, effortlessly weaves itself into our lives. These, in fact, are nothing but the many aspects of that privilege we call our will- our capacity to bring in true reform by allowing in the actions of transformation.

Where in Heaven’s Name Is God?

‘I looked for God and found only myself. I looked for myself and found only God.’- Sufi Proverb

That there are forces or a force encompassing our lives is a common feeling, but what its attributes are or what the extent of its powers are vis-à-vis our individual lives, is a matter of opinion. While most of us believe that we have adequate reason or sufficiently strong intuition to believe in the existence of a power called God, we also admit that our understanding of such a power is limited by our own capacity to understand. Our concept of God, His powers and His plans- we muse- is colored by our upbringing; and very often, because of a dormant, unquestioned acceptance, which we mistakenly think to be our faith. It’s no surprise then that our faith is so easily shaken, so easily abandoned for baser reactions that seem to get the job done.

Why is it that something our religions proclaim as the most powerful attribute of humanity-faith-is so easily shaken and frustrated by simple, secular problems in our day-to –day lives? Why is it that we find ourselves doing irrationally disproportionate feats in a bid to appease the Gods, for simple day-to-day challenges and for the fulfillment of small hopes and desires? Why do we claim to have unshakable faith in a God we don’t see, but not enough faith in our own efforts or friends, family, co-workers and other fellow human beings? Why do we seek extra- terrestrial intervention for simple terrestrial problems? Why is it that we lack the perspective to see the simple as the simple and not the fearful, complex monster we make it out to be?

Rabindranath Tagore’s famous elucidation of faith is: ‘Faith is like the bird that sings when the dawn is still dark.’ Why is it that what we refer to as our faith doesn’t transport us beyond the immediate?  If faith is the link that connects a man with his furthest, subtlest intuition- God; that God being a presence we sense, or the many auguries of a higher destiny that seems to await us, or a Silence that seems all- knowing; does one really need to look for the repository of such a faith outside of themselves?

An old Sufi fable tells us of an old woman who lived alone in her hut in a village. The woman seldom ventured out and would occupy herself with her hobby of sewing. One evening, curious neighbours found her outside her hut desperately looking for something. Wondering what the problem was, the neighbours went up to her offering to help look for whatever she was searching. She said, “ I’m looking for my needle. I seemed to have dropped it somewhere and can’t sew without it.” “Where did you drop it or where were you last working,” they asked. “Inside,” she replied.  Perplexed and suspecting her to be a little senile they asked: “Then why are you looking for it outside?” The old lady looked at them with sparkling eyes that reflected a profoundness found in simple wisdom, and asked: “Why is it that when you’ve lost God within you, do you look for Him outside?”

Before we unthinkingly proclaim ourselves to be either theists or atheists, seekers of a Higher Truth or Pragmatists who believe that there’s nothing to be found and life is nothing more than an exercise in survival, let’s set out to examine our beliefs not only empirically, but also through the observation of our own minds. After all, there is no objective reality without a subjective presence; no outside without an inside.  Whatever we have seen, heard, remembered, felt or intuited hasn’t been without the presence of our minds. Unaware of the inside we tend to look for proof and answers only on the outside. We’ve lost the needle within, but look for it outside.

Also, our idea of God and our faith in him arise together. There’s no one without the other. That’s probably because everything the mind observes, it observes in duality- that is, it experiencing that. When we perceive, we always perceive something; when we experience we always experience something. When we sense the working of a faith within us, we’ll also find its God. It is our faith that creates its own God.

Unacquainted with our own spirituality, blind to the power of our faith and unaware of the subtle layers of our existence, we live our lives with a perpetual sense of depreciation. Having severed ourselves from our own metaphysical existence, we live like spiritual pygmies- forever feeling small, miniscule and insignificant. And so, by default, we are enamoured by the grandiosity of Religion and its rituals. We believe that its prescribed prayers hold the key to eternal happiness. But what in essence is prayer, if not the silent expansion of our consciousness. Our thoughts are prayers. Whatever we repeatedly think, in turn becomes a recurring reality for us. Your prayers therefore, will only provide you what your thoughts allow in.

Such is the power of Thought. Such is the power of Prayer. Such is the working of Faith. Such is the working of God.

We’re One

How strange

That love must have rituals

That elaborately and

With excessive pomp and show

Declare on a fixed date

Year after year

The design of our love.

Of course, this works beautifully

When one has to live up to the lie

Of words and sentiments

That were, in the first place,

Exaggerations of plain feelings

That would otherwise go unnoticed

And unheard

In the loud and garish spectacle

Of a theatrical world.

Love is essence, not feeling

It’s not a hope, or an ideal

Neither is it a needy prayer

It’s there in our midst

When we speak through silence

Needing nothing

To decorate our being

Or to celebrate our love

(It’s not an accomplishment)

We’re no longer together

We’re one.