There are two kinds of Knowledge in this world.
One is information and concept based. It is a way to either know things(facts) about something. Or ways of describing a phenomenon in words – how it unfolds, the dynamics of it.
The second is sacred Knowledge.
Knowledge that goes beyond happenings and events. Knowledge to do with our very Being. Knowledge of the consciousness. Of the Self.
Here facts are useless. What physical descriptions can you use for something subtle?
Here experience is the only guide. Words can also help only to the extent of pointing what has been experienced – encapsulate some aspect of a conscious experience. But how can you catch a flowing river in a glass? Whatever you catch will be a sample and will miss the entire thing. Yet, it is helpful in the beginning. To take someone thirsty closer to the river. Give glimpses.
But true service in this would only be to encourage the person to take a dip in river and immerse themselves in it – to experience it for themselves. Words will only give concepts and ideas in the mind, which cannot quench the thirst. And there exists the danger that after forming the concepts, one can start imagining that they “know” and getting stuck in the knowing never venture to take the journey themselves.
Maybe that is why the language of the Masters is so cryptic. They have to give a pointer…a direction…always being cautious to not hurt the journey of seeker in any way by giving him the false idea that if they know the words, they know the Self.
So subtle is this path. So many are the pitfalls. And yet the journey is enjoyable like no other.
I was listening to Gurudev’s talk snippets on Chapter 1 of Gita.
In it he mentions the shloka,
Dharmakshetre Kurukshetre Samavetayuyutsavaha |
Maamakaah paandavaashchaiva kimakurvata sanjaya ||1||
Gurudev goes on to say that this is Dharamshetra. A place of Dharma. Of divine law.
Made me think about what is Dharma.
Is it an internal law to creation and to human existence. If it is internal, how does it relate to the external human created laws. “Law of the land” Vs “Law of Existence”.
How are the two to be reconciled?
What is Dharma? What all are the laws in it? How best to structure human laws to be in sync with it?
I don’t have these answers right now. But I do want to continue thinking about it. Figuring it out. Mainly because it is so relevant to the situation today. Today, mankind has created a society that is unsustainable. Ecologically – species are dying.
Environmentally – Climate is changing
Financially – debt is unsustainable, which is threatening political systems and peace of the world.
Psychologically – majority of population is depressed or highly stressed.
Our structures have gone completely out of whack.
Is there a hidden symmetry, a hidden harmony which can help here?
Gurudev says that it is the divine connection only which can bring this harmony.
How do we take this most subtle of things and translate it in concrete ways of living?
Open to your ideas and suggestions!
This is the story of a guy who loved the good things in life. Hated drugs. Then feel deep into them. Got lost. And found his back way out again.
This is my story.
They say one must never say never. That life has a weird way of making you do the things you never thought you’d do. Drugs and me were like that.
I was fortunate to be an early achiever in life. Growing up in remote Army cantts, there was little to distract my interest in wanting to learn. Slowly that grew into a good academic record the highlight of which was topping CBSE boards all India in class Xth. Like any other excelling science student, medical and engineering were the options I was told I had. Being good at studies, and taking two attempts at it, I managed to land in IIT Kanpur.
I tell you all this to share what kind of a person I was – The quintessential nerd. Books were my love, staying inside my own head my favourite passtime. So it was easy to judge anyone else who was not like me. Especially people who did things which seemed like a waste of time, namely, drugs. I remember one day screaming off at my girlfriend for even being around people who did drugs (no, she never did them).
Fast forward to 6 years after having passed out of college.
I’d grown faster than I’d thought. A big manager in a big multinational company. Very successful, and on path to even bigger success and growth, I was living the the king sized life. But I was miserable inside. The stress of the job, the anxiety of not knowing where I was going with my life, my self imposed expectations and sense of disconnectedness with my work, all were combining in intricate ways to make me very unhappy indeed. I would lose my temper at the smallest of things.
One night I was hanging out with my college friends drinking and listening to music as usual. Till one of them got out a joint out that got passed around. That’s when I had my first smoke of weed.
What an instant relief it was! My mind felt light and so relaxed. I was floating on clouds.
Reluctant at first, then more interested to explore the experiences it brought to my mind, I slowly started doing weed more regularly. The experiences were bizarre. Sometimes painful, often joyful, and sometimes just a trippy combination of the mind seeing patterns and knowledge in my life events. My brain would start racing through thoughts and imaginations when high.
But most of all it provided a break from my normal life and its pressures. From its monotony and its demands.
It didn’t take too long for the downsides to show though.
From slurring of words while the drug worked itself out through my system, to lapses in memory, to often finding out that acting on the ‘insights’ of my high brain didn’t seem to work out that well, and instead started getting me into trouble. My energy also started being more erratic. I would go into bouts of excessively energised modes when high, followed by up to a week of very demotivated personality unless I was smoking up again.
And yet how could I let go of the one thing which was giving me the hours of relief and joy in otherwise increasingly feeling more disconnected life?
Then happened one of those accidents of fate that end up changing one’s life. My company organised an Art of Living course for its employees.
My first thought after doing the Sudarshan Kriya was , “man! I’m high”. But it wasn’t the same high I’d felt on drugs. It felt more ‘cleaner’, purer, and it didn’t leave a downer. I didn’t feel excited or carried away by my own thoughts like I did when high on weed. I just felt happy. And calm. And centered.
But bad habits have a habit of being hard to get rid off.
Even though I’d found a much healthier way of feeling happier, energised and more engaged with life, I couldn’t let go of my weed habit instantly. I had to observe those same negative side-effects grow much worse before I realised that they weren’t worth spoiling my life over. Specially when a much healthier and better way existed to bring joy and genuine lasting happiness into my own life.
Took me about 6 months after doing the first Art of Living course to fully get rid of it. And having been there and now being here, I know I’m telling the truth when I say that this place is way better than that place. More stable, more enjoyable, and more promising of a better future for me and my family. For all that drugs gave me, they took away much more. Not at first though. But slowly they’d started eating away at all that made me, me. They’d slowly made me dependent on them for my ‘high’ in life. And THAT is a power I never want any substance to have over me again.
There’s so much we want from our lives.
The list is endless.
We think we only want this very next thing in our heads. But then it comes
And it feels great
Till a few days afterwards, where it no longer has the charm that it once did.
And something new starts stirring.
We do the same with our work.
There’s something that attracts us.
Or more often than not,
more than something specific attracting us,
we get used to what it is that we are doing.
That we are playing with, working with, working at.
Then thoughts start coming.
Is this it?
Is this what I’m here for?
We start wondering about what it is that we would want to do.
What it is that would ‘fulfil’ us.
We start looking for a calling.
I too did the same.
I had had enough of the struggle.
The struggle to be more.
To constantly want to be better.
To be something.
Doing some work that somehow makes me feel more alive.
Makes me feel like I matter.
Like there’s meaning in what I do.
What can be more enchanting than the idea that there is something specific that we’re born to do?
That will bring meaning to the routine of day to day existence?
I too was enchanted by the idea.
But somehow I was aware enough to realise that it didn’t need to be the next earth shattering thing.
It didn’t have to change the course of history,
Or cure the latest unsolvable disease.
It just had to be authentic.
It had to flow out of me on it’s own.
That was my benchmark for my ‘calling’.
It was a tall ask for someone who’d never let himself flow.
Who’d prided his ability to steer his own life with his own mind and will.
It’s like asking someone to walk on his own feet, who’s only been crawling for a long time.
It was about going into my heart from my brain.
I’d lived from my brain, and whatever I’d created felt deeply empty.
It was about accepting all that. Accepting that I needed to look at life a different way,
Approach it a different way,
Be ready to throw away all that I’d built over the years,
With no certainty of any success.
No certainty if this was even a venture that was sensible.
This is not the kind of courage anyone works up on their own.
This is the kind of courage that you find within you when you’ve gone on down a path,
far far longer than you should have,
and ultimately the futility of it, the deep inner loneliness of it,
stares at you in the face every day, every moment,
because you’re living a life that doesn’t feel like your own.
Just this feel.
It seems like such a small thing.
But like most other things in life, it’s these small things which grow over time,
To take on shapes we’d never imagined.
So I wouldn’t say it was courage.
Despair, discouragement, deep misery,
Those would be words more true to describe what motivated me to take the plunge.
And then I got lucky.
Luckier than beyond my wildest dreams.
I found a real Guru. The genuine deal. The kind that’s the stuff of legends too fantastical to be ever considered real.
And he led me.
He led me to my own heart.
He led me to understand my own calling.
So much I saw. Experienced. Lived.
So strange these things called callings are.
They have a logic of their own. Indecipherable to normal logic.
Yet to the heart they make perfect sense.
You can feel their truth. Hear their guidance. Yet never know enough to say for sure where the path will lead, just a few steps down the way.
But that’s what the ways of the heart are like.
That’s what fills up life with the kind of adventure we mostly only dream of, or ogle at in our favourite movie,
These are the kinds of desires we have for our lives ,
for them to stay a perpetual adventure,
a perpetual challenge,
But you can’t hold on to anything.
For to hold on is to stagnate.
For to hold on is to dictate what should stay
And what shouldn’t.
For to hold on,
is to say, that this is how this part of my life should be…
Not possible on the path of the heart.
Not possible when you let life lead you.
Which is why it requires tremendous trust.
And yogic dispassion.
For callings are about letting go.
Letting go of control of what you think is the life you’re meant to live.
Setting the direction,
But letting go of the reigns.
It’s exactly how Gurudev once put it….
Jumping into a bottomless pit. Holding the hand of your Master.
Into complete mystery, Into complete agony, Into sheer ecstasy, Into fear, Into excitement, Into the unknowable.
What a life it is.
If you’re reading this,
It is my ardent wish that you may get to live this some day.
and my Blessing.
It’s a word that I was told when I asked my friend, on what should I write on. “Just”, was her response.
To just write.
It’s profound. Like all of life’s profound truths. It’s simplicity, it’s succinctness, it’s tiny size, belies what lies within it.
Why don’t we just write?
Why don’t we just talk?
Why don’t we just do things on the spur of moment?
Why don’t we Just be?
No. But we want each activity to serve a purpose. We want each conversation to lead to something permanent. We want to do things which are meaningful. We want to live lives that are meaningful, in some grand, cosmically relevant way.
What could possibly be wrong with that?
What could possibly be better than that?
Except perhaps, Just this – It doesn’t work.
I tried it. I tried it with everything I had. I have friends who’re trying it. Successful high flying friends. Doesn’t seem to be working for anyone.
I’m not saying that they’re all lost, or miserable. But barely any seem deeply happy. Barely any see capable of living in deep awe of the miracle that is life….every single moment of their life. Most put all the value, all the meaning in some combination of circumstances/events that makes sense to them, and go about spending all of their living moments in making sure that these moments can be brought to existence. But to throw away millions of equally precious moments in order to appreciate a handful? What sort of intelligence is that?
All that effort, all that time, all that energy that gets spent trying to bring their ‘dreams’ alive, wouldn’t a better use of that energy be in trying to learn how to be alive now. Wherever you are. Whatever is happening around you. To just be. Fully there, breathing deeply these ephemeral moments which are always fleeting by. To catch a true glimpse of That, which is one of the subtlest, most toughest things to do. Instead we feel like after we reach our dream situation/goal, that’s when we’ll start living these moments. But in the victory of success our defeat is already destined. In reaching the goal while putting off living, we’ve already trained the mind to be always looking forward and not at now. When that moment does arrive, we’re incapable of looking at the Now and enjoy the Now, and breathe the Now, and live it. We arrive exactly where we are Now. After a long long journey, we reach nowhere.
So why not instead just start it Now?
Why not instead just live it Now?
Why not just learn to be…..Now.
Just do what life demands to be done.
Just be happy, irrespective. Because the greatest achievement of our lives can’t even match the miracle of just being alive.
There’s a loop that I often relive.
On its surface it comes out of a desire to excel. To shine. To live life at this imagined level of intensity and accomplishment that would make my life feel meaningful, feel successful.
But this loop has barely delivered on it’s elusive promises.
Instead, it has become an excuse to keep putting off living fully for this ‘perfect day’. Instead of fully engaging with the ups and downs that each day inevitably brings, it’s become an escapist imagination where the mind retreats into every time the ongoing day goes out of it’s idea of perfection. What simply happens is that whenever the day doesn’t go as I would have wanted it to go, I retract my energies, my involvement, imagine instead how I would deal with this setback in the most perfect way possible….tomorrow. And today gets written off mentally. Unacceptable in my insatiable desire to knock off perfect responses to life and it’s challenges, day after day.
Why do we do this?
Why do I do this?
I feel it’s because it’s far easier to emotionally withdraw from a game that isn’t going your way, and to play it again when you’re feeling better(always tomorrow), than to take whatever mood and energy one is in, and accept doing whatever needs to be done, at 50% capacity. Because 50% effectiveness feels like a loss. A defeat. Only 100% is what the ego craves as a victory.
Whatever be the excuse, the end result is perpetual procrastination and training the mind to give up, instead of digging in.
So what’s the solution?
To give up this conceptualisation of some imaginary perfection. To take all of the mental energy getting dissipated in comparing each passing moment against some conceptualised excellence, and divert all that energy into the Now. To take away the escape hatch that the mind runs into at the slightest sign of discomfort or the situation not playing out as the way it wants it to. To disconnect from joy of imaginary ‘perfect’ situations, ‘perfect’ behaviour, ‘perfect’ day….into the here and now. To take the focus from an ‘excellent’ outcome that gets me some stars from the audience, to the ‘excellence’ of input…putting my 100% into everything that I’m doing. Into every moment. The moment that is right here. Always is. Not the one in the future. But doing the best Now. In this very instant. The next moment will then take care of itself as I will reach it with a mind more focused on delivery 100%. Maybe I’ll only be able to actually deliver 10% right now. But by focusing on it, it could go to at least 11%. And then by regular practice, it can only improve, not degrade.
So the question is then not of how to deliver ‘perfect’ days, the perfection of which can be marred by the mistake of one unaware moment….but, how to deliver this moment 100%. If I missed, then here’s another one. And another. And another. No more waiting. No more procrastination. But living in the present moment. Not to enjoy some imaginary perfection…but to enjoy 100% living. Now. Here. What else is there?
Experienced something Divine today – myself.
Even to try and put this experience into words, feels like trying to squeeze the majestic heights of the Himalayas into Twitter hashtags.
And yet this impossible venture is worth doing. How else will we inspire anyone to make the arduous journey up the treacherous paths to see those snowy peaks silently offering their wispy prayers?
I used to often wonder why so much emphasis on the question, “Who are you?” Are all the possible answers to this question not very obvious in themselves? From every assumed identity, going till our very consciousness itself?
What I realised today is that the value of the question lies not in the words it inspires. What are words? Merely symbols with a specific meaning. And unless you know the meaning, the symbol is meaningless. So unless I know the meaning of the answer that is going to arise in me on asking “Who am I”, what’s the point of asking it?
What I didn’t understand is that sometimes the process is the answer. Who I am, is who I am. There is nothing to answer in it. And yet, everything to discover.
“What is Kanchenjunga?” Knowing the answer to that in words is nothing. Seeing it standing majestically in front of your very eyes….now that will tell you something. But to reach there is a journey. And the journey itself is part of the answer. Kanchenjunga would not be Kanchenjunga if it was standing in front of Churchgate Station.
What we are. Who we are. Is an already existing truth.
Asking the question, is merely to attempt travelling through the mist surrounding the truth. To direct our energy towards piercing the mist. Towards searching. Towards looking. And the looking is the point. For your own inner mountain lies waiting. Waiting to be discovered in its overflowing grandeur.
What is conflict?
A battle of two thoughts.
One uncomfortable, but right. And you know it’s right.
The other comfortable, but you’ve started to become aware that you need to drop it.
It’s like standing at the edge of your circle of comfort somewhere…and knowing that your next step is going to take you outside it. And yet also knowing that it is the step that one must take or risk being stuck.
It is the mush of feelings inside as you delay the inevitable. As you deliberately close your eyes towards it and hope that it will just vanish away.
…..but it never does.
It stays there. Waiting.
Then either one day life just forces you to confront it. Or you pay in some way or the other for not facing up to it.
Our energies have an amazing way of growing whatever we put our attention to. When we’re living our lives grateful for whatever is happening, the abundance grows in our life. Live it focused on everything that’s not exactly how you’d like it to be, and misery and lack grows.
When we stay in conflict, we end up putting a lot of energies into the feeling of being stuck in life. Being incapable of deciding. And guess what? The more time we remain there, the better we get at getting stuck in our lives. At feeling confused and unsure. At being always tentative about the obvious steps that need to be taken. Slowly even the simplest of the obvious steps become a chore. And this confused state becomes the most comfortable and easy state to get into. We become capable of getting into it at the blink of an eye. Even though it still remains an uncomfortable feeling, there develops an odd comfort in staying in it. It starts feeling much more comfortable than the apparent discomfort of the next step that we have to take and are avoiding.
But every once in a while, life manages to nudge us over.
We find ourself suddenly standing at the spot that we’d been so effortfully and painfully avoiding for sooooo long. And then it hits us.
That the spot doesn’t feel so bad.
That it doesn’t feel even twice as bad as we’d imagined it to be.
It feels the very opposite.
It feels good…
“This is nice.”
“This is not so difficult as I thought it’d be”
“This did not completely destroy me from inside”
“Hey I feel so free”
“Hey I can’t believe I did it”
…..and so on and so forth are the kind of thoughts that rush into our heads then.
But this moment is precious.
It shows us the errors of our previous mindset. Gives us a chance to latch on to it, and learn from it.
But it gives a very narrow window indeed.
For the old mindset is so deeply ingrained, so well conditioned, and we’ve become so so good at getting stuck with all the excess practice we’ve got, that it doesn’t take us long to get stuck again.
And so the loop repeats.
Till we finally learn 🙂
Just finished my fifth Happiness course of Art of Living.
It’s a three days, 10 hours total duration course…but even in such a short span, it’s a wonder how much change it always manages to bring within me.
This time was my first time volunteering for the course as well. Even though I wasn’t able to contribute as much I’d wanted to, just the fact that I wasn’t just a participant, made me much more conscious this time of how everything might be feeling like for a new participant. As I paid attention to each step, it was easy to see each the small errors, the small things which maybe could have been done better. There was the conscious awareness of how the smallest of things might put someone off and distract their mind away from this amazing journey.
Yet, none of it did.
At the end of the course, there were the same joyous faces everywhere around that I’ve gotten used to seeing in Art of Living courses. Somehow the depths that Sudarshan Kriya takes one into doesn’t care about the thousands of small details that could have been done better. Perhaps it isn’t about the outer details at all. Maybe the outer details are just the window dressing to help one be at as much ease as is possible, but the meat is what lies within. And what lies within is so wondrous, so all embracing…that it turns us all into lotus leaves – with droplets of all the mundane details of life that we keep obsessing over endlessly…all sliding off our minds effortlessly.
How does this relate to getting out of my way?
Just the same as obsessing about the thousands of details needed to be put aside to witness the miracle of life in front of me.
Perhaps my life too isn’t too different from a simple course.
Perhaps all the time spent worrying about getting those details right, only wastes energy and takes away from the bigger truth of the sheer fact of my existence in this world. Of the sheer miracle of this thing called life that I’m immersed in.
What does it really matter if I didn’t wake up at the exact time I’d set my alarm for. What does it really matter if forgot to return that one phone call on my to-do list. What does it really matter if my goals, my path isn’t clear in front of my very eyes…all those are incidental to the bigger fact of life passing me by every second, every moment. Aren’t these all just window dressings to this grand experience of being conscious in a universe plush with energy in all forms and shapes? Are they really worth losing the smile off my face for even a second? Aren’t they supposed to matter (in my faulty thinking) as means to getting that smile on there in the first place? And if the smile is already there, should the imperfect icing be any reason to not enjoy the cake?
I’m already making my way through life. Whether there is a path or no path. Whether the path is as I’d imagined it or not. I’ve intentionally chosen to walk a path that’s not structured the way a job is, or any one of life’s standard paths are. But I know I’m stumbling. I know I’m failing to meet up to the simple goals of physical fitness, of dedication to my spiritual practices, of attention to my food, that I’ve set for myself. I’m struggling in the basics,….yet, yet, I’m more peaceful than I’ve ever been. This contrast confounds me. This isn’t anything that my previously conditioned brain is ready to accept. The physical constraints are still there – I still need to find a way to earn my living, I need to find a way to get organised in some way that allows me to work towards my bigger visions. Yet I’m struggling. And in the struggle there is no problem, because I’m peaceful deep inside. But the problem is in my mind trying to see all this and then wanting to turn into a whip that I can crack on myself – for that’s the only way I’ve known in the past to straighten myself up whenever I faltered. Isn’t that what we’re all trained for by everyone we trust – right from our teachers, to our parents, to our bosses? To crack the whip on us when we stray from the paths laid down for us, and to feel good about ourselves when we walk the path and get acknowledged for it? I guess a bit of that still lives inside of me. Even though at a bigger level I have accepted that I’m not a farm animal meant to be treated like that, those old habits are still comfortable to retreat into whenever fear makes it’s appearance and doubt show their face.
But I’ve walked those circular paths.
I’ve been that farm animal. I’ve paid my dues.
How do I then move forward from here? Into designing the kind of life that I know is waiting for me, that I know is accepting of me.
By getting out of my own way. That’s the only answer that’s making sense right now. To stop being my own enemy.
Not just in listening to those doubts as if they have any substance, but also in being able to stay connected to that part of my Self that doesn’t care for all this. I am going to fall on my face a few times…so I just can’t care too much for it. That’s the price to pay for leaning to walk a new walk.Yet it is always only that fear of falling short that stops me from trying, or holds me back from giving it my 100%. What a silly complication this is? And yet just how many lives are spent in just trying to conquer this? I know I’ve spent at least a year in getting control of it this time. This is just me getting in my own way. This is just me not letting me be me. I always do this, but at least thankfully with my spiritual practices I’m fully aware that it’s only me who’s responsible here and not anyone else. So the solution also has to be just mine. But what? To stay committed, is that it? To not worry about how many times I fall as long as I’m willing and ready to get up and try again? To be patient with myself as I learn to walk this walk?
But what other alternative is there either? Self-whipping works in the short term, but in the long term it’s just giving up my spontaneity for the whip given to me by whatever my current understanding is. It’s just training myself to stay a farm animal who splits his psyche up into the part that disciples and the part that needs to be disciplined. To be broken up, never to become whole. That’s a solution that I’ve tried and am discarding.
Any other alternative? I think not.
It just has to be my better, my bigger Self, that has to be given control, over my lesser, my faulty, my despairing, my fearful, my doubtful, my escapist, my pleasure seeking self. It has to be about letting that higher Self guide and operate, and let the other self stay out of the way…till this becomes an action as natural as breathing itself. This is what faith is about. This is what commitment is about. A commitment to falling on your face till you make it!