AND LIFE GOES ON
By Arun Babani
A question of Life’s answers.
Life is a flux. Constant change is the echo of life. You can’t put your leg in the same river twice. It is obviously confusing to the mind that needs solid certainty. A prison house is surrounded by a lovely garden; a beautiful lake flows next to a horrifying garbage dump; a family lives in heaven surrounded by families living in hell. You just can’t make any sense of it all. Neither can the gurus, masters and pundits. They will at the very best put all their might in naming it a ‘mystery’, but nothing gets you any closer to any understanding. Just watch, sitting silently by the road and you will be boggled by a variety of sounds, smells and sights that constantly pass you by, changing every instant into a new configuration. But nothing works, nothing sticks, nothing remains fixed. The ’good’ will follow the ‘bad’ or worst still the ‘good’ will contain the ‘bad’. A sad sight will grow into a happy sight; an ugly smell will be set aside by an expensive perfume…
Life is a flux. Look inside. A great flux, fast and furious like a current, a flow, constant, unending. The thoughts, memories, daydreams containing the bad, sad, glad and everything else just runs past as you, seemingly constant, seemingly solid and sane helplessly watch all this and try hard to make sense of it all. Even the 24 karat gold contains impurities, diamonds are brought out of coal and chalk, love contains hate and sad is the shadow of glad. Topsy-turvy it is and a constant challenge to stay afloat, stay sane. The most common way out is to hide; hide behind your dark glasses or inside your work cubicle or under your warm blankets of privacy and luxury. But then that would be a way to dullness and eventual death. Certainty of every kind is somehow an insult and not an answer to the vastness that we are living in. Certainty is an artificial response to the nature of life. Certainty gives you security but the security deadens you. It is an unprofitable tradeoff. On being afraid of the cold, traveling in a coffin to the snowy mountains is not such a good idea after all!
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Sages throughout history have warned us that man is in deep sleep, of Avidya, of Agyaan, of Maya. All sorts of systems, ancient and modern, don’t seem to be able to shake us awake. None of the Jesuses or Buddhas, Mohmads and Nanaks and countless other Vedantis, Zen mystics, Sufi saints, gurus and swamis seem to be able to make us believe that we are asleep, unconscious and unaware.
We, which includes most of the human race, go about our business of living, irrespective and unmindful of these ‘words of wisdom’, thinking to ourselves, ‘not now, maybe later’. The western philosophers concluded that life is absurd and meaningless and there is no way out except perhaps suicide. All the systems of Yoga, Advaita have bought very little solace and remedy to mankind which is too busy surviving and procreating.
Why? It seems the most difficult thing to change, transform and become something other than what we are. Besides, what these systems of awakening demand from us is nearly impossible to achieve, to bring in and operate in our lives. ‘Living in insecurity’, ‘going back to the source’, ‘taking a jump in nothingness’, ‘walking in emptiness’, ‘living moment to moment’ are some of the commonest instructions given by these systems in order to be fully awake and enlightened. But if you try to follow any of these instructions you’ll soon come upon difficulties and face a blank wall. That is the reason common sense doesn’t easily admit this vision within its fold. For instance, we are told that we are not separate from our surroundings, or that the observer is the observed, or that only time is here now. Now these utterances are hardly a common experience since when we meet another we ARE separate and distant.
That is the reason religion in general and spirituality in particular has not been able to have much impact on the lives of the vast population. It seems to have an effect only the select few and that too after great and lifetime of struggle. Spirituality is not for everyone. It is for a few who somehow come upon it and get benefited by it. Rest of us are left wondering and asking silly obvious questions like How? Why? Where? And How come? Because some of the instructions for attaining to the moksha, nirvana, enlightment are incomprehensible or even painful, like-sit still, silently, face the wall, become totally hopeless, cry, shed tears for Kali, flow with the current of the river, wait, wait for eternity, apply effortless effort and so on.
It may be because we don’t miss anything much in life, that we don’t need to grow, reach higher and have great experiences. We usually don’t bother about Samadhi; ice-cream candy is just as fine for us!
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The world we live in is not an objective world but a wholly subjective experience. That’s why there are as many interpretations to it as there are people living in it. Many find it a big bad world, a nasty and wicked place. Some call it the battle ground while others feel it an experience to cherish, yet others find it mad and insane. There are many, many ways to look and feel the world while the world is all these plus something more, beyond all these interpretations put together. You can see from the proverbs, poems and songs written about the world and you will feel that it is all a subjective and personal experience. Hum bhale toh jag bhala. Duniya hai dilwalon ki. Duniya rang rangeeli. Many poets and philosophers have described the world in their own manner and according to their own experience. On the other hand a politician divides the world into electoral constituencies, while an economist divides it into market segments. A sociologist sees it in terms of communities, builder sees it as a floor space, municipality divides it into wards, and psychologist puts it under psychic charts. Artists and painters depict the world in their own subjective manner, each unique from the other. Each of these is a particular interpretation of one common realty.
World keeps changing and the more it changes more it appears the same. Paradoxically the changes in the word keep happening in circles. Old values come back in a new garb, old fashions appear back with slight variations, often old ways of thinking are applied to new problems. It’s an indefinable experience to spend a lifetime in the world but not be able to put any finger on it.
World as we know it, began its journey a few thousand years ago with only a handful of humans and now has grown to 7 billion human beings. World has undergone 5000 wars in the last three thousand years. World is made up of 5 continents, about 300 nations, 300 religions, thousands of languages and communities and only one pair of sex! Today 35% of the earth’s surface is covered by computer networks. These are solid facts, objective realities, not a subjective experience.
Whether the world’s problems are solvable or insolvable is a matter of interpretation and depends upon which side of the argument you stand. But whatever one may think, one answer that every human being will give on being asked whether he would like to come back to this world is ‘NOT AGAIN’.
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Our knowledge and understanding of our real motives and feelings is hidden from us. We don’t know the reason and purpose of our brief visit on this planet. We are being constantly surprised by the newspapers every morning. We cannot make sense of people, places and events happening around us most of the time. The life that surrounds us looks to us rather indifferent and aloof to our concerns and desires. In an unknown and difficult situation we carry on our daily routine, not admitting any pain and unpleasantness by hiding behind and blocking everything else except our immediate task. We never allow any uncomfortable questions about ‘meaning’, ‘ultimate purpose’ or ‘change’ of our lives. We just avoid talking of subjects like ‘love’ and ‘death’ fearing that it would open up our insecurities and utter meaninglessness of our situation. We are ‘stuck’ with whatever it is that we are surrounded with, not able to change anything, not able to have any insight into anything, not knowing the ‘why’ and ‘what-for’ of anything. We have been given a timetable and a chart of events to follow; we just stick to that, no matter what. We totally avoid looking direct into the eye of life. We become routinized robotics. Once in a while when we encounter something strange we look at our mobile screen. We soon lose appetite for living and become dull and colorless.
If I were to describe our situation it would be something like this. We are a tiny energy dot, along with millions of other tiny energy dots ensconced in a huge balloon filled with gas that keeps moving in some nowhereness, without purpose or direction. This vast energy balloon of the universe, carrying energy dots, has no other work except to moving aimlessly and continuously. So do we, all of us, including all the president’s men, along with ants and bugs, keep moving, beginingless, endless, in a flux, an absurd play, a crazy dance, just like that, just for fun. God must be a joker, a balloonwala, having a great laugh flying gas balloons…!