The world seems to understand the concept of relativity. It is one of the finest fundamentals to recognize the magic of life and living. But a big part of this understanding which distinguishes our level of maturity depends on where we place our reference point. Where is your fixed point, with reference to which you are moving?
Most of the time when we engage in conversations we find everyone wants to speak! There are hardly any listeners. Even more startling is that all of this talking has nothing other than how one is better than most others. Almost without exception most of us will respond with a bigger act of achievement as soon as we hear one in a group. I have found most people can’t stand listening quietly without speaking about their achievements.
It is becoming extremely difficult for anyone today to let go of an opportunity to feel bigger than most others around, if not everyone else. We go to great lengths to make sure this happens. If we are not able to do this in absolute (which is the case in most average human beings in society), then we try to establish this feeling by putting others down. By putting down institutions and people around us we make ourselves look big. This need to feel good and bigger at any cost is the source of most agitations that we experience. The recognition of this fact and questions thereof initiates us into spiritual advancement. But sadly even in spirituality we find there is tremendous competition to prove who is more spiritual than the other! There doesn’t seem to be any end to this madness, at least in the way we understand relativity.
There is a substratum on which the movement is happening, but that cannot be in the world. Now that’s plain logic. The truth is that all changes happen on something that is unchanging, but it takes effort and courage to go beyond our comfort zones and delve deeper to find it out. If we do our life will be full of peace and happiness. But why are we not even making the attempt? It is because of this misguided thought that we can feel peace and happiness once we achieve and live up to our dreams. If we possess and experience, peace and happiness is a given. Bigger, Better, Richer seems to be the mantra and today happier is also getting added to that list. Some people even showcase this in a relative sense and this entices the ignorant.
Truth is fairly obvious. We ignore it just to align with the larger herd of society. The woman (men included), who doesn’t fall prey to this illusion, evolves. Is that not the reason why every prophet in some way was a revolutionary figure?
Don’t put down others in conversations, it is actually hurting us in the long term and making us agitated. Every time you hear even a small achievement, simply acknowledge and encourage. If you feel the urge to showcase your greater achievement, just remain silent. It is fine if the world does not hear it just now. The best part of this is the resulting peace within us.
One child says she loves chocolates. The other immediately responds saying she hates them. Why these opposing feelings towards the same object, in this case, a chocolate? Where do these children learn what to like and what to hate? Who taught them these?
Adults teach and children learn. Adults act and children learn deeper and faster. Yes, that’s the truth. Every time a child sees their well wishers do something, it makes an impression on their minds. They learn that this is right or wrong and this creates a deep impression on their minds, which almost never changes. The problem is not in learning that a particular object is good or bad, and should be liked or hated. The problem turns into the bigger learning that we must learn to sort things into two compartments – that which we like and those that we hate. As children grow up, you can see these impressions taking enormous forms even while in school. It is not uncommon for us to hear children say, they like someone and they hate someone; someone is on their friend list and there are a few on the enemy list! Can you imagine small primary school children talking about enemies?
This grows and becomes a permanent feature in almost every adult. They all (including all of us) have likes and dislikes. We have them with foods, clothes, music, books, and more importantly people. This division is simply a figment of imagination. Just like the chocolate in the case of the children we discussed in the beginning, the goodness / badness are both not in the object (chocolate) in their case. Similarly as we grow up, this lack of understanding makes us feel that our likes and dislikes are always in the objects and beings around us. Hence we get affected by the nature and actions of the objects and beings that we come in contact with. Either we are happy that they align to our worldviews and like them or we are unhappy that they are not the way we want them to be, and hence dislike them. This constant stream of likes and dislikes makes us happy and sad alternately. We are not even aware that it is our misunderstanding which is actually causing this constant change in our state of mind. If we even get a doubt, we can reach out to philosophy to help us understand how to start walking out of our problem. If we do, our life becomes more peaceful. Vedanta is one such school of philosophy that explains this ignorance.
In today’s world we see a lot of people putting down others to feel big. During one of the recent felicitation functions of associates, I found a person trying hard to gain attention and he achieved it only by putting down a few people. This made me remember how we fight to gain attention at any cost. We don’t realize even upon seeing it number of times that we are not going to be remembered here for what we have achieved! Surprised? Ask yourself who are the people you remember from about five centuries back? Probably no one!!
Still we all fight to gain attention! To gain this attention we also go a very long way in finding something that is simply interesting, even if it means we are making another person / institution uncomfortable (if not embarrassed). This experience of listening to a young middle aged man lose control over his speech on stage reminded me the importance of living life in absolute. It seems like we cannot live life if there are no people around! I am not even for a minute suggesting that we should learn to live alone – but on the contrary I am exploring the possibility of finding something in life that we can simply do, irrespective of acknowledgement. Sounds difficult, but most of the people who seemed to have lived a full life, seemed to have lived simply for the sake of some action – not even for any results, let alone, acknowledgment.
Why are we seeking attention in life? And at what cost are we seeking it?
Think about it!
Last week we started discussing the question – ‘who will cry if we cry?’ (http://rajshankar.wordpress.com/2013/10/23/vedantic-wednesday-who-will-cry-when-you-cry-part-1/) which in my opinion is a question that has a lot at stake, especially in a turbulence filled world. As India turns into one of the youngest nations in the world, we do not want to court economic development at the cost of a sick society.
While on one side we are touting the much spoken of ‘youth’ as our biggest asset, on the other side we are also seeing a lot of this group falling prey to ‘lifestyle sicknesses’ way early in their lives. On a recent visit to a local drug store I was startled to hear the vendor tell one of the customers that he had run out of anti-depressants. He was also saying that the demand was too high and most nearby stores had run out of stock too. They are all awaiting replenishment of stocks the next day.
What started off as vocational problems such as back pain, joint pain, obesity, diabetes, blood pressure, etc is now seeing more cases of emotional sicknesses such as depression, schizophrenia, etc.,. Where are we headed? Why is all this happening? With so much real time access to people via mobiles phones, tablets with 3G/4G access – why is it that people are feeling lonely? Is access to real-time communication a problem? Or is it the reason why most of us have neither the time nor the attention to empathize and help one another? A root-cause analysis on the issue is a must for the well being of our entire society.
A few decades ago joint families used to be a common sight in India. Hence there were always people available for support. The family requirements were always managed by a senior member and the overall peace and happiness of the family was protected. It provided the necessary emotional support system that young people required as they stepped out into the world. Wise counsel for advice, a shoulder to cry on and people to help you get out of situations were available at beck-and-call.
But with the onset of nuclear families and alarming number of single parent run households, it is certain that most young minds are leading shallow (socially) lives. Due to this their emotional states are also brittle. No wonder that one of the big trends observed by the healthcare industry is the rise in emotional sicknesses. It also seems that these diseases tend to increase proportionally with economic development! If this continues, we may actually be a rich, but sick nation which is young as well. Not a great combination to look forward to! It is then in the hands of every one of us to ‘think’ what and how we want to lead our lives. It is then in our own best interests to study how to live life. It is in our overall interests that we learn how to form social connections with human beings in the real world (beyond the virtual world).
I know there is a popular book by the title ‘Who will cry when you die?’ by Robin Sharma. His success as an author is undeniable. His books and related products selling in millions! Since I have not read the book yet and I do not know what it contains. While the title of the book triggers in me numerous thoughts for reflection and introspection, this blog has nothing to do with that book in particular. Will someone cry at your death is something that you will never know! But a deeper question arose in me during the course of some experiences last week – ‘will someone cry when you cry?’
It is a question that led me to a series of thoughts about how we lead our lives. In our busy lives we have limited face-to-face interactions with people. Most of the communication is with and through devices. So whether it is stress, anger, fear, or any strong emotion, the immediate reaction is to use the phone to tweet, message, or post an update! If you are not so mobile yet, you get to the computer and play games or do the same as the above – communicate! Very often most people are preoccupied with their own problems and challenges. Hence when we reach out to them, they don’t have the time or the space (physical or emotional) to lend an ear. Due to the lack of building enough relationships most of us have turned to one-way communication channels to vent our emotions. This has led to a lot more cases of loneliness, depression, and numerous other mental ailments. It is widely stated that many of our workers (especially white collar) and people with whom we spend time could actually be struggling with the new age lifestyle diseases.
What is the root cause of all this? It is because as social animals we are dependent on networks in the world for our existence. When these networks are strong, it gives us the confidence to face challenges, setbacks, problems, etc and get back home. It makes us share our emotions with those closely networked members and who in turn provide us empathetic responses. These empathetic messages, a shoulder to cry on, a chance to discuss challenges, a reassurance that there is someone to fight it out with us and to know that we are not alone helps us get out of these mental imbalances (though minor) quickly. But if these support systems are poor, one tends to decline and fall prey to these illnesses.
The question posed ‘who will cry when you cry?’ actually is asking if you have this network which will stand by you when you face a problem or challenge in life? Will you have people who will be concerned about your concerns? Will there be people who will give up their priorities temporarily and have the time and space to provide you comfort as well as support? Are there people who will go beyond their call of duty to ensure you are fine? Do you have such people? What are you doing to find such people? What are you doing to keep them with you?
There are times in life when big questions get raised in our heads. All the knowledge of the world does not seem to help with answers. We feel confused, anxious, agitated and worried about how to handle the situation and how the future will unfold? Under these circumstances one eventually lands up in philosophy. ‘Philosophy’ – the subject that asks and answers the really big questions in life! I once came across a book titled ‘Why business men (women included) need philosophy?” and it’s not surprising that it did not do very well. Why will it? The way we land up in achievement or celebration is not how we land up in philosophy. While the former is always done in groups, the latter is always alone. When you sit back and ask questions like: “Why me?” or “Why are some people more privileged than me?” – Inevitably the worldly knowledge cannot give satisfying answers. An answer that satisfies one person may not satisfy you. Hence, everyman will have to ask the questions to himself and then seek answers.
So should everyone learn ‘Vedanta’? Is ‘Vedanta’ the only solution to all big questions in life? No, not at all! There are many systems of philosophy and one should expose themselves to some or all of them before choosing the school of philosophy to pursue.
Which one should i choose?
- Choose the one that fits your personality.
- Choose the one that you relate to.
- Choose the one that you have access to.
- Choose the one that can address your big questions satisfactorily.
- More importantly – Choose one and stick to it.
At least in philosophy, variety can create more confusions than solutions. Try to avoid it, however tempting. Because ‘philosophy’ should not become entertainment! It can create more ruckus than not having known philosophy at all.
Think about it!
Many people especially the ones who deeply believe in God or God-men profess having witnessed or experienced miracles. The intellectuals normally rubbish these as imaginations and tricks. Both schools of thought are right. While reasoning is what human beings should engage in because of the innate instrument given to them – all scientists (who are worth something in their fields) have declared that there are limits to what reasoning can detail. They sense something deeper but the proof always eludes them. They submit to this greater power that ensures them the intuitive insight and thereby they become extremely humble. They trust this greater force but in most cases they realize this very late in their lives. Vedanta says ask yourself deeper questions early.
What are miracles and to whom does it happen? It happens to people who trust! Be it trust in Gods, God Men, Science, or anything else; it is trust that enables one to see miracles! But how will one develop trust without having seen miracles in the first place. The intelligent mind wants proof before trusting. In this process of searching for proof without adequate development of the intellect or reasoning power, we become critical and doubtful about everything. In fact many times the ability to destroy belief through rational questioning is seen as intelligence. No wonder that in most cases it’s only a calamity or loss that makes one seek miracles.
Which should come first? Seeing a miracle or trust? It’s like the typical “which came first” challenge – there is no right answer. But the truth is, it is a cyclical process. Most people in arts seem to give in to the muse or the divine power or whatever they call it and in the process allow the greatest of works to happen through them. Scientists exploring the outside world take a long time to reach the stage that an Einstein or Bohm reached? Most don’t! So they don’t end up even asking the question.
Life must be a good mix of reasoning and miracles. To see miracles one needs trust – else we dismiss all miracles. On the contrary one must not accept every incident that can’t be explained as miracles – then the process of reasoning stops. So it is a mutually reinforcing process – one of trusting and one of seeing and experiencing miracles.
Think about it.
Yesterday I had an experience – rare one in so many years of haven flown all over the place. I had a flight back home after my workshop with one stopover. During the first leg of the flight, mid air, we suddenly experienced a terrible shake-up. While the captain did warn us before we took-off about possible turbulence en-route, this was fairly more than a normal turbulence. During those 20 seconds or so, I saw firsthand what happens to people in case of an emergency. For the first time I kept calm. Instead of closing my eyes, i kept it open and looked outside. It made me feel i was being tossed around by someone just for fun! Everyone was shaken. Thanks to the captain (and to God, prayers, etc too) we were again flying smoothly –but most people kept looking at each other in disbelief, disbelief about seeing each other not dead or was it that we were still alive. It was my first experience of scenes that i see only in a movie or read in a book. Scary it is!
The truth is somewhere deep down at those moments and for a few moments after that, we think about the value of life. We think we must drop everything and do what matter the most. But in a few hours we are back to what we normally do in life. We forget that ‘Life is a like a dew drop on a lotus leaf’ and that we experienced it a little earlier. We forget the knocks and shocks of life when they are delivered in small quantities. We don’t take the effort to understand how to live life. We don’t do what we are born to do. Why? Because we misunderstand life! Somewhere deep inside us we fail to understand that what happens to others (death) can happen to us as well. Such little reminders that tell us about the fragility of life is ignored with the dangerous assumption that it won’t happen to me and if it does, i can handle it much better. Both of us fail on occurrence.
I was back home and spent the evening at work. It was only before going to bed; I casually mentioned this to my wife. We had a lovely little chat about the importance of that lesson and discussed how we can narrow our distractions further. These knocks and shocks are only to remind us to get back on track, not to demotivate and make us give up on life. This misunderstanding is what has made us miss the beauty of the subject of philosophy, in particular ‘Vedanta’.
If you are conscious, aware and alert there are many situations in life that give us this message – but we miss it because of our ignorance and distractions. If you learn to stay alive and alert every moment to the happening at that instant, life will be more happening!
This is the central message of Vedanta – learn how to use the time given to you to evolve and reach your kingly state from which you have fallen.
I am writing this blog today because I was given a chance to stay alive – and I hope to do things that fit more closely to what i can contribute. What will I do with everything I accumulate, if 20 seconds mid-air can make everything redundant? What will I do postponing all close-to-heart activities in life, if 20 seconds mid-air can end the journey? Then there must be something more to life. Don’t wait for harsher knocks and shocks as reminders to start living life.