Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Chasing Enlightenment: Mission Aborted

My submission for the June edition of AZIndiaTimes.


Chasing Enlightenment: Mission Aborted

“I’m not the body, I’m not the mind.” -Sadhguru

I was a big believer in Descartes’ concept of Mind-Body Dualism till recently. I thought, therefore I was seemed like the truth considering how much time I spent inside my head. My body never listened to me. I wasn’t smart, sexy, fit and that was because neither was I my body nor could I tell it what to do. But my mind, my mind was a different matter. It listened to me, it guided me, it gave me an external identity, it was me. Yet, more often than not, I acted on my mind’s beckoning; It was rarely the other way round. If my mind and I were the same, how would it matter anyway? But are we?

Since over a month now, I’ve been practicing Kriya Yoga. Diligently would be untrue but quite sincerely. I have also been reading/ listening to Yogis, mystics and monks hailing from the Indian traditions and I can see my worldview, and self-view, changing. That’s not very unusual. I’m quite malleable to philosophies, both deep and shallow, but what is different this time is that these words, unlike most others, are empowering me.

Who am I? Why am I alive? Is there a purpose to my life? What is the right thing to do? How do I find fulfillment? What is the nature of the world? Like so many others, I’ve always been surrounded by these questions. For all I know, others placed these questions in my head. Not getting easy answers frustrated me, made me cynical, an escapist and led me to explore alternative platforms of thought. Realising I’m not just my mind, though I tend to identify with it so closely, has removed the burden to find the right answer. I’m not so guilty of living, without intellectually understanding the underlying mechanisms of life and action, anymore.

Most of what happens in my head stays in there. Om Swami talks about four aspects of the mind: Mind, consciousness, intellect and ego. I’m still exploring these ideas, both intellectually through words and for the first time experientially via meditation and Yoga. I’m still a newbie, just getting my feet wet and I don’t want to make any inaccurate impression as to my exposure or knowledge of these things, but my everyday living has changed in a month. I still get unnecessarily irritated, afraid, lazy, confused. There hasn’t been much change in that. There has been, though, a change in the way I consciously perceive these things.

“There is no such thing as enlightenment” -UG Krishnamurti

God is not coming down to explain everything to me just because I get drunk and yell curses at the sky. He might not come even if I spend a life with monkish discipline and abstinence. When I choose the latter, though, I’m in control. I’ve had these thought experiments before: If you’re feeling free, is it because someone who’s controlling you from up there is driving that impression? I’ve travelled long enough in that land and I see only barrenness and suffering. So is running away from suffering the right way to live my life? Why does suffering exist then? Is god malevolent? Is seeing that there is no enlightenment real enlightenment? See, these arguments are endless. I thought I’d reach the bottom of the pile. Turns out I’m not been able to.

I’m beginning to realize I’m creating these monstrously contorted complications in my head and feeling miserable when I’m not able to untangle them. Life created me. I exist here and now. That’s the truth. Even if I’m a figment of someone’s imagination and I’m condemned to think the way I am, that does not take away from the fact that I’m here and now. The grace of life is always guiding me. To where, I don’t know. I’m not even sure if I’m right now capable of recognising and appreciating it. The core of my being is seeking expansive joy. For all my intellectual web spinning, I cannot deny that. Then why live in my head and die bitterly than live expansively and see where life takes me, whoever this me is.

Does it mean I turn into a hedonist? If it makes me happy, sure. The truth is that as much as I’d argue otherwise externally, in the heart of my hearts, I know what I ought to be doing. By denying myself that advice, I’m standing in my own way. I’ve always wanted to be right. That’s an intellectual pursuit. Doing the right thing for the sake of the ego. Seems like there’s no such way. I’m not even doing as much as being done by a chain of casualty.

I chased enlightenment because I thought it was the right thing to do, the cool thing to do, the easy thing to do. I sought the silver bullet (http://omswami.com/2018/04/enlightenment.html) because I believed it’d make living easier. It is not out there, it is not sometime in the future. To achieve success, it is said a person needs 3 things: Aim, Diligent Effort and the ability to Keep Going even when results are not encouraging. Am I willing to do that for enlightenment? Not really. If I had those qualities, I’d be using them to get better materially not seek an otherworldly truth. Enlightenment, so far for me atleast, has been an escapist notion.

“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.” -Rumi

My life is here and now. I want to be joyous. These are inescapable truths. Every other fanciful thought is because of a need to escape from reality because I’m not capable, physically, mentally, emotionally, energy-wise etc. for turning this moment into a wonderful experience. I must work towards who I want to be, what I want the world to be, what I want to feel. Karma is true in the simple sense that we live in a Cause-and-Effect based physical universe and to achieve something, I must do all that is required. Nothing can replace action- conscious or compulsive.

I sought enlightenment because I thought it might let me live my life by drifting above it. I’m now thinking what a waste of life that would be. I want to walk through the beautiful forest of life, fully conscious, using my body, mind, emotion and energies to savour every moment and keep walking, keep getting surprised, keep having interesting conversations, keep touching others deeply. Life created me, I trust it to guide me to where I ought to go. That sounds like a good way to live, doesn’t it.

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