One of the most over-rated qualities in our society is confidence. Articles about it are everywhere and there is no shortage of experts espousing one’s need to be (or appear) confident in themselves and their abilities in order to be successful.
All one has to do, however, is look at the whole notion of confidence and success in quiet silence and it will come crumbling down like the house of cards it is.
The delusion of confidence is related to the delusion of causation as well as the illusion of free will. Western society especially goes to great lengths to minimize the appearance of anything random or out-of-the-ordinary that would make people feel that the world is not under control.
This stems from a desperate need to reduce anxiety about a world that seems to be progressing on its own without us having much say in it. Instead of accepting the inherent randomness, beauty and joy of this amazing universe that we have been given the gift of consciousness to appreciate, some of us look at it as if it’s trying to kill us or hurt us and do everything possible to enforce our idea of order and consistency on it.
This attempt will always fail for we ourselves have arisen out of this seeming randomness and chaos. It as akin to a few bubbles in an eddy of water trying to change the course of a river. A foolish and pointless endeavor, to say the least!
A thing is as it is, because the universe is as it is.
– Nisargadatta Maharaj, I am That
Imagine a few bubbles in an eddy attempting to control the fate of the river, or even their own fate.
Some of them, after repeated failure, give in to despair. A few unfortunate ones in this group are then medicated so they can avoid experiencing their suffering fully.
Others, having met with repeated success, feel grateful and share what they have with others.
Still others, having met with tremendous success, come to conclude that all success is due to them and their special powers. The not-so-successful ones are convinced that the successful ones have something they don’t, something they can have too, if only they could be like this or like that. The successful ones are rewarded for their efforts (or so it seems).
What does it mean that success is a dangerous as failure?
Whether you go up the ladder or down it,
Your position is shaky.
When you stand with your two feet on the ground,
You will always keep your balance.
Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu
The idea then arises: perhaps if I act successful, as if I know what I am doing, the world will reward me too! The trick seems to work. The idea of ‘appearing confident’ takes root. Soon there emerge individuals that have this delusion so deeply embedded in them that they actually feel confident without even trying and have no idea how anyone can not feel confident. The not-so-successful ones watch in wonder, and sometimes with jealousy, as the naturally confident ones seem to have everything, while the ones that struggle never seem to achieve their dreams.
All of this too, is part of the harmonious beauty of the universe, but it is sad to witness nonetheless.
The truth is that the feeling of confidence is little more than a baseless projection of one’s own misguided sense of abilities onto oneself. When one dives deep into one’s own consciousness and separates it from everything else that obscures, one finds that everything just happens with us being simply observers (even this is not the way I see it but this description will have to do for now). A step is then taken to associate all that happens thanks to the immense power of the universe with oneself, as if an individual somehow disconnected from the rest of the universe is experiencing thoughts and feelings, is performing actions and causing results. This entity or whatever it is that decides to assume ownership with what is and separate itself from the rest is the ego.
It starts to think. “I. I am here. I am doing this and that. I am experiencing this and that. I own these things. I am separate from them. They want what I own. I must protect it or I will lose it and there will be less for me. I will change the world so I will always have enough. Who knows what will happen tomorrow? I should take some more and keep it hidden.” And so on and so forth. This is the so-called fruit of knowledge, the fall from grace, the maya.
Those who wish to take the world and control it
I see that they cannot succeed
The world is a sacred instrument
One cannot control it
The one who controls it will fail
The one who grasps it will lose
Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu
Go deep into the source of the “I”, go beyond it and realize there is no “I”. Everything just happens as it does and what you think you “do” or “not do” has no bearing on it. That, what you think you “are” is a part of everything and as such whatever success you attribute to yourself really belongs to the whole universe at once.
There is no such thing as confidence, no basis for it, no place for it’s existence in the truth. Even as the “I”, you cannot feel confident because things are being done as they are being done. There is no need to ask, to take, to grab, to deny, to assume credit, to assign blame, to fault. There is no basis for pride or shame, fame or infamy, wealth or poverty. None of these things exist. They are made up and kept alive by the very process of taking them to be real. The value of something exists only when you recognize it.
If you are attuned to absorbing religious or spiritual matters, this will probably make sense to you. If you are scientifically-minded, think about it this way: how did just a bunch of energy vibrating in the universe coalesce into something else and eventually evolve into something like us? Who are you really and how are you able, fundamentally, to take some energy and interpret it as a chair, an apple, a thought, a feeling? And considering that fundamentally we are all just a point of energy too, how did one point of energy interpret another point of energy as matter and then go on to “do” all these things? If that isn’t a beautiful mystery, I don’t know what is. Go down this road and soon you might find yourself speechless, perhaps on a street corner or at the Grand Canyon, looking around in wonder, seeing things anew and asking yourself “Who am I? What is all this?”
At that point all your confidence will vanish, all your certainties will melt away like the fog in the sun. Suddenly you will realize you actually know nothing. Then your journey can begin.
Some part of our being knows this is where we came from.
We long to return.
And we can.
Because the cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star-stuff.
We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.
Like time, causation is merely a concept and has no bearing in reality.
When we see something happen, often a question we ask is “why?”. “Why did it happen?”, “Why did it happen this particular way?”, “What caused it?”, “Why me?”
None of these questions have ever been answered, in any context because the question why itself is meaningless and arises only when there is not a recognition of the whole.
Let’s say you take an object lying on the table and nudge it. It moves. Would you say that your nudging it is what caused it to move? Probably. Would you say that your nudging is the only thing that caused it to move?
In order for your nudging to result in an object’s movement, what is necessary? There are some things we know about from Physics: force, friction, shape of the object. The lack of any ‘external factors’ preventing it’s motion, such as resistance or an opposing force. Is that enough? What ensured that the object and the table have the specific levels of friction that made the object move a certain way? What factors influenced the direction of motion? What is the object made of and what caused the material to be exactly the way it is?
The answer of scientists is normally to ignore factors that seem to be insignificant. But insignificance is determined by us, based on what we think in insignificant. Usually this just means that the means of measurement (i.e. an instrument) or investigation, both of which are created by us, reveal a measurement (perceived by us) to seem to be beyond our ability to understand, usually because it is too small.
For example, when the wind blows and a pencil on a table does not move, we assume that the wind is not a factor in the pencil’s movement or existence. All that really means is that we cannot see the connection and just because we don’t see a connection does not mean it does not exist. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, but science makes this leap all the time. In fact, science cannot progress without such selective ignorance, without which the every inquiry would result in the necessity to inquire into the nature of the entire universe as a whole. Science deliberately limits itself to observable manifestations of matter. It does not even concern itself with energy, except through it’s impact on matter.
Most importantly, science does not answer the why behind anything. It can only answer how, and that too it does by mostly naming and labeling observable phenomena that seem to occur together or in sequence and assign causation. Because manipulating an item A leads to effect B and repeating the manipulation of item A leads to B every time, we take it to mean that A causes B. But it could just mean that the observation of B follows observation of A. One has to make the assumption that what is perceived is real for us to conclude that A and B occur in sequence whenever we observe them. And that still does not prove causation. At most, there is an observation of correlation. Few scientists would accept that correlation is causation, but all of science, in fact, does exactly that.
Modern civilization is built on this conceptual framework, which has no bearing in reality. In our culture, we expect people to be able to affect change or cause an outcome, when in fact, no one person can possibly be the cause of anything. Everything depends, in some way, on everything else and the entire universe has to come together to make something happen.
And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.
– Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
To think that you, as an individual, separate from ‘the world’ can change this or that, is purely delusional and quite arrogant. There is very little effect we have on the universe and whatever effect we do have, happens without our need to expend so much effort.
The above quote is often read as meaning all your desires will be fulfilled. Everyone’s life experience reveals that to be false. What it really means is that the entire universe is involved in achieving something through you. When you understand that, and learn what it is that ‘you want’ as opposed to what ‘you think you want’, you learn to listen to your heart. And when you begin to follow your heart, you end up having the force of the entire universe behind you as it propels you relentlessly towards achieving it’s goals.
To ask why this is so is to fail to see the whole picture and understand that there is no why. It is, as it is. Many find this situation intolerable so we give it names, God being the most common. But simply giving something we don’t understand a name, shape and characteristics does little beyond assign more names to one name and simply confuse everyone into believing that something important is being said.
The truth is that causation does not exist and whatever makes things move and gives life, whether you call it God, Life, Universe, Gravity or Entropy, cannot be expressed in words and cannot be understood by the mind.
The mind takes observations and knits them together into a pattern that makes its own existence viable. The situation isn’t that different from the situation in an office where people create unnecessary work in order to justify their employment. This recognition of a pattern appears to us as causation and we find it pleasing. Hence the desperate attempt by some of us to find reasons behind everything.
The truth is that there is no causation. Everything happens as it happens and everything can be said to be the cause of everything else, which really eliminates the need for the concept of causation. Once this is accepted and taken to heart, the need to find explanations for everything ceases and we can find peace.
Time: The indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole
– Google dictionary entry
What will not happen will never happen, whatever effort one may put forth. And what will happen will not fail to happen, however much one may seek to prevent it. This is certain. The part of wisdom therefore is to stay quiet.
– Sri Ramana Maharshi
Most of us have so deeply imbibed the concept of time that we have forgotten that it doesn’t actually exist outside our imagination.
A common refrain heard nowadays is ‘I don’t have time’ or ‘I am running out of time’ or ‘I am short of time’. Even on a vacation, some of us worry about whether they have time to do everything. Some of us go as far as to worry about whether we have ‘time to do everything we want in life’. ‘So much to do, so little time’ it seems.
And despite that, some of us spend our limited time on useless things we don’t want to do or things that don’t bring us joy or even pleasure. This obvious contradiction seems to escape most of us. In fact, we have gone as far as to systematically enforce this delusion, in the form of ‘retirement planning’. The idea is that we should suffer and waste our time on stupid things we don’t believe in right now, so we can ‘live’ in the future and enjoy ourselves on other stupid and useless things. For most of us, life is a chore, a burden, a never-ending sequence of events and obligations, documents to process, work to complete, things to do, places to see, dishes to eat, sex to enjoy. There never seems to be enough.
But what is time anyway? Let’s start with the past.
Some of us believe the past exists by itself, as if there is some type of long road that the whole universe is traveling on and that in some way, we can go ‘back’ to the past and ‘re-live’ it. Some of us think the past exists in history books or documentaries.
Yes, history can be recorded in books or documentaries, but in order to read them or view them, you have to bring it into the present and experience it in the present.
The truth is that the past does not exist at all. Our minds have memory. We remember things and when we remember them, we are in the present, remembering the past. We can never ‘be’ in the past, we can only imagine that we are there. And that imagination, like everything else, happens in the present.
Even at a physical level, there is no doubt that the past is impossible to repeat. We may be able, in the future, to ‘repeat’ an experience of it but you still have to experience the repetition in the present and then have a memory of the fact that you repeated it. Once again, the past does not exist. For the past to even be perceived as real, it has to be brought into the present. Even if you ‘time traveled’ to the past and were ‘in the past’, you would actually be experiencing it in what would be ‘the present’ for you. Other people might think you are in the past and that would be no different than you being lost in thought somewhere people could not see you. So the whole idea is nonsensical.
The future, for most people, is a lot easier to ignore and most of us actually do it very well when we are sleep. But there are some of us that are so ridden with anxiety, and a desire to control what will and will not happen, that we go to great lengths to ‘ensure’ that it will happen exactly as we think we want it. Western civilization has this pervasive sense of anxiety. So, instead of fixing the root of the problem, which is to give up expectations of a particular kind of future, we medicate ourselves so we don’t have to feel the anxiety anymore and can ‘continue to function productively’. As if the universe depended on yet another account being processed.
But the truth is that things never actually happen the way we expect them to, because most of the time, we have no idea what to expect! That’s actually what makes life so wonderfully surprising every moment. But some of us don’t want it and that’s when we begin to force expectations on this unborn future, asking for ‘commitments’, ‘promises’, ‘contracts’, ‘obligations’, ‘invitations’, ‘RSVPs’, ‘measurements’ and ‘metrics’, all of which capture a very small subset of reality and put some numbers or words on it. Then we convince ourselves that so long as the numbers ‘somewhat match’, as long as it ‘sort of worked out’, we ‘did well’ and ‘things are good’. Even our language clearly exposes our ignorant fumbling around and reveals to us the fundamental ignorance of it all. It’s sad, but also highly entertaining in the same way it is sad and entertaining to watch Charlie Chaplin’s slip and fall on a banana peel.
This pervasive tendency to attempt to rigidly define and control a future and then to create pictures of the future that closely match those expectations, is so deeply rooted among some of us, that we will actually ‘change’ the representation of the future to make it seem like it fit our expectations and then talk about it endlessly until we’ve brainwashed ourselves into believing that what we think happened actually happened. We give them names and make them normal, like ‘re-touching a photo’, ‘improving a resume’, ‘putting a positive spin’. And when even that is not enough, we start looking for approval from others to make sure no one saw through the nonsense. Even we know very well how stupid our minds are and how easily they can be fooled so we do it with glee. It’s really quite hilarious.
It doesn’t take much to understand that the future is, in fact, unpredictable and uncontrollable. We can do everything within our power to control it, but even if we did stop trying to control it, it would go the way it’s supposed to. That’s the challenge for most people – to accept that their role in what happens is not just insignificant, it’s nil.
This line of thinking leads some people to say, ‘So why shouldn’t I kill myself?’ Well, you can by all means and people do. But are you sure it will solve your problem? That potential, that brought you here, do you think it will simply disappear? Even basic physics tells us that energy cannot be created or destroyed, but only transformed. So can you guarantee that the potential energy that brought you into existence, which has something to accomplish through you will not simply bring you right back? No. In fact, there’s every certainty that you will come right back and go through what you have to. Only, next time you may have no choice whatsoever (say if you are born as a chicken, a plant, a rock or a gas molecule). At least now you are aware of being conscious, so why not use this opportunity?
It takes just a little bit of quiet contemplation to realize that the past does not exist and the future is completely unpredictable. Surrendering to that leads to freedom from anxiety. Not surrendering leads to fear.
Desire is of the past, fear is of the future. The memory of past suffering and the fear of its
recurrence make one anxious about the future.
Rain falling. Glorious, refreshing, life-giving, nourishing rain. It falls from the sky. We claim to understand the scientific process, but we have no idea why it happens at all.
Our bodies need rain to survive, so do the plants and animals and myriad creatures we know about. What else beyond the life we claim to understand needs rain? Who knows?
Many people dismiss rain or curse it. It causes things to rot, makes the roads muddy, makes the disgusting worms come out, spoils our carefully done hair, makes dresses wet, our bodies cold, our food soggy, our air humid. So much negativity at something that we need.
Yet, when was the last time you stood in the rain and observed what’s happening? It showers, freely, unasked for, unappreciated, unperturbed by the petty chatter of the ungrateful or the appreciation of the thankful. It does what it does, because it is what it is, an expression of the pure beauty and life that pervades this universe.
If that isn’t love, what is?
Q: In all the universe, is there one single thing of value?
A: Yes, the power of love.
The shadows of this world are perceived by mortals, and they think they know Truth, but the Reality which casts the shadows is hidden from them, and they do not perceive the Light. I tell you the truth when I say that only when you perceive shadows as shadows, and search the Light, will you perceive the Reality which is God.
– Jesus Christ, Gospel of Thomas
Sri Ramana Maharshi is known to have compared it to the situation in a cinema. There is the light in the projector, which passes through a moving film that projects images on the screen. The light is God or the Self, the film is our mind, with it’s thoughts, memories, etc. The movie on the screen is what we call our life, our world.
In other words, the Self or the Light shines through our memories, casts shadows and we see those shadows and think it to be real. Now, of course, these “shadows” aren’t just visual, speaking in terms of the senses. Everything we perceive with our senses (taste, touch, smell, sight, sound), plus mind, thoughts, feelings, are all the projections of the Light.
We think the shadows we perceive are real. Now imagine a multiplicity of these movie reels playing by the same light. Now there are many worlds, all of which seem real.
Consider this: In the beginning, you were organized as one body, but when you became two, the illusion of separateness entered the physical plane. Now you are many, and this illusion abounds.
– Jesus Christ, Gospel of Thomas
Now, what happens when the movie reel is taken away? Light remains, no movie! What happens when there is no movie? You can’t tell that anything’s changing? When nothings changing, there is no time, there is no space. There is only Light! If there is only Light, what happens to the others? There are no others, there is only Light! That Light is what we call God, the Self. This is our natural state, our True nature. It is all there is.
Once you realize that the world is your own projection, you are free of it. You need not free yourself of a world that does not exist, except in your own imagination! However is the picture, beautiful or ugly, you are painting it and you are not bound by it. Realize that there is nobody to force it on you, that it is due to the habit of taking the imaginary to be real. See the imaginary as imaginary and be free of fear.
– Nisargadatta Maharaj
Now the object of the theological virtues is God Himself, Who is the last end of all, as surpassing the knowledge of our reason. On the other hand, the object of the intellectual and moral virtues is something comprehensible to human reason. Wherefore the theological virtues are specifically distinct from the moral and intellectual virtues.
– St. Thomas Aquinas
Yes, I tell you the truth when I say that even those who follow the prophets do not understand them, for they speak of the things of the Spirit, which cannot be apprehended by the physical mind. The prophet is alone with the Eloheim, for of all mortals, it is he who sees the reality which he cannot convey to his people.
– Jesus Christ, Gospel of Thomas
My voice proclaims
How exquisitely the individual Mind
(And the progressive powers perhaps no less
Of the whole species) to the external World
Is fitted:—and how exquisitely, too,
Theme this but little heard of among Men,
The external World is fitted to the Mind.
– William Wordsworth
Oh the pity, my mind wallows in it’s own ignorance, while I am. And even though I know nothing but that, and as much as my mind would like to believe, I am, that’s true and I am still unaware of it.
This earth and the planets surrounding it will pass away, and everything will become new. Consider this: In the beginning, you were organized as one body, but when you became two, the illusion of separateness entered the physical plane. Now you are many, and this illusion abounds. Listen to what I’m saying! You must become a solitary person before me, if you want to dwell on the new planets and the new earth which I will create. Those who are enlightened will understand what I’m saying.
– Jesus, Gospel of Thomas
The moment I have realized God sitting in the temple of every human body, the moment I stand in reverence before every human being and see God in him – that moment I am free from bondage, everything that binds vanishes, and I am free.
– Swami Vivekananda
Unity can only be manifested by the Binary. Unity itself and the idea of Unity are already two.
– Gautama Buddha
When the world which is what-is-seen has been removed, there will be realization of the Self which is the seer.
– Sri Ramana Maharshi
By forms is meant all manifestations on the physical plane including things, vibrations, names, concepts, thoughts, feelings et al.
The world we perceive ourselves to live in consists of a variety of forms. Forms, are created and sustained only due to other forms that validate their existence. Forms exist only as long as exists a gross manifestation of consciousness to perceive them. In order for experience to appear to be real, it is necessary for the experiencer to appear to be real and separate from the experience.
The ego, or the fundamental sense of identity that gives rise to all separation, itself causes forms to take form, as it were. These forms are experienced through many channels of vibration that we call the senses. The destruction of the ego leads to the experience of the infinite. From the point of view of a visual metaphor, the word destruction is not the best way to describe this, for destruction usually evokes a splintering or explosive type of effect. The experience is akin to a merging, or dissolution.
The truth or the word of god, whatever name is chosen to describe it, is found not just in books, scriptures or words of the wise. It is all around, even in forms. It is obvious that this would be such, for it follows that if all is one, then all is the word and the word is everywhere and everything at once.
The nature of reality, life etc can be described in terms of a vast ocean – a beautiful, direct and obvious manifestation of the word in form. Forms are waves on the surface of the ocean. Everything, including living things, including us, is a wave. Waves take shape, move, crash, tumble and ultimately dissolve back into the ocean from where they arise. Under the waves as well as part of the wave is the ocean, unaffected by the manifestation, activities, transitions and dissolution of the waves.
Is it meaningful to name each wave? Is it meaningful to ascribe to each wave, characteristics such as benevolence, violence, faith? Is it meaningful to say that each wave has free-will, dreams, desires? Is it meaningful to give each wave credit for what it does? Is it meaningful to give each wave a purpose? Is it meaningful to attempt to control the destiny of each wave?
So it is with life, with forms. If all things, including us are just waves on the cosmic substrate, how does one begin to describe each wave, ascribe to them characteristics and attempt to control them? In essence, this is what we attempt to do in life.
The nature of reality (or consciousness, or existence, or god, or the infinite, whatever name you give it), is like an unending ocean. It never wasn’t, it never isn’t and it never won’t be. What we think of as ‘I’, when we associate ourselves with the body, or the mind, or emotions or anything that Jesus called the Physical Plane and the Vedas called Samsara, is just a wave, transient but at the same time completely one with the eternal, at all times.
Time, space, cause, effect, all names and forms are but waves. It is as if a wave decided to ‘take control’ and establish it’s “importance” over other waves.
There is nothing one needs to “do” in order to be one with that ocean. We are that, already and always have been.
Slow down everyone you’re moving too fast Frames can’t catch you when you’re moving like that
– Jack Johnson, Inaudible Melodies
I used to think and write about technology. Software, hardware, the things that make bits travel from one little container to another. An exciting world, filled with terms like agile development, continuous integration. A world, like any established profession nowadays with it’s associated literature and conferences, prescriptions and practices, gurus and disciples, culture and philosophy.
This is no longer very interesting to me.
Looking back, I could argue that the specifics of information technology weren’t interesting to me in the first place, because it was really just a medium by which I sought to discover the unity, beauty and infinity of everything that is. The sum-total of the rituals, actions, thought, expression and product, which I will refer to collectively as “work” was, primarily for me, meditation. A way to focus on one thing so intensely so as to allow consciousness to just be in itself, a point where boundaries, including ones that define one’s ego, dissolve and merge into the infinite that is.
Meditation has been a part of my life since I was 17, when I started questioning the nature of reality.
Who am I?
I remember learning to meditate as clearly as I remember learning to walk, eat or sleep, which is to say, I don’t remember it at all. It has just always been a part of my life.
Perhaps as result of years of meditation, life isn’t a mystery. It does not appear to be an unfathomable maze, with pitfalls, traps, highs and lows. It wasn’t always like this, but whenever I think back about times when life was confusing, I also see clearly that they were times when I living on the surface, reacting to waves on an ocean instead of being in the calm underneath.
The breakthrough came when I started slowing down, making every action deliberate. Intentional. Exclusive. And immediately the last ripples started to subside and eventually went away, leaving nothing but an immense stillness that is impossible to describe and also impossible to leave once you experience it. I am sure I will write much more about this.
It was at this time, when I was most deeply living in that state of calm that I met my now fiancé. A deeply spiritual woman who brings out the best in me, just being and conversing with her convinced me to start writing this blog. So I erased everything that was there on this space before and started this one.
I write this blog not because I want to be read by anyone in particular, or anyone at all. I write not because I feel I have something to say to the world, nor because I want to engage in discussion about interesting things (that’s why comments are turned off).
I write because I am inspired. I write because I must.