Healing

My dear friends in the United States, take heart. What has happened is actually long overdue and when we are past it, maybe you can look back and see just how necessary it was.
 
There has been discontent in the American psyche for a while, but it has been suppressed, medicated or otherwise covered up in an effort to maintain an appearance of a well-functioning society. People in many areas of life, regardless of gender, race, religion and so on, have been hurting for a while and their pain has not been taken seriously. When we elected a black president, we tried to convince ourselves that we really were not hurting, that the suffering was over, but there are still many that were left marginalized. We cannot heal one community or one group of people and ignore another. We must include all people in our efforts even if it ends up consuming all our energies. It may require putting profits aside for a while, but it is worth it.
The power of love, which is constantly trying to bring a return to harmony and unity, will not rest until true harmony is found, and a superficial attempt at reconciliation that does not involve every single human being will never be good enough for love. So any attempt to help one group of people while another suffers, will simply not work. We have the capacity and the resources to provide a wonderful, happy life for all human beings on this planet – we just have to make it a priority and work at it consciously. So far, we seem to be content with putting only some of our resources into the well-being of humanity and using the rest to enrich a small group of people. We must use all our resources for the well-being of all humanity.
 
As Jesus spoke and the Gnostics wrote down, we are not here to fight darkness, but to transform it into light. We do that by bringing darkness up and out where it dissolves in the light of conscious awareness. We do this as human beings using our life, our love as the transforming power. The power of love is unlimited and eternal, but the body is not. This is part of the reason we eventually shed our bodies. We literally put our life into this process.
 
We all came here to work this transformation. When we ignore this work and instead focus on simply pleasuring ourselves or worrying about material things, we neglect the work we are here to do and suffer. Selfishness is the main cause of human suffering today. We need to stop being selfish and try to create a beautiful life for all!
 
My guru said “the longer the thorn is in the body, the more it hurts when taken out”. Well, most of us have ignored this important work and this thorn has festered in the body for a while. It is now being exposed and taken out. So it will hurt.
 
However, once you make the conscious switch and decide to give yourself willingly to life, to give your life to transforming darkness into light, you stop suffering and your life becomes truly meaningful and joyful. When you experience pain, as many of us are experiencing right now, remember that pain is felt when it is leaving the body, not when it is entering. What hurts and itches is not the pain itself, but the healing. Never forget that!
 
So what we are experiencing right now, as a nation, as a world, is this collective healing. Divisions are not being created. They were always there – unacknowledged, ignored and even sometimes ridiculed by those of us who claimed to know more than others. Now they are being exposed. And once in the light, they will dissolve. It may take some time and look ugly for a while, but we are now in the healing stage.
So don’t despair. Take courage, resolve to give yourself to life, resolve to consciously transform darkness into light. Try not to create more divisions – include and engage with all, even those you disagree with. They deserve to be heard, even if you don’t like what they say. However they appear to you, they are coming from a place of love and a desire to create a wonderful life for themselves, their families, friends and communities – as much as you are. Try not to react with anger or hatred. If you can’t respond with love, just be quiet. If you do that, you will go from being a disappointed victim to one that is conscious, awake and empowered. You will become a joyful participant in this healing. No human being should be and will be excluded from your love.
 
An absolutely phenomenal transformation is being manifested in front of our eyes. But you must have eyes to see.
 
I end with the words of Swami Vivekananda, my inspiration, the one who threw my despondent soul into the spiritual path and infused it with energy that will never fade:
Awake, arise! Stop not till the goal is reached!

Purpose

You think God knows you? He does not even know the world.
– Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, I Am That
 

There are people who believe that God is literally running their personal affairs and that they can decide how to live every second of their lives by asking Him for guidance. Entire books have been written on this topic promising people that with some practice and patience, they will be able to hear from God and always make The Right Decision, one that does not conflict with God’s will. Invariably these books end up going in circles and preaching a combination of learning to use intuition, good judgement and an attitude of using every mistake as a learning opportunity. There is absolutely no reason to bring God into such a way of living. In fact, most people do exactly this every day without ever invoking God.

 
God does not care about the details of your life, whether you buy a car, or get a job, whether you should get married or not, whether you should have kids or not, whether you save for retirement, whether you go on vacation, whether you like your friends. He just doesn’t care and you may have noticed this. If you haven’t admitted this simple fact to yourself, perhaps it is because you know where it leads. It leads to a place where you really have to depend on your own inner guidance and nothing else and you are scared to go there. In order to do that, you will need to give up your ideas of personal importance and really surrender to the universe and maybe you think you will lose everything in the process.
 
Any beliefs you hold that essentially serve to make God a crutch for you to stand on so that you don’t have to stand on your own two feet are stupid beliefs that sooner or later will be taken from you and you will be left to fend for yourself against the fierce winds and rains of life. God has given you all the tools you need to actually find Him, actually find the Truth and by finding the Truth, give all of yourself willingly to life. But you have to use them. You have to receive His grace that is ever present and given equally to all. All you have to do is receive it, trust it and willingly follow it.
 
None of that changes your need to work towards the alleviation of your own suffering, towards making life better for you and others. When you need food, you grow it or buy it, cook it and eat it. You don’t expect God to put spoonfuls of food in your mouth, do you? Then what makes you think God is going to decide what you should do every second of your life? And if you did, in fact, receive such guidance, why would you need to be so intelligent as to be able to make decisions? It’s a very twisted and perverted take on life, all done to somehow support some interpretation of scripture. And it all directly contradicts everyone’s life experience.

A big part of the struggle people have with religion is that it seems to contradict their life experience. If you can’t apply the teachings in your life, you are doing it wrong. Any reliance on magical explanations just shows that you haven’t understood it and you should keep searching instead of coming to a stupid conclusion.

 
When most people talk about waiting for God to act, they are really saying “I am waiting for God to put me in such a state of suffering that I will be forced to do something about it”. However, while waiting, they continue to eat, sleep, go to the toilet and do whatever else is necessary. Somehow, God is unable to help people with all those things. I myself spent some time doing this in order to test my theories and it is nothing but stupidity. Many people have put themselves through so much suffering that they are now willing to devise elaborate theories to make pain and suffering superbly meaningful. Their entire life is defined through pain and suffering so they have to find joy and meaning in it. Otherwise, they will have to come to the uncomfortable conclusion that all their effort was pointless self-torture.
 
Your pain, pleasure, joy, suffering, indeed your entire life experience is 100% meaningless unless you use it as an opportunity for personal transformation.
 
The world itself is a supreme gift, maintained by loving sacrifice. But the right receivers, wise and humble, are so few.
– Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, I Am That
 
When we sit still, we should know, that in every moment, the stars shine, the planets move, the wind blows, the heart beats, the universe dances to the rhythm of God’s own drum, generating and sustaining life eternally. But most of us ignore all this and have stupid ideas of things that are wrong, things that are missing and things we think we want, because we are stuck in the realm of perception. Our life experience is unbelievably rich, intense, joyful and effortless but many of us are confused between what we experience and what we perceive and most of us have taken the latter to be the whole of it.
 
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 (Gnostic Scripture)
 
All you have to do is enjoy life, really enjoy every moment and stop worrying about all the stupid things you think you want, things you don’t have, things that happened and things you think will happen. Then, with all the energy no longer consumed by worrying about the past and future, you could use every moment of your life as an opportunity for personal transformation, to find God and come closer to Him, if that’s what you want. But instead of enjoying the world, most of us want to change it, control it, bend it to suit our personal preferences. And then we wonder why we are unhappy and why the world is as it is.
 
Don’t blame God for your suffering, however bad it seems. Pain is not entirely avoidable and can have innumerable causes, but all suffering is the cause of selfishness and stupidity, your own and of those around you. Don’t cook up concepts to support your mistaken understanding, just because you read it in a book you never cared to really understand. If you want the Truth, you must really struggle to apply what you learned in your life and see if it works. That’s what Jesus meant by “forsake everything and follow me”. Do you really want it? Or do you just want to be comfortable? There is nothing wrong with being comfortable, even using the Church and God as a form of nice entertainment, as a form of social currency to make friends and influence people and feel like you are secure. Unfortunately, it’s utter nonsense, shows lack of integrity, and it will catch up with you. When it does, you will find yourself in hell on earth.
Many people who are out to find the Truth actually just want to be gurus, start ashrams and create a nice comfortable situation for themselves. There is nothing wrong with wanting to teach and help others be free, but in reality, there is nothing to teach! The world doesn’t need more gurus. Enough gurus have come and gone. The world needs more fearless disciples, people that are willing to give their life for the betterment of humanity instead of scurrying about trying to fulfill their pointless ambitions.
If you don’t care about the rest of humanity, great! At least your mind is honest. But your soul does care and your selfishness will soon throw you into a pit of despair from which you will emerge full of love. There is no other way. So better start caring. If you don’t believe me, you are welcome to wait and see how it works out.
If not, what is a fearless disciple to do?
 
If you want a happy, healthy body, actually love it (instead of simply worshipping what it looks like, worrying about it or complaining about how it is). Treat it with care, feed it good things, give it rest, exercise it, don’t overwork it, don’t abuse it with actions and substances that give you pleasure  but end up destroying it slowly. Do the same with your attitude, your thoughts, your relationships, your work, your world, your life. Actually try and love whatever comes to you instead of attempting to use it for your own damn agenda. Give your life to this struggle to include everything, to love everything. If you like to find joy through work (karma yoga), then work with total involvement. If you like to use your intellect and reason about God (jnana yoga), then do that every moment, with everything. If you like to be devoted to God (bhakti yoga), then surrender to God’s will totally and take your personal ambitions completely out of the picture. If you believe in working with life energies and bringing them into balance, take up meditation or the various kriyas (kriya yoga) and do it with unfailing commitment. That’s what will open you up to receive His grace.
 
Then maybe you’ll have a chance.

Work

I have been thinking about the way people live nowadays and I have realized that a huge part of what is missing in people’s lives is real engagement with life. The lack of engagement is especially pronounced for many people at work, specifically people in the knowledge/information economy and I am convinced that this is a major reason why many people find themselves depressed, unhappy and unable to adapt to change.

Picture this scene:

It is decades ago from today. You run a business in rural Italy. You have a little store-front on top of a hill looking over a sun-drenched valley. In this valley is a vineyard that begins just a few feet away from your store and runs all the way down to the valley. Luscious, luminescent bunches of grapes hang from every vine and everywhere you look your eye catches a glistening here, a sparkle there, as the gorgeous sunshine bounces off each grape that is delicately stirred by a gentle breeze.

You watch as little dots move about these vines. Your workers, dressed in attire appropriate for the task are picking grapes. As you look, suddenly there is a flash of light and you know it is Adelina, one of your most cheerful grape-pickers. You know this because you recognize the flash of light – a reflection of sunlight off the gold bracelet on her left hand that her husband gave her when they were married.

Your workers collect the grapes and bring it behind your store, where it is processed. Everyone that is anyone comes along to crush the grapes with their bare feet, especially the children. The screams of delight and laughter are a constant presence in and around your store.

People come from miles away to buy your wine. The wine isn’t the best in the land but it’s good. The customer does not know how the wine will taste this time, but he knows every bottle is probably different. The store isn’t necessarily easy to get to, but the journey is a big part of the reason people come here. A chance to look at the beautiful valley and mingle with others who have undertaken the same journey, is as much a part of the reward as is the wine itself. In fact, the wine is secondary and serves only as a reminder, a memento, an echo that people can listen to when they are in their home, at their dinner table. The experience itself is in the here and the now and is as real as it gets.

Compare that to your work environment, what you give your customers, your clients, your users.

Perhaps the saddest and most common response I have encountered repeatedly when people are asked to compare the scene in Italy against their work environment is that people are convinced they can never have the former. They believe that work, especially knowledge work, does not have to have a relationship with reality, that it exists entirely in a bubble as a self-sustaining system of concepts. They believe that it is okay for work to be performed away from where it has an impact to the point that many people now struggle to make a connection between what they do and what happens in the real world.

I am often told that the scene in Italy is what you do when you go on vacation and then you are supposed to come back to the dull, drab, uninspiring, disconnected world of work. This is a comparison also made in the movie Office Space.

Silicon Valley claims to have solved this problem. They create open-concept spaces, bright, colorful environments, larger-than-life inspirational sayings or art that covers entire walls. They provide amazing food cooked by amazing chefs and take care of your every need, free!

And in this space sit human-beings, surrounded by beauty and life and still completely disconnected, disengaged from it all, quietly typing away on their keyboards. When interaction does happen, it is using whiteboards or stickies or legos or some other abstract representation. They consume symbols, they think in terms of symbols, they communicate with symbols, they produce symbols. Even when they get outside, they share not their experience, but an extremely-limited, linear, low-resolution abstraction of their experience via a photograph or a tweet or a post.

Take a look at the mission statements of Facebook and Twitter and ask yourself what it really means. You can be sure that even the founders do not know.

There is an entire field dedicated to “Information Science”. Unlike “Physics” or “Chemistry”, the field needs the word “science” to be tacked on at the end, because without that cognitive assist, people would not recognize it as a science. And if you ask people in Information Science what Facebook or Twitter is, they might tell you it’s a complex system with emergent behavior, which is just another way of saying “we have created a system that is complex enough that we can’t understand what’s going on”.  The simulation is the new reality.

These are human-beings living a totally symbolic, imaginary life, entirely in their minds.

When people are cut off from life, they feel dead inside. Is it any surprise that depression is on the rise?

Thing is, none of this is necessary. You don’t have to be trapped inside a cocoon of concepts. And even the problem of being trapped inside a cocoon of concepts isn’t new. It’s been around for a very long time. The foundation of Hinduism (or Buddhism or Christianity for that matter), actually, is an exploration of this system of concepts and an attempt to answer the question “from where do these concepts arise?”. They have all solved the problem (yes, that is as much The Good News as anything else). Unfortunately, science has not caught up with it because today’s scientific thought refuses to use an instrument other than the linear, limited mind, stubbornly insists on accepting only what can be measured and demands proof in a manner that excludes the majority of human experience and expression (hint: things like love and art).

It is no surprise that the outcome of scientific research into problems like depression are solutions like pills that suppress the symptom instead of curing the disease. After all, the disease cannot be seen – only the symptom can.

So with that context, let’s come back to the office. Look around you right now. Do you see what’s missing?

I am going to apply this to the way I used to work. Even though my title has been software this, or lead technical that or architect something else (which make most people think I work with computers, unfortunately), most of my time has been spent interacting with people and helping them figure out their ideas, helping them refine and articulate it and attempting to translate as much as possible of that into another abstract representation, sometimes using a programming language. In other words, most of my work involves taking something imaginary filtered through the real and turning it into something else that’s imaginary.

Creative work? Expression of love? Pursuit of the Truth? Yes, but not on the surface. Far from it!

Consider the tree. By any standard of performance, a tree would be considered quite a useless organism. It’s lazy – it doesn’t move. It never looks busy. It never seems to be doing anything. You can’t track how long it has worked or what it has produced in a given amount of time. All you can do is witness the tree, trust that it is doing what it is supposed to. And if the conditions are right, a great product is the result. The real work happens inside the tree where you cannot see it.

For some reason, some of us think that people should not be viewed this way, but rather as machines. And people have decided to simply accept it and by doing so, to paraphrase Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, “created a prison around themselves by inadvertence”. The real reason you will lose your job at some point and your work will be automated, is not because technology is taking over and business people are evil. No, it’s because you have decided to believe that you are a commodity and forgotten what your real work is.

The real work whether human or not, always happens inside and it happens non-stop. At a superficial level, on the outside, this is not apparent, for all that is perceivable is a small fraction of the work, i.e. the expression. Most people are engaged in work that is completely in disharmony with how they feel inside. And all of spirituality is about finding that harmony between what’s inside and what’s outside. Once the harmony is found, one discovers that there is in fact no such thing as ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ and that it is all one.

What happens then when you reach that point? You realize that what you did was exactly what you wanted all along. You realize that the life you lived and the life you are living now is exactly the life you want. You realize that you do what you do because the universe does what it does, and vice-versa. And then, what you do makes no difference to you because by now you understand that everything just happens.

This brings me to a fad I see a lot on LinkedIn nowadays – this idea that you should ‘find your passion’. Like everything else, it is coming from a place of love, and it will help a lot of people find their way, and regardless of it’s utility or correctness, there is nothing wrong with it. However, there are people who think that when they ‘find their passion’, they will live happily ever after. The very act of setting up such a false expectation in an unknown future is a guarantee that it will fail, for there is nothing more guaranteed than change itself!

The real reason you should ‘find your passion’ is not because the thing you are passionate about will make you happy (it won’t) but because the process of finding is what will help you understand life.

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you..

– Matthew 7:7

I tell you the truth when I say that whoever seeks will find, and the finding will cause him to seek, but in the seeking is hidden the meaning of Life.

–  Gospel of Thomas (Gnostic Scripture)

So whatever your life looks like, whatever it is you do at ‘work’, what matters most is whether you have the time to understand what you are, whether you can give yourself the space to discover and engage with the life within. Don’t confuse this to mean that you should take time out to sit alone in a quiet room and meditate. This is yet another destructive and pointless ceremony I see many organizations encouraging their employees to participate in – you may have heard these called ‘mindfulness sessions’.

The engagement with life can happen in an infinite number of ways and must be in harmony with your nature (and by extension, in harmony with the whole universe). Some find it meditative to perform paperwork, others find that it is driving, still others find it in painting or sweeping the deck or even in processing meat. It does not matter what the outer expression looks like, so long as – and this is key – it is effortless (not to be confused with easy) for you to perform. For when your outer expression is effortless, you can use all your energies for the real work happening within.

I will end with a Q&A snippet from Sri Ramana Maharshi.

Devotee: Is it possible to enjoy samadhi while busy with worldly work?
Bhagavan: It is the feeling ‘I work’ that is the hindrance. Ask yourself: ‘Who works?’ Remember who you are. Then the work will not bind you. It will go on automatically. Make no effort either to work or to renounce; your effort is the bondage. What is destined to happen will happen. If you are destined to work, you will not be able to avoid it; you will be forced to engage in it. So leave it to the Higher Power. It is not really your choice whether you renounce or retain.
When women carrying jars of water on their heads stop to talk, they are very careful, keeping their mind on the water jars. Similarly, when a sage engages in activity, his mind remains fixed in the Self and his activity does not distract him.

Love

Ultimately, no matter the circumstance, no matter the action, no matter the form that the outer manifestation takes, no matter the consequence, no matter the subject or object, everything arises out of love and is an expression of love.

In modern society, love is more often than not confused with desire and attachment. This confusion is easy to get into and can lead to much suffering.

Desire is normally accompanied by a feeling of emptiness, as if something is missing. The nature of desire is to make the one experiencing it feel that some kind of action is needed to restore order. The feeling of desire is very distinct from the feeling one experiences when one is, say, hungry or thirsty. The basic functions of life do not produce this feeling of emptiness in the heart.

Attachment is normally accompanied by a feeling of pleasure and fear. Attachment leads one to the desire to assume ownership of whatever one is attached to. A close examination of one’s attachment easily reveals that attachment is not to any external object, but to one’s own feeling of pleasure. People are attached to objects easily and when they are taken away, a feeling of dejection sets in but is quickly eliminated when attachment to another object begins. This is sadly how many people approach relationships.

The feeling of Love, on the other hand, is very distinct. It is accompanied by a deep feeling of contentment and completeness. While desire wants to fill emptiness and attachment wants to hold onto what has been filled, love knows that nothing is lacking in the first place and seeks to neither acquire, nor hold onto what’s already here. Love knows that what is, always has been and cannot be destroyed.

Neither desire nor attachment is evil. They all come from the same source, that source is constantly working towards the liberation of all beings. Repeated encounters with desire, attachment and dejection eventually leads to detachment and questioning and a journey on the path to enlightenment is quickened. In this way, we can say the desire and attachment are the means by which the Lord leads us towards the Truth.

The fundamental impetus in every being is to love. Love seeks union and the ideas of acquisition, hiding and guarding, or the ideas of separation, discrimination and rejection are incompatible with love. As conscious beings, we know this in our core, because we are fundamentally infused with love. This incompatibility between love and desire or attachment compels us, at every moment, to come back and reunite with the Truth of what we are. In order to do that, we must give up the false, give up desire or attachment and come back to a state of love.

The easiest way to give up attachment is to simply drop it and then stop paying attention to the mind’s bickering. However, that is quite impossible, because the whole premise behind ‘dropping’ a desire is the assumption that it is ours to begin with.

Why desire at all? Desiring a state of freedom from desire will not set you free. Nothing can set you free, because you are free.
See yourself with desireless clarity, that is all.

– Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, I Am That

The very fact that we refer to desire as something external to us shows that we are not it. Desire happens to us and we take it to be our own. The mind asks for something, and we assume it is us that needs what the mind asks. The next time the mind attempts to interrupt peace, stop and ask it, “Who are you? You cannot be me, because I am hearing you. So I am not what you are. Go bother someone else.” Then be quiet. Do not argue with the mind. Simply ignore it like you ignore the noise of traffic. Over time, with practice the mind will go quiet.

However, the inability to see this with clarity can lead to a situation where our intrinsic drive to be united with all that is, can manifest itself as an impulse to destroy the very thing that we are desiring so that we may go back to the state of non-desiring, unattached peace. Instead of engaging in such a destructive act, clarity and understanding will eliminate the source of the desire and attachment and establish us firmly in love.

At the same time, everything that happens, even an act of destruction is fundamentally an act that arises out of love. Given all the violence being perpetrated on Earth today, this is hard to accept. It is hard to accept that the worst criminals are as motivated by love as are the most benevolent leaders of humanity. But they are, and we all know it in our hearts to be true. This universal love, this fundamental knowledge we all carry, is the source of our compassion, even towards those that trespass against us.

…and forgive us our trespasses,as we forgive those who trespass against us…

The Lord’s Prayer

The sooner this is accepted, the easier it is to understand that revenge, war and other kinds of violence engaged in with an aim to serve justice or extract a price for injustice, simply will not work. You cannot still the waters of a lake by creating more waves.

What you can do, is live your life in silence, humility and acceptance. To many living in these times, the idea that they must give up their ideas of individual self-importance, individual freedom, individual desire, individual satisfaction, individual pleasure and so on is anathema. So be it. They are not my concern.

In a forest only some of the trees are in full bloom at a given moment, yet every one will have its turn.  Sooner or later your physical and mental resources will come to an end. What will you do then? Despair? All right, despair.
You will get tired of despairing and begin to question.
At that moment you will be fit for conscious Yoga.

– Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, I Am That

No matter how much water there is available, a vessel will hold only as much as it has space for. It will shape that water to it’s shape. The only way to understand water, is to stop being a vessel, to stop identifying with existence, with outer manifestation. When you no longer think of yourself as a vessel, then you can become water and be infinite.

No matter how many words are used, no matter how much teaching is engaged in, only those in the right frame of mind will grasp their meaning. Only some will have their lives transformed and open their eyes. This is not a matter of pride or achievement, it is a matter of fact and when the time is right, the courage, honesty and all necessary qualities will come by themselves.

So there is no point attempting to manipulate, persuade, torture or kill any being simply because they do not understand the Truth as you see it. You must let them find their way. This is the real meaning of tolerance based on love – to accept everything as it is, including the violence perpetuated by others. We cannot attempt to judge them, for our judgement is based on falsehood. All we can do is accept life as it comes, good or bad and stay centered.

This is the path to peace. This is the path to love.

Thy will be done.

The Lord’s Prayer

Confidence

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.

Carl Sagan, Cosmos

Causation

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

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.

– Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

Rain

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.

– Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, I Am That

 

Light

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

Ignorance

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.