The Nature as Teacher – 24 Gurus around us -III

continued from previous post…..

  1. Pingala: There was a dancing girl named Pingala, she was tired of looking for customers. As time went by no one came and she became anxious and frustrated. At the height of frustration she gave up her wait for customer and went to sleep. At that moment it also dawned on her that she does not need anyone for her happiness and bliss, decides to give up her pursuit of wealth and pleasing customers. She teaches that abandonment of expectation from people leads to contentment and infinite joy. Also with Atma contained in oneself there is no need to search outside for happiness and contentment.
  2. The kurara bird (hawk):A hawk carrying a prey was attacked by other birds like crow, eagle and other larger animals eyeing for same prey.  After some fierce fight, the bird carrying the prey, out of fear for its life,  let it fall so that other birds immediately went after the prey  allowing the original bird that had the meat to escape. From this one learns that there is intense competition and aggression in the world to acquire  material objects and for worldly pleasures. One who yearns for it is likely to come into contest and clash with fellow being who also compete for the same leading to avoidable aggression, strife, worry and stress. By balancing, managing and controlling ones wants one can save himself much of the unhappiness, have  and enjoy peace of mind.
  3. The child:Two children fight for some time. Their parents intervene to end the fight and they end up being enemies for life. But the children who were fighting initially  after some time forget and start playing together again. This is because they are free from ego and innocent. Be like a child to be happy.
  4. The young girl:There was a young girl who was doing work with hands full of bangles. During work it jangled against each other and was making noise. Since she had guest then, she did not want them to know that she was doing work. So, to reduce noise she removed all bangles except two. This reduced the noise to a great extent, but still was making noise, then she removed one more and was wearing only one in each hand. This way she could work without making noise and desist other from knowing what she was doing. So too, when many people live together, there will be noise, clashing of interests, disturbance, discord, dispute and fighting. Even when there are only two people difference of opinion and resultant discord is bound to be there. So, the ascetic is better of living in solitude. This is what the maiden working with hands full of bangle teaches one.
  1. The arrow maker: Once there was an arrow maker who was so absorbed in his work of making a straight arrow that he did not notice the king’s procession passing by. Then I learnt that to produce excellent result focus is necessary.
  2. The snake: The snake never builds a place for itself. It moves around and changes its place and sheds it outer skin. Thus it is able to lead safe life. An ant though puts effort and makes ant hill and later that is taken by snakes. Likewise, the householders endure difficulty in building and running their house by themselves while ascetic lives free by roaming around and not being rooted in one place. Thus one should know that people aspiring for carefree life should live lite, know his true self, and understand that at the end of his life time one will shed this body and get a new life as per one’s actions in this life time.
  3. The spider: The spider weaves its web from the thread in the form of a fluid. After sometime, it gathers up the web into itself. Thus the God projects the whole world during creation phase and after sometime, withdraws it into itself at the time of dissolution. The individual soul too takes birth in the body as per its past action, and in alignment with its inherent tendencies acquires intellect, mind, sense organs and bodies of action. Its latent tendencies direct the role play and actions while in this world and space. And at the end of allotted time-frame, death occurs when the soul again withdraws its senses, mind, and tendencies acquired in the life time and leaves the body. Thus, birth and death, creation and dissolution happens is what one learns from Spider.
  4. The wasp/Caterpillar: Wasp trapped a weaker insect in his hive. This insect took on the mentality of a wasp out of intense fear of the wasp, and thus became a wasp in its next life. This illustrates how one attains in the next life what one’s mind is fixed upon. You are the company you keep and what you think you become is what one learn from caterpillar. Good thoughts, company and action will lead one to higher level/birth.

Thus are the advise of Dattatreya to Yadu on what he has learnt from nature around him and how inculcating it in his life has made him blissful.

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Reflections on “Small Boat, Great Mountain” , Amaro Bhikku – Part II

This part II discusses the whole issue of living and managing it effectively as per Theravada Buddhism.

“Ultimate and conventional reality – I was completely bewildered.  No matter how much I tried to be free and unhindered by conventions, forms and structures mostly by defining these things there always seemed to be another layer, another layer and another layer. I kept meeting up with limits and as a result I was constantly feeling frustrated. I was suffering and had no idea why. Not to be inhibited by the rules of society, dictates of my personality, conditions of the body, appeared free on the outside but on the inside I was a prisoner of my beliefs and behavior.”

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Life

Life is habitually experienced as ignorance. We don’t feel unremitting bliss all the time. But ultimate reality is pure, perfect and blissful. Perfection and purity is our nature and we do not experience it all the time due to ignorance, laziness and wavering.

Exit point from the cycle

Day in and day out every moment we get caught in things we love, we hate, we have opinions about in feeling about ourselves, about others, liking, disliking, hoping, fearing. It goes on and on. The good news is there are several places where we can catch this cycle and ultimately free the heart.

Dependent origination cycle

When something painful has happened, worst has happened, we experience anguish, sorrow. How did we get ourselves in this mess. This is life but we do not need to feel like a victim or fly into why me tantrum. Experience of suffering can go into two directions. One it can compound misery and confusion. To it can ripen in search. When everything has gone wrong, we have a choice. Do we just wallow or do we say why is it like this. What am I doing to make this a problem? The search kicks in to find where we are clinging and why we are looking for happiness where it cannot be found.

Even at the birth, aging, sickness, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair end of the cycle we can use that pain as the cause to help us wake up. Feeling is a world of innocence. We can have an intensely blissful existence and pleasant feeling. We can have a fuzzy neutral feeling through the body or mind. Feeling by itself is utterly innocent. There is no intrinsic posture or negative quality to it. If there is awareness then all mental and sense phenomena and the pleasant, painful or neutral feelings associated with them can be known without clinging as appearance. When ignorance enters opinions gets formed. When we are open we can cut the cycle.

In the beginning – ignorance, conditions, formations

Ignorance complicates everything. What does this mean. In broad term, that which is compounded is karmic formations, concoctions, fabrications, volitional formations, subject-object duality. When there is ignorance duality gets started, form and sprout. This and that, here and there. Me and the world.

Conscious conditions the mind. Mind and body conditions the six senses. The six senses conditions feeling, craving and so on. By the time we get down to six senses there is the body here and there is the world out there and we experience them as apparently solid realities.

As soon as there is a slippage of mindfulness or the faintest coloration or distortion that awareness duality kicks in. that is the seed of the whole thing. If it is seen at that point and not followed, then that seen primal movement will not grow further. It will cease right there. If it is not seen the vortex will build and build at until there is me in here and the world out there. And then I want it. I can’t stand it. I have got to have it. How marvelous. How wonderful. I am going places. Sorrow lamentations, pain, grief and despair and so on kicks in.

Later end of the cycle – endless hunger leading to addiction

What happens at the end of the cycle? When sorrow has not ripened in search for truth and we have let our missing get compounded we feel incomplete. There is me feeling unhappy, miserable, insecure, incomplete, alienated. Then as soon as there an idea or feeling or an emotion or a sense object that might possible make us complete again we jump on it. Well that looks interesting. Perhaps this will do the trick. There is a feeling of hunger, a lack or a longing that comes from the experience of suffering. If we are not awake to what is going on, we think that what we lack is something. The new job, new car, new partner, or we lack perfect health etc. we go after any kind of external object or internal program to find the missing piece. This is the cycle of addiction.

To encourage this familiarization and relinquishment it is important to experience and acknowledge the disadvantages of cyclical existence. Above all it hurts. Just as thrill is real so is the pain. We don’t get thrill without pain. Where the pain comes we see that it is empty. When the thrill comes we experiences it as absolutely real. As the pleasure is raising we feel really, really happy. As the pleasant feelings diminish we try to see the pain and disappointment it is all empty. Empty. Empty.

The fact is, things in life don’t match. You can’t align all the loose ends. But you can go to the place where they come from.

  • Excerpts from – “Small Boat, Great Mountain” – Theravadan Reflections on The Natural Great Perfection, “Amaro Bhikku”

Series in Living II – Saying Yes to Life – Philosophy of Viktor E Frankl

Saying Yes to Life

Viktor Frankl (1905 to 1997) is one of the greatest psychologist of 20th century from Europe. His philosophy of life has developed out of his experience in the concentration camp. Despite being no stranger to suffering, war, all round apathy and tough circumstances, his zeal to live and living and face life boldly are commendable. His philosophy towards life and living is simple – Life has meaning in all conditions. Saying yes to life in spite of all sufferings and facing it boldly, believing in future is the key to success and achievement in life.……

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The human being is an entity consisting of body, mind and spirit and each individual is unique. He has choice and has to be responsible for making something of himself. He has a finite freedom in the sense he cannot be free from biological, social or psychological conditioning but has ultimate freedom to take stand to react despite the conditions. One cannot change the situation but can change one’s attitude towards it. Suffering without meaning leads one to despair but if we can find a meaning under suffering and then he can translate it into success and achievement. “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how,” could be the guiding motto for all. The man who could not see any sense in his life, no aim, no purpose, and therefore no point in carrying on is soon lost.

We had to learn ourselves and teach to the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life – daily and hourly. Our answer is not talk or meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.

Therefore the meaning of life, differ from man to man, and from moment to moment. Hence it is impossible to define the meaning of life in a general way. Questions about the meaning of life can never be answered by sweeping statements. Life is man’s destiny, which is different and unique for each individual. No man and no destiny can be compared with any other man or any other destiny. No situation repeats itself, and each situation calls for a different response. Sometimes the situation in which a man finds himself may require him to shape his own fate by action. At other times it is more advantageous for him to make use of an opportunity for contemplation and to realize assets in this way. Sometimes man may be required simply to accept fate, to bear his cross. Every situation is distinguished by its uniqueness, and there is always only one right answer to the problem posed by the situation at hand.

When a man finds that it is his destiny to suffer, he will have to accept his suffering as his task. No one can relieve him of his suffering or suffer in his place. His unique opportunity lies in the way in which he bears his. Once the meaning of suffering had been revealed to us, we refused to minimize or alleviate the suffering by ignoring them or harboring false illusions and entertaining artificial optimism. Suffering in it has hidden opportunities for achievement. It was necessary to face up to the full amount of suffering, trying to keep moments of weakness and furtive tears to a minimum. But there was no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer.

This uniqueness which distinguishes each individual and gives a meaning to his existence has a bearing on creative work as much as it does on human love. When the impossibility of replacing a person is realized, it allows the responsibility which a man has for his existence and its continuance to appear in all its magnitude. A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. Health, family, happiness, professional abilities, fortune, position in society – all these were things that could be achieved. Whatever we had gone through could still be an asset to us in the future.

Human life, under any circumstances, never ceases to have a meaning, and that this infinite meaning of life includes suffering and dying, privation and death. One has to face up to the seriousness of one’s position. They must not lose hope but should keep their courage in the certainty that the hopelessness of our struggle did not detract from its dignity and its meaning.

Man needs “something” for the sake of which to live. First goal was “finding a purpose and meaning to my life.”

Man as he developed has lost his animal instinct and established tradition. No instinct tells him what he has to do, and no tradition tells him what he ought to do; sometimes he does not even know what he wishes to do. Instead, he either wishes to do what other people do (conformism) or he does what other people wish him to do (totalitarianism).

The existential vacuum thus created manifests itself mainly in a state of boredom. This is in line with Schopenhauer when he said that mankind was apparently doomed to vacillate eternally between the two extremes of distress and boredom. In actual fact, boredom is now causing, and certainly bringing to psychiatrists, more problems to solve than distress. And these problems are growing increasingly crucial, for progressive automation will probably lead to an enormous increase in the leisure hours available to the average worker. The pity of it is that many of these will not know what to do with all their newly acquired free time.

Man has to be fully aware of his own responsibility; and has to decide therefore, for what, to what, or to whom he is to be responsible. Once an individual’s search for a meaning is successful, it not only renders him happy but also gives him the capability to cope with suffering. And what happens if one’s groping for a meaning has been in vain? This may well result in a fatal condition. Meaning orientation had subsided, and consequently the seeking of immediate pleasure had taken over

As logotherapy teaches, there are three main avenues on which one arrives at meaning in life. The first is by creating a work or by doing a deed. The second is by experiencing something or encountering someone; in other words, meaning can be found not only in work but also in love. The third avenue to meaning in life: even the helpless victim of a hopeless situation, facing a fate he cannot change, may rise above himself, may grow beyond himself, and by so doing change himself. He may turn a personal tragedy into a triumph.

Life is potentially meaningful under any conditions, even those which are most miserable. And this in turn presupposes the human capacity to creatively turn life’s negative aspects into something positive or constructive. In other words, what matters is to make the best of any given situation. An optimism in the face of tragedy and in view of the human potential which at its best always allows for: (1) turning suffering into a human achievement and accomplishment; (2) deriving from guilt the opportunity to change oneself for the better; and (3) deriving from life’s transitoriness an incentive to take responsible action. Third aspect of the tragic triad concerns death. But it concerns life as well, for at any time each of the moments of which life consists is dying, and that moment will never recur. And yet is not this transitoriness a reminder that challenges us to make the best possible use of each moment of our lives? It certainly is, and hence Live as if you were living for the second time and had acted as wrongly the first time as you are about to act now.

Man is not fully conditioned and determined but rather determines himself whether he gives in to conditions or stands up to them. In other words, man is ultimately self-determining. Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become in the next moment

By the same token, every human being has the freedom to change at any instant. Therefore, we can predict his future only within the large framework of a statistical survey referring to a whole group; the individual personality, however, remains essentially unpredictable. Yet one of the main features of human existence is the capacity to rise above such conditions, to grow beyond them. Man is capable of changing the world for the better if possible, and of changing himself for the better if necessary. Things determine each other, but man is ultimately self-determining. What he becomes – within the limits of endowment and environment – he has made out of himself.

Saying yes to life in spite of everything  and Man’s search for meaning have the power to transform his Lives.

  • “Man’s Search for Meaning”, Viktor E. Frankl

It Takes A Village To Make a Man

It takes a village to make a man is a famous aphorism. Simple as it sounds, profound is the insight it offers. The man or woman as they become are the product of their circumstances. They are born in a family, with limited awareness, consciousness whatever you may call it where they have their first lesson in the school of life. It starts with habits, food, clothing, language, religion, culture etc, etc,then their environment, surround, extended family, neighbours and friends help in moulding the man. In the next level the society, it’s structure, education, news, mass media and other systems starts defining his thoughts, desires, feelings and acts. So goes the another saying, what parents can not teach the world will.

As, J.Krishnamurti says, ” your mind is conditioned right through. There is no part of you whis is unconditioned.” All of us are conditioned right from birth to death by the world around us and in turn impact it. Thus who we are is the amalgam of thought, desire, feelings and acts of many people, near and far, known and unknown, older or younger, successful or not, and living and dead.

Thus moulded,  you carry others in you. The pile keeps growing as one ages. You keep adding layer after layer.  Suddenly after many autumns, you realise that the  “me” in one has been transformed beyond recognition.  No more is it possible to distinguish the essential “me”, the base, from others. That is when the mind open us with the eternal existential question ” WHO AM I”