Life, Struggle, Evolution and Liberation in the words of Vivekananda

What is Life

Life is the unfoldment and development of a being under circumstance tending to press it down, and the environment not allowing it to express itself. Life is a tremendous potential power that is trying to express itself against the circumstance and environment that is thwarting it from expressing it fully. So in order to succeed in this fight against environment and circumstances the power is shedding itself, dying now and taking new bodies again and again and evolving with each birth. Like waves on ocean, what differentiates one wave from the other being, nothing but its form that in turn is differentiated by time, space, causation which is dependent upon the waves themselves so is the life of every one of us.

Struggle leading to Evolution

The awakening of the soul to its bondage and its effect to stand up and assert itself is called life. Success in this struggle is called evolution. The eventual triumph when all slavery is blown away is called liberation, freedom or salvation. Everything in this life is struggling for freedom for one in bound by nature, name, form, time, space, and causality and one does not realized one’s true self. One strains against these bonds one by one, becomes conscious of the self becomes aware of the innate grandeur which leads to liberation.

In physical level this fight is characterized by the continuous struggle of whole humanity against the so called laws of nature with the man succeeding in the end. In the mental level the struggle continues in the form of fight between the animal man and spiritual man, between light and darkness, and all types of dualities from which man needs to overcome to become victorious.

Evolution

A man is great among his fellows in proportion as he can sacrifice for others. Mans’ struggle  is in mental sphere. A man is greater in proportion as he can control his mind. When the mind and its activities are perfectly at rest then the consciousness manifests itself. The struggle which is observed in the animal kingdom for the preservation of the gross body obtains in the human place of existence for gaining mastery over the mind or for attaining the state of balance. Physical improvement is necessary for how will one struggle with mind as unless the physique is strong.

Without a knowledge of the truth there will be no life worth living. Life will be a desert and will be vain if we cannot know beyond. So if man rests content with the present and gives up all search into beyond, mankind will have to go back to animal plane again. It is this enquiry into the beyond that makes the different between man and animal.

The looking upward and seeking perfection are what is called salvation and sooner a man begins to go higher the sooner he raises himself towards this idea of truth as salvation. It does not consist in the amount of money one has, nor the dress one wears or of the house you live but the wealth of one’s mind, intellect and spiritual power that decides the man’s evolution. This is what makes human progress, that is the source of all material and intellectual progress, the motive power behind the enthusiasm that pushes mankind forward. It is not sensual pleasure but knowledge that is the goal of life.

All world is a play

The world is a playground. A drama theatre. The creator is playing, he is the producer and director and all of us are his crew. Each one of us is assigned a different role, put in different garb and led into the world. A beggar now, king in the next and saint in the succeeding play. Thus we are putting on different garb to let the creator spin his plan.

When the baby is at play, she will ignore that calls of her mother and once she finishes she rushes back to her mother. Similarly, when our play in this world is over and done with we want to move from here to here after. Then all our toil will be of no value. Our family, name, fame, wealth, joys and sorrows, success and failures will be no more and the whole life will seem like a show. We shall see only the infinite rhyme joining an endless and purpose less going not knowing where to.  Only this much shall we say our play is done.

Path to the freedom

Liberation is not attained by the weak. It needs setting aside all theories and dogmas. It needs one to be conscious of our dignity, reflect calmly every day, by oneself, the acts and dealing of us with others and find out that one is not just being an intermediate specie between an animal and man, which we are when all our energies are spent in eating, sleeping, procreating and struggling to live and die and trouble by the desires, hatred and jealousy.  The path to freedom requires one to shed weakness and control our mind, thought, and intellect which is acquired by cultivating the right attitude.

  1. I am here to play

We are here to play. What was started with hope became a task amidst play and terrifying somewhere along the way. How do we avert it? Like we see a painting a terrible one, but not affected by it. We may even enjoy it, comment upon its techniques, wonder about it, all despite the picture being a horrible scene. That is because of not internalizing it, not being part of it, merely of being a witness and not being attached to it. That is the secret to living – The feeling “I am the spirit”, “I am the witness” and when something sad or evil thought occurs saying “I am the spirit. Nothing external can touch me. I am ever blessed and has no reason to suffer”. “This universe is my museum and I am looking at successive paintings. They are of all shades, good and evil but yet are outside of me and these event have no impact on me”.

  1. Balanced Mind

The balanced mind does more work. The less passion there is better the work. The calmer the one better it is for one to deliver more work. When feelings are let loose more energy is wasted, nerves become weak, mind is disturbed and because of this wasted of energy in many fronts one is able to deliver only less work. The energy that ought to have gone out as work is spent as more feeling which counts for nothing. The man for whom nothing can make angry accomplishes much more than one who gives way to anger, hatred or any other passion.  It is the calm, forgiving equable, well balanced mind that does greatest amount of world.

  1. Control Your Thoughts

By renunciation and practice is the mind brought under control. Like waves in a lake, thoughts and sense impression keep rising and continue in mind. From these waves raise desire. From these desires comes will and that will then get translated into various action through body. Like waves are endless so also desires, thoughts and actions. Hence mind is always being tossed by countless impressions of wants. The mind has to be divested of all disturbances or modifications, taken back to the earlies state of calmness such that there is no trace of various modification and desires. Then will consciousness manifest.

  1. Meditate on this

“I am neither the body, nor the mind, nor the intellect then who am I”. Then only one will be established in the real nature of the soul/atman. The atman is everything. You are none other than the relative consciousness born in this world to experience, work and enjoy. You are the only reality, the all-pervading atman. If and when you realize this, then only you will attain peace.

Liberation

Everyone from creator down to blade of gross is advancing towards the realization of his real nature. And none can escape the rounds of birth and death until he realizes his identity with Brahman. Getting the human birth, when the desire for freedom becomes very strong, along with it comes the grace of a person of realization and then man’s desire for self. Knowledge becomes intensified

Each soul is potentially divine, the goal is to manifest divinity within by controlling nature, both external and internal. We do this either by work, or worship, by mind or intellect, by one or all of these and be free.

Break your chain and be free. The strong shall inherit the world.

***

Notes from – I am a voice without a form – Thoughts of Swami Vivekananda” – Published by Ramakrishna Math, Hyderabad, India

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Meditation – by “Osho”

Meditate

 

Be silent,

close your eyes.

Feel your body to be completely frozen.

No movement.

Gather yourself in.

Just like an arrow,

move deeper and deeper within yourself.

Soon you will reach the one-hundred-foot pole

from where begins the journey into space.

Take a jump without looking back.

It is our space; it is our origin.

 

This awareness is your very nature;

you can forget it but you cannot lose it.

It cannot be stolen.

It is your very center.

Relax, but go on entering

deeper and deeper into yourself.

The body remains far away, miles away,

the mind remains miles away.

You are just a silent watchfulness,

a peace that passeth understanding,

a bliss that no word can express.

This is your ultimate nature.

 

Be silent, close your eyes.

Feel your body to be completely frozen.

Now look inwards.

Collect all your life energy just like an arrow

and without stopping anywhere go straight

forward to the center of your being.

This moment you are the buddha.

This moment you are the glory of being.

This moment all that is yours will be revealed to you,

all the secrets, all the miracles.

This Everest of consciousness is

Your ultimate nature.

On this path there is no specific meditation

The whole life is meditation – 24 X 7

 

Sitting, standing, walking; waking, sleeping,

meditation continues just like a thread in a garland of flowers.

Let your life be a garland with a consciousness

connecting every action, every movement, every mood,

and it will bring a total transformation.

You will be a new man

Each meditation will take away something false from you

and will bring some new, fresh quality.

Slowly, slowly a day comes when your whole life

becomes the life of a Buddha.

 

Be silent. Close your eyes.

Feel your body to be completely frozen.

Gather all your energy inwards.

Look, almost like an arrow,

searching deep for your center of being,

because your center of being is also

the center of the universe.

One who knows it becomes a Buddha.

Deeper and deeper…

This moment is precious.

You are very close to your own being

and to the being of the universe.

Realizing it is going to transform your whole life.

Without any fear… because it is your own territory,

it is your own space.

Nobody can enter here.

It has been waiting for you for millions of lives.

Just penetrate it and you will

find the greatest blessing showering on you.

 

 

Relax, let go of the body and the mind.

You are just a watcher.

The mind may be creating some dust,

the body may be feeling uncomfortable.

You are simply a watcher.

Don’t get identified, because this body will change,

this mind will change.

A thousand times they have already changed.

Only this watcher is your treasure, which always

remains… eternity to eternity.

Lao Tzu calls it Tao.

Buddha calls it Dhamma.

Whatever the name,

this is your pure existence.

 

It opens the doors of all the mysteries –

mysteries that you can feel, but you cannot say;

mysteries that you can sing, you can dance,

you can live, but you cannot say.

This is the world of Zen.

 

Now you can come back,

but come back not the same as you had gone in.

Come back much more solid,

much more integrated,

much more centered,

and then sit silently for a few moments

as a Buddha.

 

For the meditator there is no tomorrow.

***

Excerpt from “The Language of Existence” by Osho, Transcript of his speech later adapted into book.

P.S. – Osho is a remarkable person. One who can talk sublime and tripe in the same breath. If one has patience, can sift and slice through his writings one is sure to get great wisdom like pearl hunting, like lotus from mud pond.

Cosmos and Man

Tree of life, circle of life, river of life are some of the terms used for the journey of life that is comprised of permanent change!, ups and downs, meandering, expansion and constriction, soaring and souring in the dump, of colours of spectrum and of all in between shades. As above so below, the famous saying shows the close relationship between the cosmos and mankind where both man and nature are needed for the survival of each other and nature more so for man. The Chinese creation. Mythology explains this as below.

According to one of the Chinese mythology of creation, the god of creation is “Pangu”, who creates our earth and separates earth and Sky out of darkness and chaos.  First there was a cosmic egg in which he was growing. He comes out breaking the egg, where by out of the material thrown out and up the sky is formed and earth by that which was thrown down, further creating yin and yang, spirit and matter, sky and earth. He grew the world, got tired and died. From his body the world and all the elements in it and human body grew as below.

From his breadth – wind and clouds

Voice – thunder and lightning

Eyes – sun and moon

Arms & Legs – 4 directions

Trunk – mountain

Flesh – soil and the trees in it

Blood – rivers and veins

Hair – gross and herbs, skin

Bones and teeth – stones and minerals

Sweat- rain and dews

Hairs in the head – stars in the sky

Moods and emotions – weather

Thus was the world created and human beings came later. The similarly between man, the world and all things in the world are unmistakable. It is also apparent that the man who is born from nature, grows with the help of nature, akin to nature, who is sustained by nature when at the end of his life dies, becomes fossilised and morphs and merges into mountains, trees, minerals, rainfall and so on. Thus man and nature become indispensable to each other and more so nature to man.

Considering the billions of years it has taken for the cosmos to evolve and vast ness of it, its complexity, its interrelatedness man as an individual is just a speck and looks insignificant. That he is like any other element, plants, and animals and other life forms with slightly advanced consciousness.

But many a men live their majority of their life unconsciously.  The challenges of life are various and as many as the number of men present. By overcoming the known, unknown and random obstacles man is able to lead his life successfully until he becomes oneness with nature.

  • inspiration from “Understand Chinese mythology” by Teresa Moorey

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

Small Boat, Great Mountain

  • By Amaro Bhikku

This book “Small Boat, Great Mountain” by Amaro Bhikku reflects on philosophy espoused by Theravada sect of Buddhism.  The book has three distinct sections. Section one discuses nature of reality, section two on the whole issue of living and managing it effectively and section three on some exercise and Buddhist chants relevant to the above two sections. This Part I  discusses Buddhist view  on nature of reality and living.

*****

“I was suffering and had no idea why”

~~~

What is a living being?

We are conditioned to believe that there is such a thing as a real living being. We see ourselves in forms of the limitations of the body, personality and we define we are within these bound. We assume then that other beings are also limited in little pockets of beingness that float around in the cosmos.

Where are we

If one takes out physical element of what you are and just looks at in terms of mind, you will find that whole quality of boundary breaks up and as does the idea of “where I am”, “where other people are” and you will see that the body and its locations and three dimensional space apply only to material form. In fact, inside, outside here and there, space and spatial relations only apply to form. They do not apply to mind. Mind does not exist in space. The material form is giving us clue to separateness. We create illusion of separateness and individuality through our belief in the sense world.

Let go

Am I feeling sorrow. Is there a feeling of alienation or difficulty? If there is it means, we are clinging and hanging on to something. We need to see that the heart is attached to somewhere and then make gestures to loosen up. To let go.

Non-abiding

Non abiding is that timeless, selfless quality that is independent of location. Non abiding draws us to the fact that the whole concept of and construct of whereness, the act of conceiving ourselves as this individual entity living at this spot in space and time is a presumption.

Non abiding was the essence of path, as basis of peace and a door way into the world of freedom. The principle of non-abiding is exceedingly frustrating to the conceptual thinking mind because that mind has built up such an edifice out of me and you, out of here and there, out of past and future and out of this and that. In the abandonment of self, time and place all questions are resolved.

Where does not apply

The seen is merely seen. There is nothing there. There are forms, shapes, colors so forth but there is nothing there. There is no real substance, no solidity, no self-existent reality. All there is the quality of experience. No more no less. There is just seeing, hearing, feeling, sensing, cognizing, and the mind naming it all is just another experience.

Quantum physics

The sea of potential, primordial level of physical reality exists and from that all particles and energy crystalizes and into which subsequently dissolves. The principle of non-locality means the places where something happens cannot be truly defined and that a single event can have exactly simultaneous effect in widely separated place.

Who and what do not apply. Where does not apply. Birth and death does depend on time. Something apparently born in the past living now will die in the future. If we let go of time, if we also let go of thing then no being or dying.

Nature of Mind

The nature of mind is still and yet flowing. Mind is still, spacious, silent and all objects of sights, sounds, smell, taste, touch, thoughts and emotions flow through it.  It has no movement; it is not related to all that arises and ceases. It is silent and spacious. Problems arise because the clarity of the mind gets entangled with sense impressions. The untrained heart chases the delightful, runs away from the painful, and as a result, finds itself struggling, alienated, and miserable. By contemplating our own experience, we can make a clear distinction between the mind that knows and the sense impressions that flow through it. By refusing to get entangled with any sense impressions, we find refuge in that quality of stillness, silence, and spaciousness, which is the mind’s own nature. This policy of noninterference allows everything and is disturbed by nothing.

Body and mind

The body is in mind rather than mind in body. What do we know about our body? We can see it. We can hear it. We can smell it. Touch it. Where does all these things happen – in mind. Everything that we know about the body now and at any other time has been through agency of our mind. What we have known about out body the world has happened in our mind. So where is our body. Physical world is there but experienced in mind.

Cessation and consciousness

Your persistent energy, sharpest mindfulness, physical calm, one pointedness of mind have to do with restlessness. Unsupported consciousness wherever there is something that is intended, something that is acted upon or something that lies dormant then that becomes the basis for consciousness to lead. And where consciousness lands then is the cause for confusion, attachment, becoming, rebirth and so on. And having no basis to land on consciousness is released. Since consciousness is released mind is firm. Owing to staying firm the heart is contended. Owing to contented mind it is not agitated. One then realizes complete bliss within themselves.

When heart is released from clinging to four nutriments- physical food, sense contact – of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch, intention and consciousness then consciousness does not land anywhere. That state is without sorrow, affliction or despair.

World is within our mind

It is pointless to try to find peace through nullifying or erasing the sense world. Peace only comes through skillful handling of the world’s abrasions. Peace only comes through not giving that world more substantiality or more reality than it actually possesses.

Relaxation

Even though we might have this enlightened free space internally it needs to be interfaced with the phenomenal world.  Who are you. Observe coming and going of feelings, thoughts and perceptions and so on.

The balance comes when we stop creating each other and allow ourselves to relax into pure quality of knowing. In not fabricating the world ourselves or our stories there is gentle relaxation and we find ourselves more attuned to life than ever

  • 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.……

******

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”