Category Archives: On Knowing Oneself

The Emperor’s New Clothes

theEmperorsNewClothes

The emperor’s birthday was nearing and many celebrations were planned in his honor. For this special occasion, the emperor wanted to look his best & wanted a new dress stitched for him. Tailors from across the kingdom were invited to present their designs. Although tailors came from far and wide, the Emperor did not like any of their designs. He announced a big reward for the person who could make the most unique dress for him.

Then one day a stranger appeared in the court & claimed to have the most unique fabric in the world with which he would make the emperor’s birthday suit. The specialty of the fabric was that it could be seen only by one who was wise and could not be seen by one who was foolish. He produced a sample of the fabric from his bag and displayed it to everyone in the court. Although no one could see or touch the fabric, they all exclaimed that they had never seen such a thing. Even the emperor could not say anything for fear of being discovered to be foolish. He had to agree that it was indeed a special fabric most suitable for his birthday. The stranger was then allowed to spend several weeks weaving the imaginary clothes.

On the day of the emperor’s birthday, he got ready to wear his unique clothes. He got down to his inner wear & the stranger put the new clothes on him. Although no one could see the clothes they all appreciated the dress because they did not want to appear foolish. Even the emperor could not say anything. He even rewarded the stranger for his superb work.

Dressed in this invisible suit, the emperor rode his royal horse through the city wearing acknowledging the birthday wishes of his people. All his citizens, seeing the emperor wearing his inner wear on his horse, were in a shock. But no one said anything for fear of attracting his wrath. Suddenly one child in the crowd started laughing & pointing to the emperor said – Look there. the king is not wearing any clothes. The king is not wearing any clothes. ha ha hah!

The emperor immediately realized the truth & rushed back to his palace in shame.

In the very effort to appear wise, shines our stupidity.

Life is such. When there is a great desire for something, it makes us blind. We ignore the truth staring in front of our eyes. We do not believe our own intuition but believe what someone else is saying.

Fear of being termed foolish makes us do things & say things which are contrary to what is. We accept other people’s interpretation of the situation even if we are able to see the same situation differently. The underlying assumption is that the crowd cannot be wrong, all at the same time.

The crowd on the other hand is afraid of itself. So only a small child, pure of heart, without any preconceptions, one who has not yet become a part of the crowd, is not afraid to speak the truth.

We are all like that Emperor who goes about the world displaying our good qualities, nobility, holiness, acumen and spirituality without realizing that others, even though they may see through our nakedness, pretend to see our clothes.

Nakedness is our truth. Even if we wear layers of clothes, fundamentally we are naked inside. How can we ignore that fact? When all the traditional dresses and functional uniforms are taken off, we are all the same.

Going further when we divest ourselves of our stories about who we are in terms of name, family, education, designation & achievements; fundamentally we are pure emptiness, the stuff of what existence is made of. From this place you will never see any clothes however hard someone like that stranger would make you believe that the clothes exist. Because now you can really see and the child in you starts laughing.

The Presence of the Absence of Ego

presence

There is much going on in the world with the ego.

People with ego are supposedly a nuisance. People without ego are supposed to be saints. Some people are seeking to destroy their own ego. Some are engaged in destroying other people’s ego. What is this ego? Does it really exist?

We can all agree that the ego cannot be seen directly. You cannot look at a person & know whether he has ego or not. Ego is supposed to be seen in action. It is implied to exist in a person when you observe his behavior or reactions to other people. Pride, Anger, Jealousy & other outward expressions are taken to be the result of having an ego. But the ego is never seen directly.

With so much talk about the ego, people already believe they have a personal ego. Not just that, egos are measured in sizes. There are tiny egos; there are small egos; there are large egos & there are gigantic egos. Egos are also measured in the amount of possessions one has, the type of car one drives, the type of house one lives in, and even the size of body parts.

There is much going on in the world with the ego.

Some people are not ashamed of their egos & are happy to increase it everyday. They believe ego is the source of their happiness. Some others who believe or are told that ego is the source of their suffering start to follow practices to destroy their ego. They understand that to be free of anger, hatred & other unwanted emotions, their ego must be destroyed. There is no dearth of teachers or ego fumigation experts who come up with meditation practices & other therapies to help their disciples to get free from ego.

Some wise men even point out that the whole attempt to get rid of the ego is an action of the ego itself so you are only boosting it in the process of eliminating it.

There is much going on in the world with the ego.

The point to realize is that the ego is just a name given to certain outward expressions of people or their behavior. These expressions are usually reactions to circumstances or to other people. And reactions are a natural process. When it rains, clothes get wet. When your car hits something, it gets scratches. Now scratches do not exist. There is only the car & its metal body which is disfigured. Scratch is the name given to that disfigurement or the removed paint. But a scratch does not exist by itself. But if you see around, you will find so many solutions to remove scratches. You cannot remove scratches. You can only try to re-form the metal shape to its original form or paint the surface.

Similarly there is no ego entity. You can neither increase or decrease your ego. You can only watch your behavior & correct it. Do not go on the invisible witch hunt of eliminating the ego.

There is much going on in the world with the ego.

Beware of Your Self

When we see a warning like “Beware of Dog”, we are instantly alert and look around for any dangerous dogs. In the same way, the warning “Beware of Your Self” should make us alert and watch our dangerous selves.

Am I really saying that our self is dangerous? Yes, quite true. Not just dangerous but deadly and poisonous and can lead to death.

The self which is also called ego is a fictional notion. It does not exist apart from the notion of ego or self. It is neither body nor mind. It comes into its notional existence when others start calling it by its name and start talking about it.

As a child, its parents and relatives start calling it by a name and over a period of time, the child starts believing that he/she is that name. With the name the whole story starts building around it – what I do, what I wear, what I eat, where I go, what happens to me and so on.

With the self comes the other automatically. The self likes or dislikes others, loves or hates others, plays with other people and things and so on. Everything he/she does strengthens the notion of the self. In fact, the world, the society, the culture and the education are all engaged in building up a better, stronger, independent self.

The self then creates, builds, kills and destroys. It continues the sustenance of itself and other selves. The self, with science, makes medicines to prolong itself and also bombs to destroy other selves.

This illusion of self is dangerous. Because of its assumption of separateness, it creates division and conflict between one self and another. It can know no peace of mind and is always acting to sustain itself, always in the race to making itself bigger, better, smarter and wealthier than others. Slowing down creates panic in the self and it starts to engage in more and more activity.

The self feels it is alone and has to stand up against the whole world. So it forms groups of like-minded selves and fights other groups. The groups can be religion, companies, countries and you name it.

The self is the source of all the confusion, conflict and sadness in the world. Ironically, the self does everything in order to attain happiness but ends up doing the exact opposite. Where there is the self, there is danger – grave danger.

That is why I say – beware of your self.

Man or Machine

Human frailties are glorified so much that there seems to be no way of accepting a person who has overcome those weaknesses. “To err is to human” and other similar sayings tend to accept that humans are imperfect. Although, it is true, it also closes the door to perfection. It becomes an excuse to remain imperfect, remain mediocre.

Man has always tried to make machines as intelligent or more powerful as humans. However, there is a general understanding that machines can never learn emotions. Rajnikanth may prove you otherwise.

1579815-enthiran-the-robot-movie-wallpapers-1_orig

Emotions are considered to be the touchstone on which to perform the Turing test (A test to differentiate between man and machine). In simple words, humans are humans because they have emotions, which machines can never have.

The point most of humanity misses is how mechanical our emotions are. Emotions are simply reactions to external stimuli. And despite all the talk about emotional intelligence, very few people even think about the possibility of being free of emotional outbursts.

Those who show little or no emotions are considered by other people to be mechanical. Emotions are seen to be so necessary to live and express oneself.

Take the case of Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie Terminator 2: Judgement Day. He is shown to be a machine, yet when told by young John Connor, not to kill people, takes care not to do that. Now how many humans will be able to take such instructions and follow them? Obviously, we are not machines! We are emotional beings and we will not be able to do anything as perfectly as a machine can do, if we compare apples to apples.

t-800-terminator-arnold-schwarzenegger-c_orig

By thinking of machines as inferior to humans and by thinking that emotions are the hallmark of human beings, we can never see how machine-like all our actions and behavior really are.

Someone who realizes that his emotions are simply reactions over which he has no control whatsoever is in a far better position to understand himself than someone who believes she has a right to be angry to express her state of mind or a right to sulk when he does not get what he wants.

Attainment of self knowledge refers partly to this truth about oneself. Take it or leave it. If you take it, you might observe your machine, set it right and be able to do far more marvelous things and have the opportunity to gain something real. If you leave it, you do not lose anything cause you do not have anything in the first place.

Have You Found What is Lost?

film__4566-lost-and-found--detail

Finding something that you had lost brings great joy & relief. Even if it is a trivial thing like locating a misplaced TV remote or something significant like getting in touch with a lost friend after decades, there is that unique feeling when you find something you had lost.

Even when we see others finding their lost things, we experience the same joy. It is a universal feeling across nations, cultures & history.

We have enjoyed numerous Bollywood movies based on the “Lost & Found” theme. Manmohan Desai used it in many films & we were never tired of it.

Every time we lose something we feel the same anxiety & every time we find it we feel the same relief. The joy & relief is directly proportional to the time after which you find it multiplied by the value of the thing in your life.

On one occasion, I forgot my laptop bag in the train & I realized it only after reaching home. Imagine the anxiety! l rushed back to the station – a crazy 10 km drive – & was lucky enough to get it back. Imagine the relief!

There is tremendous anguish when you realize you lost something of great value. However, with time you adjust to the loss and come to terms with it. Things like lost keys, lost valuables & lost money can be replaced. If you find them after you got the replacement, the joy is not that much. As life goes on, you will even forget that you had lost something.

Awakening is similar to finding your true self – the original mind – the Tao – that which is, before anything else is. There is joy & relief of tremendous intensity. Because you simultaneously realize that you had forgotten who you are & that you had forgotten it for an infinite time & now you suddenly find it. You were lost in living & dying & have found back that which was never born & can never die. It cannot be put into words.

Paradoxically, you also realize that you had never lost anything. Just that, to explain to another, the theme of lost & found can be a metaphor.

Psychological Balance

balance_orig

We observe that sometimes we get carried away by our emotions. When things are going well, we are excited and which shows in our animated behavior. On the other hand, when things are not going well, that also shows as a relative heaviness in our behavior.

Most of us tend to spend our lives on one side of our emotions. Some people are always depressed no matter what the external situation is. They will always find something to complain about in the best of events. Psychologically, they are carrying a burden of expectations, ideals and thoughts which makes the surroundings heavy with anxiety and worry. Very rarely do these people experience carefree joy.

Then there are others who always want to have a positive attitude even if things are not going as per their expectations. They are always hoping that the future will bring better tidings and this is what helps them live.

While it may seem that the second way is advisable, a positive attitude does not imply psychological balance. Those who advocate positive attitude suffer equally as those who possess negative attitude.

Having any attitude – positive or negative – is like a crutch. It is a dependency. Real balance is when there is no attitude. One takes things as they are without differentiating the situation as being fine or not fine.

A person who is psychologically balanced does neither complain about the situation nor takes the help of a positive attitude to endure the situation. When you get involved in a situation, you lose balance. The only way to be balanced is not to get involved psychologically with anything or anyone. A high order indeed!

Understanding Fear and Insecurity

insecurity-620x330

We all strive for security in life – we want good education in the hope of securing a high paying job, we invest money in property and funds so that we can secure our future, we save money for our children’s education and marriage, we buy insurance for safeguarding our family against accident and death.

Insecurity is caused by fear. Deep down there is an unconscious fear, a certain insecurity which drives us to do these things. But we never question it or investigate it.

Insecurity must be understood at two levels. One is the inherent insecurity of life. Everything is impermanent; nature is in a constant state of flux. Seasons change, we grow old, we fall ill, we die. There is nothing we can do to prevent this.

Since we are born, we must grow old and die one day. The uncertainty is when and how we die, not whether we die. Even if there are tremendous advances in medical science, nothing can prevent death. So this is the basic level of insecurity in life which will never go away – whatever your job, position, bank balance, and health is.

The second level of insecurity arises from people trying to find more security in life for themselves and their families. This is the insecurity most of us are caught in. We all want to be settled in a job earning a monthly income and saving for the future. We also keep trying to find more ways to earn additional income such as changing jobs, investing in shares and real estate and so on.

We think of our future, then our children’s future and then our grand children’s future. All this thinking creates more insecurity and we strive harder to acquire more property and money – all with an underlying sense of panic, thinking what will happen in the future.

Even if we are not driven by family concerns we are simply driven by competition – by looking at what others are doing around us and wanting to do better than them. The more people we see running after property and wealth, the more insecure we become and strive harder, increasing the insecurity. This is a vicious cycle.

Whereas the first level of insecurity is natural and cannot be eliminated, the other is created by us, is totally unnecessary and is the root of all evil actions, cheating and corruption in the world.

​In order to full grasp the first level of insecurity, one must see through the illusory insecurity and stop acting in a manner which increases that insecurity.

When one is free of the man made insecurity by not chasing after symbols of security such as property and wealth, one can then tackle the original insecurity of life i.e. death.

Finally, when even this level of insecurity is penetrated to its roots by discovering what you truly are, you can be free of all fear.

The Shocking Realization

0149

It is natural to consider – I am Y. I can do this and I can say this. I have independent will to do what I wish. I can listen. I can think.

It is also natural that I get angry, I get depressed, I like something and I don’t like someone. I have my habits, my assumptions, my judgments, and my way of thinking.

Further, I also believe that I can change whenever I want to. I don’t change simply because I don’t think it is necessary. There might be some aspects of my personality that hurt others or hinder me to attain my best.

However, when things don’t turn out the way I want, I blame others and I blame circumstances. I project all sorts of intentions on other people but do not realize it at that moment.

Now what I am going to explain is the most shocking realization on the path to realization. Every person who has walked on this path faces this hurdle. Only if he accepts this and see the truth of this can he move ahead on the path.

This realization is that – I am not in control!!

I have no control on what I do, what I say, what I think… none at all. Things are happening of their own accord without any one controlling them. In other words, one thing happens because of all the other things. There is no way that one thing would not have happened in any other way keeping all other things the same.

Everything depends on everything else. There is no individual will.

When I see this in myself first, I don’t believe it. But there is no doubt since I am seeing it directly. And when I extend the same observation to other people around me, I am overwhelmed by the danger of the situation.

I cannot expect someone else to simply believe this fact. You gotta see it for yourself. Watch each action of yours – what you do and what you think. If you see carefully, you will observe an infinite chain of events but no original will.

Let’s say you lift your hand to your face. Why did you do it? In most cases, you won’t be able to answer that because we are always making movements of our hands, fingers and body as a reaction to the entire stimulus of the external world on our senses. But if you are observing, you will see that there was a thought to lift the hand and before the thought there was some itching sensation on your face which you want to do away with so you raise your hand. But where did the itching come from?
That is not in your control.

You might develop great theories and plans and think you have done something. But go over it slowly and find out the time when you decided to do that and ask yourself whether you decided independently or as a reaction to something that came to your mind.

All our actions and thoughts are completely involuntary. Nobody can do a thing about it. Our life might seem haphazard but everything happens as a reaction like a spring being released. This realization needs to be deepened before you can come to full realization of the nature of reality and your life.

Looking at Life as a Story

 

story

How do you describe yourself? Don’t you say something like the following:

​My name is Y. I was born in N city on DD-MM-YYYY. I attended this school and that school. I studied graduation from a reputed college and post graduation from an even reputed college. I work as a manager in some renowned company. Previously, I have worked in many companies like M, F and C. I am married and my wife’s name is B and I have two kids A and A. My parents stay in N. I like to read books. I like new age and fusion music. I also like watching movies.

That is my story. I can add more details and elaborate on it. But doesn’t everyone have a story? What is your story? You have a name. You were born somewhere. You did this and did that. You went here and went there. You like this and you dislike that. And many more things like this. Then you have your goals. “I want to do this in life. I am working on a great project. I want to earn a million dollars. I want to drive a BMW and live in a penthouse.”

Observe this carefully. Is there anything apart from the story? I say there is just the story and nothing else. Our mental life is made up of nothing but the story. The obvious question you might raise is then what is all that we see and feel. “The hand that I see is not the story; it is apart from the story. The sky, the tree, the road, the bus, other people and so on.. they are not simply stories. They are real.”

What all those things are cannot be said in words. All words and descriptions are again stories. Whether it is the story of the big bang, or how the earth was formed, or how Alexander conquered countries, how a bud becomes a flower and how a child grows into a man, all these are stories – descriptions made out of concepts invented by us. You read stories in novels, you read stories in newspapers, you listen to stories on television and radio..

Reality is not compelled to follow these stories. Reality cannot be understood with these stories. You will see what is real only when you empty your mind of all stories. You must not attach importance to these stories but know them simply as yarn woven out of thin air.