Sunday, 18 November 2012

On conditioned existence

'Neti-Neti' (Not this, Not this)

See the false as false and the truth will be revealed

Peeling the layers of onion one by one

 
'Neti-Neti' is a beautiful phrase in the Sanskrit language that describes enlightened living. There are two perspectives to understand the 'concept' of enlightenment - enlightenment as an event and enlightened living. The former signifies an experience at some point of time wherein a swift flash of understanding strikes. The latter refers to the application of this understanding in daily living, nay, moment to moment living. The former happens once and the latter is an ongoing process.
 
What is enlightenment? Rather, what is the 'concept' of enlightenment? Who seeks enlightenment?
 
When I ponder on the above questions, I am left with the answer to the last question of who seeks enlightenment - I. Isn't is it so ?
 
The first step in the quest for the ultimate answer to all our problems requires that the ultimate question be identified. Therefore, the ultimate question is WHO AM I ?
 
From here starts your journey of true intelligence - because all the while you have been accumulating knowledge. Your perspective has always been towards the external; now you are going reverse. You are to go back to the source and this is only within.
 
There is a zen story about how a zen master was asked to describe enlightenment and he asked the questioner to start peeling an onion layer by layer. What must have the questioner found after peeling peeling the last layer ? This I leave it for you to get your own flash of understanding.
 
The peeling of onion is an analogy to guide you towards peeling all those layers of conditioning that have formed around you as your shell and preventing you from seeing truth as it is. To know what you are you need to identify that which you are not. Once identified, you must be brave and honest to accept your layers of conditioning and let your Self shine through in its natural, original form. Once you know your Self, you know the universe. Once you know the universe and your Self, you will have to cross the last frontier. When this crossing is experienced and understood, you will realize that it cannot be described - but like a finger pointing to the moon, sages have had to coin the word 'enlightenment' as a pointer to THAT which you think you are seeking.
 
The following article from P. Vaidyanathan will guide you on your second step - recognizing that you are conditioned and the need for the conditioning to be expelled. You have already taken the first step by asking: WHO AM I ?
 
ASK YOURSELF HOW FREE YOU ARE - by P V Vaidyanathan
Most of us would say that we do have free will. We can do anything we wish. If we want to wear a red shirt instead of a blue one, we can. If wewant to pizza, we can. If we want to take off from work and sit at home today, we can. If we want to marry the girl or boy we love, we can. If we have enouhg money, we can buy any house, car or gadget. Likewise, we can travel wherever we want to. Obviously, it looks as if free will exists.
According to Ramesh Balsekar, all the choices that we make are from the act of exercisingthe will. How free is free will? Whatever we call free will or choice is finally determined by a mix of two things- nature and nurture, or by our heritage and conditioning. We can't choose our parents, and hence we have no choice over the genetic material they gift to us. Also, from birth, we are exposed to conditioning and belief systems. These are required for survival.
In the process of growing up, we are conditioned and led to believe a great many things by family, friends and strangers, the media, commercials, books and what-have-you. As an adulat, we are thus a mixture of our genetics and all these conditionings. This is our programming; our code. And all our decisions, our choices, our thoughts and acts, originate from this programmed mind. A part of this programming is done by nature and the environment does the rest of it. Really, there is nothing sacred or pure about our decisions.
Is this a good thing or a bad thing? By itself, this is difficult to say. But at least we should realise that what we normally consider freedom or free wil, is itself a slave of a programming.
If you were to ask a vegetarian "Why don't you like meat?", he would most often answer, "Because it is bad to eat meat."
"And how have you come to this decision that eating meat is bad?"
"I have always been told that eating meat is bad and should be avoided."
As one can see, the decision not to eat meat may seem an act of freedom or free will, but the conditionings of childhood are holding us in slavery, unknown to us.
If 2 like-minded friends were asked: "What would you do if you were walking together, and saw one man killing another?"
One of them might reply: "I will immediately go to the victim's rescue, even if it means risking danger to myself", while the other might say, "I will run away, find the nearest telephone booth, and call the police, without identifying myself."
The two friends are close; they often think alike but on this occasion they react differently. This could be because of their basic natures that have been shaped by their respective circumstances and upbringing. What each of them would do seems to be free act, but is actually already pre-decided. Real freedom would be if the first fellow would run away or if the second fellow would wait and fight. But usually, our pre-programmed brain acts only it in the way it is programmed to.
True freedom and free will come only if we able to go beyond our programming. To override our basic genetic make-up is near impossible. But it is indeed possible to go beyond our conditionings, beliefs, indoctrinations and ideas. Once we can un-condition ourselves, we will be able to respond freely.
 

 

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