Happiness is always within our reach, all we need to do is to take a step towards it. The greatest blessing of life is that no matter how dark be our past, we can build life anew!
That’s the gift of FREEDOM OF CHOICE. It does get challenged by our past karma – our karmic baggage can pose hassles, but with wisdom and will, we can rebuild our future, we can resurrect our today and tomorrow from the tomb of yesterday!
But the three greatest tragedies of life which are there entirely by our choice, and which prevent us from realizing the blessing mentioned above, and not by any accident, are:
# One. We do not care for and hug our loved ones enough while they are with us, and we are not adequately and gratefully appreciative of their presence, but we miss them so much when they leave us;
# Two. We don’t live in the present while it is the only moment we really have. Shelly, the poet, said in his poem ‘To A Skylark’ : :
‘We look before and after, and pine for what is not ;
Our sincerest laughter, with some pain is fraught;
Our sweetest songs are those that tell us of saddest thought’.
# Three. We get emotionally so caught up in the role-play that we forget that it is only a role-play after all !
The third one above encompasses the other two, so let’s deal with it.
We are like actors on a stage here : This has been said so often that now it doesn’t impact our consciousness any more, yet it is strikingly true. We are not our passing roles, we are not our success or failure, we are not anything that we have, yet unfortunately it is the fact of these, the ‘having’ – and not what we essentially are, the ‘being’ – that stays predominant in our consciousness. As souls, peace and joy are our very nature, it is (in my Master’s words) ‘closer than hands and feet’ yet how we fumble in this world to find joy in things where it is not, while it remains right within – awaiting discovery !
Real stage actors pour their hearts and souls into what they do on the stage, yet they know all along that they are only doing their roles. A newly-married actor, for example, can play the role of a forlorn lover so well that the audience will get into tears. Deep down, the actors know too well that it is only a role that will soon end, no matter how well they play it.
‘Be Calmly Active & Actively Calm’: In this advice, my Master sums up everything we need for a good role-play in this motion picture of our earthly existence. If we are attached to the desire or the fear of the result of what we are doing, i.e. if we are emotionally embroiled in the role-play, we cannot stay calm inside, we cannot truly enjoy it. But if we can preserve our inner calmness even while outwardly doing our best in any action, we exude a power that makes us truly effective.
The masters actually do it, the Lord does it every moment for eternity! He is Immanent yet Transcendent – so committed to creation, preservation and dissolution that not a leaf anywhere separates from its tree without His knowing. Yet, the happenings in trillions of galaxies together do not disturb His peace.
What is the secret? What we need, Masters say, is inner freedom – awareness with detachment. Detachment with action. A stoic role-play, sincere but not serious.
As children we bring this latent wisdom fairly well with us, but as we grow we lose this present-mindedness, this inner freedom. Look at the children playing on the sea-shores, making sand-castles. How diligently they make them – so painstakingly they attend to its every detail. Once done, they stand up, take a perspective, pride in their creation, and then what do they do ? They demolish the art with a kick and run home, without any regret. The breaking was enjoyed as much as the making.
Well, children do cry when others take away or break their toys but even then, they may soon get over it. We adults don’t. We re-live our sorrows for months, often years, after the events. Think of the many fears that we live with everyday that really never come true and yet how disturbed we get over them ! The fear of disease, financial loss, soured relationship and death.
So, what is the great experiement ? It is one that can truly transform our lives and make us Jeevan Mukta – Liberated while living. The experiment is, while we perform any action – pleasurable or unpleasurable, we must every moment be fully conscious or mindful of our inner center of peace and joy and stay anchored there, like a ship anchored amidst tumultuous waves ; to know and remember that it would pass, like everything before it did ; to live in the present.
The experiment is, knowing that we do NOT really do while we do it – ‘Na kinchit karomi iti’ – “Not a thing I really do, that’s it” (The Gita), or ‘To buy and sell, but to keep the mind on God’. Some may not believe in God, but who doesn’t want peace of mind ?
Non-Doership : Let’s think of who beats our hearts, flows our breath or digests our food – is it our human skill ? If it were, why the hearts and breath stop one day even when we wish to live on, why do we get stomach upsets even in youthful times ?
We are still building Sand Castles : Mahatma Gandhi said, “Whatever you do will be insignificant (on the cosmic scale) but it is very important that you do it (the best you can) !”
Forget the cosmic scale, even those events that looked so crucial to us in the past, in retrospect they appear as no big deals any more ! Whatever we may be doing, we may still be building ‘sand castles’ only of a different kind – on the quicksands of time ! Yet, for the sake of a good role-play, let us build well !
In a previous post, I shared a Zen aphorism of old times : ‘Before enlightenment, break stones, fetch water ; after enlightenment, break stones, fetch water’. In the former case, it was drudgery, in enlightened state it is just a joyous, participative role-play in a cosmic drama where action is the life-breath of existence.
Sri Paramahansa Yogananda says in one of his poems :
“In waking, eating, working, dreaming, sleeping,
Serving, meditating, chanting, divinely loving,
My soul constantly hums, unheard by any:
God! God! God!”
Are we ready to start the great experiment ? To be ‘Calmly active and actively calm’ ? To live in the present moment, every moment of our lives ? To love and hug more, fear and worry less, and to practice a mental ‘aboveness’ in the awareness that it is only a role-play, even when doing our best ? To be sincere, but not so serious ?
Caution : It’s not easy. Maya, or Satan – the Cosmic Delusion, aided by our own ego and ignorance together work very hard, they wouldn’t let it happen easily, they exaggerate the seeming importance of our present roles and tests, but the wise saying is, ‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step’ (Lao Tzu).
Through a blend of meditation with right activity, through Self-awareness, we can begin that journey NOW ! We shall then be neither workaholics, nor indolent escapists. We shall then not be unduly stressed, and we shall be able to harmoniously integrate our work life with our personal life – something without which there can be no sustainable leadership.
There will be lapses on the way. No matter how sincerely we try, sometimes we would fail, we would get emotionally sucked in. But that should not discourage us. Whenever we get emotionally caught up, get angry or fretful, we can remind ourselves that it is after all only a role that will pass, and can remember to bring our minds back to the inner center of calmness – we can remember to apologise, to be humble, to introspect everyday and to move on !!