May Common Sense Prevail!!!

“Life was going on well, and then common sense played along”

The human mind is the most fascinating creation in this universe, far more mystifying than the universe itself. It is complex, chaos, prejudiced, and often confused. There is no single truth, but just perceptions. We can’t master the mind that is housed within us, and that’s a shame. Amidst this confusion lies the saviour of mankind that we seldom respect called common sense. The mind regurgitates the experiences from our upbringing, whereas common sense can think beyond the general boundaries of life. Following are the thoughts on those days when common sense gets as blatantly truthful as possible –

God
We use the term ‘God’ in two different contexts – the first is to refer to the creator of the universe that no one has ever seen in the history of mankind and that no one will ever see in the future. The second is to refer to few individuals that have shown certain elevated characteristics that normal humans cannot emulate. In the inability to see the actual creator, we found solace by attributing divinity to these individuals. For example, Sri Rama, Jesus, Prophet Muhammad to Sai Baba, were extraordinary humans that have displayed exemplary skills relevant to their times. Some exhibited remarkable valour and righteousness, some immense love and compassion, others great knowledge and wisdom. If they were to be born today, they will not have any relevance in the society. In this age of upsurging common sense, there will be no more Gods created. On that front, we are doomed and we have to live all by ourselves.

Religion
Religion is a community of people with similar beliefs. It works like an extended family – sometimes to derive strength from, and sometimes to give a shoulder to weep on. Religion gives vague and hypothetical answers to many questions that we can’t find answers to elsewhere. Religion is not a tool to either learn about the creator or to reach unto him. Instead, it is a prejudiced outlook that depends on the age old scripts that left us to our own interpretations. There is no heaven or hell beyond this life. Those that are fighting for religion in the name of the God have buried their brains deep under their impending graves.

Happiness
It is said that out of all life on the earth, human life is the greatest. It is because of the human ability to be unconditionally blissful, and not because of the human intelligence that can conquer nature and be on the top of the food chain. Without striving to reach to that purest human form of being joyful, we look for happiness at all wrong places and in trivial things such as family, children, money, position, art, travel etc. Even cheaper, we impose insipid purposes for life and look for happiness in achieving those futile targets. Given that we meander around without living the life to its true potential, animals can be said to have taken over better position than humans.

Grief
Grief is self-inflicted 98.999 times out of 100. We blame others and the situations as a cause to our own grief without realizing that no one else is capable of imparting grief except ourselves. We expect others to impart happiness into our lives – from parents, from the spouse, from children, from friends, and even from strangers. We live through expectations in every aspect of life without realizing that life through expectation from others is the cheapest form of living. Little do we realize it is the fundamental right of others to behave the way they wanted. Our internal joy shouldn’t be affected by anyone, including the close ones. Let the chips fall where they may, we should be untouched by grief.

Marriage
It is almost a crime to bring two distinct individuals together and get them to live as one. Marriage is a compromise, a bondage for an individual, regulates a free thinker, and adds blinkers to the explorer of different dimensions of life. But in this society, it is this restriction that gives a purpose to live for. A social human needs a social identity. This identity comes as a package to support social, physical, biological and emotional needs. Human is perverse by birth, and marriage keeps the various aspects of perversion inside the house. In this age of misplaced ideologies, the family gives purpose to live for and saves them from the existential crisis.

Children
This is not a great world to bring children into. Our priorities are confused and our purposes are contrived. Given that, the fundamental quality of humans to bring the children into this world should be the ability to give the children a better world – better not just in terms of wealth, but also nutrition, a perception of life, and the stability in thinking. Those that cannot feed themselves should not beget children. Those that are utterly poor both in economic and psychological aspects should not conceive children. It is cruel to get them to this world and not give them the necessary atmosphere and tools to deal with it. Children can be bundles of joy, moral support etc., but these aspects should only be seen as an offshoot of responsibility.

My tryst with Detachment

“So sorry to let you go” I looked at the watch one last time as I placed it in the shelf. My sister gifted it 6 years ago and now it looks old, beaten, scarred as it endured through the sun, wind, rain and snow along with me all these 6 years. That was a long time association for anyone to have an attachment with. I had been in many such relationships in the past that pinched the heart when I broke up with – the toys I played, the shirts that I wore, the car that I have driven, and even with the rented houses that we lived in. That dejected look at the vacated house regurgitating every possible memory is reminiscent of the feelings of parted lovers. But then we move on to another house, and the bondage goes on from one to the other.

It is in one of those thoughtful moments, I rake up the fundamental vice that we thrive upon called as attachment. Lord Krishna preached through Bhagavad Gita that we should be like a water drop on lotus leaf in the way that the drop stays on the leaf without getting attached to it. The simplicity in that juxtaposition made an immense sense that we can perform actions without being emotionally pulled into it. Later I chanced upon Buddha’s preaching in which he said “attachment is the root of suffering”. These were some profound statements that left individuals to their own imaginations and inferences. Wonderfully put, but it was unfair for them to just preach and not give away the necessary techniques to implement. It’s like luring by saying Biriyani tastes good, but not giving away the recipe to make it ourselves. Still I have taken inorganic approach to understand detachment as a concept through certain mundane aspects of life which took me nowhere. For example, you can’t be detached with your personal relationships, nor even with profession especially in this age of insecurities.

Through careful reflection, it dawned upon much later that to understand the true nature of detachment one should look beyond its definition. It shouldn’t be dissected as a concept, but should be seen as an intrinsic way of living just like life and death. What if the world is seen as an integral part of you? What if every person or every object is seen inclusive within you without separating from you? What if you see a pebble and a gold coin the same way? What if you are not just the body but more than that, as many scriptures prescribe? The question of detachment doesn’t arise. This experience requires a certain degree of intelligence and enlightenment, and I believe that there lived few enlightened souls that walked on this earth. Some people claimed to have spotted them. It’s like alien spotting – you want to be believe it but will always have a sceptic mind. I may have spotted one in my childhood.

Long ago, there used to be a naked man wandering around the streets of my home town chittoor. He randomly appears from nowhere twirling his arms as if doing some ‘yoga mudras’. Some called him mad man and some called him God man. Some pitied him and some detested him. Occasionally he walks into random shops raising his palm seeking alms without speaking a word. Some offered money, some offered food, and some scooted him away. On one such occasion, my father and I were in a shop and this naked man suddenly appeared raising his arms seeking (perhaps) money from my father. Instinctively my father shooed him away as this man’s appearance didn’t fit into our social profile. Few months later when we spotted him again in yet another street, my father voluntarily offered him money. But this man ignored and moved on, not to avenge the previous incident but because he didn’t need anything at that point of time. Perhaps he was that enlightened man that we talk about, probably the richest in the whole world, devoid of any attachments, devoid of mortal needs. He was most blissful in the way he is.

Until then, I can only take rudimentary steps towards detachment by not getting into another new relationship that could cause long term bondage. For example, don’t beget yet another child, don’t buy yet another watch.

Speaking of watches, I saw a beautiful watch during a casual web browsing a few days ago. It has the curves to crave for, and the dial to die for. It was sheer temptation as another bondage beckons. My hands wavered around “Buy Now” button from the moment I saw it. But in a sudden bout of enlightenment, I withdrew the temptation as if exhaling a whiff of air. It was that simple. I basked in this new found glory, so simple yet so profound. But this bout of wisdom lasted for few more seconds until I found a note underneath that I didn’t notice until then – “Half price. Offer ends today”

Life is an Affliction

The world out there is inherently beautiful,
The reflection of it in my mind is unfortunately not!!

It dawned and the day soon slipped into dusk. Days turned to months and then to years. I realize yet again that the life is meaningless, and this world is a very sad place to live. This is an unfortunate but the ultimate truth. I find a sense of despondency behind every living being created in the universe, and it is immaculately designed that way. I am not looking through the wrong eyes, am not under the influence of emotions, and am not playing the game of perspectives either. Life is a long and moronic journey till death. Shakespeare said that the world is a stage and we are stage players. We enter, play our parts and then exit. The ulterior interpretation is that the stage players sulk behind their makeups to put up a ‘good’ show for others, and that’s exactly what we do.

Human mind is the greatest yet complex creation of the creator. In reality it is created that way as part of his sinister design. Mind is multi layered. It is always under the influence of hypnosis. It doesn’t have the ability to differentiate ultimate truth from lie. It gets bored easily and take refuge in diversions – play, education, job, marriage, children, welfare, and so on. Mind is ever scheming with innate desires. Life is nothing but a series of desires, one after the other, and the pursuit to satisfy them. Desires are persistent and manifests in multiple forms as we age – I want food, better food, job, better job, life, better life, and so on. Listen to the mind for a minute and you will understand. Desires never end, and it is insane to contain them through the methods prescribed by scriptures and psychiatrists.

Happiness is a myth, and so is sadness. It is yet another passing state of mind manifested through (un)successful quench of a desire(s), yet we fall behind the pursuit of happiness. Nietzsche said there are no facts, only interpretations. If I interpret a result in one particular way, then I am happy else I am sad. A word uttered by someone can take me through myriad emotions based on my interpretation of it, and that’s enough to prove the sorry state of our minds. ‘Hope’ is a funny thing – it is the same ‘hope’ that I share with a sheep that is feeding on grass in a butcher shop. They say faith moves mountains. My faith leaps high when I listen to good music or read some good quotes on internet. So isn’t it a fake state of mind? The world is a result of million reflections through million eyes. Life is made of a series of fake emotions.

In reality, there is no real purpose of life. Earning money or living happily are just materialistic journeys and not the real purposes of life. Many years ago, I argued with my late grandfather that Shah Jahan got it completely wrong in building Taj Mahal as a symbol of love for his wife. It may have remained as a great monument in the history that millions across the world admire, but what use was it to Shah Jahan and his wife who didn’t live to see it. That said, the optimists and philosophers across the world have done a great job in instilling false purpose.

If you look at it objectively, there is immense positivity in Death. Death may be beyond the comprehension of a material mind, but it essentially stops the mind chatter, and puts all the hypnosis to rest. It technically puts him/her to rest in permanent state of peace. It is perfectly ok to rest in peace permanently than to wake up to see what’s happening in the world.

People come and go. If on an average, people live for 80 years, then every 80 years there are new set of people living in this world and yet they live with their own idiosyncrasies and learn nothing from their ancestor miseries. While I am amazed at the amount of stupidity that we house within, I am equally amused at our innocent spirit to live through it. I was watching a puppet show on TV the other day along with my son. The set up was grandeur. A human marionette had a brazen outlook and said to the donkey “This is my life. I will live it my way”. The audience smiled, and I laughed.

The Beast Inside Me

(Following is an excerpt from the diary of a confused man who was born back in 20th century)

An epic battle has just ended, and I lost to the beast inside me. I sat on the couch and poured a drink in the glass to concede my defeat. The beast smiled, and I started to write.

Let me introduce the beast first. Some call him the inner demon, some call him the alter ego, and some even call him the monkey in the mind. I called him the beast because of the sheer power that he exerts to dominate me in all facets of life. He is the master of my body, and thereby my senses. In Bhagavad Gita, a human life was compared to that of riding a chariot driven by five horses. The chariot stands for the body. The five horses are the five senses. The reins stand for the mind, and the driver stands for the intellect. In my case the beast, more or less, is the driver and I am the rider. We travel together, but our destinations are different.

My life is nothing but a constant battle with him. My success purely depends on how well I overpower him on any day. I want to wake up early, he wants to sleep; I want to exercise, he wants to relax; I want to eat what’s healthy, he wants to eat what’s tasty; I want to aim higher in the spiritual path, he wants to aim higher in material gains; I want to push through the limits, he wants to sleep through the comforts. I am ever complacent and he is ever greedy. I have to face him first before I face the world.

A spiritual guru once advised on TV that one can tame the beast through meditation. I tried, but failed. However the meditation helped me to comprehend the true power of this beast. It requires more than just will to subdue him, which is a paradox in itself.

We have conflict over many things, so we agreed upon having some equal grounds – on the subject of eating meat, I have objection to killing animals. But he argued that the animals do not have purpose in life, and that the God has created them for our consumption with us being the higher ups in the food chain. So we agreed on subjective consumption based on certain types and certain days in a week.

There are certain concepts on which both our ideologies are misplaced – one day I was overwhelmed with compassion and donated few dollars to a homeless man on the way to office. The beast argued that this act was performed by him, and not by me. While compassion is a virtue, what I did was certainly a selfish act as the donation has helped in gratification of my senses. The subject was too complex, and I gave up from further retrospection.

Our debates continued –

“I am eternal, you are material” I poked

“You are a myth, I am the truth” he argued

“Your only purpose is survival, I pursue the higher truth” I mocked

“You are the confused soul, I am the pristine body” he retorted

On this reply, however, he wasn’t totally wrong. The body is innocent and pure like water – it is created out of biological reactions and takes the form from what it feeds upon. Its sole purpose is survival and it remains truthful to it. The so called human vices such as greed, ego, envy, anger and lust are its natural ornaments and are integral part of its survival eco system. The same cannot be said about me. I am confused on my purpose, and I suffer from existential crisis.

I see the physical world through his eyes, and he is my only foe. I can conquer the world, alas, only if I subdue him.

Back to the present, I sipped the last drop and placed the glass back on the table. The beast, now satiated, appeared to have retired to his dark corners. My thoughts flew like a perennial river as I typed this. The beast whimpered slowly “Enough writing this, no one will read this anyway”. I ignored, but he continued “Switch on the TV and check out the new titles on Netflix”. I replied “No way”. But then he winked.

Curious Case of Karma Philosophy

Long ago, a wise man appeared in my hallucinated dream. His image was vague, but his voice was clear. He said “Beware of Karma. Your current life and its quality is the result of some of your earlier actions this life and the previous lives; your future will depend on the actions that you perform in this life”. This was my first introduction to the concept of Karma. While I had many questions about this definition, I subconsciously made peace with it. It made me God-fearing and helped to live a disciplined life. This also helped me to reason with many inconsistencies such as an unbalanced society – the differences between the rich and the poor, abled and the disabled. I had answers to many questions that a sane human wouldn’t have. My uncle once slipped while walking on the road and fell down. Seeing him disgruntled, I commented that he was being punished by Karma for some of his mistakes.

For the first time my interest in Karma was piqued by a story from Bhagavatam –

“A very long ago, there used to be a noble Brahmin. He was a good son, good husband and a good father. He lived a righteous life and performed his duties sincerely. He has the best life that his peers wish for. One fateful day while walking through a forest, he saw a prostitute romancing someone. As Karma would have it, he was smitten by her charms instantly, fell in love, and later married her by abandoning his own parents, wife and children. Out of dire need, he later became a thief, a liar, a drunkard, even a murderer. His whole life was ruined in complete contrast to his earlier life”

This story haunted me for the next few days. Was he predestined to be affected by a single event via his Karmic design? If my life too is already pre-written, where is the fun in living it?

As I brooded, the wise man appeared. I couldn’t see him clearly, but heard him say “the greatest gift to the human is free will. In the above story, the event was completely external with no relationship to the noble Brahmin. He could have ignored it, but he succumbed to his senses and chose the path of downfall. It was his freewill that was the culprit” and he added “by the way, your uncle fell down not because of his Karma, but because he didn’t use his mind while walking on the road”. This made sense and for the first time, Karma was contradicted by free will.

After reading my weekly astrology report on a website, I chanced upon a news – due to a doctor’s negligence a mother lost her life after giving birth to a child. The image of the bereaved husband holding his new born child struck to my mind. The dreams of a happy long life came to an end due to an unexpected accident. The child, oblivious of her loss, cried on perhaps out of hunger. She was going to miss many important things in her life – her mother’s hug, her lullabies, a greatest strength and most importantly, a lifetime opportunity of receiving unconditional love. What kind of morbid consolation can I get by linking this child’s deprivation with her Karma? I looked around for the wise man and found him in a corner. I gather from his hazy silhouette that he shrugged as if to suggest the world is a sad place anyway.

The concept of Karma went for a toss with the events of massive consequences such as natural calamities, tsunamis and the wars. For example, the World War II was a distinguished event in the recent history that caused grave repercussions, upheaval of geographic and economic conditions followed by massive exodus. Millions lost their lives. I expected the wise man to ask me to exclude such events from the scheme of Karma, but he said “Don’t look for reasons to all problems in this world. This universe is random at best, and many experts failed to understand it. Not every action that you perform will have a physical consequence. Some actions will have inherent mental reactions caused by positive or negative psyche of the event. For example, a murderer needn’t necessarily be punished by the police. The negative energy created in his mind will lead to subtle negative Karma leading towards his downfall. Do not try to understand it if it is too complex. To make it simple, let me give tell you the greatest mantra and the biggest secret that will solve all your problems – ‘Work sincerely and don’t expect results’. By denouncing selfish expectations, you will be impervious to all Karmic attachments, and you can still perform Karma (action) as it is your birth right”

As the wise man said this, his muzzy image started to become clear and he looked exactly like my conscience.

Our Flawed lives

My blood test reports have come, and I was summoned to see the doctor. Many test results were out of range. Hemoglobin should be 13, but mine’s only 11. The doctor smirked and asked me not to bother about these ‘out of range’ results, and these ranges are only for reference.

We have an appraisal system at work. The performances of the associates are measured and normalised to be fit in a bell curve with the major area of the curve (peak) representing count of ‘Average’ performing associates. This also indicates that the organization expects majority of the population to perform average. The associates on either side of the normalised distribution curve are either appreciated or admonished based on what side of the curve they belonged to.

NormalCuver
Normal distribution is widely used to represent random data of natural and social sciences

In an attempt to explain the standard normal distribution, our statistics lecturer gave us an example of heights of males in India. The average height of Indian male is 5.5 ft. So the major male population would fit in this height range between 5.3 and 5.7 ft. It doesn’t mean that the other minority representing lesser than 5.3 feet and greater than 5.7 feet do not belong to the society. They pretty much do, except that our minds are trained to see them with a difference.

What’s common to all the above said examples is the ‘range of values’ that we humans are measured against. It is wise to be in the reference ranges so as to not be questioned against.

Now, draw a bell curve among people across colour, creed, religion, ethnicity, practices and hobbies of the people. Think about those that do not belong to averages.

Life is created out of averages. There is a sublime democratic process through which we have trained and chosen our lives. We have to live life in a certain way – go to school, get a job, get married, bear kids, buy houses, create a socio-economic status, work hard towards material betterment of lives, and die peacefully. This gives a sense of settlement in lives, and we feel physically secured. Any minor aberration causes great discomfort, because we belong to the majority herd.

Now, let us further extrapolate this normalization to our emotions. Our emotions are automated too – we live to appease society, we are pleased when praised, we are angered easily, we fear for discomforts, we hate every other thing, and holler at every single disturbance in life.

We are the best hypocrites that the society can produce.

We know our emotions are momentary but we dwell a bit too much in them. We know worry doesn’t solve a problem but we worry much. We know that life is too short to stress, but we stress much in a day to day living. We know that ‘unconditional’ happiness is the best cure for many problems, but we seldom put that to use. We know that expectation is root cause of all misery, but we expect a lot. We know from the bottom of our hearts there is only God, but we create a divide. The only reason is that the society taught us to be in that way.

We have conquered earth and other planets, but can’t control our own mind and emotions. This assures me to believe that we are using our minds incorrectly. Just like we trace back a screwed-up stomach to some bad food eaten, the screwed up mind can be traced back to bad training imparted for centuries.

Somewhere in the normalization process, we seem to have forgotten the basics of human life and have created too many ‘unwarranted’ needs. We live in perspectives created by our society. Our minds are conditioned with these perspectives for centuries, decades and years. Any deviation will be seen blasphemous.

Much said in this context, let me call it a day. I am already stressed out and have to get a good night sleep for a respite from my flawed life.