Friday, March 20, 2009

Dismal Rant

Warning: This is a literal brain dump of trite questions and rants... a boring long winded ramble, which had to be vented. But if you can offer me some answers, I'll be grateful.

What does it mean to be a human being? What characteristics would you signify? Emotions? Ability to think, to discern, to reason? Making mistakes?

I've lately been very intrigued by ascetics and those in search of the truth, who abandon all qualities of human nature to elevate and transcend beyond average human consciousness. For years I've been familiar with the Indian philosophy of emotional detachment from worldly desires, pleasures and materialistic needs to attain salvation or enlightenment. But I've also been familiar with the Hindu/Vedic principle of going through all 4 stages of life - having experienced everything there is to in life, and then gradually detach from the material world to reach spiritual enlightenment. So when do we start on this quest for truth? Should I search for the truth only after having abandoned all material bonds? Will my consciousness naturally elevate itself if I get to a state where I no longer attach any emotions on anything/myself?

Why all these questions? Well, I recently came to know of a sect of ascetics who go through extremely primitive and crude practices in their attempt to attain enlightenment; their primitive and even disturbing practices (well disturbing to you and me) is a symbol of their philosophy to totally abstain the body from any kind of pleasure, and to go through extreme conditions that would otherwise scare and disturb normal human beings. They thus conquer all emotions and reign control over their mind; they thus look beyond the illusive world and our social conditioning of what is good, bad, ugly, dirty, clean, beautiful, scary etc. Almost like facing one's fear of drowning by jumping into the water and learning to swim. What if one is to face the ultimate fear - fear of death and meaning of life beyond? Let your imagination run wild... I don't want to name the sect of ascetics here, because my post is definitely not on them. And if you're the sensitive kind, whose mind hardly needs a reason to go haywire, please do NOT research and find all that you could read about them, like I did. I don't know whether I regret it.... but I have been definitely unsettled.

Anyway, my little research made me bring back those trite, elusive and deep questions that periodically surface and then go back into their shell, because I get tired of not knowing how to find answers. But now, especially at this point in my life, I really would like to get some answers. From whom and how I don't know. Books are not helpful beyond a point... I don't know how to achieve that inner realization, as they call it. But I had to at least rant and get it out of my system.

Everything in life seems insignificant to me these days. Looking around me everything seems silly... we constrain ourselves with so many rules, bound with so many complicated emotions, relationships, elusive ambitions, illusive desires. I remember my father telling me a story about the great Alexander who craved to conquer the world. A wise saint comes to him and asks him, "Ok, imagine you have conquered the world. Then what?". Alexander couldn't answer, so he got furious. I ask myself that... I struggle and toil everyday. What after I've solved all my issues and accomplished my ever extending "goals"? Will I be happy and content... well for a few months maybe, then what? I don't know. So is it even worth fighting and struggling for such aspects in life that will never leave us with lasting peace and contentment?

My life currently cannot be more tightly coupled with emotional issues. It almost saddens me that my life revolves around people dear to me. In many ways I'm crippled without them, and I don't know how to objectively detach from so much emotional bonding, that is clearly causing me so much pain. And I can't help but wonder what my purpose and real duty in life is. To whom is my duty bound to? To my parents as my culture/religion states, or myself alone like the ascetics practice? Should I stop perceiving situations as problems by detaching myself from these claws of emotions regardless of whom it hurts, to attain that blissful inner peace? Won't that be counted as bad Karma, and running away from my "duties"? Is my duty to wander and search for truth/inner peace, being born as a creature with six senses? Or is it just beyond my level of consciousness to even try and explore such dimensions of life, and should I just accept my current "human" state slurred with emotions and ignorance? Are ascetics and saints an evolved state of human beings, with their intelligence and mental faculties far exceeding ours, making them sensitive to perceive and understand those concepts that we can't? Will we eventually evolve to their state? Is this kind of evolution the meaning behind countless rebirths till we eventually understand the meaning of life and attain enlightenment/true wisdom?

This is by far my most skeptical phase in life. I've started to believe that we do live in an illusive world of Maya. Illusion on our freewill, our "intelligence", our purpose and calling in life. My friend once observed a tank of fish and commented, "I feel sorry for them. They swim here and then there, eat food and again swim here and there. They seem to have no purpose... ". In reality we all have such similar short-term goals, that make us wander here and there. We are all trying to believe we have a final purpose in life by solving problems and building a community, and creating more problems for ourselves; in the grand design, we all seem like those fish swimming here and there with no ultimate purpose.


Perception said...

Well written, something I can totally relate to. I often ask myself all these questions. I believe in prayers, meditation and such but when I step back and ponder over these issues especially "purpose of life", I have come to the conclusion there is none.

Have you come across people, who live simple lives? Somehow hardships, success, money, ambition doesn't seem of any high importance to these. They live in a sort of bliss, not too happy to get something, not too sad to lose something. They are not saints, yet it seems like a saint-like life. To me the purpose then seems "kartavya", each stage of human life comes with responsibility- as a wife, mother, team player (at work), leader (at work) and so on, and real bliss is in consciously completing these roles, knowing they exsist and truthfully living them. I feel most of the times during our path we get disillusioned, its no more about the role we play but rather the result that we focus on.

This may sound complicated, but I believe the answer lies within. Its reaching that point of bliss while playing your role in this materialistic world. So the question is who is the guide in this quest? How can this be even attained? Arent there too many distractions along the way? There is but one guide- our conscience.

Anonymous said...

i just read it in hurry will come back later and reply properly.

i too feel similarly. i have it in draft might post it soon.

SUMI said...

Obviously I don't have "answers" but my take is that being passionate about *something* (anything) at any given point of time is necessary to live. As for whether we really have duties and if so what are they and how and when should we perform them, I don't know...

I just wrote a book review on Siddhartha which covers some of these things - I'd point you to that if you're interested...

But these are questions, as you mentioned, that everybody asks and it's common for people to go through the phase you're going through.

About Maya and stuff, I don't completely agree with it- in the sense, if what our minds weave and dream is Maya, how can we be sure that the yogis are also not experiencing a different form of delusion? THese are all different states of consciousness. One can never be sure what "reality" is, but one can definitely do whatever they can for peace and happiness.

SecondSight said...

As an aside of sorts, did your research lead you to the NatGeo documentary on them? ;)
The rest of your post.. my personal opinion stems somewhat from these two lines- "First, be true to the self, you cannot then be false to any man." Flowing from there, one could move on to the ideas of dharma and karma- that your only duty in life is to realise what your dharma is. Does that always mean that you ignore the pain you might cause others, live a life of abstinence or luxury?
Therein comes the other quote.."When there is a clash between right and right, a value higher than right must prevail- and that value is life itself."
Whether it is the best, or even the correct way to live, I'm not sure. But sometimes, it works :)
At the end of it- whatever philosophy you use, hope things start looking up :)

Neeraja said...

Thank you all for patiently going through my rant and drivels and assuaging me with hope and direction. It's true but very hard and frustrating to look for answers within, as we try to do "justice" to life; living through our experiences in a materialistic world.