Sunday, May 20, 2012

What did the Buddha realise?

A friend of mine asked me this question recently - 'What did the Buddha realise?'. This is the answer I gave.

To obtain answers to serious questions such as these, one needs to analyse ones life. The answers can be found by looking at ones life. This is how I do it. This explanation is from my experience. Please be forewarned that different people may explain the same thing differently.

Lets take something you own - for example, your car. Let assume some guy throws a cricket ball and breaks your windshield. What is your reaction? Naturally, we will be annoyed / angry etc. But, if the same thing happens to our neighbours car, we will not have the same set of emotions. We will empathise with our neighbour and we may also fear that it might happen to us. But, clearly, the set of emotions are different. Why is this so? The immediate answer is that when my care is broken I am affected. I have paid hard earned money for this etc etc. All of this is correct. But, it is also possible to look at it from another perspective.

Let me just propose that we are angry when our cars windshield is broken than when another persons car is broken because we control our car more than another persons car. The key here is the word control. So, if something that we control is threatened or endangered, we are affected. If our spouse says an angry word at our parent, we are hurt. But, when we do so to our spouses parent, we are not so hurt. Because, we feel we control our parents more than our spouses parent. The same logic extends to our bodies also. We feel we are inside it primarily because we control it. To even think we are inside the body seems awkward because we are not used to such a way of thinking but, to me, that seems to be the best explanation for the normal experience. The moment we want to get somewhere, we move the body. So, we feel we control it. But, in reality we hardly control the body. Breathing happens on its own, the heart beats on its own. They do not ask for our permission. Both will stop one day. Even then, they will not ask for our permission. So, normally, we live our lives as if we are those things/people/relationships that we think we control. The key here is not what we actually control but what we think we control. As we saw above, in the case of the body, we probably control a very small part of the functions of the body. Or in other words, we control the grosser functions well and we have little or no control on its subtle aspects.

So, then, how much of what do we really control? Is there an alternative to living life as that which we really control? I feel there is. It is to live life as that which we love. Initially, we will notice that we actually only love that which we control. We love our bodies, our relatives, our property. All these are also present in the set of things we control. If we control it, then is is actually love? Its like mothers milk mixed with poison. Even if it is just one drop of poison, we will not give it to our kids. It is poison. Likewise, we cannot really say that we love that which we control. So, then, can we find out what it is that we love but not control?

When we start inquiring in that direction, that's when our life acquires depth and meaning. Because, we suddenly realise that there is nothing in the world that we cannot love. Once we step past the boundary of that which we control, we see that we can naturally love every part of creation. Of which, the things we control is an absolute minuscule part. That still remains, but it remains as a very small subset of the things we love. When this happens, we will clearly know what we control and what we do not and whatever little (at whatever level of grossness) we control, we will do so with great skill and love. This transformation is the greatest and most valuable thing that can happen to a human being.

As I see it, this is Yoga - in the sense that, this can truly happen only when we go deep within ourselves and get into a union with the deepest part of ourselves. That is why, it is absolutely important to find out our deepest desires and manifest the same in this life. For, in that process, one will have to undergo this transformation. The manifestation of ones own deepest desires provides the necessary incentive to take up this transformation with great rigour. This transformation happens in sudden dramatic flashes, when we have a great peak experience and we acquire penetrating insight about our life. It also happens slowly and gradually. The addiction to control is deeply etched in every single cell of our body. So, for all of that to be transformed, it will take time. So, both these methods are needed - sudden great flashes of peak experience and insight and regular, systematic and gradual change. 

The Buddha, as I understand, had been going through this process during his days of inquiry. On that eventful day in Gaya, he completed this process - wherein, there was only infinite love and absolutely no compulsive need whatsoever to control anything. Then, we live life as that which we love and not as that which we control. At the highest level, because we love everything (not just what we think we control), we live as everything. That is when subject object duality vanishes.

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