Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Musings on the Road to Nowhere

My feeling is that as long as I am alive then I need a healthy sense of ‘I’. Much of what I have spoken of in this blog about my learnings and experiences in India relates to dissolving and transcending the sense of ‘I’, or ego identification as a seemingly separate, autonomous individual, but as written in the last posting, I now feel that the situation is somewhat more of a balance between the sense of being an individual and that of simply Being.

In the fullness of time, if even that sense of individuality is permanently consumed in some ascension to a higher experience of reality then so be it. I don’t even know if that is possible but the testimony of some of the greats, like Ramana Maharishi, seems to indicate that something like that is indeed the case. However, unless we are established in the same experience, then we can only have a very limited idea of what Ramana’s experience of reality actually was based upon our own limited frame of reference.

Even Ramana said that the sense of ‘I’ is still there as long as the body persists but that in the case of a Gnani (a liberated one) then it is like the shell of a burned rope, it looks the same but it no longer has any power to bind. Certainly, in the practical operation of the ashram Ramana demonstrated that he had a clear sense of right and wrong with many reports of his stepping in and reprimanding the management staff when he became aware of any favoritism or unjust policy being practiced. Not in any sense of his assuming some dogmatic or moralistic positionality but in the sense of a natural impeccability in upholding the equality and inter-relatedness of all life.

This question of behaviour in relation to Liberation is an interesting one. Some take the view that Liberation means that ones behaviour should be beyond reproach (in other words a transformation or divinisation of the human personality) while others take the view that Liberation simply means that we are no longer attached to and identified with the personality (which may continue to partake in all kinds of behaviour which some would judge as being decidedly ‘unspiritual’).

As with many things, perhaps the truth of the matter is not easily grasped by the rational mind and we should be wary of indulging in any tendency towards sanctimony or arrogance in this regard, prematurely thinking that we know when all we may have is a cherished or convenient opinion rather than any actual real Knowledge, or alternatively falling prey to a state of confusion.

There certainly seem to have been many reported cases, as in Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, where the sometimes bizarre and even violent behaviour of a Master has appeared to result in the sudden enlightenment of a disciple. Equally there are many cases where one considered as such has appeared to abuse their position usually in some controversy involving sex, money, intoxicants and power. Indeed one could say that sex, money and power are the greatest intoxicants of them all.

So, bringing it back to the common experience, I know for myself that I seem to be living this life and making choices based upon my current level of understanding, realised potentials and limitations (unrealised potentials and natural boundaries). I also know that as my view of the world becomes more fluid, my understanding of life grows and my shortcomings are transformed into strengths (e.g. stubborn-ness into tenacity, anxiety into alertness) then I appear to be able to make better choices and to live a more satisfying and adventurous life.

So there seems to be a process of participative and even proactive evolution taking place based upon ones life experiences and how one consciously responds to them (the alternative being to remain entrenched in unconscious reactivity and thereby compounding ones ignorance). This process of evolution and living of life seems to necessitate an ‘I’ who experiences and interacts with life and at the same time the process of evolution seems to be accelerated by the ability to observe oneself objectively.

To be able to observe oneself in the sense of self-reflection upon ones thoughts, emotions, feelings and actions, but also in the sense of simply Being. That is in having an experiential and stable sense of the ground of Being, unconditioned by any identification with being this or that; simply to Be; the fundamental and underlying sense of existing which is inherently conscious and peaceful.

It would appear that these two aspects are complimentary. That the more we come to know, accept, transform and liberate ourselves as an individual then the more we naturally come to rest in the ground of Being. Simultaneously, the more we cultivate the natural resting in, and as, the ground of Being then the more our existence and growth as an individual seems to go more smoothly. If we appear to tip too far to one side, neglecting the other, then we may be temporarily out of balance with our self because surely if we are all inseparable units of the one life then there can be no separation or conflict between who we truely are at our core and how we express ourselves in life.

Then it becomes a case of gradual refinement and sudden transformations until one day, sometime in the Now, we become at-one with ourselves and come to realise that in reaching the supposed goal on the path to nowhere, it was indeed the journey which was and continues to be most significant.

"We must not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we began and to know the place as if for the first time."

T.S. Elliot