Personal Growth - The Path of pain
by Anupama Garg
The children at the Gurukul Academy, Lucknow, get a head start in life. Meditation permeates every moment of their young lives at study or play, or even in their interactions with each other. They are being taught to observe the state of meditation in whatever they do, to make it their natural state of mind and being.
The repercussions have been delightful. The children are exuberant and peaceful, they are more respectful and are learning their early lessons in tolerance. They are beginning to cultivate harmonious relationships with plants, animals, nature and all
surroundings. Most importantly, they are learning to love.
The values and love instilled in this early age will see them through life happily, peacefully and harmoniously, observes Baba Batuknath, spiritual guru and head of the ISC school inculcating Indian ideals in these youngsters. They will grow up to be individuals without conflict within themselves, who will flow with life.
The children are more fortunate than most of us who live in the kaliyug and have perforce had violent collisions with its turbulent zeitgeist. Anurag Kocchhar (name changed to protect identity) is the only surviving member of his family after his father shot his mother, sister and himself dead in a drunken rage.
Ankur Raheja (name changed) was a wealthy industrialist whose deluxe world came crashing upon him shortly after liberalisation changed the rules of the game. At 40 plus he had to start afresh from the bottom.
Asha Sinha (name changed) is a dotcom survivor. A journalist who struck pay dirt with a leading dotcom, her stellar salary allowed her to own a car, rent a lovely flat in an upscale locality in Mumbai and be member of a club. Her good time lasted one short year and she is back in her paying guest accommodation, wistfully playing back her memories.
These are times of sudden and momentous change. Relationships begin and end with cataclysmic speed. Fortunes are made and lost in the wink of an eye. Fame, as Andy Warhol famously put, is for a mere 15 minutes. Meanwhile, conflicts spiral as materialism skyrockets and everyone is gunning for their share of the pie. Crises stockpile – relationship crisis, individuality crisis, identity crisis, health crisis, environment crisis, education crisis, morality crisis and so on. The kaliyug circus is furiously at play. The worst of times? That depends on your perspective. For don’t forget that kaliyug eventually leads to satyug. From hell to heaven in one fell sweep. From sinners to saints.
Within the vortex of this bubbling, heaving negativity lurks the opportunity for spiritual awakening, for the highest of human achievement – enlightenment. The alchemy of change is at work here. The universe is steadily and rhythmically converting negativity into positivity, pain into joy, ignorance into awareness, hate into love. Even as murders, rapes and fraud skyrocket, so too do the number of meditation courses on offer and the number of people who shift consciously to a more spiritual way of life. The very nature of kaliyug is forcing the pace of inner change and we are witnessing spiritual awakening at a younger and younger age.
As Baba Batuknath puts it: “The water has been heated up to the boiling point by our ancestors and with a little heat the water will start boiling.”
He adds, “This is the kaliyug, the age when all the experiments and tests have been done. We have enough people who have walked and shown the path. We just have to follow whatever path we are comfortable with to get results. There is no way we can go wrong.”
Hindu mythology decrees that there are four ages or mahayugs namely the satyug or golden age, the tretayug in which dharma decreased by one-fourth, the dvaparayug, in which dharma decreased by one-half, and the present kaliyug, in which the extent of righteousness is only one-fourth. This is the age in which the prevalent chaos will lead mankind to look for solutions to overcome it.
Today, we are faced with one pertinent existential dilemma: what is it to live fully and completely? The kaliyug offers mankind an opportunity to elevate itself to new levels of consciousness. The process has already commenced in the questions we are beginning to ask of life. Answers will soon follow.
Is this life, we ask. Today’s too-much too-fast generation is veering towards an answer to this question. With
material success coming at a young age, more professionals are enquiring: what now?
Ram Kohli, 26, senior executive in Xansa, a multinational IT company in Delhi, awoke to spirituality through the pressures of the job. “I remember a day when I considered quitting my job because of an irritating colleague. As a result of praying, meditation, being silent, and listening to spiritual music, I have matured, I think before I panic. I know myself better, even professionally, I feel bold and courageous. And I am more at peace.”
Nineteen-year-old Saurav Aneja, a B. Tech student at IIT, Kanpur, is another early entrant into the path. The co-ordinator of a student body that organises spiritual activities in the campus for students and community, he was always spiritually inclined. “However, with time studies took priority and the bigger questions of life took a backseat. But soon after clearing the IIT entrance exam, I started feeling incomplete. This was the turning point in my life. Alongside my studies I turned to spiritual texts and learnt to apply these tenets in my life. Everything came so naturally and I could very easily relate to these texts. With regular meditation I noticed positive changes in myself. I am energetic, peaceful and satisfied.”
This generation is on the path to understanding itself and attention has shifted inwards. Indeed, all over the world, people are being drawn towards ancient spiritual practices in a bid to find deeper meaning in life. Suffering is viewed as a step towards enlightenment. In this process, every mistake has its significance.
Vicki Holmes, a teacher in Melbourne, Australia, recalls: “As a child I used to pray for material gain and to remain safe. Today’s materialistic culture encourages us to remain children, grasping for the latest object. My search for spiritual awareness is, in part, a reaction to this empty pursuit.”
The greater the suffering, the greater the opportunity.
Victor E. Frankl was a professor of neurology and psychiatry at the University of Vienna Medical School when he was imprisoned by the Nazis at Auschwitz, Dachau, and other concentration camps. He writes in his fine book, Man’s Search for Meaning, which grew out of his experience: “In spite of all the enforced physical and mental primitiveness of life in a concentration camp, it was possible for spiritual life to deepen. Sensitive people who were used to a rich intellectual life may have suffered much pain (they were often of a delicate constitution), but the damage to their inner selves was less. They were able to retreat from their terrible surroundings to a life of inner riches and spiritual freedom. Only in this way can one explain the apparent paradox that some prisoners of a less hardy makeup often seemed to survive camp life better than did those of robust nature.” We see here that intensification of inner life helped the prisoner find refuge even in such terrible conditions of psychic and physical stress. Subsequently, he went on to found the school of logotherapy, an approach that emphasises finding meaning in one’s suffering. His approach could be said to be the anthem of kaliyug.
For it is in kaliyug that we fully experience the great truth that suffering is expressly sent for our growth. Neeta Shankaran(name changed) was shattered when her four-year-old son died in an accident. The trauma has still not been fully resolved, but she is grateful that her faith in God and guru have strengthened and supported her in this most acute of situations.
Gradually, though dint of immersion in the fire of suffering, we arise purified, joyously receiving the suffering the universe sends us, and in the process freeing ourselves fully of pain. Suffering, we understand, is not to be shunned, it is the very stuff of growth and joy. Thus, we fuse the two ends of pain and pleasure and thereby transcend the riddle of kaliyug.
Kaliyug is a time when everything is dragged out, rehauled, experimented with, combined and recombined, discarded or changed afresh. Spirituality has been brought out from the backwaters of secret schools and ascetic retreats, its cobwebs dusted and placed in mainstream life. Assumptions are being re-examined, humanity is in the process of rediscovering and reorganising itself to attain its full potential. In the current scenario, material and economic gain may be predominant, but hidden within waits to be realised, a higher impulse.
After every night comes the dawn with soft rays promising a new day full of possibilities and hope. So also, each of the four ages has its appropriate shastra or scripture which is designed to meet the requirements of the men of each age – shruti, smriti, purana were the respective shastras for sat, treta and dvapara yugs. Shruti is that, which “has been heard”. Smiriti is “that which is remembered” and has been handed down to rishis. The puranas, by way of myth and story, convey the doctrines of the Vedas to the declining intelligence and spirituality of the men in the third age.
The shastra for the kaliyug is tantra. It is a way of life that denies or negates no aspect of life. It is a path that uses the present state of humanity as an opportunity for enlightenment. Tantra does not advocate abstinence, but suggests rather that we use sensory experiences to propel us further on the path. In tantra all creation is an extension of the self; the self is part of the larger picture. Tantra harmonises monism and dualism. Through the complete experience of the dualistic world, tantra leads the individual to the monistic truth that only God exists.
Man is born as a master of internal and external circumstances and not as a slave to them. He only has to realise his divinity to be able to take charge of his life and co-create his own destiny.
For Debashis Chatterjee, head of Leadership and Human values at IIM, Lucknow, the transition to spirituality was through the fast lane of NRI life in the US: “My spiritual breakthrough was a crisis of perception. I was in Boston in my late 20s, desperately trying to catch a flight to academic stardom in MIT and Harvard. My Italian cab driver driving me to Logan airport turned around and asked, ‘Are you an Indian?’ Yes, I replied. He then said: ‘Your country had spiritual leaders who have lived two thousand years ahead of the United States.’ My journey had begun. I have never looked back since then.”
Rupert Sheldrake, a former Research Fellow of Royal Society and a scholar of Clare College, Cambridge, explains the principle he terms morphic resonance. That is, things of the same form (morph) resonate with each other and exchange information. The emphasis of morphic resonance is on living organisms and was explained by the hundredth monkey phenomenon. It indicates that living organisms of the same form learn as a body. For instance, a number of monkeys began to wash sweet potatoes in the sea, rather than consume them unwashed. When the number reached a critical mass, every monkey started doing it. The hundredth monkey phenomenon clearly shows that an act, if done collectively by a form pushing it through a kind of critical mass, it comes naturally and easily to be balanced and automatically is passed on to the next generation. Perhaps it is this that is at play in kaliyug . As more and more are pushed by the turmoil and trouble of kaliyug into enlightenment, perhaps the critical mass will be attained and society as a whole will peacefully pass into satyug.
Certainly, there can be no doubt that as compared to the penances and rigorous tapasya earlier aspirants practised, today, it is comparatively easier to attain enlightenment. The naked sadhu of the Himalayas austerely enduring the rigours of the cold in his dark cave has given way to the urban seeker meditating in his air-conditioned study. Thousands of years of single-minded focus on understanding the self by legions of yogis and seekers have created an ambience in India particularly favourable for the great leap forward. Are you ready for satyug?
Subject: Beyond Tantra Mantra - 1 August 2008
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