Tuesday, January 12, 2016

THE BEING AND THE BECOMING-XXXII

 Ramu was 24 years. His parents had hoped much from him. - He used to do well at high school - But gradually lost interest and failed at college, year after year, only attending college as there was nothing else to do, and parents had donated large sums to get him admitted there, the engineering college it was.

Everything puzzled him. First, his parents and teachers wanted him to be serious about life, to look at it squarely. And when he took it seriously and began asking questions they grumbled.

‘Why be an engineer,’ - to earn money and make roads; ‘Hundreds of engineers without a job, why not be a labourer?’ -  Not respectable enough, ‘What would people say! - ‘What would people say I fail year after year and stay at home like a parasite?’ - ‘Trust in God who is everywhere and do your job; ‘Why not trust in God straight away and let me go my way?’ - Who will look after us when we are old; “What happened to my grandparents you looked after - they are dead!’ - oh, death is inevitable; ‘Then why live with all this bother?’ - You talk like a philosopher - and so on.

Suddenly became important for him to find out about all this. Someone at college introduced him to hashish. They told him it would open his third eye. The third eye opened and he saw frightening things, all sorts of things. Then something else was given to overcome the fright, whisky, perhaps. But the fear remained. Then questions - fear of what, of death, then why not live?

Ramu wanted to end it all - take large doses of sleeping pills or jump under a train - and the vision of all that - his dead body, his parents crying, he himself joining in the weeping, at What and why - it was torture. People killed themselves for lack of food, loss of self respect. No reasons like that for him - how would a suicide note read - ‘I’m dying to know the meaning of Life!’

One early morning he found himself walking aimlessly up and down, in front of a Buddhist monastery, with all the thoughts boiling in his head. Then the gates opened, and a kindly monk stood beside him. “Dying or living do not give you answers, son,” he said, and looked at Ram. Ram was quite beside himself with surprise at the monk's words; it was as if the monk read his mind like a book. “Not reading, son,” said the monk, “listening - to your mind, as clear as a bell! Come in and eat something - perhaps, coffee and rice cakes; Come in, you seem to have hardly slept or eaten, come in, have a wash and eat.”

From then on Ram continued to visit the monk regularly. The monk made him bring his books there and work regularly at his lessons, encouraged him, gave him small jobs to do, took him round on his charity rounds to hospitals and so on. Ram passed his diploma examinations.

The monk opened a whole new dimension to Ram’s life. Knowing is a function of the mind. Dying or living or anything else could not be understood without a clear mind. What can you see through a frosted glass or an eye befuddled with desire, anger, tears or hashish? The first thing for intelligent person to do is to exercise the mind, as one does the muscles.

There were methods for meditation and concentration, all designed to make the mind steady and clear, to protect it from storms without and turmoils within. If the mind is clear and still, then alone the truth of what is within and without would be reflected without distortion. No questions are worth asking before one has learnt to still the mind.

Then he was made to know about the actions that disturbed the mind and actions but quietened; the actions that led to suffering and actions that led to peace. Meditation helped such discrimination, and discrimination facilitated meditation.

He learnt that somewhere in all this he had a free will of some kind; a choice was open to him, to be happy or not. No need to invoke or blame a God, or a Soul, for somethings you yourself could do. After all you could make choice about food and friends - you avoided pork or beef; why not the same discrimination about other things, too. Control of desires was not such a terrible thing that could only be done by an ascetic - the mechanism was available to everybody. But like everything else it could be learnt.

This gave Ram considerable self confidence.

The monk taught him about the law of Karma. Karma was not fatalism. It taught that action had consequences. Bad actions led to troublesome results; good actions led to wholesome results. The effects of past bad actions could be annulled or modified by present action in the right direction. Moreover, Karma referred to willed voluntary action that alone had a modifying and transforming quality; the law of Karma tried to lift reflexive reaction to the level of conscious and controlled reflective action.

The monk saved him from suicide, gave him new life, so to say.

We listened with great interest. Ram showed us a picture of the monk and a statuette of Buddha which he carried with him.

“I could not achieve much - but there you see, I at least gained my life, and a sense of independence, thanks to the monk, and Buddha.” said Ram.

“How come you are here?” asked Sankar.

“Oh, the usual thing,” replied Ram, “I could not keep to the one track. Also, the idea that I was responsible for my own actions pleased me no end at first, but then it frightened me, too. There was my Hindu upbringing and faith in God and the existence of a soul, - even against this I rebelled, though the idea of a personal God made me feel less lonely, a sort of personal friend always around you. But the Hindu priests did not greatly help me by telling me how Krishna saved an elephant or how he lifted a mountain; I had no elephants and wanted no mountains lifted for me.

“The clearer my mind became, the more senseless and idiotic appeared the world around and the daily work. The monk said that my mind was far from clear and that was why questions arose; questions I was neither competent to ask or answer. I need not bore you with the usual day-to-day things that drive one to question and seek; must be familiar to all of us here.”

“Just came straight, here?” asked John.

“Oh, no. One or two Ashrams and Swamis on the way. One said pray, another said fast, and a third said enjoy, but not what for or why. No help at all, to me at least. Though something makes me want to live, and not die, yet I do not see why I should live it all. Of course, I still meditate a little - cutting off the chains of thought and so on, and it helps. I still do not know what that absolute silence of the mind is in which alone one is said to be able to see the truth. At this rate it may take years for me, and yet I may not succeed. One thing though, I have learnt by this simple exercise, that we do not think but thoughts come to us. Only by trying to stop the mind can one realise the fantastic truth that thoughts come to you; that you are receiving thoughts. Maybe we send out thoughts too. Only then one can really say that he thinks. Oh, yes, this simple exercises is opening up new angles to me about the nature of my own mind.”

“Is it not like psychoanalysis,” asked Joan.

“I do not know about that,” said Ram. “If you mean looking at or knowing the contents of thought, it is not that. This deals with the very nature of mind, how it works and how thoughts come about.”

“What did you mean by saying thoughts come to you?” asked Joan, “you mean that they float about and you catch them?”

“I don't know, I am guessing, mind you: The mind is a sort of medium, like ether; thoughts are like wave formations that move about and our brain can make, receive or store such formations. After all when a person sings at Delhi and this is put on air by radio, the song is floating about in the air till received by a suitable receiver, is it not? But how long such a formation stays, and what distances it can reach depend on the energy behind the formation, I suppose; and it might dissolve itself unless reinforced or relayed.

“The Hindu and especially the Buddhist teaching stresses the power of thought. The monk taught me that concentration helps to improve the power behind a thought.  About receiving thoughts, was not the monk’s ability to hear my thoughts, a good example?

“Oh, no, this has nothing to do with psychoanalysis. It is the fundamental question of the mind itself and its nature and methods of controlling and utilising it,” said Ram, “contents are important though.”

“Did you learn about the nature of life after death, nature of rebirth and so on?” asked Joan.

“Yes, but mostly about death being inevitable. Somehow, having just decided to live, this monotonous incantation about death did not appeal to me,” said Ram.

“Hindus, too, say something about it. I think we have all met before in our past lives. In those days you could have been me and I could have been you! Soham,” said Domby and closed his eyes.

“What made you change,” I asked, “from a state of hopelessness to a state of hopefulness? Was it the monk himself or the teachings?”

“I really could not say,” Ram said, “it must have been the monk himself, his suddenly knowing my mind without my saying anything about it, and his love and the kindness he showed me. The other things helped too, I must say, opened up some new angles.”

“Did not your parents object to this coming away?” asked Sankar.

“Oh, they have written me off. I could not stick the rat race of the job and all it entails. My brothers are there, more solid support to my parents, than I could ever be. I had saved up a little on my job and I could set out. And that brings us to the question of these attachments, parents, children and so on. Senseless and comical, yet so painful! Why are people so dead serious about things? Like that bohunk of a director at that compass. But it is fun and I like to see something of it.”

“What are your subjects?” asked Sankar.

“Zanism and spiritism,” replied Ram.

“Maybe we could pool our notes. Sure that bohunk knows how to get money. I don’t have enough for all those isms, but I do want to learn. Maybe we get to know one another a bit more in these few days. Ram was most interesting,” said Joan.

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