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The Urgency for a New Perspective

The Urgency for a New Perspective

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Published by bde_gnas

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Published by: bde_gnas on May 08, 2013
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The Urgency for a New Perspective
By Radha Burnier
“The world is too much with us,” exclaimed the poet, and what people feel is theworld is, indeed, very much with them. It hedges them in with the problems andthe demands of everyday life, with changes that are unexpected and perhapsunpleasant. The difficulties begin in early childhood, possibly because parentsare unsympathetic or because they do not know how to help their child. Later, theproblems multiply—in school and college, in the course of a married life, with theadditional pressures of practicing a profession or administering property. Lifeconsists of meeting numerous responsibilities—the demands of a particularsituation, the people with whom one becomes involved, the family andprofessional colleagues. Thus the world pushes each of us into involuntaryactions.We may be under the impression that we have a certain choice—in marriage, forexample, in the friends we make, or in the interests we cultivate. But the “choice”is often quite illusory. Marriage may appear to be the result of free choice but, infact, circumstances bring us into contact with a very limited number of peopleand our inner urges, coming into play in that particular context and circle, createa “choice” that is no real choice. We more or less “fall into the arms” of thesituation; if we are intelligent enough we make the best of the situation.In any case, from early childhood, outside conditions mold us into a pattern andprovide us with values that we assimilate unconsciously. They are the source ofthe hidden impulses that result in action. In the East, one talks about the“bondage of karma.” Karma is not an abstruse law at work in the universe or anabstract process. It manifests in our lives because we are overpowered by ourenvironment and by the conditions around us. We are driven to involuntaryactions and pursuits because, from our earliest years, we absorb, like a sponge,the ideas and values that are prevalent around us. These values are of manykinds and we are often unconscious of their implications. We may alter them alittle but, nevertheless, we accept the conditioning. Our pursuits, which appear tobe freely chosen, arise from the soil of these notions we have absorbed.What people call “the world” comprises many attractions. There is the attractionof success, of money, of power, and of pleasure. They are like glittering lights in
the distance, and our lives generally consist in making our way towards them.But they are like the will-o'-the-wisp, with only a seeming existence. Theycorrespond to the pursuits in our minds, which are based on unconscious orpartially conscious notions, ideas, and values. Desire projects the objects ofdesire and we imagine these to have a real existence. Because many people seethem, they acquire an illusory reality; but it is only the desire that makes theminto objects. For example, a woman, in herself, is not an object of desire; she iswhat she is. But someone else’s desire for her makes her into such an object.What is attractive to one man may not be attractive to another. There is noobject, no attraction per se because the nature of a thing as it is makes it standindependently.This is pointed out in a well-known passage of the Upanishad, which states that awife is not dear because she is the wife nor a husband because he is thehusband; they are each non-relationally what they are. Each thing is what it is,but desire projects it into an object for itself. From this arises pursuit, and behindeach pursuit there is a value-notion, which maybe religious, political, or personal.The personal value-notion is a thought we each have of ourselves, and from thatthere arises the many attractions that we see “outside” and that make the worldinto what it is for us. We take up postures in relation to people, to things, to ideas:thoughts arise in us, we form affiliations, we suffer antagonisms. All thiscomplexity of likes and dislikes, of hopes and fears, takes birth in ourconsciousness from the soil of the values we have assimilated. So we eachmake our way through life, for the most part unconscious of what is going onwithin ourselves, not realizing what we are pursuing or why we are pursuing it,imagining that the world contains objects for us to chase, and thus projecting animage of the world that does not correspond to reality. So, for each of us there isa mirage-like world that arises from hidden sources within ourselves and that wetake to be the world as it is.The essence of worldliness lies in unawareness (
) of what is happening tooneself, in unawareness that the “world” is constructed by one's mind, that it hasits source within oneself. Worldliness arises from not knowing that what isprojected by the mind does not correspond to what is. If one were not blind, onewould not be worldly. People who see—people of intelligence—realize that whatis hidden within themselves prompts them to a variety of actions, attitudes,postures, affiliations, and rejections, all of which seem to be free but are not so infact. Unawareness of what is happening within is not only absence of intelligencebut of freedom, because it permits the “world” to push the individual into patternsof thought, into ways of action, into grooves, and routines.
Though the world is “too much with us” in one sense, in a different sense most ofus totally ignore it. We are not “in the world” because we are unconscious anduncaring about what happens to it. There is widespread and appalling poverty.Millions are starving. There is tyranny in the major part of the world, suppressinghuman beings, making them conform out of fear, eroding their dignity, deprivingthem of the possibility of awakening that, which is deep and subtle, in the humanconsciousness. The free world is a very restricted area indeed. There is theunimaginable cruelty that humanity perpetrates on animals and on its fellow menand women. Torture is accepted as a part of state policy by nearly every countryin the world. As anarchy increases, the tendency is towards suppression, towardsthe monolithic state. But all this, which is part of the world, is not in theconsciousness of the majority except as an occasional piece of news. And newsof happenings that are terrible and pitiable fades away after a week or twobecause, for the newspapers, they are no longer news, which means that thereaders do not care what is happening.Thus, the world goes on with each of us on an island of our own, enclosed in ourown particular preoccupation—our family, our anxieties, and our ambitions. Weignore the rest of the world with its beauty and its tragedies.The present-day world is one of tremendous political, economic, and socialinsecurity. There are many causes for this. The growing population leads todecreasing resources and increasing pressures. People demand more and morethings and feel insecure as they see resources shrinking away. Insecurity onlybreeds fear, and this is visible everywhere in agitations, strikes, and bandingtogether of people to protect their own interests. So the world becomes more andmore divided as people club together in order to overcome their insecurity andtheir fear.When we are afraid, we feel threatened by what is happening around us, weeach close up more within ourselves. In India, where, in the past, people sufferedlittle from envy, where they looked upon those who had more than themselveswith peaceful eyes and gentle contentment, one now finds an increase ofaggression and jealousy arising from fear. When we feel threatened, we makeour shell stronger and strengthen the affiliations we think will protect us. Ourprejudices are also strengthened. When life is full of fear and pressure, thehuman mind loses its sense of perspective. In the absence of perspective therecan be neither an understanding of what is happening nor the possibility ofresolving difficulties. We cannot see danger ahead if our eyes are focusedshortsightedly on the immediate area in front of us. If we are anxious about a little

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