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Writings from a Village

Writings from a Village

Rajiv Gera

Copyright 2009 by Rajiv Gera. ISBN: Softcover 978-1-4415-2122-4

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THE VILLAGE

Chapter I
far away.

HIS IS A story about someone I knew, in a village, in a country not

The village was not very different from anything that one may imagine; not too big, the usual establishments a town-hall, a community-center, some restaurants, a library, and other places one soon begins to expect wherever people live together as a community. A road ran through it, coming from a city close by, and went on to the next village and beyond. I would often be at a bus stop right off this road whenever I had to go to the next village to do some chore, or to the city for one reason or another. Across from this bus stop was a restaurant. I hadnt ever gone in but they had a few tables outside, and when the weather was not too cold, people would be sitting outside. The bus came a little erratically, or perhaps my own synchronization to its times was erratic, or maybe I just did not mind waiting. I often found myself there with sometimes 10 or 15 minutes to go before the next bus. I wonder if youve been in that situation, you know, just being able to sit somewhere comfortably and watch things without really wanting to, but just because they are happening. That is the way it was with me, and waiting for this bus I became quite familiar with the restaurant across, and its atmosphere. Now, my own situation was denitely singular, or it certainly appeared that way to me. I was a foreigner, and had been living in this village for two years. But
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I had been a foreigner for a long time before that, having left my native land more than a decade ago. In the country I had lived before moving to the present one, I had not had happy experiences. My memories of them were tinged with some pain and suffering; consequently I was reserved and did not nd it easy to develop relationships or go where I would be among too many people. All of this held me back as I would wait for my bus, my mind regarding this familiar and warm place across the street. Two years is a long time without having a person to communicate with, a friendly person who lets you speak your mind, to get past the initial pointless things and begin to speak from your heart, whatever. This press of feeling was mounting within and I would watch the people sitting and chatting and of course, they would sometimes notice me looking that way and would look away politely, or just towards me, friendly like, a question as though on their face, did I want to say something? Then one day, I nally went in. You can imagine, I was apprehensive. For many reasons, mostly imagined ones, of course. I had prepared myself for this visit, taken a little care to be dressed neatly, but not too much, comfortably too. I was looking for a feeling of being at home with the surroundings and with the others in the restaurant. I had a little foreknowledge about the customs of the place. In this country it was customary that you were never hurried along. You did not go to a restaurant to have a meal, you went to become a part of the ambience. It was a respectful attitude towards human character, I thought, this idea. Walking into an unfamiliar place for the rst time is a little like entering a pool, almost. You feel its environment with your senses, your mind, in a rush. You look around for a place, making sure not to push yourself onto someone elses space, just where you nd yourself welcome. Then you sit down, putting your coat on the back of your chair. You may have brought along a paper to go through while youll be sitting. It helps to keep from causing some discomfort to others, when they might otherwise see you alone and wonder if you needed some help of any sort, or company? I remember my rst few visits to this restaurant were quite as this, until a pattern sort of developed and people would smile with a little familiarity when Id walk in. Some of you reading this might have started to wonder how was it that I was even doing all this. You may be thinking, this is not about you. I accept, my story is different.

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It was here that I found one of my best friends. She worked at this place, or maybe owned it. I did not know and never felt the necessity to know this particular fact about her. The other thing I never knew about her, was her age. I cannot say, if she was thirty, as I once started to think, or much older. I was a foreigner, and it is difcult to tell sometimes, even for someone who lives in the place. We have this place here, she said, and as you can see, people come by and can sit as long as they please. Feel yourself home, she continued, so, do you live in our village?. Oh yes, I answered. Ive been living here since two years now. Its a lovely place. Yes. Ive seen you, youre familiar somehow. But, you havent come here to this restaurant before, have you?, she asked. No. I often wanted to. Youve probably noticed me, waiting for the bus across the street. I said. And this was the early conversation we had. Gradually I started to feel myself becoming a part of this place. A gentle smile in greeting always met me when Id walk in. Id nd a place to sit, pull out my paper, and drink my coffee, and I really started to like the way it was made here. You look very young to be leading a retired life. she remarked one day to me. Yes. Lifes like that. This is something I do not have an easy explanation for, how my circumstances, combined with a way I wished to live, brought it about to be in this way. So, what keeps you going? her query was gentle. Im too philosophical, I guess,, I said. Too philosophical to work? She was asking with a genuine interest now. Why? Dont you believe that possible? I asked her in mock reproach. Theres a chasm here, a small one, which opens up. Were talking across different cultures but wondering at the same time, about the individual, his capability. Whether everything is alright with him.

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On the other hand, from a Western viewpoint and depending upon your mindset, you may regard this with some curiosity, whether this way of living is tenable at all. This idea of living with a purpose when ostensibly there isnt any. How does it work? The dependence on others, the empty hours? I do not believe in keeping hours, the necessity of having to do it in a rigid fashion, anything. I was speaking a little tentatively. I did not wish to make her feel awkward for having caught me with a awkward question. To me it isnt an awkward question at all. I found if I did not worry, in a material way of how I might nd the means to manage my life, my living takes care of itself. Its not that Im irresponsible, I have done and will continue to do, whatever necessary to help others in my family do their things. Their studies, their work, and in return I lead my life free from the bindings of time. As they seem to me. I continued. You must spend a lot of time thinking, she remarked. Yes, I do. I wasnt going to say too much more, at this time. Its not like an effort. Not like work. I said making a joke. Its more about setting something in motion, you know, how I set my life going in this way. Then I am just looking at how the things are playing out, for me, and in general. As though life is a gigantic mechanism, and the only way to understand it is to pull yourself out of it, so you can watch. I walked away a little in thought. Something had begun here too, this friendship.

Chapter II
OU KNOW ME a bit now and I want to tell you that youre probably not so different. These thoughts I live with, questions some may call them, are in each of our minds. Only our external lives may differ. I mentioned how I was carrying some memories of pain. Pain that I had felt as prejudice against foreigners. I admit the scars were deep and I hurt as an instinctive reaction. I love human company, it nurtures my spirit. I wish others to take from my presence all that I can take from theirs. What happened with me was a betrayal of one human to another. I sought a revival of this faith in people. That it is natural, when we come across each other, we smile in genuine feeling. Good deeds in my past perhaps, lifted me from my misery into a healing environment of our village and its surroundings. The house that we found to live in, was one of a small cluster of four houses that had all belonged to a single family at one time. There were elds on two sides and beyond one could see the famous mountain ranges of Europe. I would go out for a walk and soon be past the village. A wide trail started there and took me through a bower of tall trees with a stream running alongside. The trail went over a small bridge over the stream a little further down, and the water coming through, owed into a shallow in its path before continuing on. Id come into the open then, with elds stretching before me rising gently. A few miles further the mountains began. I would follow this path, cut across the eld and reach a narrow road. Id walk along this road a bit, and then looking towards the
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mountains, see one of the most beautiful sights that man and nature came together in harmony to create. A small highway ran across before the hills started. It was never too busy, with the occasional trailer truck, a few bright colored cars, and maybe a motorcycle or two. A village road climbed up to where I was standing, winding a little before meeting this highway, and then continuing on to some greenery beyond. Plowed elds on both sides and rolls of grass lay scattered sometimes among them. I think they changed the crops three or four times a year. At rst I thought I might be doing something wrong, walking through the elds, but never did I feel the slightest reproach from anyone. Maybe I was worrying too much and they just couldnt care less. Thoughts lay somewhere and I could feel they were around. When youre alone like this you do not realize which of them occupies your mind. I must have been trying to make some sense of what was happening. The large picture. The three countries I was associated with, so different from each other. I was trying to see how this passing through each of them was teaching me something about life, and maybe of human existence. Where does this dichotomy begin? The different worlds of Eastern and Western thought? I had lived my whole life in India and the last ten years in the United States near its capital. The inner worlds, as much as the external, could not have been more different. For whatever reason, when some people saw that I was not prepared to look at life in their particular way, they decided to make it happen as though by force. In my belief, something absolute holds the world and our existence together. You do not make that choice arbitrarily; youve seen this is how it is, and accept it as natural. People who differ from you in this idea can be driven to an extreme. It is an almost inhuman reaction, pressing upon you that everything can only be as you yourself make it. Let alone civility, rationality is sacriced as well, forcing you to accept that yours has been until then, a backward existence. I was alone now and these altercations were rekindling in me. I began to hear arguments in my mind, countering those that I had had to submit to earlier. Never had I expected such a struggle. I was discovering a new voice within; for it is when an idea is put in language that it really comes into existence.

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I wanted someone civilized to discuss this with, to speak with about things from my perspective. It would be essential to this discussion that the language be used in a fair fashion. When I bring up ideas they are in their nascent form, as I imbibed them, expressed in the language of my native culture. I wish to extend these to some concepts of current Western thinking, and to those which contradicted them. My friend Sarah at the restaurant was an American. She had been living in Europe for a few years now. She had a great sensibility of the area, and good deal of respect for the local culture. On the other hand, having been educated in Southern United States, she still thought like an American or at least understood their views very well. She was, as I believed, of a perfectly Western culture. I left her some essays once I had written earlier. In these writings, I tried to express commonplace life from an Eastern perspective, but in a western idiom. Youve raised some interesting philosophical issues and have a unique writing style! You dont say what class this is for; ordinarily that might not matter, but in this case the answer to that does have some bearing on my comments. If, for example, you are writing this for a philosophy class, it is probably very much on point. The same is true if it is meant to be a sort of experimental style of writing. If, however, you will be graded on the usual things such as a strong thesis, arguments which support that thesis, and a conclusion based on the evidence youve presented and proper punctuation you may nd your instructor will not be kind in grading your work. I really like the tone of your writing; it reminds me of the tranquility of a Japanese watercolor landscape. I just hope that your unique style is acceptable to your instructor! These were her comments on my rst essay. I called it What is Work. She viewed them as a class assignment. It was a comfortable arrangement. She would try to get to my basic meaning, as I learnt from her how to express myself more correctly, I could speak with her of things which interested me. The next essay was titled The Persistence of External Reality. She pointed to some technical shortcomings and then added, Another interesting essay! You create some interesting images such as the turn in our beds and the chain around our ankle. I may not understand every point you make in your essay, but I nonetheless enjoy the artistic way you express yourself.

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Thank you Sarah, I said to her with genuine gratitude, for the welcome and the encouragement in your remarks on the essays. As long as you are willing to suffer my writing, Ill keep on showing them to you. I am really happy to be here. . . . with you, I added to myself. Im glad to hear it! I dont anticipate any suffering will be involved, she said, with a mischievous wink. The world needs more deep thinkers, so keep up the good work! The last piece was called, How We Evolve. I think she was genuinely taken by what she attributed in it to as my style. I really like this one! I was actually able to follow your chain of thought throughout the whole piece, which I couldnt always do in the previous ones. Thats not necessarily a criticism; sometimes I cant follow Aristotles line of reasoning, either. There was the wink again. I absolutely love this: think of ourselves as intrinsically all-knowing and covered in a layer of ignorance, which is removed through experience and learning. Thats an excellent description of the way we learn over our lifetimes! It reminds me of Maya Angelous when I knew better, I did better, but hers is a practical description while yours is an artistic metaphor, she said smilingly. I felt the start of a deep and meaningful connection with her. She did understand things in the way in which I saw and was able to express them. I wanted to give her another essay, containing a deeper conviction of an idea and quite out of the ordinary way of thinking. I had felt a sublime sense as I wrote it, putting down the thought as though it wasnt mine. I myself wished to know more of it and felt its importance to this entire struggle I was in. This next essay, I dedicate to you, I told Sarah. She wasnt expecting that at all, I think. Good thing no one can see me blush, she remarked. Her words touching me with their gentleness and feeling.

What is Work
When do our efforts succeed and when do they not?

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A required exertion is necessary for us to consider anything as work, we may enjoy it too, and also, feel some necessity to bring about the outcome. But when we are surrounded by the implements we will use, through which we will apply our effort, our mind at rst stands aside and regards the proposed action. Just as the instruments and implements we will use, we have a measure of the skill we will bring, and it is to this that we become most committed in the action. So, our mind has registered a plan, a path our action will follow, also, what we will look to avoid, and in recognizing the earliest indications of this negative effect lies a measure of our skill. Actually a large component of our skill lies in avoiding the unwanted from happening, which can perhaps happen in many ways. An alertness to this occupies a large part of our mind, and, it focuses on the emerging positive features as we apply our effort. Like making our way on a less visible path through a forest when we have a sense of the direction, we will look out for danger, sometimes we will take a risk, but we are also looking for signs of other trails joining with ours, and always a glimpse through the space between branches for some familiar sighting. When plunging through a forest the goal is to get out to the other side, out of the connement of the trees, into the open. This paradigm is so similar to when, say, we are developing a software program in the workplace. Our manager who assigned us the task brings to us the sense of the trees, we have little choice to stay out, for that would enclose us within other trees, his disapproval becoming denitely in the nature of the trees so we press on. We are often asked to do things we feel ourselves uncertain of accomplishing, but through various coercions accept. We plunge in and almost from the start we have a sense of dependence on our manager, or a support group, both taking away from our self condence. Its not often easy to ignore these avenues and do the job on our own, because of time constraints. This is the situation we may most often nd ourselves in and we now address the question how can we succeed best. Is there a prescription to success, the right attitude, the right mix of self effort and selective guidance. Can this picture be examined as though, from the outside. Everything considered, of course our choice would be to succeed on our own, and it is not for the recognition from others but from ourselves, of the innate power within us. This sense of satisfaction is of utmost importance, to see our own evolving capability, our inner growth.

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Therefore to begin with we will address the problem by ourself, and in that approach lies largely the outcome. If we have in some corner of our mind the possibilities of easier solutions, of seeking out assistance or passing on some of the difcult parts of the problem, its just so much less we will commit to achieving it on our own. What we fear is to fail. The outcome of failing. Why can we not spend some time considering the fallout of that. The worst of that is being pulled down in so many ways. But apart from it becoming a risk if others depend on your holding out, the pain of coming down in others eyes contributes to awakening this fear of failing. But when do we fail. You were assigned one part of the work, but the whole project collapsed, what could you achieve with your own part. So its important to consider the scope of your effort and know that there are other parts tied to it, and their movement is going to affect yours. Thats a consideration to keep in the back of your mind but you can single out the essential component of your work, the part of the total effort which is just yours. Lets consider how it came to be yours. Your manager recognized your special skill and in his judgment, the ones required for accomplishing that task. A little fairness was also involved, a correct measure of your function within the group, and importantly the opportunity to develop and grow out for you. These may have been the considerations in an assignment coming to you. The part that meets most of your focus is the difculty aspect where you nd yourself asking, can you do it. And if you can, you will. But, there is now an inescapable moment, an inevitable moment when you are going to look eye to eye with what you have to do, that is beyond your current experience. What has worked and what hasnt for this situation. There is denitely one moment of darkness when you dont know what is to be done. This you anticipated as the rst sense of difculty of this task. Again you may feel pulled to taking assistance or passing on the job, but weve already considered those, and you have reached the core of the problem which is yours by assignment, and you feel the oppressive pull of defeat, which is just the direction you mentally follow, imagining the consequences of not accomplishing the required task. But if the time for doing isnt up, and youve just started, can there be anything else but to bring yourself and consider the actions from those already in your repertoire. This is the moment of focus.

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Youve unraveled out from the task the most critical and as yet unattempted part of it and attempting to match yourself to it. You know you fall short in the rst measure. There is more you do not know and less you are familiar with, and as you consider it in further detail even more complications begin to appear, and their attending risks add more to the improbability of their being overcome with whatever you have in your arsenal. Something about it all is pressing you to ee. At this time we can see its not our skills which will lead us. And this is a situation created in most general terms and will not only happen with everyone but with everybody almost every time, and we are left considering something totally out of the specic needs of the job as being essential to accomplishing it. So what is it, and if it isnt about any specic task in particular, it is some characteristic trait which comes into play every time, and unconscious though we may be to it in ourself, it is responsible for our succeeding, whenever we do. It appears as some staying power, at a level where difculties are considered not in their specic form but become diffuse, and appear as a personal threat and try to subdue us. We have here a battle, a struggle that no one else can see. But that this does take place we may judge from the times weve found ourselves involved in some tussle, unconscious moments, mostly those between being visibly occupied with some things. When do we win these struggles, what is the probable outcome of these, and can we in any manner affect their outcome. We are denitely considering strengths of a personal character and asking how relevant is that in bringing about the outcome of the tasks we take up. We accept a challenge, we allow it to confront us, instead of denying it, or not processing the task at all, and accepting we are not ready for this.

Persistence of External Reality


One of the most troubling things is the persistence of external reality. We can go within and from that point of view we see that it might be that we, as we are, are totally tied to the reality outside. If we pass away this moment the next we will be around here, tied to the same. There is something created in the mix of things and other things, in which our presence is a part of its being as it is. We cannot go away from our reality. As we turn in our beds to make ourselves comfortable, we can turn things around to make them comfortable for now. This nature of our external reality has a deep connection with us, its in the way it is, the sum total of it. Like a chain around our ankle we dont wish to acknowledge.

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The important question becomes not so much then of understanding in how many ways can we relate with this individual reality, but where does it really tie us. Where is it binding us? Maybe even why? Like hitting a blank wall. The expression has force because thats as solid as a contact can be, and its blankness hits you in the mind, stupefyingly. Yet if this moment has truth for me, which we see every moment has for everyone, their unique truth, then its blankness is full of meaning and answers to my question. The wall doesnt go away, ask however stupid a question I may. It is a part of other things come together to dene my external situation, but as I live around it, I am as much a reason for it, as others see it. I am the more mobile element of the picture, like the greenery that comes and goes with the season, or water. To another persons eye, I am all that, but this may not be the very ideal I wish for, so I see it is not my wish standing before me, but I hang around because its how I am inclined in the sum balance.

How We Evolve
How would we be when we evolve, when we just move on in life? How may we describe ourselves in a state, where we might be happier than we are now? Would it be something physical. That would be insufcient, since I know for certain I do not experience as much physically as I do with my mind. I am likely to feel happier when some difculties work themselves out, maybe just in the way I understand them, instead of something physically changing. I recognize this as true for everyone, and yet we exert to improve our circumstances. We fear we might otherwise be deluding ourselves into accepting what we do not have, so the physical change is a necessary validation of a real change to our lives whenever it happens. Like becoming rich! But then it seems true that the physical change follows after a particular change in our way of our thinking. We may say we became rich after we learned how to. But if we consider the evolution within our mind, the one which precedes any real change in our lives, we see we are often willing to disregard the actual physical change, as a new house and car, and taking up our newly discovered power of acquisition we wish to do more with it and explore it to its fullest extent.

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This acquisition of knowledge seems the real essence of our experiences. Though we express it as some substance, a different way of understanding it could be to think of ourselves as intrinsically all-knowing and covered in a layer of ignorance, which is removed through experience and learning. The difculty we may have in accepting this paradigm is the statement about our all-knowing self. Because, we think, if something should exist in a space within, we can uncover it by some direct means, and we cannot imagine a more direct method to do this than the present one, of learning. How would we evolve spiritually? What would be the nature of our experience in an evolved state? It would not be, as darkness all around, a permanent state of loneliness, a suspended state. Instead, we would see more, be able to see with an unobstructed view, because the seer is within us. The world would be there for us, our perceptions would exceed those we have now. Lack of true knowledge is the cause of our awareness of things. Awareness is the rst step leading to an effort to understand, and experience, and nally the knowledge.

Chapter III
HE CONCEPT I wanted to put across was neither difficult nor abstract. The difculty was in our having looked at the world so much in a particular way, that this way of looking at events just appears hard to do. Yet this is really all there is to it. You have to start putting things in this particular order and the rest comes out on its own. And thats the whole issue. We are pulled to the old way of looking at things even though it reduces us to the nature of objects. Here are the main points of difference. Life is happening with us all. At all times. Beyond this particular action of reading, regard a while some other things occupying your mind. The paradigm is that, it is so, and just so because beyond you, there exists an intelligence which is working upon some residual, which you consider as your identity. You are powerless to act. You refute that immediately, but the point is that the motive to act as you planned to do right now is mere consequence. In that sense everything is predictable. Our difculty in accepting this as a truer way of thinking is merely because we cannot get hold of this residual which we consider to be our identity. And that is because it is our mind itself. We, as we are, see it as our mind there is nothing visual to see here. So it is about accepting an intelligence at work, and the world you experience, merely its actions. You feel yourself independent to make decisions, and then you see those decisions become actions, but there is another way to look at that. Every
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action you perceive, yours or otherwise has a simultaneous reection in a subtler realm. We do see that mentally, because we apprehend that world with our mind. What you think as your decision to act was this thought forming in the mental space, which exists as you grabbed it, the action followed and you thought it is of your making. Can we then do nothing? That would be ideal be prepared to think of yourself as not doing anything at all then. When you decide not to do anything, some things that will happen as consequence you already foresee. What you cannot see is that you exist, past that residual which works its way into the world. It will take your breath away, literally, as that you, beyond the one you identify with, begins to emerge. But then, thats what its all about. So here it is, the entire explanation, and the other viewpoint of the world.

Chapter IV
An Essay

observations.

HERE IS AN altogether different way of understanding how we make

Somebody is present with us and then departs. We could say they are still present, but some other things have changed. They are no longer visible. Their going away, even now in our minds, is slowly fading away. If two people were present at the departing, a week later they may recollect different details. One could still consider the even existing, but viewable by each to differing degrees. I can try to regard this formless presence and realize that I am more aware of things which are present, and I also believe I have no real connection with the person not present. We are both trapped by other things around us. But these things and their behavior are independent of who we are, and I am able to stand away and reect on them in my thoughts. So visibility is some activity in the eye, brought up by some process. First, there is a mental relationship, and the other manifestations come about subsequently, and I form a belief about how it will happen. My mind accepts the manifestations of sounds, forms, substance, which by themselves have no meaning, but enforce in the mind a certain ow of events. The effect has been for me to think of the world outside as without its own purpose, and deny its direct relationship to my mind. It is only in my thinking that I feel myself independent. My thoughts come to me from somewhere I am unaware of, but they make me aware of my existence. They
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make me feel the different ways I do about myself. It is not the words themselves but something preceding them, a power to make observations of very factual nature. This is what I see, or this is so, or I feel this. It is like reading some inner panel, very observational and all about myself like an inner latent realm. The essay I gave Sarah was called An Altogether Different Way of Understanding How We Make Observations. The idea is similar to the above chapters that the world in reality acts upon our mind and our perceptions of its events follow. A sort of visual interpretation of what we see in our mind. Reading it, Sarah had to decide whether to take what I was saying seriously, or just humor me. And I wished to know what someone with no exposure to Eastern ideas really thought of them. Americans are famously pragmatic. She broached the seemingly upside-down content, at rst, as though I meant it metaphorically. I insisted it was otherwise. S: The question that comes to me is, if it is the person who is perceiving the event who is the real cause for something happening what of things which happen, unobserved? Its the age-old question of if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? If the answer is that if no one is there to observe it, it didnt happen, that I could not agree with. But certainly, I can see that our observation changes the way we perceive. Am I missing the point entirely? R: I am missing the contradiction you imply Of course, things happen unobserved, they are progressing to events, which may or may not concern us. Yes, the tree makes a sound, and it can be recorded as proof. S: I agree with you; I was just trying to understand when you referred to the experiencing person as the real cause for something happening. To me, that implies that, without the person who is experiencing it, it does not happen. However, I see that there is more than one way to interpret the phrase. R: I do imply it as you say it without the person who is experiencing it, it does not happen. I am saying, I dont get how this is contradicted when things happen unobserved or the question, did the falling tree make a sound when no one was around. I do in a sense get it, but if you say it, I may better be able to state the position of my own statement on it. If, what I am saying is true, it is quite a staggering statement, is it not that the experiencing person is the real cause of events. Of course you realize it is not my original

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hypothesis. I am sorry I am not expressing the importance I feel this subject has for me, and for some others too, well enough. S: No need to apologize! I think we all grapple with these ideas and must nd our way through the sometimes clouded haze of understanding to reach a clear expression of thought. To me, it is a contradiction to say that the event does not happen without the person who experiences it, and yet the tree does make a sound falling in the forest even with no one there to hear it. How did the tree make a sound, then, or even fall, for that matter, if there was no one there to experience it? Is it that the tree experiences it? I am confused. I attempted to give an explanation, feeling for the meaning I was striving to express. It was as much for myself, and it wasnt easy going. R: If we understand all existence to be in four layers, where the lowest is the things we interact with and the highest is where we are able to think and reason, everything happening has a manifestation in each of these layers. When we try to express what constitutes the highest layer, we cannot. But that is where we are reaching to for our understanding of things. When we understand something, we really see its picture there. So, everything is explained in that highest layer, but it is totally formless, andIf this is bringing some clarity, I will continue. S: Yes! Putting things in terms of an image which can be visualized is always helpful. That is why simile and metaphor add so much to writing, I think. So, tell me more about the layers. What are the other two? And where did this concept of layers come from? Is this your own concept, or one which comes from a religious philosophy, or somewhere else? R: There is a text in Indian philosophy called, Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Like many things belonging to the past of India, there is some uncertainty about when this was composed, though likely around 500 BC or so. Patanjali, too, may be more than one person. Sutras means aphorisms, which these originally are, but extensive commentary has been added with each aphorism. This is the theoretical basis of Yoga. If you have heard of Yogis having extraordinary abilities, the basis of their practice leading to those abilities was based on the direction in these. I am usually reluctant to reveal them as the source of where I am arguing from, because I do not wish the person to become so awed that the discussion is not rational anymore. And then, of what signicance will be any conclusion if we cannot derive them from experiences

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in our lives now. Of course one may think these are anachronistic perhaps, but the matter is so deep, that time itself is but a principle to be understood within its framework. S: Thank you for your explanation. I take your point about not necessarily wanting to reveal the source, but to me, in this case, it makes it all the more interesting. I suppose when discussing timeless truths, anachronisms . . . well, arent. There is a line one must walk, between expressing things as they come from within, and saying them in a way which is likely to be understood by the reader meaning, perhaps, being more literal than feels natural. Or do I mean literal? At any rate, I think attempting to bridge the divide is often a good choice; if we lose something in the expression, at least we did not lose everything, from the viewpoint of the person reading it. R: In the second layer of existence are the senses, together with what they connect to in the natural world; and we, as we know ourselves are in the third. Not just ourselves, but all we interact with begins at this layer; that is why there is a close connection with causes, of things happening as they concern us. Space is part of the manifestation of nature, co-existing alongside us, up to the third level. In this sense plurality, as separation between things, happens as they are expressed in the lower levels. Events have a pre-determined ow, we live with them in our minds, and when we wish to see connections, we can by reaching in. Else our easy, normal awareness is in the third level of existence, not straining too much. S: Now I am confused again . . . above, you said, the lowest [level] is the things we interact with but now you are saying we, as we know ourselves are in the third. Not just ourselves, but all we interact with begins at this layer; so, are the things we interact with at the lowest level, or at the third level? See what happens when you engage in a philosophical discussion with someone with a legal background? You get cross-examined! R: I like legal background. I think the reason the explanation I gave above is most difcult to accept, is one cannot let go of the concept of Space as we have in our mind. Yet if you move to an inner sense of yourself, right now, it is as possible to think of everything you see outside, as manufactured for you by your senses; in the process as you perceive them. Something else appears as space. Our particular understanding of space, as we know it, is a result of our mind reacting with that element. This higher level element sitting alongside our mind is the primary cause of space. We only see it as we do, on the outside. The concept of alongside depends as much on the concept of space, but we can still think of the higher constituent of space as having a relationship with our mind. At least as it happened with me, getting past this particular barrier did most in terms of accepting this theory. Where is the edge of the universe?

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S: If, as scientists think, the universe is continuously expanding, and therefore innite, then the universe has no more of a physical edge than it does a mental one perhaps even less of one, depending on how expansive ones mind is. Which seems rather appropriate, doesnt it? R: But which determines the others limit? Are you saying that our capacity to think out enough will x the real size of the universe? That isnt how scientists would approach something they accept a complexity in something as given and study it to determine more about it. S: No, thats not what I meant now it is you who is being too literal! I was saying that some people are incapable of contemplating the innite; so, for those people, the universe would (only to them) be a smaller place than it actually, physically, is. If we think of the higher constituent of space as having a relationship with our mind then our mind sets the limits for our own perception of the universe, does it not? Which is only a perception and has no effect on what the universe does . . . as far as we know. R: Contemplating the innite should yield us something of worth else it would be considered an exercise in futility. I really like the way you are saying what I want to, too, but in another way. Yes, I am being more literal and want to take it even further, because I wish to assert that it is literally so. The higher element is not an abstraction of space or innity, as one may believe, and as I can gather from your statement. Unless you have actually read any text on this subject, nowhere else in world literature has this higher constituent of space been dened. It is as concrete as the real things around us, the point being, it is even more so. This is really the break one has to make with the past way of thinking about our surrounding reality. And, do you? S: I think I would benet from a denition of higher constituent of space before I can answer that. Im still a little confused. R: We are talking about the third level of existence. Other than this higher constituent of space, existing at the same level are the higher constituents of other natures elements, of earth, water, air and re. There is one other, very signicant, call it of ego sense. This last imparts to each of us our sense of individuality but note that the existence-play doesnt end, even for us, with the understanding of this sense alone. We are still connected to the reality of the fourth level, the one which as an un-differentiated cause itself makes everything happen. Thank you for persisting so long in your efforts to unravel all of this. I really do mean that. S: Youre welcome, and thank you! What I felt certain of when we nished with this conversation was that Sarah had followed up her own thoughts. She had said nothing out of the ordinary but had still somehow opened her mind to something altogether different.

Chapter V
importance in Western life. The holy trinity.

ORK, SCIENCE (OR study), and Money are three things of

Ask a teacher what she would say of faith, and she might say a little ambiguously, Its good to have, if you wish. If it strengthens you. But to believe that something happened with you, or something changed in what you were doing on account of your faith that I would have difculty accepting. She fears you may think were you to have more faith, you would have achieved more. And she doesnt wish to encourage that. In her mind, faith is like a force with some part intelligence. She holds back herself from admitting that she brings anything to her work which may be recognized as faith. Those of us who worship know there is little else one can do but recall to mind some matters which may be troubling us. As if to share with someone not visible, but nevertheless present to us. We were discussing some essays again.

Eastern Thought An Introduction


Understanding philosophical theories is about establishing their relevance, the correspondence in the ideas they express with our experience. Instead of making enormous efforts to understand a theory alone, is it not a better learning if our experiences can be interpreted in the ideas of a philosophy?
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My intention is to convey some of those ideas and how life may actually be happening in that way. That is, we can look at life in a particular way and things begin to make sense. Then, as we see it happening, we take assurance that what we learn and believe is not untrue, and we have condence that life may work out like that all the way. An important philosophical text is the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. These are a collection of aphorisms, about fty each in four chapters. The part easiest to connect with is in Chapter 2, where Patanjali outlines the practice of Yoga, called Asht-anga-eight-limbed Yoga. I will tell you how I understand the philosophy from this Sutra up to the 15th Sutra in Chapter 3, where Patanjali explains how the Yogis perceptions can transcend average natural abilities. I will step back and speak in general terms about the ideas expressed in these Sutras, because they have to be interpreted and understood by a person individually. If I try to explain the Sutras one at a time, I may not be able to do it effectively. I will instead try to give the general ideas expressed in these, and then you see when you take them one at a time, how they may apply to your life. The eight Angas, or limbs, are a progression which we are spread in our lifeexperience among, depending upon how we may be applying these principles. The rst idea concerns Yama and Niyama, the rst two Angas. Each has ve elements. The Yamas are manifested as behaviors to control. They are recognizable principles in our lives; non-violence, non-stealing and truthfulness are acceptable values everywhere. The other two, sexual restraint and non-acceptance of charity have different emphasis in India compared to West. Next, in the ve elements of Niyama, which means discipline, the rst two concern purity and cleanliness. They are very acceptable qualities and may even be better practiced in the West. The next, contentment, is somewhat opposed to values in the West, but may be acceptable in Europe. The next three, again, may be somewhat acceptable in European culture, but I wonder if austerity is considered practical as a practice as is implied in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Similarly self-study, even as reection on oneself maybe ambiguous, because I do not believe Western culture may consider pondering on just the idea of our existence as having any benet for us, and on surrendering of the outcome of all our actions to God; the last of the Niyam, people often see this as implying too ready an acceptance of failure. I will say more on these last three Niyams later in explaining how their practice may lead us towards the desired goal. Here is the point I am trying to make, though. Consider these elements, and the extent to which we may be following them within our own lives. Notice their

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outcomes, as one practices them to perfection, explained below. We may ask how much have we acquired of these rewards in nature individually. If we accept this philosophy as a correct description of natures behavior, then every human is already living by these principles, perhaps unknowingly, all over the world. S: This is a way of thinking which is probably completely new to the majority of Americans. I found this of particular interest: The next, contentment, is somewhat opposed to values in the West, but may be acceptable in Europe. I had not thought of it in those terms before, but its true: American culture is geared more towards never being satised with what you have so that youll keep striving for more. This leads to a general feeling of dissatisfaction with oneself and ones life, without really understanding why. Ill look forward to reading more! R: I wrote these pieces last year to help my daughter appreciate this side of her background, when she started studying Theory of Knowledge at school. I suggested she could make a presentation of this material to her class, but her teacher found it more religious than philosophical. I wonder if you feel this way, too. S: While I see it as a mix of religion and philosophy, I can understand her teachers viewpoint. Passages such as these: Karma is fascinating as it seems to go beyond our normal realm to our earlier lives which require a belief in reincarnation cannot be seen as only philosophical. There is much here that must be accepted on faith, in order to derive its benet. Nonetheless, it is an interesting view into a totally different way of looking at life, from that of non-Indian cultures. R: If I may ask then what do you think about karma? As an example during his younger years a man living in some neighborhood, spends much time building a farm. He has to leave later, without nishing, to take up work elsewhere. On his return to the old town after many years he starts work on his farm again, which is almost as he left it. The people he bought supplies from, though different now, have no problems working again with him. He is able to nd buyers for the produce of his farm, too, amongst the same group that would have bought from him earlier . . . so, everything picks up from where he left it. But now, in a manner of speaking, we move closer to what he did during his earlier days. With every project, whether it be constructing a fence, or clearing the land to build a barn, when negotiating with the supplier of his material, did he look for ways to take more than this store-keeper would have happily given him? Did he perhaps wait for a time when the store-keeper would be away from his shop, and he would be able to take advantage of the wife or his son, who were not so business-savvy? Or when clearing the land for his barn, did he perhaps not care that what he threw aside was polluting a stream owing by his land?

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If no one is the wiser about his actions, we may remark simply that hes earned bad karma. But, what is the implication of this remark? S: I think the idea of karma (the type you speak of ), whether it is called by that name or not, is gaining a universal recognition. It can be seen in a phrase which is now popular here in America: What goes around, come around. While karma may not always be as instant as the sort John Lennon wrote about, it does seem apparent that actions have consequences, and bad actions will, eventually, have bad consequences. The idea is certainly ancient: from this, that; you reap what you sow, etc. Those are variations of the same theme. Is it because of some cosmic moral law, directed by some unseen spiritual force? Or perhaps merely the logical progression of physics? Therein lies the basis for philosophical and religious debate. R: The point I want to draw your attention to is that, it is the mans intentions which form our picture of him. It is one thing that the people in the town have an impression of him and, perhaps, will not be helpful to him. But it is quite another to say that his circumstances will be so arranged, that it is not because of what the people dont do for him that his life is difcult, but his circumstances themselves, as though showing a mind of their own, wish to taunt him for the excesses of behavior he showed during his previous years spent on the farm. If the second explanation, about nature having its own mind, seems only an enchanting story so would it be, if two men were standing together watching a cannon ring. If only one of these men knew Newtons laws and predicted where the ball would land, would not the other man be equally struck with wonder? Even without bothering to call the equations to mind, or the factors that need be known to arrive at the result, the mass of the ball, the initial velocity, etc., we lay our faith in explaining natures phenomena so much on physics that when we do not have a ready answer, we still feel safe believing in physics than in another way of understanding. S: I think we are saying the same thing about karma, in actuality. I agree that there seem to be forces beyond simple interactions with others at work. There is a theory that is gaining popularity these days which says that we attract the kind of energy we put out; if we do negative things, we attract negative energy, and bad things happen to us. The author of a recent book calls it The Secret. It is not new, though. This idea has many forms of expression; would you agree that karma is one of them? R: Would you be willing to agree that Newtons laws are the same as the action of karma? S: No, I would not agree that Newtons laws are the same as the action of karma. Newtons laws are demonstrable, repeatable, with predictable results, in a laboratory setting.

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They demonstrate what we call facts. For instance, something which can be replicated and proven through scientic method. Karma is much less predictable, wouldnt you agree? Now, it may well be as certain; but can you replicate it in a laboratory? I dont think so. That is why karma belongs in the realm of philosophy or religion, rather than science in my opinion. I am keenly aware that reasonable minds may differ. R: Karmas are the reaction of an insentient nature working within its own laws. These laws, which we have called the causal realm, are the fourth level of existence. They, i.e. karmas, of course include our ego-sense, and therefore us from the third. Newtons laws of motion are an insight into natures laws as they apply to inert bodies, mass and their motion. Thank you Sarah, I have learnt much in these discussions with you. But there is much, much further I have to go, I only hope I am never lost and without a direction to take. S: I have a feeling that wont be a problem for you; you seem very focused to me.

Chapter VI
How We May Cause Natural Events To Occur
SEE AN effort by me to explain how we may cause natural events to happen. I was trying to trace some connection which on one end is rooted in ourself and the other in nature. But this is against the very principle which brings about such things to happen. Instead, we accept our limitations in this case, and do not turn as we do to our physical or intellectual selves for development, it is quite the opposite. We turn to the subject, our own identity. Not work upon it in anyway, but we allow it to suffer as it does naturally, any indignation. It does not follow then as an effect, so it may not be correct to ask how this can result in a positive outcome. In this case, the result is of removing something which obstructs a development. In consequence of course, something else may well become ascribed as the cause. In this indirect fashion we allow causes to bring about their effects, which as they are completely natural in their development and sequence, have all appearance of happening without intervention. If this suggests a thinking ability of nature, we are also saying that our thoughts lie outside us. We look at them the way we do and consider them as ours, similar to the way we feel about our appearances. It may be possible to turn to some unwanted aspect in ourselves, and with the guidance of an able person, root it out. This is difcult, and one can instead, accepting
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the natural order of reality and evolution, live with the circumstances. The effort is directed at bearing natural suffering, and as it is acting upon the deepest cause that is linked closely to our identity, always hurts us deeply. There is an intervening will, that of nature, which tempers the harmful actions of others. Things which hurt us at times, at other times just do not. And also, the lasting reaction of an ill-intentioned act turns out sometimes to be for the better. One must see Nature as being totally integrated, and us as carrying imperfections in our identities. We wonder what these could be, that cause us so much misery in life. We begin to see after a time how our troubles all seem related, each of them just adding to make our situation which we wish we could unravel. Is there an unraveling, then, in that sequence of bearing injury, not retaliating, and then suffering during the healing? One accepts this, or nothing at all. There are two things here. One is when we act, the other is when nature acts for us. Our being the one doing the action is illusionary, if we are able to accept this idea that the thoughts occur to us, but they are in a sense outside of us and belonging to the event we are involved in. This can be the experience even when we are overtly doing something. An extension of the same principle, like the learning experience, is that it is an internal state of our mind; we can get there in different ways. Normally our evolution happens as we are accustomed to seeing in everybody, the increasing capabilities, initially more physical ones but eventually the more lasting, mental ones. This learning process, through experience or by studying, proceeds along established patterns in our mind. But the progress is really the removal of some dross. Accompanying it is an intensity in our mind which we may understand as the separating of the subjective from the objective, which nevertheless occurs. This is the feeling of indignation, and contributes most to our learning. The essay suggests this as a direct process to speed the growth in our minds. S: I nd this essay easier to follow; whatever youre doing, its working. However, I do have a question with this underlying assumption: Thoughts relating to an event only seem to be ours, in reality they belong to the event. I suppose my reaction to this is, How do you know? How can you say that my thoughts are not mine; what is your evidence to this effect? (theres a legal term creeping in). I suppose one could put it this way: how did you get from point A to point B?

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R: The answer to your question would be along the lines of our earlier discussion in the Observations essay. Whatever we perceive as thoughts, their objective part is also their real part, of the nature of the higher constituents of natures elements. We accompany the thought only with our ego-sense, which exists at that same level, too. The experience of seeing our thoughts as such is the revealing of the reality. S: It seems it is not possible to discuss things of this nature without making some underlying assumptions for example, dening the higher constituents of natures elements. One must be willing to accept that things are a certain way, and not another, in order to even begin the learning process; would you agree? And by things I am referring to things which cannot be seen or proven by scientic inquiry. So . . . does that not make them faith-based? R: I have the same questions with this philosophy and think of the way forward as following through to where it takes us further. That is, to abilities beyond the limitations we normally consider ourselves as having. For example, we cannot say with absolute certainty what is on another persons mind, or know exactly which events are going to take place with us next and signicantly impact the course our lives will take. The text itself advises us not to consider these as an objective of the study or practice, because of all the involvement and turbulence it would create in the life of the person having them like the present day celebrity-status. On the other hand, I nd no other method to prove that the parts, or assumptions as you call them, leading to the results are in fact correct, unless one can experience these extraordinary results. S: . . . and thats an interesting point you make: unless one can experience these extraordinary results. Have we not all experienced something that could not be explained by science alone? I know I have. Does it mean I have psychic abilities? No, not at all. I suppose that is one explanation; another would be that I was using my ordinary ve senses, or some of them, and discerned something with them that I did not realize. For example, a favorite pet of mine ran away; the next day, I heard a voice (in my head that is, my own thoughts) say Go open the front door and let [the pet] in. And there she was, on the front porch, happily waiting for me. Perhaps she made a sound I did not think I heard; perhaps she was communicating with me in some way science cannot yet measure. The possibilities are endless. But because of events like this, I would never say, If I cant see it, I dont believe in it. R: The position you take is, and please do correct me if otherwise, that things may exist and we can believe that they are so, but evidence is required, i.e. hard facts alone allow things into the domain of science.

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I think I also need to mention where I am coming from with this I should really be saying, where I wish to go with this. Well, simply put, my case is that the philosophy I have been advocating for in our discussion deserves to be studied; that is, there is merit in what we can say about it as of now, and nothing in our present knowledge allows us to dismiss it. By dismiss it I mean as something unlikely to add to the our understanding of life and how to better deal with it. As a concrete objective I would wish something to be included in the course of Theory of Knowledge which high school students study. Naturally I am asking for a chapter in the textbook which stands on its own, and is not considered only an extension of the chapter on religion. What would be your opinion? S: As with most things, it depends how you dene your terms! Science can be dened as a systematic study of the physical world as understood through observation and experimentation. Where, then, does that leave, for example, psychology, which involves more than mere chemical or electrical impulses of the brain? We may then want to expand our denition to include the theoretical explanation of phenomena a much broader view. I have no problem with including things which are not yet hard facts under the penumbra of science. My only problem is with assuming something to be a fact which cannot be proven to be true. Therefore, I would certainly agree that these subjects which are of interest to you deserve study in a Theory of Knowledge sort of course. My caveat would be that they cannot be presented as facts per se; that is, to say something to the effect of there are four levels of existence as if it could be proven in a laboratory, rather than saying this [name of philosophy, school of thought, or whatever] holds that there are four levels of existence . . . This is why there is such heated debate in the U.S. about teaching Darwinian evolution vs. teaching creationism or intelligent design. To the person for whom the Bible contains literal fact as they see it, their own views are as meritorious of inclusion in a science class as those which teach Darwinism. But, if we conne our denition of a fact to something which can be scientically proven, without relying on faith, that argument must fail. So, as with so many things, it comes down to the denition. R: But my point is that there is enough merit in this philosophical system to take its statement of the four levels of existence as a hypothesis worthy of further investigation. How can one arrange for such concerted study, is the question. In this case, we must keep in mind that the person doing this investigation will be experimenting on his or her own faculty of observation. This would not be a result that any person can be called in to verify in an instance. Any person who is subsequently involved to verify facts claimed by the experimenter can only make such observations after he too has been through the process of the experiment. The instruments and objects in this experiment

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are the experimenters own senses and his mental faculties. He is able to observe his deeper lying faculties only by a process of stilling his normally agitated behavior of the mind. After that, the fact of the inner faculty is viewable quite objectively. It still stands to question, though, that as the experimenter peers into his own stilled mind, will he have an enlarged view of the external world? That would be the third level experience. Deeper still, will he nd himself at par with the machinations of the entire universe, at the causal level, the fourth one? I think its very intriguing to put this to a proper study and test. Dont you agree? S: I agree that it is intriguing and that studying it could only prove interesting and useful. Where I depart from your logic is that one can view the inner workings of ones own mind quite objectively. By their very denition, ones thoughts can never really be said to be objective. Again, we get into denitions. To look at something objectively means not inuenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; dealing with things external to the mind rather than with thoughts or feelings; belonging to the object of thought rather than to the thinking subject. Now, having said that, that is a quite different thing from saying that you can show something to be true. If you observe something to be true, then, for you, it is true, is it not? I nd that a fascinating distinction that something might be true and yet not be a veriable fact! R: Normally, we close our eyes and think of that as the inside, and when they open, we view the outside. But the separation is actually between all ve senses and the mental faculties; so if we sit with our eyes closed, there is still a connection with the external world through the other senses. But once aware that it is so, we make progress. We gradually bring ourselves to focus on everything else, other than the sense inputs. At this time we may realize that it is better to be sure about when and where we are sitting for this effort, and maybe also, how meaning comfortably or not. Either way, results come about not only when we are practicing this, but other times as well. When doing other things, we can see we are quite engaged with these activities, yet are looking upon them. This is not with any effort, but only noticing as happening now that we are looking for it, and that is the best practice. Our mind undergoes this change of stilling, which happens over days, at the least, and is perceivable as a change we carry over to even how we attend to our earlier activities. What are we looking for? not a good question. For we can no longer look, or hear, nor smell, taste, or feel; or we can do all of these, but their inputs, their sense has a different meaning for us.

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S: OK, I admit I was following nicely, up until the end. Can you explain more about why it is not a good question? R: How else would we be objective about what we nd! If this isnt something we have done before, this process of stilling our mind, should we not proceed with as totally an unbiased mind as we can carry, with no notions to formulate at this time? S: Ah, yes, I see! If we are not free of preconceptions, it will color our interpretation of what we nd or think we nd, as we may, in that case, be thinking we have found something different from what was actually there! Hm . . . which begs the question, how would we ever know? R: . . . that what we nd is actually there? My attempt to lead our discussion in that direction is the reason for bringing it up in the next essay on presence. S: Lead away!

Chapter VII
A Presence In Oneself
HEN I LOOK at myself, who I am I see thoughts, feelings, as in a central core. Hard to say where exactly in my body, am I. Perhaps, somewhere in the vicinity of my head. As I take a walk out in nature, for I am at this time fortunate to be so situated, with mountains and green elds around, and these walks may be hours long, I nd something collecting in my thoughts. I do not try to analyze or even concentrate too much on any question, but whatever is there, it is there on its own. The exercise is good, but thats not the best thing I notice happening what is even better is some kind of airing of the mind, and that comes from just looking at the distant mountains, the stretching elds or some eye-catching owers. All this time I am able to acknowledge the people driving by whenever they look towards me, or when I can see them in their yards as I walk by. I am quite aware of how unlike this I was before coming out for the walk, and of course knowing that the walk will do all this for me is the reason for coming out. I cannot dene more what the walk does for me but that, its necessary. Of late I have begun to notice something, and that is, my own presence. I am nding it more and more acceptable to think that what really exists as me, is this presence. Its this presence that is made comfortable in these walks.
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If you can see what I am pointing to, the question is, what is this presence? Its everything, how may we dene and break down its functions? If anything has experienced these years, it is this. Whatever I may come across, to work with, it is always going to be what affects this, this same presence; whether it be something I can feel with, or bring my mind to bear upon, using some knowledge I have lately acquired; it all happens because of this presence, and can happen really in no other way. R: I think in the above, the philosophizing really begins with, What really exists as me, is this presence. I can very, very vaguely imagine my existence without this presence. Or put another way, I can sometimes see myself as though clinging to this sphere of reality within which everything is happening. Because I see nothing else but this, and it does not turn upon me, separate itself from me, I think I have started to think everything I see within this sphere as my very own world. S: Im afraid the only part of that which I understood is I think I have started to think everything I see within as my very own world. Sorry to be obtuse . . . I think it must be difcult to be specic when writing about things which are more, by their very nature, ephemeral, than concrete. R: Let me make a small change in something Ive said above, and say instead: It happens for this presence, and can happen really in no other way. Saying it like I did earlier makes me the person doing it, feeling it . . . and as such, shifts the emphasis to the fact that it is happening for reasons I am not even aware of, I am only being carried along. As of now I think I feel, all the way down to the experience of it, as pleasant, unpleasant, soft, hard but this is so with my sense of being involved. My hand cuts and bleeds; after the initial intense moments, I can even see it all distantly. If I feel attached by the physical pain, that too can be schooled to appear removed, as people who follow this practice do. I am more than just grateful to you for staying in this discussion. I am also grateful to have found someone who is representing the other point of view. Usually, it only feels like a blank wall when some things I take for granted arent so at all, and I am left wondering why. Does it seem incredible that millions live by these ideas? I would be happy to think that, for this discussion, if you were to visit India sometime, people doing such practices as we have talked about will not cause you any feelings of revolt.

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S: I think it is very good for someone to become acquainted with the ideas and practices of very different cultures; good, not only for that persons individual growth, but also because it contributes to that persons own culture. To increase understanding between nations, religions, philosophical viewpoints and schools of thought, is to add to the knowledge of the world and diminish the likelihood of serious world conict. That may sound like a grand goal, but I believe it to be true: the more understanding we have for things which are, to us, foreign, the more willing we are to live and let live, and even derive benet from this sharing of knowledge. You write about things which are entirely unknown, I suspect, to the majority of Americans; that is part of why I have trouble understanding what you mean, sometimes. But, it is good for me to try to understand, just as it is good for you, as a writer and philospher, to have to push yourself to be understood. And, I hope, to anyone else reading this discussion, will come a new understanding as well whether about the content of the philosophical discussion, or just about how better to express ideas in writing, so that the translation from thought to written word becomes clearer. R: I couldnt agree with you more, and I share your hope in nding reconciling world-views among peoples through understanding each others cultures. Yes, with many ideas I have tried to express, it may be the rst time that people outside India have come across them. Or, what is more likely, they may not have seen them connected to a single framework, and these ideas may appear pretty strange otherwise. This concept of presence versus doing-it-ourselves is denitely one of such. S: When you use the word presence (and forgive me, because I think weve been over this before, but some things require a deeper understanding), how do you dene that word, in that context? And yes, it is not lost on me that the very fact that I must ask the question proves that it is one of such. R: Denitely, to try and conjure up this concept of presence is not likely to be successful. Instead, we begin with what we feel is real for us. Maybe things which surround us, or our particular situation, as a mix of troubles and happenings. If we are more comfortable with a sense of reality in things around us, we cannot ignore that any sense of the real we have comes to us through our senses. But since we make much more of these same things inside our heads, (else they would be fragments of data) we accept the existence of a reality of these somewhere beyond our common perception. It is not so difcult to see ourselves, our identity, there as well; to whom else is all we perceive making sense? We may try to examine just what is it, what does it really do? But if we ask who is doing the examining, we have to accept that that too is only the same.

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Seems we really cant get away from ourselves. But if we take our identity as just that and nothing more, that it does not actually initiate any action, is it just the same as choosing not to act? S: So, are you saying that, by taking our identity as just that and nothing more we would be failing to look inside ourselves for deeper understanding? If I may play devils advocate for a moment, what potential disaster results from choosing not to act? To act, by doing what, exactly? (I ask this as a method of furthering discussion.) R: I meant instead in place of but at the start of the last paragraph, making the sentence mean the opposite of as you read it. So, with that meaning, our identity is only a sense of such, and we have a moment before every action, especially with routine actions, when we can consider whether we are just attaching ourselves to this action or is there anything more. S: . . . and, what a difference that might make, if we were to think, before every action! (or would the world move too slowly in that case? Would anything get done?) R: And, if it is only that, then given everything before, and our karmas, things could not have been different from as they are now. Many who read or otherwise come upon this philosophy understand it as saying not to act, thereby making out its message as being of inaction, translated simplistically as lazy. It would be, I admit, if the persons intent was truly to be indolent. But, quite subtly, if the person was instead looking, or more correctly seeking, for the spring in his every action, he would only quite mistakenly appear as wishing not to act on account of his indolence. Dont you think so? We have reached the end of the philosophy. This last idea we have struggled with, of identity, is called Asmita, and was mentioned in Eastern Thought Introduction, the earlier topic. It is truly difcult to overcome, if at all. It is poetically portrayed in one Indian epic Ramayana, often read as an allegory of the human struggles to overcome an earthly bondage. In it, the reality within ourself is an heir-apparent, banished to spend fourteen years in a forest, more perilous in the times of this story. He is accompanied by his wife, who insists to be by his side. She is the tranquility we seek. A brother, representing hot-headed valor, maybe even rationality, joins them. While in their little abode, when the king-to-be is away, a demon disguised as a sage deceives the brother away from the cottage, and seizing the princess, carries her to his own kingdom. The demon is none other than the Asmita we

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mentioned. Well, gathering together his many energies, most prominently his life-energy, represented in the story as a monkey-leader dwelling in the forest, the king sets out to win back his queen, and succeeds, after he has vanquished the demon. My own demons are not conquered. I cannot truthfully take this discussion forward and speak as though I have experience of what may lie past this. S: One may question whether ones demons can ever all be conquered in this life . . . but to me, the journey is the thing; the quest for knowledge is the sine qua non of our existence. As long as we continue to ask the questions, we are improving, whether we think we have found the answers or not. All the best! R: Thank you, Sarah. Ive enjoyed these discussions with you very much! S: So have I! Take care! Does Sarah connect completely with this idea Im not sure. So, are you saying that, by taking our identity as just that and nothing more we would be failing to look inside ourselves for deeper understanding? . . . she asks. But there isnt an ourselves . . . anymore. Only meaning.

INDIA

Chapter I
OT A FAIRY tale . . . The weather was very pleasant where this part of the story begins. It was mid-September, and though the land could be very, very warm, it really wasnt so now. A description of its people and history is more interesting. This was a devastated land, limping to recovery, and almost no one was aware of its history, aware that they were really living it. They simply took its state as granted. How did all this happen? Ah . . . thats the story of the world; in the times we live we are disconnected from it. We may not realize that some things we read about, may actually be the attempt of someone to write about what he witnessed as it happened before his eyes. The roots of these people were deep, very deep, as old as any other living people. Philosophy is a distillation of knowledge, until it no longer refers to a time and its particular events, but somehow, has reached in to bring into words those things which do not seem to have a bearing on when, and to whom they happened but is yet important and of interest to others. This kind of philosophy comes only as a natural process in time, the distillate of the experience of the peoples. In the end, you can destroy everything, including most of the people living in the land; you may also as an attacker bent on mayhem, repress the people. The effort to root out their thinking, their manner of thinking will have to be very malicious, because you will make the effort to take their young, and painstakingly work at making them release their hold on what they are bound to in their beliefs.
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Ah, this is a very somber tone for any tale, but unfortunately we have to go over all of this to understand the backdrop of our story. Our story begins with a group of friendly young people, playing their games, unaware of what has happened much before they were born. Our story gets its character from a particular fact that, amongst these otherwise unexceptional happenings there is nothing here which isnt also taking place in countless other places on that land there was something different. Amongst them is another person, not so young, in fact of twice their age, and it is his own history which is of interest. He can remember a time when he was just as old as these young people, and because he, too, grew up and belongs to this land, their history is his as well. Like them, when he was of their age, he was just as unaware of the past of his people, and he too had no idea that it mattered. Then something in his life changed. It felt like nothing he could understand, reading in books at his University or elsewhere. All he could tell was that his future was, somehow, being devastated even before he could reach it. How is one to grapple with this? Was there a choice to make, something to do? No, obviously there wasnt. Something extremely evil had taken away the picture, the one everyone lives by. It did not feel any less threatening than having ones breath sucked out. With each passing day a feeling of foreboding increased. Then he found one release. One place where he could nd some solace from this wringing of his spirit, and that was wherehe then placed the roots of his life afresh. Where he could rise up from. It should not be surprising that this was none other than discovering the philosophy, the distilled philosophy of his people. You may even think that if his circumstances had not been so extreme, he might never have reached this point. It is not that people do not have access to the literature which he turned to. But he turned to it with his very person. Every morning he woke up, his mind would nd its way to this way of life and thought, as described in the literature he was reading. Everything started to come together in a coherent whole. Yet something about his circumstances was still disconnected. He could not see how to understand that which was happening to him. And so it went on, until one day the moment happened. The inner life and thought coincided with his outer life. He saw and understood

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what was going on with him, and also, what he needed to do to remove the feeling of being strangled by his circumstances. Actually, he saw that what he needed to do was nothing. He had no choice and everything would follow now on its own accord, and he had only to wait til that point in the future, maybe some ve or seven years ahead, then he would be released. A totally free person, like everyone else seemed to be . . . It would be the matter for another story, the events which followed. But you should not be surprised that they were near miraculous. He did as he had understood in that moment of truth. His conviction was so strong that he could not understand why others did not act with the same kind of conviction. He saw that perhaps the reason people fumbled was only on account of this uncertainty they had. Everyone spoke of what was the right thing to do, but in action, under some confusion, they too were carried away from their own direction. They lost a connection with their own minds. Sad to say that our person, the one whose history we are narrating, did not become a hero as one may think. Why, how come? You may ask. That, perhaps, is the rst lesson everyone learns in adulthood. The lesson of the intrinsic selshness of human character. This is not a lesson I would happily pass on to friends and those I care about. To not stretch yourself too much to do something which is someone elses to do. It is almost like saying, do not save a drowning man. He will not be willing to live under that obligation to you. If no one saw you saved him, he will discredit you and the risk you put yourself to. Years later he will even have another picture of the events and you will stand there with your mouth agape. The sad fact is, the person whom you helped is now embarrassed by your presence, and wants you to leave because you remind him of his weaknesses and faults which led to his getting into the prediction you found him in, and risked yourself to save him from. So, we move on, narrating more history of this person who now nds himself with these young friends. Yes, life is like that unremitting. Although I doubt it is so extreme in what it will dole out to most. I think our person is really being prepared for something equally extreme. There is another interesting thing going on which we must also now reckon with. Without understanding completely why, the people look outwards, that is, to other lands where they see people live better, maybe even are themselves better, as thinkers, and seem to excel at other things. The products they manufacture are better, so is their way of living, and of course their money is almost fty times more valuable than ours.

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Everyone has heard about how the lives of those who left and lived there a while, had changed for the better. With the kind of opportunities offered, obviously nothing better could happen to an individual than to go and live there.

Chapter II
HY SHOULD A tale of someones life, or even just a period of it, be of any interest to others? Perhaps if the life is so singular, or should we say, so singularly wrought, it takes a direction we do not expect. The person himself makes his choices because according to him, there are none other. He hears a different drummer altogether. He believes that within all circumstances lie their reasons, you reach through them, only to pass through . . . like doorways. He saw this in the opportunity that came to his spouse when she sought admission into a university abroad, leaving the country with one of their young children. Later, he did not resist when she asked him to join her there, leaving his employment. Other things which followed were not in themselves remarkable, till perhaps when he too sought and was admitted into the same university for a one-semester course. He wished to learn more of how programming works. He was a programmer but from practice alone. This situation is again similar to the one we began this tale with, where he nds himself amongst students younger than himself. We wont make too much of the difference in the accents he found the other students spoke in, as native speakers of the language. He notices though, a slight
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sharpness in the teachers eye as he sees him, because he stands out, being older than the others. Maybe theres something else about him too. Hes a little uneasy, and feels that so are the others. The main lecture has nearly a hundred students in the hall. Next, is a smaller class with a teaching assistant, a younger person who was introduced earlier. He notices a person from his own country, and senses him making an effort to t in. He can see the others are easier with him, with what he is trying to be. The Runtime Organization of Programming Languages it really is such an interesting sounding course. Parse it slowly, and it is not hard to see that for a home-grown programmer, who for years has only written programs following rules of the languages in manuals, this is nothing short of the key to understanding what lies beneath the code. So everything is present, the interest, the setting all of which could not have been better. As in every class, there is some earlier work you have only partly done. You wonder how the others have succeeded and are better tuned to the material of the lecture. The TA makes references to the assignment, giving hints on how to approach it, but you are distracted by the newness of the surroundings, and tell yourself that you need only to put more effort, and can solve the problems on your own. The class is nally over and you come out in the sunshine. People are in pairs, and threes, heads bowed, some glance towards you. You dont want to appear purposeless, or even looking too hard for companionship. You move out with the bunch, nd the path leading back, and reach home slightly disheveled inside, wondering what happened, exactly. It isnt different in the classes which follow. The main lecture is too crowded to articulate your difculty, it would be embarrassing and awkward. Then wondering how it would be in the tutorial class with the TA, you think you will muster the courage and say I just dont understand anything at all. Can you please help me? I notice others form groups and manage to turn in assignments, but I do not know where to begin. But, you cannot even say this. You want the TA to notice your difculty and address you directly himself in some way, but for some reason, he does not. In a fortunate turn of events, a programming job turns up through a person from your own country.

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Back home there are these exclusive places, owned by the very wealthy. We looked upon that kind of solid, elaborate construction as having a meaning lots of money. Here, everything was like that. You felt as if you walked into a designer shop and were only a dumpy tramp. What would you think of a software organization only miles from the Washington monument, employing 20 people of which all but three are Asians. The founder and president of the company, an American ex-professor, built up his team as this, picking the brightest of his Asian students. Yet wisely chose to have the public face of his company represented by three pleasant American women, at the reception, managing the administration and as the nancial controller. I am sure they developed good skills for dealing in the right way with intelligent Asians, given the close contact necessary in the working of this high technology company. There are custom built cars, custom tailored clothes, and there is custom designed software. The makers of these are on the high end of their market and competing ercely with the mass produced, lesser-priced versions of the product. In the end they are driven into such a small niche that they nd it difcult to keep their specialty exclusive so that customers are still willing to pay for it. This organization, after ten years of fairly successful existence, now found itself in this struggle. Their specialty had become a common enough work space, and other companies were making products that were easy to congure with only little tweaking. Those which mass produce have a different business model and when they acquire other companies, seek to expand their product range by bringing in technologies, people, products, and perhaps even the customer base, calling it all a merger. The acquired company is restructured and whimsically, some weight is shed in terms of the employees. All this happened in a period of three years, so it was a learning of a different kind afforded in these circumstances, if one was inclined to learn from it. The acquiring Atlanta-based company was 400 employee strong and had much less international orientation. Those interacting with us faced difculties they were hardly expecting or prepared to tackle. Some chose to take a nerdy stance, sticking with only the technicalities of the software, others came across somewhat to their own discomture, as conquerors of sorts, not knowing how to converse with us. Often,

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just being able to articulate well puts one at a disadvantage. The rapid expression dislodges the others footing whose command of the language is less. But only in their condence to express themselves, and their reply is coarser than they intend. They hear themselves, the hearer might considerately repeat what he heard, as if to ask, is that what you wished to say, and our non-native speaker, unsure hell get it better the next time, mutely acquiesces, reluctantly. It is obvious that whatever sense holds out, is due to such factors as which side wields more power in that situation. For from an imagined fear, one may not wish to cause more to be pitted against oneself. But the person is unhappy with the outcome, and with himself, for losing his condence. Its no surprise he will cast elsewhere to go. You now nd yourself in a foreign land, jobless, feeling slightly unwanted, confused and bewildered. You ask your spouse if it is not a good time to just head back home. She has nished graduating and found a beginning job. Her prospects appear quite different. Perhaps it is not fair to ask her to give it all up now. You have instead to make what you can with whatever you have. It begins to appear not the best solution to nd fulltime employment. The children are at that endearing age where, they ask for your love, and you do not want to not be there when they do. You take stock and in the back of your mind, you see that however strange your course of action, it is what you really wish to do. You have time and again felt yourself, your belief in yourself, challenged. Challenged in a fundamental way. However things work out, you have done no wrong, can you not hope for them to work out right? It is hard to see past the bend, there isnt any thing similar that you know of. Yet you strongly feel a call to hold fast to the path opening here. What it will do for you more than anything else is make rm the founding stone, the one on which rest your other beliefs. Isnt it worth the while for everyone to put their beliefs to this test? It is more challenging in a way to test beliefs you built in another culture, amongst other people and under different conditions altogether. You will have to let go of all you have, assuming great responsibility, and let everything ride on your conviction. At the same time, you are drawn to what works here in place of belief. Each step is clearly delineated. The progression of ideas logical. Beyond that nothing is acceptable. Do not talk of your beliefs to people here, they will laugh indulgently. They ask what can you do instead. That is the challenge you cannot pass. You

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remember your personal experience, of when the world stood still for you and you saw how things just follow a pattern, even your own actions outside your ability to control, and everything else of the same nature. You can listen to the logic screaming outside, or to the drummer within.

Chapter III
M I TRYI NG to deceive you, starting my tale as though it was going to be about the present, and instead going on about the past? The fact is, I am trying to create so much background that, whatever follows becomes somehow predictable. Dont we often wish that it were really so and we keep resisting every moment created afresh? Its always in such a limited way that we succeed to abstract patterns, which inform us rightly, and along which life may just take its course again. But I can say with certainty that we are not mistaken, when, carrying some notion, we experience some things again and again, until it is nally driven into our heads, that it is so, and no other. I went into the West with a notion not different from that which others who have only heard of it have, and then I experienced it. Experienced it at length and slowly, until I understood what we got wrong, something that is almost always lost in translation. Countries are not dissimilar from houses and people living in them. There is a time you are welcome in someones home and there is a time when you are not. Whatever the special circumstances which take you to live in another country, you can be absolutely sure that the reception you receive, in the crowds at grocery stores, or walking along a trail, or in restaurants, its all as though you walked into someone elses home!
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In the last twenty years I was there, these same people visited us in our country. I remember greeting them with enthusiasm, a reection of their own interest in our exotic culture, our history, our mystical philosophy. I enjoyed as much asking about their own thinking, and it was by placing the two ways of thought, side-by-side, that we all got the most from our thirst for knowledge. It was of something intangible which was neither built on hypothesis or premises. Nor did it follow in didactic logical construction. But it sprang from within us, all of us sitting together, from East and West, and seemed to ll us with its own beauty and reason. All of this was playing in the back of my mind as I found a place, in the neighborhood we lived in US. An ideal place to come together and talk of the oneness of humans. Like some nave philosopher-student I sat there on the metal benches arranged around a fountain, outside a large bookstore. People stopped there sometimes to enjoy the sun, or sip coffee and eat their doughnuts. Right along this spot ran a wide trail where walkers, joggers, and bike-riders could saunter along, for human company and warmth, one would think. Something about this place seemed as though it would connect me with the real life in these parts. A little like the musicians who performed in this spot sometimes, hoping to connect with their higher destinies. Anyone who has sat by himself in a park or some similar place, in an untroubled frame of mind, knows that soon you start reading life as it is happening around you. You do not intrude into any individuals events, or countenance, but gather something from it all, quite gently, which refreshes you; it answers something you have not asked, and when you walk away you can sense this knowledge being gently placed into your mind. India, in its people, is of three distinct categories. The very rich, themselves invisible, although their wealth is not; they are the owners of elaborately constructed buildings and eets of expensive cars. More evident is the middle class. They are what is working in the country, those we can see before us. Then the unfortunate, the third class, they are the deprived. Deprived of food, shelter, security from disease. Even deprived of opportunity itself to rise above their plight. If some young people stand at that junction in their lives, where they will soon nd themselves free to shape it, using only skills they have acquired until then, it is evident that they will suffer acute anxiety.

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But remove the poor crowding the streets, and remove the hovels they live in, lining the streets of almost all the neighborhoods then what is left? It is, incredibly, the same scene described above, the gathering spot outside the bookstore in US. So, I tried to do this. To help these young people see that they are not themselves the poverty which surrounds them, nor will they ever become a part of it. Nor need they consider it their responsibility, for that is just a weight on their minds, a needless burden for their unseasoned frames. However the poor nd their way out of their misery, for the only way acceptable to any intelligent person is to nd it on ones own, the incredible and undeniable aspect of these unfortunate people is that they lack nothing in basic intelligence, just in direction and opportunity. So the best we can do is expand their possibilities for them, by doing whatever we do best and most naturally, nothing more. Freed from this burden, what are we up against, what are we contending with? The entire world, and as equals. We are equal to individuals in any developed nation but we need to be able to talk with everybody, communicating in a way that expresses the condence we have in our abilities. I see all this now, but things have come to pass and I must not do anything, not even with these people, those whom I wish to share this wisdom with. For the purpose of my own quest, and lying deeper perhaps, is another vein of knowledge that I also wish to tap into. The knowledge of our past heritage. If it did not surface for me in the West, perhaps I will see it better here.

Chapter IV
Essay End of suffering?
HE QUESTION IS, that as nature gives us circumstances which somehow bet us and our deeds in the past. Should it not be possible, if we can do that, to make such a turn in ourselves, that Nature has no option but to change as well. Because what we did earlier, if it was wrong, it was on account of some shortcomings. To teach us how what we did is wrong, as per the principles of Nature, she gives us our special reactions, all of which is still within her laws. That is, no one can say she acted unfairly, though people do say life isnt fair. But if Natures actions are a unique reaction to who we are, then it should be possible to change her actions by making a real change in ourselves. But we do not have the capacity to recognize a real change, that itself being the reason why we acted as we did. Instead, we reach out to that power beyond Nature who set up the laws that she follows, and this we believe we can do, and make an internal posture, a posture of who we now want to be, someone who is denitely a good person, someone who, had we been like that always, would never have been given this suffering, and say, give me some other circumstances which will strengthen me in this better personality, and take away this present suffering. I will put myself voluntarily through the tempering to become really as this. It is a promise, a pledge.
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A person may sometimes be so much at the end of his capacity, that he can only ask more and more sincerely for this sort of release from his suffering. At one point his sincerity is so genuine that given the new circumstances he is asking, it is certain he will really be a changed person. Can we not say his circumstances are bound to change, as he has already become a different person? I sent Sarah the above essay. S: Greetings, Rajiv! You pose some interesting questions! Tell me if this interpretation is correct: that however we reacted to our circumstances, it is a natural reaction to whatever Nature handed to us? R: Yes we always acted naturally, so how can we do things differently now? Perhaps if we can think more at par with the maker of the laws instead of being governed by them. And since we are caught up in the actions of these, by birth itself, we can try to extricate ourselves, seek a path out. ( ?) S: Would we be trying, in that case, to extricate ourselves from the laws of nature? Because that does not sound possible . . . or is that your point? That we can, by our actions, change the laws of nature? (it should be possible to change her actions by making a real change in ourselves.) Is that not like saying that we can change the laws of physics? Do you believe that is possible? R: Heady as the feeling might be to think ourselves so free, and even empowered to make nature do as we desire, barriers exist as reactions we have already set in motion. Seems sensible then, that the way to recognize these would be to hold still, let them crash around us like high waves on a beach, til the turbulence settles and we feel a freedom in our movements. Our capacity to understand rises, freed from dealing so much with reactions. We may then wish to explore our ability to make changes in the laws of nature, just to know we can. But now, we are probably capable of making only the gentlest intervention, not by physical force, but by mental action. See if we can really do that before accepting we are on the correct path. So we leave natures laws as they are, the part we understand as physics, chemistry and medicine, and address something different, so relevant, yet outside the purview of these. Their efcaciousness. We did talk about this, that what actually happens, depends in some way on who it is happening to.

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Someone close to me has a disease with no certain cure. Philosophically, his condition is a consequence of his past, but not in the normal way, since medically, the causes of his disease are not clearly understood. My contention is that continuing as he is, psychologically, the course of his illness will be like for others with the same condition. But by intervening to change the personal part of it, which to nature is the real part for giving him the extent of his suffering, we can change the course. S: There is something deeply compelling about the idea that one can change ones future (one might say fate in the way it is often used today, not meaning something pre-ordained, but merely what will happen in the future) by changing the way we think about a condition, such as a disease with no sure cure. There is even scientic evidence that indicates the minds power to affect such circumstances. And certainly, the very least it can do is to give the person more of a sense of power over his situation, reducing feelings of helplessness. Saying I will do something is better than saying I can do nothing. The outcome may or may not be different, but the journey denitely will be. :-) R: I must insist that saying, I can do nothing is the better course than saying I will do something. My person is an extremely difcult one. I have had to see him up close and know his ways, some of them decidedly devious. In honesty, I have been one victim of his guiles. I fault him not for pushing his burden on me, but for never acknowledging that it caused a serious turn to my life, even a damaging one. Now, thats all water under the bridge. I am happy to see vistas I couldnt have dreamed of had I walked the common path alone. But he has great difculty letting go, accepting this weakness in the past. I was visiting him when I started this topic. I think you can see how I would like him to let go, and his suffering and disease will all go with it too. S: I think failing to acknowledge the other persons stress or negative consequences is one of the biggest causes of resentment in all types of relationships. A good-hearted person often does not mind rendering assistance, but minds a lot when that assistance receives no acknowledgment whatsoever, or worse, when it is turned around and made into something it was never intended to be. As for I will do something vs. I can do nothing I think the appropriateness of one or the other depends on the circumstances. You said there was no certain cure which I took to mean, he might get better, but a cure could not be assured. If it is known that a person really has no hope of getting better then yes, it might be best just to accept that, say I can do nothing about it, but I will make the best of the time I have and let go of the idea that one can change the unchangeable.

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Im glad your vistas are happier these days! R: Thank you Sarah for the kind words. I would like to exercise these two expressions, If it is known . . . and . . . . change the unchangeable. Does the rst not mean, by those smarter than ourselves, and the next, I accept restraints that I would not even attempt to change. I must admit to discover truth in the philosophy, has meaning for me beyond the closest of relationships. In some ways it may be like it has been with scientists who have often had to put up with the censure of people around them, because they pursued their goal too single mindedly. That being my intent, my expectation is for my circumstances too to so arrange themselves, that I move closer to discovering that which I seek. I may discover a turn, along the way which denes this truth differently. But that too would be because of the effort made to reach that turn. My circumstances and I, both act independently, but also in a perfect harmony. And my pursuit is to see, by causing it to change, that individual signature which determines for each of us, their fate, just as you dened it. S: Greetings, Rajiv! As with so many things in life, context is important. If I say, I am going to change the unchangeable, it may be absolute folly; if, for instance I say I am going to change the laws of physics and jump off a cliff, defying gravity. On the other hand, there was once a time when it seemed inconceivable that women could run corporations or hold high political ofce, and only with hard work by the people who wanted to change the unchangeable could that be brought about. In such ways may fate be changed, in previously unimaginable ways. R: I did think we were getting some clarity in how an eastern perspective overarches the conventionally scientic. Ill attempt to state that again. In everything we consider scientic, there is room for something more to happen, between our intent and when and as it actually does. To lessen these external factors, we strive to shut them out, creating laboratory conditions. But the fact remains that we do not live in any such controlled environment, and hopefully never will. The eastern perspective states a law which encompasses the seemingly random external inuence that life is determined by our intent. What makes our lives, moment to moment, are events whose laws we understand in physics, chemistry, medicine, the conventional sciences. The mechanism in a gun will work scientically, the medicine will do what its

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supposed to, but who dies and who is cured and when, there is an indeterminateness here. We may strive to overcome it, but this itself is a subject. The idea of intent is not as innocuous as it may appear. So ignoring the laboratorylike-conditions, and taking natures actions as a whole, we are ready to study a science, with a different scope if we wish to. Lets not forget here, that we are recipients of even what happens to our bodies. Life, or nature, gives us most of our feedback, signals, rewards, through what we experience bodily. S: I will admit that my Western perspective can make my interpretations a bit too literal. Thank you for the explanation; it makes more sense to me now. I do think that we would all be better off if we listened more to the feedback we get from our bodies. Sometimes we forget that we are not invincible. R: I wonder though if this made as much sense, . . . that we are recipients of even what happens to our bodies. As, did I say it correctly enough and also, from a literal point of view. I mean that we are in reality not our bodies, only experiencing through them. The incarnation idea is not so far-fetched, when we can really see it as this. This body, kind of, then does not belong to us and we are more readily willing to accept the next garb. Well, at least it will be new. But theres more. With each new incarnation, comes all else. Where we are born, the circumstances. For so will be the shaping of our lives, starting with our earliest thinking, because our minds are a blank slate. No memory of what happened before then. So, here we are talking about laws in nature which in their scope go far and beyond those we study in school. But these must be in place, else our birth would be quite random. Of course, this only if you accept the incarnation idea. S: I think yours is the most comprehensible explanation I have seen of reincarnation: This body, kind of then, does not belong to us and we are more readily willing to accept the next garb. It helps to explain the question, if energy cannot be destroyed, where does our energy go when we die? This is a question which can bother even those who have no belief in an afterlife. While we do not all believe the same thing, I think it is always helpful to at least understand what others believe. R: In the question . . . where does our energy go when we die? would you please explain what is our energy. Is it the conventional meaning of energy, like in plant-life, with no intellectual content? If it has higher content why do we still call it energy?

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Is it that we leave some kind of imprint after we depart, of this higher content? S: Well, as usual, I nd myself needing to analyze something Ive never really thought about before; youre good at that ;-) I suppose the answer lies in what one believes to be true. Some would say that it is only electrical energy, the sort that causes neurons to re. Some would say it is the soul or some variant thereof. Does it have sentience? I have no idea. We will all nd out some day; in the meantime, some people are quite sure they know the answer, while others feel it is pointless to speculate. This is not to say that there is not one true answer; merely that the answer is incapable of scientic proof (theres that phrase again). But as we were discussing the concept of reincarnation, perhaps the answer [energy] is, that which is reincarnated. [I feel like putting a giant question mark at the end of that sentence.] R: As cultures, mine is reputed to be airy, and yours is more grounded in the real. So I am trying to see truths as you might. You say, the answer lies in what one believes to be true. Does this mean, there is a fact that one may believe in correctly, or is all belief an illusion, a clinging to naught. Or, is believing it so, make it real? If this last is correct, why not then just believe, since it will make it true for us? That there is an imprint we come to in this life, and one we will reincarnate into in the next. S: I once had a French teacher who said that the divinity of Jesus Christ was a fact. It was a fact, she said, because she believed it to be a fact. When a classmate questioned her on the difference between belief and fact, she said, Well, I believe it, therefore it is a fact for me me. One has to admire the conviction behind that point of view, even if one disagrees with the logic. I suppose this demonstrates that the answer to your question as to whether believing something makes it real is that, if the person believes strongly enough, it is real for that person. To my teacher, it mattered not at all whether the reality existed beyond her belief; the belief was real enough for her. So, yes, as you say, why not just believe? (if believing makes one happier than not believing). In that way, we live our own truth. R: For superstitions, one may say why not, if believing makes one happier than not believing. But something that has not contradicted reason, how can we be sure we are not misleading ourselves from prejudice, when dismissing it as superstition? S: Ah, there is a lot contained in that deceptively simple-looking question! First, how does one know whether a thing has contradicted reason? For example, to my French teacher, nothing in her view contradicted reason; to a Jew or atheist, her stance might be very much

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against reason. Secondly, with regards to prejudice, I think I need you to give me an example, because I am not quite sure how you meant that. And when you say superstitions, what sort were you referring to? Again, one persons superstition might be anothers spirituality or even religion. Many people in the U.S., for instance, think of voodoo as superstition, but for the millions who practice it, it is a religion. (That, however, brings in additional issues regarding denitions, as the sort of voodoo most Americans are familiar with is quite different from that practiced in West Africa.) When I said, if believing makes one happier, I simply meant that, when something must be taken on faith, if believing in it makes one miserable, then one can always exercise the option of choosing not to believe in it. In that case, it ceases to be fact for that person. R: I cannot see why anyone should be miserable just believing that our existence goes beyond this life. But even so, it can cease to be a fact for them if they always attribute the cause of each event in their lives to some new fact, even if one could correlate these to this invisible imprint. This insistence of looking the other way, I see as a prejudice.

Chapter V
Imprints, our identities.
E HAVE STRUGGLED to dene the imprint that we reincarnate into. But lets look at it this way, that it is itself what we have become. It is no longer visible, or there is no possibility of seeing it, as now it is who we are. We are the imprint, manifested. At any time we make an effort to come to a sense of ourselves, instead of taking our physical selves or even our mind as the point of origin from where we look out, we can take the power of awareness itself, as origin. We make this shift in our frame of reference. Imagine a process of a coalescing and precipitation taking place in a glassful of liquid. So is this body formed. If we grasp the origin as dened above, there is no specic point where we can really say it is. We do not become aware of ourselves. The awareness exists rst, this sense of us ness is oating in it. What relates one such coalesced form to another, so we can say that it becomes that? They form, they reach some size according to the properties of the liquid and then they break up and dissolve. How may we say that something persisted and became the cause for the next to form? When I examine the process of memory, I see it has an existence unlike say, thoughts. A persistence even. I can go back to some recent event, say a time when I
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was waiting for a bus, and can extract further details from it, as though I am looking at a picture. And this picture is imprinted in my mind. In the experience, a physical etching took place in some subtle part of myself that I see only in my mind. And like a written page it revives for me, and I can live again what happened the rst time. It belongs to the physical part of myself, and ages with time, and is dissolved with the body. When considering the idea of reincarnation our greatest doubts arise because we cannot in the faintest way recollect anything of our past life. But, since memory is an attachment to our physical selves, it is not where we should hope to nd those details, as we do when revisiting our memories. The imprints instead, is who we are. They shine through us as a mixture of our own characteristics. We cannot foretell the events to come, or even a predisposition of events to take place, unless we free ourselves from this sense of identity. Then what is to be, comes to us with an assurance. At present we pull away from that projection, and connect the facts to those we know and others we are sure will take place. We may lose this assurance if we see something intervening with which the sequence to the original event is not denite. Yet, even inexplicably sometimes, we know that something will be so. Like owing into something, somewhere, we havent been before, and yet were certain it would be there. We may insist on calling these projections our imagination. But just as easily we could accept their veracity, their existence, an until then un-manifested existence that we have the power to perceive. Sarah: This is a very good analysis (if you dont mind my calling it that). The part that most resonated with me was the idea that memory ages with time I had never thought of it quite that way before, but that is a very good description. No matter how much of an impact an event has on us, the memory of it never stays as keenly sharp as it was at rst. It is interesting to think of it as a physical part of the body, because, in that case, it would have to age along with the rest of our physical existence. Thanks!

Poem

It was Good to Have Known you Sarah


I met you on this beach of words, I was moving along and you were curious, Curious of the movements I made, Where I looked, where I hopped to. Perhaps it was just your gentle way, But slowly my movements were caught by your gaze, Slowly I was reading from your eyes, your silent gestures, What I should say, to even say what I may. Now once again I nd myself moving along, I notice you are not by my side, Only your encouraging spirit will never leave, And though I know you acknowledged, How words are but fetters, of a language, Our thoughts can rise in any. What meter, what grammar, what punctuation even, Someone lives within, lives also without, You can set Him free, Her free, Flow not with words of your own, But from somewhere youll never ever know. It was so good to have known you Sarah.

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Judeelou Sanchez

Allen Emperado
March 20, 2009