After almost a month of intensive pilgrimages and family travel, many late nights, groggy mornings, out-of-the-regular diet regimes, and (this time around) particularly demanding children-related obligatory duties, I most gratefully slipped back into my usual (often non-negotiable) daily routine of solitude, quietude, and study. The inexplicable relief!
The first sighting on my morning walk after such a long gap, a “welcome gift” from my beloved Botanical Gardens, was this beautiful water lily in full bloom belting out, as it were, my Krishna’s standing instruction in Chapter 5, verse 10 of the Bhagavad Gita…
Be in this world just like the lotus is.
It is born in the (many times murky) water. It blooms, blossoms, and thrives in that water. It wilts away and dies in that very water, and YET! All through its fast-fleeting existence – it is not marred or affected by even one single drop of that water.
Another definition for the world is dvandva – which means pairs of opposites. For at the heel of every joy is sorrow. For every gain, there is a loss in tow. Every pleasure is shadowed by pain; every rise hovers around a fall. Nothing stays the same forever. We are caught in a whirlwind of uncomfortable transcience from the womb to the tomb. When we meet with what we like, we jump with glee – when faced with challenges, we sink in despair. We find ourselves on a frightfully never-ending roller coaster ride – whether we enjoy its thrill or not.
Is this any way to live? That too in the human apparatus? Relegated to chance, bereft of choice in any aspect of our lives?
The oft-overlooked gift of human birth is our Buddhi – Intellect, which, if awakened, has the power to guide the otherwise wayward mind to reign in the senses enough to meet the world for what it is rather than leave them to the mercy of our unrealistic expectations of what it should be. An incessant expectation that is riddled with disappointments every step of the way.
And when we can do that, we slowly but surely see ourselves rise above our joyful or sorrowful affectations from the world – one scenario at a time. We become in tune with Shri Krishna’s take on what Yoga truly is when He declares in verse 48 of Chapter 2 of the Bhagavad Gita –
समत्वं योग उच्यते
samatvam yoga uchyate
Meaning equanimity of mind is Yoga.
This equanimity, serenity, and objectivity of mind develop our ability to stay unscathed amidst the seemingly merciless lashings of an unrelenting world. This even keel poise transforms our otherwise extremely impressionable personality into that lotus that remains unaffected by water or the slush that pollutes it.
A tough ask? No – not really.
I am stepping out, having experienced its possibility in irrefutable bits and pieces in and through what was a complete break, a Cosmically orchestrated pause from an otherwise untampered with (to the point of fault) “Spiritual” lifestyle.
And what I realized was is with prior intelligent, periodic, well-employed vairagya (renunciation) and relentless abhyaasa (practice), maintained for a considerably long duration of time, whether you are firmly anchored to the altar of your Soul or being pulled far, far away from It into the depths of the material world, you gradually begin embodying the state of –
योगरतो वा भोगरतो वा
सङ्गरतो वा सङ्गविहीनः |
यस्य ब्रह्मणि रमते चित्तं
नन्दति नन्दति नन्दत्येव ‖ 20 ‖
yogarato vā bhogarato vā
saṅgarato vā saṅgavihīnaḥ |
yasya brahmaṇi ramate chittaṃ
nandati nandati nandatyeva ‖ 20 ‖
… as expressed in verse 20 of Shri Adi Shankaracharya’s universally chanted hymn Bhaja Govindam.
As in, your mind, intellect, AND intention remain docked in the highest within you that you have thus far accessed, no matter what, whom, or where your body is engaged with.
Does that mean we go through life mechanically with no zest or enthusiasm? No, not at all. This is a sorry misconception about adopting Vedanta in our day-to-day lives. One teaching at a time, Vedanta builds us up to engage in this world with a disinterested interest, a dispassionate passion, and unsentimental sentiments. Have emotions, It says, but do not get emotional. Because getting emotional with every up and down we encounter becomes our unsolicited ticket on that much-dreaded roller coaster ride.
Oliver Goldsmith concludes his inspiring poem The Village Preacher by describing the extraordinary stance a highly evolved soul holds in and through his interactions with the world.
To them his heart, his love, his griefs were given,
But all his serious thoughts had rest in Heaven.
As some tall cliff that lifts its awful form,
Swells from the vale, and midway leaves the storm,
Though round its breast, the rolling clouds are spread,
Eternal sunshine settles on its head
So you see, it is not that we do not engage with the world at all. Then what is the point of being in the world in the first place? The dignity and grandeur of human birth ask us to step back and see who is calling the shots? Is the world dictating the script of our lives, or are were writing our stories in ways that will prod us along an upward trajectory of the evolution of our Consciousness?
The world will be as it is – exactly as it is. And, it is not what we meet in the world that will determine the course of our lives but how we meet it. Lotus!
And so, while the break was good and, in hindsight, necessary – to now be back again with the birds, the bees, the trees, the buds, the blooms, the lakes, the cascades, and above all, the huss shhh … the stillness and silence within and without that brought about such deep contemplations over a single sighting is something I wouldn’t put aside to be lured into the frenzied madness of the world again!