Saturday, October 15, 2016

A void filled: On finding life's purpose

In the last 200 years, every generation has been a witness to dramatic changes in connectivity with trains, cars, planes and advances in communication bringing us closer together than ever before. Our generation is not unique in that respect. The big change that our generation has witnessed is the proliferation of the internet and how it has changed our lives. Many of us may be old enough to remember a time before the internet was widely available. Back in the late 80s and early 90s, the internet was used mainly by the people in academia as a means of connecting with one another. Now it has proliferated to such a large extent that it has virtually become an “utility” like water and electricity. In such an interconnected world, it is hard to imagine life without the internet. In some sectors of the economy, the internet is threatening to make humans obsolete. Driverless cars are just the start of that next big revolution. Succeeding generations will need to contend with those advances. When it comes to communication, a crack has now widened to a large chasm, it is becoming harder to have one foot in the old world of paper and personal touches, and the other in the new world of digital avatars. One or the other will have to be embraced in times to come. Brick and mortar operations will slowly become a thing of the past in many sectors of the economy. Just as ancient tribes may have gathered around a fireplace every evening, the modern day tribe of humanity gathers around the internet not once a day but 24/7. The internet has become our celebratory “bonfire” which is gradually melting interpersonal contact and also an important connection with our inner being hidden beyond the mind. No doubt, the internet has filled a big void, but it is leaving an even bigger void in its wake. The cumulative knowledge of mankind may easily be available on one’s fingertips through the internet, but it cannot show us life’s true meaning and purpose.

Even as that “fire” of the internet burns brighter with each passing day, the innate warmth of humanity appears to be decreasing. In fact, there is some evidence to suggest that the internet douses human empathy. When we look at one another more through screens that we do face to face it dehumanizes us. There is little time for one to pause, stop and reflect. With the spread of smartphones, large quantities of both wanted and unwanted information is consumed, digested and assimilated virtually instantaneously. The senses are easily susceptible to stimuli and the internet provides plenty of it. It’s no wonder that the mind is so glued to it. To keep up, the mind will have to function on overdrive. That could be detrimental to our health in the long run.

The mind is a purpose driven entity. In anything we do, the mind seeks a purpose whether it is good or bad. The primordial purpose of life is to connect with the source of it all. That’s the “holy grail” and the scent of that source is embedded within each and every one of us in the form of desire for happiness. Some suggest that the source to be a person existing out of sight in a far away place. To some others, the source may be hidden in everything in and around us in the form of energy. Energy is an universal phenomenon. Everything in the universe is driven by some form of electromagnetic energy. Even the internet we are so dependent on these days, runs off that energy. Whether we are believers or not, we cannot live without the energy spectrum of electromagnetic radiation. A small portion of that energy is locked in each atom and relative to its size, the amount of energy released from splitting an atom is tremendous. There may be a lot of energy trapped in each thought. Some thoughts are more powerful than others, and that power that underlies thoughts mysterious. There isn’t an external device available that can harness mental energy. But energy in the mind follows the purpose we give it.

The mind is situated in the midst of an atomic soup we know as the body. A simple window of perception, it is also a big enigma. It can be very quiet and remains “out of sight” when it is given a purpose. In day to day living, the mind is kept very busy with many different tasks. Habituated to this busy lifestyle, the mind cannot be left idle. It will recoil with great force, which can be experienced as restlessness. But with practice, that same force could be redirected for higher mental evolution if we assign the mind a deeper pursuit. It is almost impossible for anyone to live a purposeless life. The mind would become a very troublesome companion. Even a lazy person has a purpose, being lazy itself is the purpose the mind pursues. Knowingly or unknowingly, we all seek a purpose. The depth and meaning behind the purpose is what leads to either a sense of fulfillment or disillusionment. It is hard to agree on the purpose of life. It can extend from providing the basics such as food, shelter and clothing all the way to questioning existence itself. A purpose is more easy to find and fulfil if it involves the external world. We have so many commitments to fulfil. These can easily keep us busy our entire life span. This type of living starts and ends with the mind. The size of the net that is cast into the world is proportional to our ambition. But deeper questions will remain unexplored.

When one looks at the night sky, it is hard not to think how isolated we are in the cosmos. With so many distractions for the mind to contend with, “helpless isolation on a cosmic scale” is the last thing on anyone’s mind. Human ingenuity has made the best of the resources “local” to our planet and has resulted in very comfortable living for many. Just as the earth is isolated, from the perspective of the mind, we are isolated from everyone else. Due to the senses and the means of communication we don’t notice this isolation. Even the conscious mind is isolated, separated from the subconscious, a storehouse of innumerable experiences by an impenetrable wall. Just as there isn’t a bridge between the earth and the rest of the planets, there is no way for us to easily access the deeper layers of the mind and beyond. A leap of faith will not get us there, neither will imagination.

Science has never ventured to penetrate the subconscious mind. Not a physical construct, it does not obey the laws that pertain to the physical universe. The body cannot travel to the far reaches of the manifest universe and thoughts cannot access the deeper layers of our being. But for the light of the stars, space would appear as dark as the what’s beyond the lighted world of thoughts in the conscious mind. Science probes the darkness outside and spirituality treads darkness within. One deals with the objective and the other with the subjective. The purpose of both is the same, explaining the unexplainable. Not everyone can be a scientist. There are a lot of requirements to be met, which may or may not be possible for most people. But everyone has the potential of becoming spiritual, not in an individual sense but a universal one  It takes a deep desire to know ourselves, and a strong will to put asides our beliefs and prejudices while on that search. Scientists and spiritualists have big voids to fill. Both use the mind. Scientists study energy and have found both constructive and destructive uses for it. Spiritualists use that same energy to study themselves.

The mind is an energetic space. The speed of thoughts is faster than that of light. This cannot be proven by the physical sciences but is in everyone’s direct experience in the form of imagination, which travels at unimaginable speeds. There isn’t a convincing answer as to what propels thought. There is some form of energy behind its movement. Since there is no obvious source of energy from the outside that enters the mind to enliven it, there ought to be a self sustaining source of energy within. Just as the visible light is a very narrow band in the electromagnetic spectrum, the “visible” mind may be a very narrow space in the non-physical continuum.

In one hauntingly isolated corner of space, from where we our eyes cannot see anything of the darkness of space except for the light emanating from the stars, some of those light rays being millions of years old; how can we even begin to answer the question, what is the purpose of the universe? It is estimated the the telescopes we have today can only see 10% of the universe. The mind dreams big, it must be given credit for that. We are all seekers of the truth. But we have turned into dreamers who believe the dream is real. That’s where we are in our daily lives. All our successes and problems seem realistic when we are awake, but vanish when we fall asleep. Dreams disappear when we awaken. This suggests that waking and dreaming states are real and unreal in relation to one another. What is truly real cannot appear and disappear from our consciousness. This understanding is the key to finding a way back to the source of life. Just as early seafaring explorers like Vasco Da Gama and Christopher Columbus probably had the treasure of their nations backing their brave voyages but could only carry the essentials on their ships as they sailed into the unknown; we cannot carry the mind with its wealth of thoughts and ideas into the inner unknown. Those early voyages had the uncharted seas to contend with. The hurdles we face are the psychological hurdles that lurk in the shadow of the subconscious mind.

There is an assumption that there should be a purpose (high or low - ultimately we set the bar) to our lives. This stems from the mind and the ego, which magnifies our importance relative to everything else. It isn’t a stretch for the mind to suggest that we are bigger than life itself. This is a self-preserving mechanism that the mind employs to its benefit. It’s survival depends on the creation of a purpose for us to fulfil. In the fabric of existence, our lives are shaped by collective mind of humanity. Each one weaves a pattern, when put together it determines the future course of the human species. So even if we seemingly lack an individual purpose, part of our mind is drawn into fulfilling the collective purpose that is thrust upon us through societal laws and mores. Within this fabric of existence, our individual mind is the reference point from which we relate.

When we are in absolute harmony with the agenda of existence (which is yet to be defined or understood objectively), perhaps the goal of life may be reached. In the meantime, happiness, contentment, simplicity, humility and fearlessness may be some of the subjective symptoms that suggest that harmony. Life isn’t just about goals. Any goal that is set is only relative to our present or past situation, and each one has a different set of circumstances as a reference point. Just as in medieval times, the earth was considered to be the center of the universe, we unconsciously put the mind in the center, around which the rest of existence must revolve. The mind does well to justify its claim to that position. It cannot be easily shaken off once it is entrenched as the center of our perceived being. All it has to do to maintain that prime position is create an illusion that the happiness we seek originates in the mind. It shows us experiences that bring joy to prove its point. Finding lasting happiness that can stand alone without any external support is the transcendental purpose of life. If the mind was the source of that happiness, money could have banished sorrow from the world. We obediently fall in step with the mind and in return it gives us little aliquots of happiness to enjoy. Unbeknownst to us, the mind lays a bigger trap.

It is in the mind that individual choices are made and conclusions drawn about what we like and dislike. This leads us to being tossed about in an endless vortex where we are constantly pursuing happiness and trying to leave behind unhappiness. Awareness of this fundamental aspect of the mind is in itself a big step forward. In a struggle to match the expectations of a purpose (we set) in life, we lose access to a hidden reservoir of happiness that is said to flow from within. This reservoir does not depend on us pursuing what the mind likes and enjoys. It is said to exist independent of the mind.

Finding a purpose in life may also be thought in terms of ambition. There is nothing inherently wrong with ambition, as long as the enjoyment is in the effort that goes towards fulfilling that ambition and not in the expectation of a result. Ambition is the catalyst that makes us strive for a change. The only thing that is definite about the world is that it is constantly changing. The inner urge we all have for change implies that we are not content with our present status quo. The desire for change is driven by likes and dislikes. Purpose implies an unconscious desire for change. By fulfilling a certain purpose we are attempting to change ourselves or others. A purpose driven life no doubt drives away boredom, but it cannot be the means of transcending the mind if the purpose originates in the mind and the experience of its fulfillment is in the mind. Boredom is a state wherein an active mind lacks purpose. It is the easiest way for us to be led astray. As the world changes, the mind changes and as the mind changes our perception of the world changes. When our awareness is tied to the world or the mind, the need for change and hence a setting in motion a purpose to achieve that change will be a constant urge. However, there is an often overlooked witnessing aspect to our being is not influenced by this urge for change. Holding onto that aspect of our being, we can expand our awareness into the realm of choicelessness where lasting happiness may be found

No matter what changes around us or how we change, what everyone seeks is unencumbered freedom. In a worldly sense, freedom is linked to money and resources. But that freedom is highly conditional and comes with a price. Real freedom is not conditioned by anything. In that state, mind disappears from our awareness without any restrictions or conditions imposed on it. It is similar to a fog that effortlessly covers up a giant mountain. Just as when a fog lifts the mountain can be seen, when we lose touch with true freedom, the mind becomes a visible to us as an obstacle. The same consciousness through which we experience real freedom also holds the mind in its grasp. That consciousness is the “inner internet” that subtly links us all.

The mind is a storehouse for all our likes, dislikes, desires, emotions and feelings, each thought is a storage shed. Consciousness is like pure water. It does not impart color or flavor to our experiences. Consciousness does not store experiences. It does not have a memory. It assumes the quality of whatever experience it comes in contact with. Pure consciousness cannot express itself as it is unless it is diluted and mixed with something else. Just like one cannot enter a dream state without falling asleep first, pure consciousness must lose its pristine purity before we are able to experience its presence. In its purest form, there is no experience and experiencer. The experiencer is the experience. There is no I that can observe consciousness. As long as there is a state of experiencing, there is duality, such as “us and them”. Relative happiness stem from within the boundaries of this duality, hence we are never satisfied and the search does not end. Moving our attention towards a purer form of consciousness or in other words being less and less dependent on the mind and the senses, fills a large void in our life’s journey towards transcendental happiness.

To be continued...