Sunday, May 13, 2012

Redefining self-knowledge in the context of modernity

This essay is meant for all those who agree with me on the following statements.

1.  ‘We are interested in freedom / liberation for ourselves.’
I guess all of us, who are able to see that we feel drained or stifled by something or the other, would agree on this. It could be a dysfunctional marriage / relationship, unwillingly taking on family burden, our neighbour’s selfish behaviour, our unfulfilling job, our debt, abusive environment, lack of space to do what we’d like or believe in, pressure to perform roles that we don’t believe in, the habit of people-pleasing, a polluted living / work / travel environment, fear about ecological crisis, water scarcity, our greed and insecurities, our fears and guilt, our attachments and prides, our addiction to pleasure (sex, food, alcohol) and so on. We are often slave to one, few or many of these and are constantly seeking liberation.

2.  ‘We are interested in freedom / liberation for everyone.’
We all dream of a world where this kind of liberation is possible for everyone. This is why most of us choose to work in NGOs, activist movements, healing groups, including spending time in engaging with people around issues to facilitate a certain coming together (building community), to improve the quality of life of others, to facilitate a certain healing (transformation of anger, for instance), a certain liberation from the notional separateness that can be a very painful experience.

3.  ‘We are all one life’
The idea of a separate self is just that, an idea. We are all different rays of the same light, we’re all made up of the same stuff. Beneath the surface, we are all the same.

4.  ‘Freedom comes with responsibility. True ‘Swaraj’ is ‘Sarvodaya’.
The realization of the Truth about life as being one brings on tremendous and unlimited responsibility towards all beings (including oneself). That is, there is no resting unless everyone has been liberated. This is not to be confused with burning ourselves out by overworking. Even sitting simply will be done with a sharp focus taking responsibility and making oneself completely accountable for it. I’ve heard that Gandhi used to spend an hour everyday in silence, even in the middle of the most happening and eventful days of his life. That silence was part of the responsibility he was taking for himself and his life’s work.


Most of us might be on the same page up to this point. The confusion comes only when we get into the details of ‘What exactly are we enslaved by? What are the various things we need to free ourselves from?’ I can make a long list of things based on what I see as enslaving elements of the world of form, especially of the modern world. I will make this list and post it very soon. But in order to take on and be sincere to that rigorous process of self-examination, we need to free ourselves from one very important thing. And that is our addiction to ‘comfort’. We need to ask ourselves very sincerely ‘Am I ready to give up my comfort if I have to, in order to seek liberation for myself (i.e. liberation for all of life)? Can I at least try earnestly and sincerely to do that? And can I be as transparent and honest about my struggles in the process, without beating myself up or becoming complacent, by constantly examining the line between the two?’ For, beating myself up would mean lack of compassion for myself, and becoming complacent would mean lack of compassion towards others.

The hesitation to answer a confident ‘Yes!’ is what makes most of the middle-class spirituality hollow to me. The human mind very easily falls prey to self-delusion. And the middle and upper-middle class mind, more easily so. The reason is that, the mind (especially of the latter kind) ends up accumulating a lot of information through various means and comes to think of it as ‘knowledge’. The mind can store information about anything from cooking recipes to Vedanta, without actually going through the process of ‘knowing’ for itself. It is only with tremendous courage and unswerving sincerity to pursue the Truth can one get past this great danger of seeing 'information' as 'knowledge' that comes in the way of self-examination. Otherwise, even self-examination can turn out to be another self-deluding exercise!

I am working on putting together my long list of questions, which I have called the ‘Swaraj / Sarvodaya’ matrix, so that those of us who are interested can see for ourselves where we stand in it. This was inspired by Jacques Ellul’s ‘76 reasonable questions to ask of any technology’. In the meantime, I felt ready to talk about one aspect of the middle-class life in India which I find very self-delusional, and hence disturbing. It is about how it stands on a foundation of exploitative labour.


Kaushik Katari said...

It is good to read your posts, introduced to me by our mutual friends Hema and Dev.

I have recently started a little bit of Buddhist meditation, and doing some reading and listening to talks. There is a nice trilogy in Buddhism: Shila (discipline), Samadhi (Mindfulness), Panna (wisdom). Discipline (keeping precepts) is important, not because you will be judged by some unknown almighty, but without which, it is difficult to practice mindfulness and meditation.

I like the simple language of this trilogy, and use it as a reminder and a test for how I spend my time. Perhaps this could be of help to you too.

Kaushik Katari

Sw. Raaj Neeravo said...

to erase
to build

Sw. Raaj Neeravo said...

if they
exploit in
to have
is not worthy
not for
but to
in a group
learn to
which is