A few years back, I wrote an article titled “What is Happiness” in which I talked about the ancient idea that the root cause of all unhappiness is desire. It is not very difficult to understand how “desire” or “expectation” or “attachment” causes misery in our lives.
The point I wish to make in this post is that what we call “understanding” occurs at different levels, the most superficial one being intellectual. One can intellectually get convinced of some idea or concept and even argue in its favour or against quite powerfully. But it is quite another thing to understand something at the level of “being” which is the deepest level of our existence; the intermediate level is “emotional” where women outdo men in most of the matters. Mere intellectual understanding doesn’t influence or change one’s behaviour pattern much, and we continue to tread the old beaten path which lead us to being more and more miserable. Though intellectual understanding is not of much help in breaking out of the mold, its utility lies in the fact that it provides a foundation upon which a deeper understanding can grow.
I have been thinking of writing this post for quite some time. Intially I thought of expanding upon my original article. But then I decided to write it as a separate post on my blog as it involves detailing my own personal experience I have had since I wrote the original article. For the sake of considerations of privacy, I can’t be as explicit as I would like to. But I would try to explain what I experienced in as clear words as I am capable of.
I would begin with a simple statement. Intellectual understanding involves the use of words. No matter who writes or speaks those words, no matter how articulate the person uttering those words is, no matter how well you think you understand what the other person is trying to say, you don’t really understand or “know” it unless you see or experience the concept yourself. No matter how well I describe a lotus, unless you see it for yourself you won’t really “know” what a lotus is like. If you get the drift of what I am trying to say, you will appreciate that when it comes to abstract concepts like our behaviour, its roots, our motives and desires, the things are much more difficult to really understand.
I have been convinced of the fact that desire itself is the root cause of our disappointments, frustrations and miseries for quite some time. I have been trying to deal with my own desires by first recognising them as and when they became detectable on the radar of my consciousness, and then by trying to become indifferent to their pulls. Depending on their intensity, they require time and effort on my part to get rendered neutral and harmless. The effort I have to make involves nothing more than becoming more and more conscious of my desires and the way they influence my demeanour. Though I haven’t been able to get rid of all my desires :-), I have been able to render most of them impotent once I become aware of them.
Last year, I was in for a rude shock. My destiny probably decided to make a practical demostration of what I thought I already knew well enough. I was to undergo a whole range of experiences which were totally unexpected for me. I was to watch myself being buffetted all around by the storm that was brewing on the horizon, and I was to internalise certain truths I had known only intellectually.
I came across a person who I would name as Junglee here. After some initial interactions, I started feeling a certain pull towards him. I have referred to Junglee in one of my earlier posts (contentment) too. What I felt after each meeting with him was indescribable. It was as if some deep rooted needs of my being were getting fulfilled. Even though I knew, intellectually of course, all the while that what each of us needs is already there within us, it was much easier to simply get in touch with Junglee and have a high for some time, rather than digging deep within my own self and sifting through lots of garbage to find the gems. The dependence on him kept on growing. I knew that this dependence was not good. I knew that sooner or later I will have to get rid of it, but still I kept on trying to tread the easier path. At the same time, I also kept on trying to win back my independence, and seek within what was getting fulfilled through the contact with Junglee. It was like I was struggling against myself, with the only difference that it wasn’t actually a struggle in the strict sense. It was not an active struggle; it was only that I was aware of the conflicting emotions within myself.
The so called inner struggle became so violent, and I say this only because I was able to view it dispassionately, that it became unbearable. I lost interest in everything else, and was engrossed all the time with my own emotions. Much surfaced from the depth of my self, which I didn’t like very much. I could see myself in stark nudity. I could see how selfish I could be when it came to gratifying myself. I could see how difficult it was for me to be selfless even though I knew how it could help me fulfill my own needs. I could see how jealous I could be even though I never thought I could ever feel jealous towards anyone for any reason. I could see my own helplessness and my weakness the extent of which I had never even imagined before. I was reminded of a very famous couplet by Kabir: “Buraa Jo dekhan main chalaa, buraa na miliyaa koi, jo dil dhoondha aapnaa, mujhsaa bura na koi”. I felt really so ashamed of myself when I witnessed my own weaknesses.
For quite sometime, a sense of shame was the overwhelming emotion I had been under. I used to think that I was one of the better specimen of human beings. I used to think that I knew more than many of the people around me. I thought that I understood more about life. I still think so, but now I realise how inadequate all that knowledge and understanding is if it remains stuck only at the intellectual level.
This is the chasm I am talking about: the chasm between intellectual understanding and your own deeper self which is driven by your subconscious.
The needs of mine which were getting fulfilled by being in contact with Junglee were deeper than emotional; I like to think that probably they were kind of spiritual. Had Junglee been a female, or had I been gay, I would have had no hesitation in claiming that I was in deep love with him; a companionate kind of love. I can’t even call him some sort of Guru as our interactions were not the kind that occurs between a teacher and a pupil. I can only say that Junglee is probably a fellow traveler on the path of personal and spiritual growth. I think he was sent to me by the providence for making me experience whatever I have gone through during the period.
I don’t know if we shall travel for some distance together again, if at all. I don’t know if our togetherness was meant only for the short duration we have already had gone through. I haven’t ever tried to gaze into my future with intensity and curiosity as I do now, even though I know that even this is a mistake.
Keeping my fingers crossed…