With half of a smile, with an unwavering openness and kindness, Gotama looked into the stranger's eyes and bid him to leave with a hardly noticeable gesture.
"You are wise, oh Samana.", the venerable one spoke."You know how to talk wisely, my friend. Be aware of too much wisdom!"
Not often do I come across a short phase in my days where I am confronted with a singular matter brought forth with least design and cunning. It is interesting to watch, in a span of few days, intricately related matters bloom before my eyes and make me wonder why? Why do these things come forth to me? Am I supposed to do something? Am I supposed to realise something?
Such a bundle of days started out with a post on an acquaintance's blog where a small discussion about choices and one's worth in the context of the world ensued.
Later, I saw a post on Meera's blog about mediocrity and the like.
Dheepak Ra's blog had this post about love (why? oh why? :-) and there was some interesting points being raised there about expectations and reciprocation.
Misha's blog had a post about nothingness and doing things for their sake.
If you are wondering where the link is, here it is. The link is about volition and how we see ourselves in the context of the world. I suppose this is very essential to our thought process as well as our lives. It isn't as glamorous as "Ego" or "Esteem" or some of the other stuff that fills volumes of books on "philosophy", but I think it is most essential to our understanding of things around us and our purpose, or rather the absence of it, in this world.
I shall try and present this step by step, ever mindful of the growing dissent against lengthy pieces of writing!! ;-)
1. Why do we choose?
2. Why do we wish to walk our path and not just some path?
3. Why do we need to have an ambition?
4. Why do we think we have a unique purpose in our lives?
5. Is expecting inevitable, given that we choose?
6. What is a successful life?
7. How do we affect the world through what we do?
8. Should we live in order to create an impact on others, on the world?
9. Hence, what is the point of living?
Oops!! I think I would need to spread this across a few posts. There is no way I am going to manage all of this in a few lines and one post! Let's flow.
I would request the reader to enquire along with me. It is quite likely that I may learn something new or gain a new perspective. We aren't dealing in theories here, nor do we wish to proclaim and accept ideals. THAT I would be able to do in a few lines!!
1. Why do we choose?
I would start with 2 other, but related, questions. When do we choose? and what do we choose between? A very important thing we need to remember is, we aren't talking about trivial choices like "should I have Honey-Nut-Crunch or Choco-Rum-Delight." I don't think people fret over such incidents of choosing. What we are considering are incident where choices seem to be disturbing and/or have far reaching consequences. Are we together on this? So, what do we choose between? We choose between equally desirable things, is it not? If you were asked to choose between living in Switzerland and living in a cave in the Himalayas, there might not be much of a choice. If you were asked to choose between a life of wealth and pleasure and a life of ill-paid work in a cement factory for 17 hours, there really isn't much to choose from. We aren't going to argue for the heck of it, so don't flip over and tell me that "Why? Maybe a life in a cement factory for 17 hours everyday and earning 200 rupees a month is paradise for someone." So we choose between equally desirable things. When do we choose? Would I be wrong in understanding that choices are made to ensure a desirable consequence (usu. in the future)? If the consequences were to be the same, the choices might be of little relevance, at least the choice itself wouldn't trouble us for long. If the choice was between a career as a fighter pilot and a mason and both of them give you the same thrills, security, job satisfaction, etc. although you might hold a penchant for flying now, were you to become a mason the consequences might allay your ephemeral disappointment of not flying. This is usually not realised in a couple of days or months but usually over a longer period of time. Hence, (if we nod together on this) we choose when we need to ensure the circumstances and environment of our future. Basically, ensure security (not merely monetary) of our future lives. I shall leave this at that...
2. Why do we wish to walk our path and not just some path?
It is often heard from people who have chosen that "I'd rather choose and be wrong than be stuck with someone else's choice". It seems that the suffering is not a primary concern as much as who is the perpetrator of the suffering. If you hurt me, I don't like it, but if I go and hurt myself, it is ok. This seems to be irrational to me. I am interested in tackling my pain. How does it matter who caused it? I think I want to be a painter, my parents coax me into doing engineering. I get a job and soon I realise that I have no mental peace and long working hours and no job satisfaction. So I blame my parents and throw a tantrum. Had I become a painter and spent endless days without money and borrowing money to buy canvas and trying my best to put up gallery shows and being forced into selling my paintings for Rs. 500 so that I can pay off my debts, then such a life is fine? Now I am not suffering? This suffering is acceptable to me? Does the path matter so much rather than what we do on that path? If the goal is being happy, then does it matter which path we take? If the goal is being financially successful, then does it matter which path we take? Is the mind tricking us into identifying ourselves with a path purely on the basis of being the designer of that path?
3. Why do we need to have a goal, an ambition?
I am yet to figure this out. I am a criminal too and while I indulge in this I keep wondering (and this is ever since I stepped into my teens) why? What is the point? When I ran for the school and state athletics team, I wanted to be the best; when I got on stage, I wanted to be the best actor; when I did my homework I wanted my teachers to announce that my submission was the best (I still remember once when we were asked to find out the value of 2*2*2, everyone said 6 and I had said 8 and the teacher said "No, 6 is the right answer". When I proved it to her that I was right, she didn't bother to announce it. Notice that I still remember something that happened in 2nd or 3rd. I was so intent on being noticed then!!); when I got to sing in a choir, I wanted my voice to be recognised as the clearest. Fortunately I never felt that way about the writing that issued out of my pen. Even in wanting to lead a simple life I wanted to be the best. The point is: How does it help at all? Why do we need an ambition? Is it to fill the lack of passion for the task at hand? Is it goad us on towards stardom or perfection? But why? I am passionate about teaching and philosophy (amongst a hundred other things), and the passion is so overwhelming that there is no place for praise or criticism. Honestly. The prizes I won for my essays on pedagogy didn't affect me at all. Its like when you are running away from a lion; you do not want to run in the most elegant fashion nor would you care about whether you are the fastest person on earth: you need to be faster than the lion! Simple. And that is not ambition, that is pure necessity, urge, passion. The analogy ends here. Please do not take it further. If I am in love with something/someone I wouldn't measure it nor attempt to surpass anyone else in their love for a similar thing/person. If accolades and recognition is your thing, then do we agree that you do not love the task/object/person as much as you love yourself and exalting yourself in the eyes of the mass and the intellentsia/elite? When there is no love, why should you be recognised for something? When you truly don't love music why do you wish to be the greatest singer?
Let us spend some time on our discussion about these matters before we proceed with the other 6 concerns that we have raised...
It was a pleasure talking to you.