Over the last few years, the seeking and the idea of attaining enlightenment has slowly faded away. I have come to live a more, everyday in the world of family and things, type of life. I can barely remember the teachings of the Gurus and spiritual texts I had so ardently studied.
The only words that come to heart again and again when I think of what I learnt and what I can say is my lived experience is that ‘I am, then the world is.’ This sentence always comes to me with the appendage, ‘then the world is’. It is often said that the only truth that cannot be denied is ‘I am’. No one can deny that they exist and also nobody needs someone else to verify this truth for them. It is a self-certifiable fact.
Therefore, I wonder why my takeaway after twenty years of research, study, meditation comes to me as ‘I am, then the world is’.
I believe that the way this statement or this fact as my lived experience allows me to conduct my life is by validating me as an individual living in a world of people and things.
The world around me is as real as I am. My reality of being is equally the reality subscribed to people around me. This makes my thoughts, emotions, feelings as relevant as others. I live, eat, sleep, breathe, interact with the full certainty that I and the world – that is the other, are as vulnerable as each other. We both hurt, feel sadness, experience loss, feel happy, delighted, content … as the chain of actions and reactions continue to play out in a sequence of events.
What I do not think about is a world after ‘I am’ gone. Perhaps that might translate as world after my death. I have no experience of a world being in existence without me.
People would say but a world exists when you are asleep and during your sleep you cannot say ‘I am’. Agreed, the point is that when I wake nobody can tell me that I was not during sleep. Upon waking I can say ‘I was’ – ‘asleep’. Thus again it is the presence of being that gives credibility to the world around me.
Living from this center point frees me of worry of what may happen to me or the other after my death.
No one knows of after death. If ‘I am’ in death, then death would just be an unknown extension of life. Different or not from what we understand as living.
Not being concerned with the world after I am gone, does not mean I live a reckless life. I plan as much as I need to, but words like legacy, undue concern about children and family or trying to leave behind masses of wealth is not a part of my thinking process.
Sure, the occasional thought or emotion might occur about the wellbeing of my family after my death for I am as susceptible to a collective societal belief system. But by and large these thoughts are fleeting and have no hold over my decision making.
One might ask if this way of living is a license for an irresponsible life, free of duty for others and the environment.
I don’t feel so at all. I live according to the dictates of my values, ethics and conscience. For me these came into being before and alongside my spiritual journey. Indeed, like anyone else nature and nurture played their role. But certainly, a pursuit of a spiritual life brings its own cleansing process. Purification is a stage no seeker can avoid. One does not jump from an everyday life as a young adult with one’s material, emotional and personal dreams and goals into suddenly wanting enlightenment to the exclusion of almost anything else.
A spiritual journey is a process, with its own guidelines, stages and upheavals. A seeker learns to face the challenges within and live in the world with a heightened sense of compassion, empathy and generosity. A true spiritual seeker is not a selfish individual unconcerned with life around but rather a human being often brought to the path through the road of suffering and is therefore able to understand the suffering of others.
So as I introspect upon what I imbibed after most of my life devoted to spiritual seeking, I realize that though for me, my experience distills down to a few simple words, ‘I am, then the world is’, this conviction allows me to live my life with a freedom at a very subconscious, fundamental level.
I understand the difference I experience in my way of living prior to this knowing.
As a human being, I think we have enough to feel stressed, concerned and worried about just living our everyday lives. To not have to worry after ‘I am’ no longer, I feel is the blessing I received from pursuing a spiritual life. Indeed, it left me behind in the achievement of goals I might have otherwise probably attained. Who knows? Do I care? Yes, sometimes like any other person I would have liked to have my cake and eat it too.
But I do know that we cannot pray at multiple altars, nor sit and stand at the once. To achieve a level of satisfaction in a vocation of one’s calling requires a discipline and dedication, a focus and sacrifice to truly feel at the end of years of pursuit that one has approximated one’s wishes and so to speak, ‘reached home content.’
To put into context how my experience of living translates in terms of a feeling it’s like the knowing you have when you have enough savings in the bank, that God forbid an unforeseen illness, a huge loss or any other life changing calamity comes your way – and as it often does – that you have enough financial resources to see you through. For me living with this feeling that ‘I am, then the world is’ is a similar sort of comfort, safety and support when the hard times roll. The reason I equate this with monetary resources is that it is a kind of spiritual wealth, earned equally by hard work, just in a different dimension from the professional or business career.
So today I live, enjoying my other passions and proclivities – writing, painting, reading, cooking, swimming, walking, loving, giving and receiving the multiples of beauty that life has to offer and suffering my own share of disappointment and despair.
But I know with a certainty that all there is the here and now. For I am, then the world is, is nothing other than the present moment as it exists – me and you now. And a million such present moments that make up what we call the future.
So death, as I understand it conceptually now can only be an absence of ‘ I am’. And I am not concerned with when ‘I am not’.
Not because I would choose to not be concerned, but I simply wouldn’t exist to be concerned!
This series of blogs has been reviewed by Drishya Warrier, Aditi Iyer, and Pratishtha Bagai, of Symbiosis Centre of media and Mass Communication, Pune. We are students that have completed our first year. Through this NGO Internship Project at MHAT, we explored the field of mental health while pursuing our interest in creative writing.