This is my draft, unedited, introduction to my first book that I have started writing. I hope to finish it by the end of the year. I am tentatively calling it "Gorges and Demons".
Does Man need to be saved from his Saviors?
Does Man need to be delivered from the desire for deliverance?
The Buddha, in his famous Four Noble Truths, appeals to all of us for whom sorrow and suffering become too much to handle. He acknowledges our sorrow in the first truth, explains its causation, provides a way to end it, and then points to its end.
Such is the promise of all messiahs, mystics, Gurus, self-help teachers, new age therapists, evangelists, long-time seekers, the enlightened, the delivered, the ones who are One with God, and of all those who, in their compassion, are driven to save others from the pangs of life.
What is suffering? What does the way entail? What is “worldly” life and what is the so-called “transcendental” life? What do men do when they claim to be free of suffering?
Is suffering inevitable? Can man be free of suffering, without delusion?
Why do some suffer more, and others less? Why does continued happiness elude almost everybody? Why does fulfillment seem to require “many lives”?
This book is an exploration of these questions.
Too many people jump into the pursuit of seeking freedom from earthly life, without first understanding what earthly life is, and more importantly, without understanding what that “freedom” looks like. In the process, they not only spend a rather significant part of their lives in agony and ambiguity, but cause tears of helplessness and heartbreak in the ones who love them.
The state of Nirvana, and the path to that Promised Land, seem mysterious. Very few say they are in that state, millions say they are making progress, and even more say they are stuck and need guidance. Nobody says with any clarity what that state is. Every sect and every cult has a different story, and a different take on why so many are failing to achieve that state, and where the remedy lies!
It is a cliché by now to say that Life is what happens when you are preparing for it. So many of us spend so many of our years learning to live rightly, that the occasions to live according to our learnings pass us by. A great tragedy of life, if one may call it that, is that we get but one opportunity and one time to do things rightly. After that age is gone, we can but look back in regret and nostalgia. How we treated our children, how we loved (or didn’t love) our parents, how we broke others’ hearts, how we behaved with people whom we will never meet again, how we renounced something which is only available in youth...
Whether we like it or not, our options to shape our lives diminish with age. In Youth we are infinitely hopeful and life is a boundless spectrum of possibilities. We want to break the rules, travel in strange lands, find love at the most unexpected of places, we have ideals and principles which we hold with passion, …
In Old Age, we smile ruefully at what could have been, and we convince ourselves to be content with our little comforts and joys and we look with amusement at the hopeful idealism as well as the naiveté of the young.
If you ask people what they want, they may not be able to list things out, but they will unquestionably say that they want to be happy. What is this “happiness”? What theories and tomes have been written about it! We know we were happy at a certain time, and the present appears not a little unsatisfactory.
When I was young and ignorant and idealistic, I used to look at people immersed as if hypnotized at a busy urban crossing, and wondered: Where are they going? What is driving them? Why do they not stop and reflect on their lives? They seemed like robots following orders and not stopping for a moment to question what was going on. How can they go on like this? Do they not value their time and their years? I wanted to stop a few of them and look into their eyes and tell them that they need to wake up.
After many decades, I can hesitatingly say that I understand, to a satisfying extent, the "normal" "worldly" people and why they do what they do.
But, interestingly, now I have the urge to stop and ask the same question to the seekers of exalted states, who cannot give up on their journey and are ceaselessly driven by something that they consider a holy desire to be free. To be sure, the seekers are usually ready to talk to you about the “deep questions”. But the fact that they have chosen a way (or so they think) makes it almost impossible for them to recognize that they could be blindly driven by something that they also may not understand.
I think I have some ideas as to why they may be pursuing these states, and I want to have a word with them, with you.
This book is not a treatise in pessimism, but a look at a few facets of our seeking a state beyond what we consider “the mundane”. It is true that blind enthusiasm may make one achieve goals hitherto considered unachievable, but most of the time, it pays to know about the risks and the pitfalls.
Humans are not very different from each other. There are almost seven billion of us. We share the same DNA, the same morality (more or less), and given a similarity in our social standing, we suffer from similar discontents.
Others like you have sought inner happiness in its very essence, and might have interesting tales to tell of gorges and of the demons they encountered in their journeys.
This book is dedicated to your capacity of contemplation and reflection; to what is essentially human in you.