Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Realm of Peace

The seeker was inspired and enraptured by the teacher's words:
I wonder if that would happen if we saw the whole significance of the problem? We might not live according to the usual pattern, but we would live creatively and happily, with a wholly different out look. Such a state cannot be brought about if we accept the present social pattern as inevitable. But to get back to your point: do ambition, competition and conflict constitute a predestined and inevitable way of life? You evidently assume that they do. 
Since you are maintaining this competitive way of life, your children and your children's children will bread further antagonism, envy and war; neither you nor they will have peace. Having been conditioned to this traditional pattern of existence, you are in turn educating your children to accept it; so the world goes on in this sorrowful way.
The seeker was convinced that living competitively was not a recipe for happiness.  That competition was a form of warfare, and was untenable for a man of peace.  That it was evil.

The seeker decided not to compete as he lived his life.

It was not easy.

The seeker never won an election.  Nor an auction.  The seeker never negotiated the terms of his loans.  He got a house which was facing a sewage pit while others got houses which were facing a pleasant lake.  He wanted to get married and eventually married a woman who couldn't see her own toes.  His children didn't get admission in a good school, which was in demand, and he was content to have them enrolled in the local school full of rowdies and drug users.  When visiting a doctor, he waited the longest while others jumped the queue and pleaded with him to let them see the doctor first.  At the cinema hall he was content to sit in the first row, squinting at the screen.

Such was his life for many years.  And he suffered.  But he was content that at least inwardly he was living the life that he held proper.

But doubts crept into his soul.  He wondered why he kept on suffering.  If his way was the way of peace, why did the Gods not bless him with a pleasant life?  He decided to pay another visit to the charismatic teacher.  As he boarded the aircraft, he realized that he had been allocated a middle seat toward the back of the plane.  To catch his connecting flight, he had to run like a madman but missed it because it was overbooked.  He waited and was put on a late night flight to his destination.

He arrived at the monastery, bleary eyed and exhausted from the journey.  The teacher lived in a mansion in a remote, picturesque valley on a piece of land donated by one of his wealthy followers.

He patiently waited for the teacher to come out.  But there were many other visitors, and they had appointments.  His turn did not come till the evening.

He kept waiting.  But impatience was troubling him today.

Finally he had his chance, and after everybody else had left, the teacher faced him.  He bowed to his ancient teacher, who was resplendently dressed in a white robe and with a heavy voice asked his question, using words that he had chosen carefully and with precision: "If competition is evil, and the world is competitive, where does a man go who does not wish to lead an evil life?"

The teacher looked at him lovingly, with compassion, and simply said:
I have found the answer to all this, not in the world but away from it.
That was all the teacher said.  The teacher then left the visitors' room and retired into his mansion.  The seeker did not understand but stood up to leave.  He was confused and still tired.  His head was aching badly.  As he stood up his phone fell out of his pocket onto the floor.  He picked it up.

The glass screen had shattered, the background image on the phone of the snow-clad mountains was now a blur, but the phone was still alive.  There were five missed calls from his wife.  He cursed loudly for he knew she needed money to pay the rent which had been recently hiked by the landlord due to increased demand in their area.  She needed money: money which he did not have.  Agonized, he suddenly felt a pain in his chest and clutched his heart.

As he dropped to his death, he was finally at peace.


Sriram Naganathan said...

What a story... will linger for a long time.

Anonymous said...

The pattern is the same.. competition or corruption (of course corruption is easy to understand, competition is difficult, because it does lead to some good results): the society is corrupt.. how to live in a way as not to perpetuate the corruption.

1. Stop being corrupt and try to live with a straight code - say a honest cop who is not a superman - what happens is probably similar to the story.

2. Accept the a inevitability of the status quo - and don't think too much about it; complain if you like, and continue to do the same things in a lesser or greater degree whose effects you are complaining about.

There are degrees in 2 of course. You can become more and more aware how these instincts exist in you from a superficial level to deeper level. In which case it gives you a certain depth and a choice when you succumb. And see other options. On the other end of the spectrum, you accept it so much that you stop paying attention to these things in you, and unconsciously it grows under the rug (of course there are external laws that keep some checks).

To support the speaker, he believes that people are going in the latter direction - more and more accepting the inevitability and losing the awareness of the extent in which they are perpetuating. He is probably recommending moving in the other direction, not exactly option 1, but increasing awareness in 2, which increases your ability to maneuver wisely and choose good options not because of reasons such as the world is going that way but because of its benefits - maybe the difference is very gray; surely the speaker is encouraging to take a look and ask questions, and believes that the intelligent action will come out of such an awareness, not suggesting a predefined solution.

So the vice is not competition but acceptance of competition and resultant status as inevitable, and hence not seeing its effects in the full light. As you know, the thesis is a "religious mind' which is sensitive to the world and oneself and the relationship - not a specific course of action.

- Zrini.

Venkat said...

I'm wondering Harman if it is possible to be competitive without being corrupt. I have always believed that one can compete with integrity and honour. Obviously, one can't have 'inner peace' whilst in competition. But there are people all over the world who have riches without corrupting themselves

Venkat said...

I'm wondering Harman if it possible at all to live without a competitive spirit. One can still compete with oneself without competing with others. Think of cutting-edge engineering, fighting cancer, etc. What motivates people in those fields? Surely it's the urge to solve problems, and be better than one's previous self. The competitive spirit is probably an extension of our primary 'instinctual passion' (I think that, although flawed in practice, actualism has provided us with some very useful concepts/terms) of desire.
The only way one can live without competition is to return to a basic life where one is bothered only by one's immediate needs: air, water, food, clothing and shelter.
I think that your character has one basic and intrinsic flaw: he competes without being competitive. Why stand for an election when you don't want to win? Why go to an auction when you don't the item on sale? Why have kids when there's no desire to send them to a good school? It's like attempting to swim in the ocean without knowing swimming.
What are your thoughts Harman?

Aditya BSRK said...


The key issue here is that the man is continuing to look for food for the mind from external sources.

If contentment, satisfaction, rapture can come only from external sources, it is foolish for the man to give up his source of food.

However, with right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration, one can get food for the mind that is independent of external source.

Refining this further, sublime states of concentration called jhanas (this is not the same as the deathless) can be achieved, where one is enraptured, gladdened, and content without relying on external sources.

"At the same time, we need to provide the mind with strategies to withstand those agendas and to cut through them once they appear. This is where Right Concentration comes in. As a skillful form of indulgence, Right Concentration suffuses the body with a non-sensual rapture and pleasure that can help counteract any sense of deprivation in resisting sensual passions. In other words, it provides higher pleasures — more lasting and refined — as a reward for abandoning attachment to lower ones. At the same time it gives us the stable basis we need so as not to be blown away by the assaults of our thwarted attachments. This stability also steadies the mindfulness and alertness we need to see through the misperceptions and delusions that underlie sensual passion. And once the mind can see through the processes of projection, perception, and misperception to the greater sense of freedom that comes when they are transcended, the basis for sensual passion is gone."