Surely we are asking the wrong questions.
मुंशी प्रेमचंद से मेरा साक्षात्कार बचपन में ही हुआ था। शायद, ‘हीरा–मोती‘ की कहानी से। तब से, प्रेमचंद मेरे प्रिय बन गए। उनकी अनेकों कहानिया, उपन्यास मैंने पढ़ डाले। उनके लिखने में कोई ऐसा जादू था, जितना पढता, उतना ही ह्रदय बाग बाग हो जाता। उनकी जीविका भी पढ़ी। कैसे एक साहित्य के मार्गदर्शक, एक महान लेखक का जीवन दुःख एवं आभाव से भरा पड़ा था। कहते हैं, मसीहा को अपने देश में कभी नही पूजा जाता। प्रेमचंद आज विश्व–प्रसिद्ध हैं। उनकी कहानियो एवं उपन्यासों का अनुवाद अनेको भाषाओँ में हो चुका है। उन्हें हिन्दी साहित्य का एक अविलम्ब चिह्न माना जाता है। परन्तु अपने जीवान काल में, न तो उन्हें प्रसिद्धि मिली, ना ही सम्रिध्य। अपनी सरस्वती प्रेस को चालू रखने में ही उनका जीवन गुज़र गया।
प्रेमचंद शब्दों में निपुण थे। अपनी भाषा, अपने लिखने के तरीके से, वो ऐसा समां बांधते, कि लगता उनकी कहानियो के पात्र कागज़ से निकल कर आपके सामने खड़े हों, व आपसे बातें कर रहे हों। उनके सभी पात्र असली थे, कोई भी बनावटी न था। उनकी कहानियो ने मुझ पर एक गहरी छाप छोड़ी। आज भी, उनकी पुस्तकें मेरे पास हैं।
मैं प्रेमचंद का आभारी हूँ, उन्होंने मेरे जीवन के कुछ क्षण बहुत ही यादगार बनाये।
How easily our lives get swept away by the fake world of borders and stock markets, advertisements and sports, being good-looking and looking good, the evening news and the morning newspaper, the talk shows and the reality tv, the national elections and the international ones, the wars and the freedom struggles.
How easily we make that business deal over there, matter to us so much that we develop ulcers over it. How effortlessly we get swept away in the world of distractions that surrounds us – till we forget to be with ourselves. Then – we are alone and we want the TV on, or that magazine to read. The distraction from life has now become life – while life looks on – hapless as an accident victim, the only witness to it too busy to take note and rescue it.
Almost nothing that touches us in real life is real. Almost nothing.
Money is fake. Countries are fake. Passport and Visas are fake. Stock Markets are fake. Deodorant and Perfumes are fake. Clothes are fake. Cars are fake. Sports are fake. Movies are fake. Advertisements are fake. Religion is fake. Godmen are fake. Promotions are fake. Laws are fake. Currency notes are fake. Banks are fake. Police and military are fake. Schools are fake. Colleges are fake. Degrees are fake and Ph.Ds are fake. Organizations and corporations are fake. Houses are fake. Rules are fake. All traffic signs are fake. Marriage is fake. Divorces are fake.
Almost everything that touches us in real life is fake. The things we care about, get high blood pressure over, cry, scream and wail over – are fake.
Money, passports, visas, bank-statements, insurance claims, bills – pieces of paper which we have agreed to mean something. Fake.
Promotions and Corporations – invisible designations in artificial constructions called organizations make us feel good or bad. Fake.
Degrees and Education – Spend so many years visiting the same buildings with the same people, sitting in the same rooms, pretending to study the same thing, answering the same questions, getting different marks and you have graduated. Learning – is optional. Fake.
God and Religion – A megalomaniac of a God, waiting to hurl punishments and the everlasting fires of damnation upon you if you dare to break his rituals, forget to remember him or worse still – pray to another god. A needy clingy monster egoist god who would not smile and bless you till you kneel in submission at him, for the rest of your life. By the way, he loves you. And he’s always a He. Fake.
Marriage – a fire, a ceremony, a party, a court-paper, a judge, two witnesses is what you need for marriage. Not understanding and compassion and growth and expansion and creativity and sensuality and love and laughter. A paper, with four signatures and a seal. Fake.
Divorce – a court proceeding, hurled accusations or amicable separations – must be legal. A couple married long ago – bored, stiff, unfulfilled, no conversations or love or laughter or sensuality, a limp resignation and cynicism about each other, hoping like hell to be somewhere else every minute they spend together – are still married, unless the paper says so. Fake.
Houses and Cars and other Toys – who you are is everything around you except you. Who you are is the house you live in, the car you drive, the mobile phone you use, the gadgets you own – You don’t exist, you have no inherent value – the Toys make the man. Fake.
Rules and Laws and Codes – Everything that is held sacred now, was up for sale once. Everything that was held sacred once, is up for sale now. Societies keep choosing the way they wish to live. And keep changing their choices. It gives workability, transient – in the moment – workability. Fake.
Countries – lines drawn on sand, grass, desert and across seas by an invisible hand-mind-gun invoke passion, fury, hatred, love, pride and breeds violence. Fake.
Then, what is real?
What is intransient and exists.
Music is not fake. Music is real.
Learning is not fake. Learning is real.
Love is not fake. Love is real.
Fear is not fake. Fear is real.
Courage is not fake. Courage is real.
Love, Fear, Courage, Learning, Music – is real. Is Life.
Lately, I have been so intrigued by the question “Why” that it has clouded my life-long fascination with the “How”.
Trying to answer the fundamental Why questions remains a quest – its deep, its meaningful, even sexy.
Trying to answer the How is less glamorous. It is an arena filled with squabbling crooks, missionaries, conmen, charlatans, quacks and well… those like me. Since masses care about the How more than the Why, there has been commercialization of this space too.
Here is why I care about “How”
The lack of empirical evidence is more the norm than an exception of the discipline of mind-science (to use a not-so-graceful term).
John Horgan in his book “The Undiscovered Mind – How the brain defies explanation” says… (not verbatim)
Evolutionary Biologist Erns Mayr argued that no field of biology can match the precision and power of physics, because unlike electrons and neutrons, all organisms are unique. Even then, the difference between two different kinds of bacteria or different types of horses is trivial compared to differences between two human beings, even those who are genetically identical. Each individual mind may change dramatically when its owner is spanked, learns the alphabet, reads a book, takes a drug, falls in love, gets divorced, undergoes Jungian dream therapy, suffers a stroke. The variability and malleability of the human mind enormously complicate the search for general principles of human nature.
Investigations into the human mind have failed to generate the kind of applications that compel belief in a particular paradigm. Physicists can boast of lasers, transistors, nuclear bombs. Biologists can show-off vaccines, cloning, antibiotics. By-products of mind-science are less impressive: cognitive behavioral therapy, thorazine, prozac, shock therapy, IQ tests etc.
Millions and millions of people receive inputs through psychoanalysis, which Freud invented a century ago. Psychoanalysis also fares very poorly in empirical research. Freud has been described as a cult-leader who excelled at self-promotion and also as a genius whose insights into the psyche, though difficult to pin down empirically, still “ring” true. Each of these views is defensible, and the persistence of psychoanalysis proves the inability of science to offer an obvious superior explanation of the mind and its disorders. Freudians cannot point to an unambiguous evidence of their paradigm’s superiority, but neither can proponents of more modern paradigms.
The field of social psychology – which continues to speculate about human culture – coining terms that we are so intimately familiar with as teachers – like “identity crisis”, “conventional wisdom” or “learned helplessness” – these are not scientific theories but “help us think”.
A slightly different approach then, would be to judge paradigms of thought, not on what they say – but for what they do. The question shifts from “Is it true?” to “Does it work?”
Early advocates of Quantum Physics could only describe results from esoteric experiments. Later, they had the supporting evidence from fission reactors, transistors, lasers, thermonuclear bombs – technologies that altered the course of history. For many physicists; whether quantum mechanics is true is almost irrelevant. It works.
I believe – the name, the label, the thought-movement or affiliations don’t matter. I discovered NLP and several other philosophies in a personal quest for meaning and growth and accepted that which made sense and matched my experience. This strategy has worked for me. I cannot claim in all honesty that I have not been skeptic or unfairly judgmental of certain bodies of knowledge. However, in such cases – the loss has been mine.
When I think about how I have evolved, there seem to be two main players.
I chanced upon a photo-album in my hard-drive. It had pictures of Gandhi, Richard Bach, Tim Berners Lee and others. At first, I just couldn’t for the life of me remember, why I had created this album and downloaded these pictures. Then it dawned on me. I was creating an an album with pictures of people who had really made a difference to my life. Who had mattered. People who had me look at life in a whole new different way. Usually, coming across them meant an intense and immensely satisfying period of personal growth and learning. I was never the same again after crossing paths with them.
The white space invites me to express any part of myself that I choose to bring forth today… right now. The possibilities, the potential, the freedom, the limitlessness, the infiniteness of it is very difficult to miss.
Life is a lot like this, isn’t it?
At any given moment, the next moment and the moment after that stretch before us like a blank sheet of paper. We have absolute freedom, total control, complete power over what we choose to bring forth in those moments. We can choose to write a beautiful story of our life, our destiny. We can choose to write lovingly or write with angst, we can choose to write with our soul or write with our mind. We can choose to admire or envy, we can choose to learn or weep, we can choose to grow or shrink, we can choose to bring forth that which is the best in us – our best version of ourselves or we can carry on – a humdrum existence or even a part of ourselves that is angry – full of hate and venom. We can also tear up the blank sheet of paper. But, we are free. We can be, do, think – anything we want. The only limitations we might apply are those that we have created ourselves.
That is how most perspectives that explore the importance of money in our personal and spiritual growth start off. The tone is apologetic, often a bit guilty. The writers seem to be battling an inner incongruence between their soul’s desire for growth and expression and the harsh reality of insurance premiums and EMIs. It is a painful recognition of the role money plays in our day to day existence versus the heart which knows it matters not at all.
The reality says “I am judged, assessed, measured, accepted, respected, often even loved on the basis of the amounts of money I have.” The heart says “Money doesn’t matter – it is the self that does. There are plenty of unhappy rich people around.”
It is important to explore the role money plays in our lives and make peace with it for once and for all. I hope this article will help you do that.
Of course, money is important.
It is very important to notice where, how and why money is important. I believe money is an enabler in the external world. The key word here is “enabler”. Money is an enabler. It enables us to do things we would otherwise not be able to do. Like “walking” for instance. Walking enables us to get from one place to another. Or “swimming”. Swimming enables us to stay afloat while in water. Money similarly enables us to do things we would not be able to do without it. It enables us to travel to meet our near and dear ones. It enables us to avail of medical facilities to cure our body when we are sick. It enables us to buy nutrition and education. It is a resource.
It is important to distinguish money as an external enabler. It allows us to do things in the external world. Our internal world is different. It is made up of our beliefs, values, attitudes, thoughts etc. Our internal world has absolutely nothing to do with money and this awareness is crucial. Our internal world is the essence of who we are. It is the ever changing, dynamic landscape of our “self” which is shifting, evolving and growing every moment of our lives.
It is when we mix up the role of money and start using it to cater to our internal world that it pollutes and corrupts us. It is when we try and substitute the amount of money we have for being generous or kind or courageous or loving or honest that we have literally “mixed up” priorities.
Self awareness, I-witnessing, Self observation, self discipline, self exploration are the currency of the internal world. Not money. You cannot buy these no matter how much money you have.
The role of ego is using this external enabler to fulfill our soul’s needs is undeniable. Ego – a healthy tool that facilitates the illusion of separation of “me” from everything else can prove to be the single biggest obstacle in our personal quest for growth. The ego, which sees money as an extension of itself – easily confuses money as a substitute for developing personal traits and qualities.
So, let us earn money, spend money, give away money, have fun with money. Let us celebrate money and be grateful for it. Just as we should hop and jump for the gift of walking and be grateful for it.
Let us be kind, generous, courageous, loving, grateful, good, soulful, happy inside – whether we have the kind of money we want or not.
What rules is not bits of paper with pictures of noble deceased on them.
What rules is how you choose to express yourself – everyday.
Am I being the best version of what I can be?
That, my friends – is the question!
I like money, but I would choose self-expression (or self manifestation) over money any day.
Like a film director said in an interview “I make money to make movies, I don’t make movies to make money”
That, I believe is self expression.
For more than a decade now, I have been fascinated by the human mind. And the more I have understood, the more baffled I have become.
Simple things – seemingly simple things like perception, decisions, awareness, emotions are such complex events and happen at so many levels (chemical, electrical, macroscopic- physiological, environmental, metaphysical, spiritual…) that with every passing moment, my awe and respect for the web of complexity in which we live has only increased.
While scientists have made some useful connections in terms of details, we are still struggling with some very basic questions –
“What is consciousness?”
“Who is the observer?”
Recently I have been reading a book called “How do brains make up their minds?” by Walter J. Freeman. In spite of the deceptively simple title, the book is a difficult read, but I am persisting and the result has been a rare insight into the workings of the brain (not the mind!).
Learning about the brain is fascinating, because unlike in the case of mind (which is intangible), in the case of brain – you actually have something to work with. The physical mass of gooey matter between our ears we call the brain. The neurons, the hypothalamus, the neuropeptides and the neural network are some of the labels we have given to an absolutely unexplainable miracle happening inside our heads all the time.
Every emotion has a chemical associated with it (called a peptide) and every time you choose to experience an emotion, the chemicals are produced in your hypothalamus. These chemicals are then released into the bloodstream. So, the happiness-chemical or the sadness-chemical literally explodes into your entire body through the blood-stream and finds its way to different cells. It then docks on a cell and then changes the very nature of the cell, sometimes even the nucleus.
We literally, with chemicals – poison ourselves with anger.
We literally, with chemicals – fill ourselves with fulfillment.
Fascinating, isn’t it?
How does this fit in with making real, measurable changes in our lives?
This is a good place to share another distinction I have made. In learning about the brain and creating real change in life (which is what I am committed to).
It is very interesting, it can give you amazing insights – but it is no more necessary to create changes in real life than it is to understand the intricate workings of the internal combustion engine to drive a car or even know how exactly a microprocessor works to use the computer more effectively.
Of course it would help, but it is not necessary.
While studying hardware is good for a deeper understanding and quenching our thirst for knowledge, it is surely more important to know your operating system and how it works.
Which is why for someone like me, who hopes to create effective results in life – better relationships, fulfillment, satisfaction and passion – study of the brain must remain secondary to the study of the mind.
If only it were not so damn fascinating!!