One of my masters Guruji Rishi Prabhakar often said that a problem lies in identifying a life situation as a problem. Once you have identified it as a problem, there is nothing you can do about it. On the contrary, if you do anything about it, you will only mess it up further. Let us draw a parallel of this with one another Eastern mystic culture – Zen Buddhism.
In the Zen culture, when a new seeker comes in and asks the master – ‘Oh master, I seek to be enlightened, please guide me’, the master takes a baton and gives the fellow a hard knock on the head. The seeker more often than not gets the point and walks away. By itself, the master’s action defies our understanding. But hidden beneath is a very sound logic.
He is indirectly telling the seeker that the problem really lies in identifying himself as unenlightened. Once you presuppose that you are unenlightened, there is nothing you can do about it. On the contrary, if you do anything about it, you will only go further away from the already-enlightened space.
This one is a very revolutionary viewpoint. It flies in the face of all our training in religion. It takes away the salt out of all enlightenment-oriented Sadhana. But simply because this viewpoint is against our conventional wisdom, it is not reason enough to discard it. Let us probe deeper into it.
Let us see how what this Zen master says is nothing other than what the science of non-doing is all about. The non-doing Mahavakya is ‘Nothing to do, Nowhere to go, Nothing to happen’. That is precisely what this Zen master is telling. You already are the Buddha, there is nothing to do, nowhere to go, nothing to happen.
Why work so hard ?
The religious cultures which profess an ascetic way of life have been traditionally termed as ‘Shraman-Marg’. The root of the word Shraman is ‘Shram’ as in hard-work. Most of these Shramanic cultures who predominantly focus on liberating oneself from the cycle of birth and death make enlightenment as the towering culmination of life . However, our Rishi culture tells us that enlightenment should be the starting point of a rich life and not the end point. If it is really so, who has got an extra lifetime to waste at the end of which one may or may not get enlightened ? Why not make our going easy and swift ? However the big question now is : If there is nothing to do, nowhere to go, nothing to happen, why on Earth is every spiritual aspirant busy DOING something or the other all the time in order to be enlightened?
Going beyond limiting mindsets
Well, the answer lies deep within human psychology. Let us look at the dynamics behind this phenomenon. Let us look at all the patterns within us which we need to address in order to make our spiritual journey very swift & easy.
Most of us are very conscientious people. We always want to get only that which we deserve. We feel guilty in taking what is available on a platter. We feel that only after we have paid a price that we become worthy of a reward. Also,there are only two currencies we know in which to pay the price.One is suffering or another is arduous efforts. Hence we either take up the way of mortification of the flesh and self-denial or we make a fool of ourselves standing on our head and doing a variety of funny acrobatic yogasans (all in the name of wanting to be enlightened!! ).
Let us understand that enlightenment is in one way our birthright and in other way our basic nature. What is basic nature to us need not come through suffering or arduous efforts. We should without any qualms or compunctions be mentally open to be enlightened without going through suffering or arduous practices. Hence let us dispose of this there-is-a-price-to-pay-for-everything psychology.
Secondly, the irony of life is that that we have become very complex beings. For a simple being, easy is easy. Tough is tough. For a complex being, tough is easy. Easy is very tough. For the modern man, what is tough has become more easy and attractive by default. Let me elaborate this with an example. Let us see how tough has become easy for us. Just see how anything that is intellectually challenging attracts the modern man so much. Isn't that why solving all types of mind-boggling crosswords or Su-dokus has become the order of the day?
Now let us see the converse as to how, to the complex being, anything that is easy has become tough. There is this classic tale of Isaac Newton to exemplify this. Newton had two cats who lived with him - one big and another small. Every night Newton would be anxiously waiting for the cats to come back and only then would he go to sleep. A friend of his suggested that he could just have a hole at the bottom of a wall of his room from where the cats could come in during the night. He need not be anxious or delay his sleep.
Newton found this idea great and went ahead to make two holes : a bigger one for the bigger cat and a smaller one for the smaller one… ha ha.. Not to take anything away from Sir Isaac Newton but any simpleton would have made the bigger hole alone where-from both the cats would easily pass.. This illustrates how a solution which is easy doesn’t occur to us and that which is tough occurs to our mind at once.
Just take note of the dynamics here. Enlightenment which is available to us by doing nothing is very very easy. We saw that, that which is easy doesn’t suit the modern man . That is why most seekers end up overlooking the obvious path of doing nothing only to end up DOING a lot of kriyas in order to get enlightenment.
Thirdly, as my master says, typically one feels that when it takes so much effort to achieve material success in life, then achieving spiritual success must be taking even greater efforts. Going by this mindset, they again end up being caught in DOING too many kriyas for their self-realisation.
Further, society has conditioned us very heavily that ‘something must be done’. This is because we have failed to take note of the fact that most of the gifts of life bestowed upon us by God come without doing anything on our part eg: are you doing anything to make your heart beat or your thyroid gland function? Are you doing anything to make this most complex organism called the human body work ? No.
If such a super-complicated human body can work without any voluntary effort on our part, then there is no reason to believe that a simple thing like Enlightenment should need deep voluntary efforts. We need to understand this logic so that we do not allow ourselves to be deluded into DOING harder and harder stuff for our self-realisation.
Last but not the least, my master says that enlightenment is a function of courage not that of efforts. Allan watts, the great American Guru, says a very similar thing. He claims that he who is making Herculean endeavours for his realization is the one who is morally least ready for the experience. Efforts imply nothing but keeping yourself so busy that you can successfully block the overwhelming experience of God-realisation to take possession of you.
There was once a disciple who in order to test the great Arunachala saint Sri Raman Maharshi, asked him: ‘If you claim to have found God, can you give me God-realisation this moment?‘ In response to the same Sri Raman addressed him thus: ‘I can give you Realization this moment, but first let me know, ARE YOU READY FOR THE SAME?’ This is the crux of the matter. However this lack-of-readiness, this cowardice in us operates at a very subtle level. This is the fifth and the last change-of-mindset that will ensure our quick progress on the path of non-doing.
To recapitulate it all :
We need to go beyond there-is-a-price-to-pay-for-everything mindset.
We need not unnecessarily look for tough solutions in easy situations
(eg: the case of Newton & the cats).
We need not harbour the feeling that if material success is so laborious then spiritual success must be yet more laborious.
We should see how grass grows by itself without any hard-work. We should see how our complex human body and the more complex nature operates without any effort whatsoever. Should be ditto with enlightenment.
We should learn to replace hard-work with the courage to stay in the unknown if we want to make use of this fast-elevator technology of ‘effortlessness’ rather than the slow-staircase method of ‘efforts’.
The helplessness of the Guru
We can understand that seekers aren’t mature enough to choose the faster technology of ‘effortlessness’. However, we wonder that if in order to be enlightened, we need to do nothing much then why do spiritual Gurus who are so mature and ripe make people do so much. Well it is not without a reason.
You come with the pre-supposition that effort is a must. You as you are cannot be talked out. A guru can only take you further along your own pre-supposition so that you intellectually come to know the futility of all your effort, your pre-suppositions or alternately you get tired of doing so much and give it all up. It is like this.
For a man who firmly believes that the Earth is flat, you cannot convince that the Earth is round. What do you do then? Just go along with his worldview. Just take a stroll with him around the world. Just tell him that if we walk around the Earth across a fixed latitude then if the Earth is flat we would fall off the nearest edge. When you complete the entire journey and none of you fall off, he will of himself understand that the Earth is round and not flat. Just because you can’t take what the Guru tells on its face value, this is what the helpless Guru has to do.
The mantra called ‘effortlessness’
Precisely the same happened to Lord Buddha. After more than 12 years of extreme hardships and no enlightenment, he just got tired of it all and gave it all up. We say that he let go of all efforts and slipped into ‘effortlessness’. The moment he gave it all up, he got enlightened.
The Mantra here is effortlessness. There may be many ways to go to the top, many paths to enlightenment but all of those have to cross one common bridge before making it to the peak. That bridge is that of effortlessness.
Many gurus feel that effortlessness can only result after utter effort. Non-doing is essentially the result of extreme doing. But we question this approach. If it is effortlessness that is the final nail in the coffin and not effort, then why not take to effortlessness from the first point? There are many who walked the path of effort but their efforts never culminated into effortlessness like in the case of Buddha. If extreme effort is not a guarantee to effortlessness then why get into effort and take the big risk? Why not adopt effortlessness right away ? Why not learn the art of ‘be-ing’ rather than ‘do-ing’ right from moment one?
Being in the goal
The first and foremost thing to understand is that we have always been Gods ourselves. As is often said, we are not human beings who are here for a spiritual experience. We all are spiritual beings who have come here for a human experience. We have made spiritual experience the goal of our life. But the irony here is that we have always been in the goal. If we take up any path in order to be enlightened, that path is naturally taking us away from the goal and not stationing us further into the goal as it should be.
Any path is a path out, not a way to go deeper in. The way to enlightenment is a road unto here. It is a pathless path. In my master’s words, it is a jump from nowhere to nowhere. Why do we want to merge into existence when we were never unmerged in the first place? It is a stupid proposition to do so.