As long as we are relating to external – often material and physical – reference points, we will not find inner peace.
People sometimes tell me that while they find the ‘philosophy’ advocating staying anchored and calm to be indeed powerful, in reality, they wonder if it is really possible to escape the ‘tyranny of everyday Life’. As in, everyone wakes up with the resolve to face Life and its challenges stoically, but they end up succumbing to the pulls and pressures of people and events. A friend recently told me, “If you can claim to be untouched by Life’s challenges, then you must also claim that you are God.”
I must confess, just to clarify, that I make no claims. In sharing my daily learnings here on this Blog, I am simply sharing. If it makes sense to them, some people draw some inferences from it. If it doesn’t, they read it and trash it. But one thing is for sure – I don’t share anything here that I have not experienced or learnt first-hand. And one of my key takeaways from Life is that it is indeed possible to live in this world, and yet be above it! Provided you are anchored and have found your center.
Osho used to tell a story of a Zen Master who was invited as a guest by someone. A few friends had gathered and they were listening intently to the Master when suddenly there was an earthquake.
The building that they were sitting in was a seven-storey building, and they were on the seventh storey. Naturally, they all feared for their lives and ran. Everybody tried to escape. The host, running down, paused, and came back to see what had happened to the Master. He was sitting still, on the floor, on the mat, with not even a ripple of anxiety on his face.
With closed eyes he was sitting just as he had been sitting before.
The host felt a little guilty. He felt cowardly. It does not look good when a guest is sitting while the host is running away. The others, the guests, had already gone down the stairs but he stopped himself although he was trembling with fear, and he too sat down by the side of the Master.
The earthquake came and went in a matter of a few minutes. Once the tremors and rumblings stopped, the Master opened his eyes and resumed his discourse which he had had to stop because of the earthquake. He began again at exactly the same sentence – as if the earthquake had not happened at all!
The host was now in no mood to listen, he was in no mood to understand because his whole being was so troubled and he was so afraid. Even though the earthquake was over, he was still in shock, in fear. He said: “Now please don’t say anything because I will not be able to grasp it, I’m not myself anymore. The earthquake has disturbed me. But there is one question I would like to ask. All other guests had escaped, I was also running down the stairs, when suddenly I remembered you. Seeing you sitting here with closed eyes, sitting so undisturbed, so unperturbed, I felt a little cowardly – I am the host, I should not run. So I came back and I have been sitting by your side. I would like to ask one question. We all tried to escape. What happened to you? How’s it that you did not feel like running?”
The Master said: “I also ran, but you ran outwardly while I escaped inwardly. Your escape is useless because wherever you are going there too is an earthquake, so it is meaningless, it makes no sense. You may reach the sixth storey or the fifth or the fourth, but there too is an earthquake. I escaped to a point within me where no earthquake ever reaches, cannot reach. I entered my center.”
This story is the essence of Zen.
It means that when you reach your center, nothing can affect you. No external event or development, in fact, no one can touch you. Your center has been, is, and will be with you. It is in you. In your center, you will find both perpetual happiness and inner peace. Even if you are physically in shackles, if you are anchored, centered, no one can take away your inner peace or make you unhappy. Know that only you yourself are responsible for your peace and inner joy.
I have shared many experiences of how I have been learning (to be sure, I am still a learner) to live in this world and yet be above it in my Book ‘Fall Like A Rose Petal’ (Westland, August 2014). Through these experiences I have come to believe that everyday Life is hardly tyrannical. To find strength in a storm, move to the center, to the eye of the storm, it is always calm there! If you learn to go within (through any practice of daily meditation or observing silence periods) you too can remain untouched by whatever happens outside of you!