Go easy with Life – Oh! Yes! Abhi!

Don’t take yourself or Life too seriously. At the end of the day, Life’s but a dream!
A couple of years ago, a young lady came to meet me and my wife, feeling totally despondent about Life. She was separating from her husband, she had two young children and her business was just not working out. She had accumulated a lot of debt – most of it from family. She was wondering if there was any meaning to Life. She asked me: “What’s the point of Life if there’s so much pain in going through it?” I am sure this is a question each of us has asked ourselves at least once in our lifetime so far.
I shared with her a story from the Life of the great Chinese mystic, Chuang Tzu (a.k.a Zhuang Zhou or Zhuangzi, 369 BCE ~ 286 BCE).
One morning, sitting in his bed, Chuang Tzu looked very sad. His disciples had never seen him so sad. And never after waking up had he remained in his bed, sitting. What had happened? Was he sick?
They gathered around and asked him, “Master, what is the matter?” He said, “The matter is really difficult, I cannot solve it; perhaps you may be of some help. I will tell you what is the matter. In the night I dreamed that I had become a butterfly, and I was moving from one flower to another flower.”
One of the disciples said, “This is nothing to be sad about. In dreams we all do strange things; and this is not a bad thing, to be a butterfly – colorful, beautiful, moving from one juicy flower to another juicy flower. Why are you so worried?”
He said, “You have not heard the whole thing. The problem is, now I am awake and I am wondering whether Chuang Tzu dreamed that he is a butterfly, or now the butterfly has gone to sleep and is dreaming she is Chuang Tzu.”

This may well be ‘koan’a paradoxical anecdote or riddle without a solution, used in Zen Buddhism to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning and provoke enlightenment. So, are you who you are? Or is this Life that you lead a dream? In Sanskrit and Pali literature, in the ‘Vedas’ and ‘Puranas’, there’s this concept called ‘maya’ which really points to Life (and everything) as an ‘illusion’, and if you don’t get it and don’t understand Life’s true nature, well, ‘maya’ can also mean ‘delusion’ in such a context!

As Chuang Tzu shared his dilemma, his disciples remained silent. They understood the import of Chuang Tzu’s poser. This is what all the scriptures have been saying – that everything is maya’. Everything is a dream. So, why the strife? Why worry, why the anxiety, grief, guilt, anger and sorrow? Chuang Tzu taught his disciples this: Continue easy with Life and you are on the right path. He didn’t say this way or that way was right. He said, whatever you are going through, go through it with ease, don’t resist, don’t fight, don’t aggress. Just go easy. Because whatever is happening to you is just a dream. It will soon be over. So, don’t gloat over your riches or your successes. It’s a dream that’s soon to die. Don’t bemoan your sorrows. But it too is a dream and will be over soon.
I met that young lady recently. We had been mentoring her, holding her hand and helping her understand Life better, over these two years. But in the past quarter we had not met her. So, when she came over, I noticed how much she had evolved. I saw a twinkle in her eyes, a radiance on her face and an enthusiasm in her step. I asked her how things were. And she replied: “Nothing’s changed – the marriage is still going through the final rites, the kids are a handful and the business is deep in the dumps. But I am taking it all easy. And so, I am at peace and I am very happy.”
Sometimes, Life can weigh you down. Things just won’t go the way you want them to. That’s the time to learn to take Life easy. As the famous song from the Tamil movie ‘Kadhalan’(1994, Shankar, A.R.Rahman; Hindi – ‘Hum Se Hai Muqabla’) goes, (have a), “….Take it easy, policy!And have it now – Oh! Yes! Abhi!
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Accept your “no-thingness” and give in to Life

Being able to do nothing is freedom. Having no idea of what to do is bliss.
There will be times in Life when you have hit rock bottom, when you are in the depths of treacherous ravine, you see no way out and your mind can’t even think. The harder you try, the more blank you feel your mind is. There are only two kinds of problems in the world. One which you, or anyone you know, can solve and another which no human can solve. What do you do when you are faced with the second kind of problems – which no human can solve, at least not in an immediately imaginable, conceivable time window? Think Michael Schumacher, think MH 370, think of a five-year-old who is struck by a fourth stage cancer! At a practical, human level, this state may be a no-go. Where do you go when you have hit rock bottom and don’t have the means or even ideas to climb back up? But at a spiritual level, every dead-end, every no-go signifies an opportunity to evolve and grow within. Through such evolution, you become free and happy – despite your circumstances.  
In Zen Buddhism, there are koans. A koan is a paradoxical riddle or anecdote without a solution to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning and provoke enlightenment. There are many famous koans. One is: “Find out your original face.” A Master asked his disciple to solve this koan.
The disciple asks the Master: “What is the original face?”
And the Master replies: “The face that you had before your parents were born.”
And the disciple starts meditating on that: “What is your original face?” Naturally, you have to deny all your faces. Many faces will start surfacing: childhood faces, when you were young, when you became middle-aged, when you became old, when you were healthy, when you were ill…. All kinds of faces will stand in a queue. They will pass before your eyes claiming: “I am the original face.” And you have to go on rejecting. The disciple too goes on rejecting all the faces that come in front of him. He goes through this process of rejection over many, many years. Finally, when he’s himself the Master of knowing which is not the original face, he realizes that there is no original face. That there is only emptiness. There’s nothing. When all the faces have been rejected and emptiness is left, you have found the original face. Osho, the other great Master, explains this so simply: “Emptiness is the original face. Zero is the ultimate experience. Nothingness – or more accurately no-thingness – is your original face.”
Similarly, some Life situations are koans. For example, everyone is looking at the Tarun Tejpal episode through the eyes of either Tejpal or the Young Woman who’s filed the complaint against him. But when you look at it through the eyes of Tejpal’s daughters Tiya, who’s best friend the Young Woman is, and Cara or from Geetan’s, Tejpal’s wife, point of view, you will see a koan there. An inexplicable situation with no solution. A legal redemption may still be on the cards for Tejpal. But will there ever be a moral one – in the eyes of his own family?
I have learnt from Life, in my own small, yet eventful, way that a no-go is really the time to let go! I have realized that when you can’t do anything about a situation, when nothing seems possible, when the mind can’t think and no one can even attempt a solution any more, then accept your “no-thingness”. And give in to Life. Let Life take you where you belong. And if Life doesn’t take you anywhere, then perhaps it’s here, in this dark abyss, that you were always ordained to arrive?

A goose in a jar, Jai’s death in Sholay, and a lesson in being happy!

When you step back and witness your own Life, objectively, dispassionately, you can then find bliss even in a tragedy or catastrophe.

When you are in the throes of a big crisis, when you don’t see a way out to end it, take a deep breath, step back and watch the situation with the eye and view of an observer. Be a witness. Don’t participate in the situation by thinking, by worrying, by attempting to solve it! Just watch the crisis, your place and role in the situation, and let an awakening happen within you – that enlightens you!

A Zen Master once gave his disciples a ‘koan’ to deal with. A ‘koan’ is a paradox to be meditated upon that is used to train Zen Buddhist monks to abandon ultimate dependence on reason and to encourage them into gaining sudden intuitive enlightenment.

The ‘koan’ given here was the one of a goose within a jar. When the goose was small, the task was to simply feed the goose. Soon the goose grew big. And was barely fitting in the jar. Now the task was getting the goose out of the jar without either breaking the jar or killing the goose. Disciple after disciple kept thinking of achieving this task by looking at the situations from different angles. Each of them concluded that it was impossible. They saw it possible only if the jar were to be broken or the goose was killed. Now, neither of these actions was allowed. They gave up.

But one disciple persisted. He too was tired of examining the situation from every conceivable dimension. He too wanted to give up. That’s when he concluded that his Master may not have recommended this situation without a reason. In a flash, it occurred to him that the Master was perhaps not interested in either jar or the goose. The Master wanted the disciples to learn something else. He recognized that the jar represents the human mind. And the goose represents you – the individual. He concluded that the Master wanted them all to understand that to experience bliss, the ‘you’ goose must detach itself from the ‘jar’ mind.

So, the disciple rushed to the Master and declared: “Master the goose is ‘out’!”

The Master applauded him: “You are right! You have understood the essence of this ‘koan’. The goose was never ‘in’!”

Zen Masters have taught that the mind is at work 24×7. It is eating you up all day with thoughts of worry, anxiety, anger, fear, insecurity and hatred, among many, many more. Now, in a crisis, unless you realize that you are like the goose in the jar, and stop believing that you were ever stuck in the jar, you cannot feel freedom. For this to happen you have to step away from the problem situation and merely ‘witness’ or ‘observe’ it. If you don’t do this, your mind will continue to hold you hostage and keep you trapped. A mind at work, or being controlled by the mind, means being susceptible to misery. The mind is a procession of thoughts. Like a full length movie. The thoughts are like the characters or the actors or the locales in the movie. The key is to not to identify yourself with these thoughts – the characters or the actors or the locales. Because once you identify yourself, you will get stuck with both the beautiful and the terrible moments in Life – as in a movie.

Dharmendra (Veeru) and Amitabh Bachchan (Jai) in Sholay
As a young boy when my parents took me to watch ‘Sholay’ (Ramesh Sippy, Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra, Hema Malini, Jaya Bhaduri and Amjad Khan) in a New Delhi cinema hall called Rachna in 1975, I remember I refused to come out of the hall when the movie got over. I was grief stricken that Jai (Amitabh Bachchan) was dead. I had come to identify with him. It was only when my dad sat me down and counselled me that the ‘real’ Amitabh Bachchan was still alive, and this was just a movie, did I understand and, therefore, went home with my parents!

Many of us are in so much grief with our Life situations. This is because all of us are like that goose or like I was after watching ‘Sholay’. Struggling with our ‘jar’ minds. Unless we step back and away, as my dad counselled me, and see that our whole Life is just an illusion, like a movie, we will continue to be miserable. Life happens. And keeps on happening. There were crises, there are crises and there will be crises as we go through Life. Each of those Life crises or tragedies or painful situations will leave us numb and confounded. The only way out, and the only way to find inner peace and happiness, is to stop identifying with anything or anyone.

You are not your problems. You are not your relationships. Identification is the root cause of all misery. And the only way not to identify with anyone or anything is to simply witness Life. Be and behave like a third party. Then, through your awareness, you will discover that there was, is and never will be a crisis. What there always was, is, and will be, is happiness!