Change your instrument to change your perception

Our main objective is to lead people on the path of Self-Realization and make them to re-look at various facets of Indian philosophy and culture for effective transformation of individuals in particular and society in general.Take a few moments to indulge in some fantasies.

LOOKING WITH X-RAY EYES:
IMAGINE THIS: Imagine that science has figured out a way to place implants in your eyes so that your usual vision is transformed into x-ray vision. You look at another person and instead of the usually solid flesh you’re used to seeing; you see a ribcage, gangly bones hanging from it, and some strange shadows in the background. The person is still the same, yet you see her/him as totally different.

What is “reality” now? Is the fleshy person the real one, or the bony person?

Now, imagine that you have just received implants in your eyes that grant you the vision of a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) device. Are the blobs of contrasting color you see the “reality” of the person in front of you?

Next, imagine yourself with the echolocation of a bat, which uses sonar to locate its prey and to avoid mid-air collisions. You are now equipped with a device to project high-pitched sounds that echo back to you from any object in your path and provide you with information about its location and size. What does the world “look” like to you under these conditions?

Now, imagine that you have microscope implants in your eyes. You are looking at a yellow pencil cut in half. Instead of seeing the smooth surface of the wood that was your picture of reality before you got your microscope implants, you now see coarse shreds with sharp protuberances sticking out. Increase the strength of your lens. Your pencil has now become a lot of empty space dotted with small bits of matter floating about here and there. Where did your solid world go?

The world appears to us as it does because of the particular instruments we use in seeing it. Change the instrument- and you change your reality! Once, while laying dishes down for dinner, I had the uncanny experience of suddenly seeing that my whole organism was an intricate combination of countless activities involving blood, hormones, cells, movements of infinitely small size. It was as though for a split second I had taken a peek into the way all mechanism of the body, big and small, worked together. I was stunned by this split-second at the miracle of what it takes to keep this body going. For a short moment, I had had a different “look” at what we generally perceive as one, homogeneous organism.

We take the body for granted- especially if our health is sound. It moves, it speaks, it sleeps, it eats, it replenishes blood,and it mends wounds. This taking for granted happens with everything; the computer I’m typing on, the glasses on my nose, the telephone two feet away from my hand, the heater buzzing its warm song. What if we stopped a moment to take in fully what we have in front of us? What would we see?

Two revelations emerge:
1. Reality is not what it seems.
2. Every object we look at is the result of a confluence of countless forces.

Life is one

There has been a very good response from youngsters in trying to understand “what is life?” and “where we are going?” They are confused with traditional way of thinking and its solutions. It is not to be blamed on the traditions; but the lack of scientific explanations for the traditions and lacking of interpretations! They need to be informed the values in the language which they can grasp it. Canada Yoga Vedanta Organization is taking that responsibility and disposing that duty and dusting–off those powerful ideas and unfolding them to the man and woman of Toronto.

One sunny day some years ago in Rishikesh, North India, my eye was caught by the slightest of movements next to a plant sitting on the buffet near the window.

I saw a very, very tiny creature, near-caterpillar. I don’t know what else to call it. It was wormlike, but it had the friendly air of a caterpillar. It was smaller than the typical caterpillar, and its body was translucent. I could look beyond its thin, almost transparent skin and see inside its tiny form. Some miniscule points of black and brown were visible; they must have been its internal organs. Then the little creature moved. Just a slight wiggle of translucent flesh—and I was suddenly overwhelmed by one blinding thought: The Life in that almost invisible creature is the same life that stirs in my body.

It was such a simple thought, yet so powerful. I had heard it expressed by many spiritual teachers. I had read often that “Life is One”, with a capital L and capital O. But to have it hit home like that—and with the help of a worm!

“One principle holds the varied objects of this universe together, as a string holds flowers of different shapes and colors to form one beautiful garland. The plant, the animal, the human kingdoms- all are enlivened by this one Principle” says Swami Chinmayananda, the prominent twentieth century exponent of Vedanta, a metaphysical system of thought emanating from Vedic India. This overarching principle is the primordial ground in which all existence is rooted, the “beingness” that pervades all that is. It is the life force that drives your existence and mine, as well as the vitality pulsating in the worm and the amoeba. It is the “is-ness” of everything conceivable, both moving and unmoving. A good many spiritual-philosophic traditions of the world speak of it, though often tongue-tied and apologetic in the process, because words can never adequately describe it.

The sages of ancient India called it Brahman, the supreme Reality, choosing the verb root brih—with its two meanings of “to expand” and to “to nourish”—on which to build a word to describe something that both transcends and nourishes all things known. Simply said, all beings on this globe are united by the one life force that is common to us all. The sages of the ancient philosophic and spiritual traditions of the world tell us that the fundamental unity of everything defines our most essential nature. In my innermost nature I am identical with you in your innermost nature!

EXPERIENCE IT…
While sitting in a meeting, or within a circle of talking friends or family members, find a few moments when your active participation isn’t needed. Become very aware of your being. Sense your presence. Notice how you’re sitting, how your hands are positioned, where your feet are. Don’t move. Continue sensing your own being.

Then look at one other person and repeat the exercise with him or her. Feel that person’s presence, meanwhile remaining grounded in your own sense of being. Know that the other person exists and you exist, each separately, yet together. Experience the commonality of life in both of you.

As you become more adept at this exercise, you won’t need to wait for a pause in activity, nor will you need to concentrate on one other person to the exclusion of others. You can remember to experience your being anytime, anywhere—and become FULLY PRESENT IN THE SITUATION. You can open up to the being of others, becoming more aware and more sensitive to what is going on in the moment and what others around you are experiencing. If you do this exercise in difficult encounters, you will find that it takes the edge off painful confrontations. And in the case of interactions with people you feel close to, doing this exercise will bring you to such an intense feeling of identity with the other, you’ll have difficulty defining where the “other” leaves off and you begin.

When all thought of otherness is dropped, full identification with the other takes place. Looking at the other is the same as looking at you. You stare at the one with whom you identify, and you feel as though you were looking at yourself. This is a very pure form of love—not lust, but love. In the story of Lyla and Mejnun, the ancient Romeo and Juliet story from the East, after a painful separation of the lovers, Mejnun finally finds his Lyla again and stares at her in wonderment. He does not see her. He sees only himself staring back at him.

Otherness is at the root of many of our perplexities. Only when we see ourselves as separate from the rest of creation can we feel fear. In a state of separateness we readily interpret “the other” as a possible source of danger to our sense of self, our “I”. “What will he think of me now?”, “What if she decides against my promotion?” And out of fear, which is one of the most basic emotions we experience as humans, arise anger, jealousy, worry, and a myriad of other moods of the mind. Once we begin to feel otherness dissolving, or at least some of its precisely defined edge, we begin to feel relief from many of the negative emotions that plague us.

I remember a man I worked with who spelled the epitome of fear. Although confident in his field and arrogantly assured in his business interactions, human interactions for him were obviously a painful exercise. He saw every one else as his adversary, at least potentially so. The otherness of the other was severely pronounced in his thought pattern. He suffered terribly for it. Ridden by fear- of losing his prestige, losing his job, not making it in the eyes of the big bosses- he mistook even good intentions, outright efforts to help, as actions to be distrusted. No matter how successful such a man becomes, unless he learns to dismiss his overwhelming perception of the otherness of the other, he will remain a failure as a human being, and a miserable one at that!

How to free ourselves from our numerous perceptions?

A truly free person is one who can look at a tree and see a tree. Let’s ponder a little on how we generally look at a tree. For instance, just now I was looking at the big tree in my backyard. My thoughts run away with me the minute my eyes had taken it in. So, within microseconds, the tree I was looking at had disappeared. Or, you might say, I had disappeared from its environs. In fact, I was nowhere close to it. In a few quick moments I had leaped beyond the tree to my childhood in northern Sri Lanka, under the margosa and mango trees, and to the political reality of the failure of the democracy and the economic system of Sri-Lanka.

Such seeing is not seeing the tree. “Seeing” the tree as I did is being hopelessly bound in the cocoon of our own thoughts. While our minds wander the globe, we end up not being present in the moment at all. We are missing from the very moment in which we think we exist. That moment has become dead, as we have become dead to it. If we look at the tree and suspend our thoughts for a while, we enter a new, rejuvenated world. We are then fully present to see the tree as it is—not as we may describe it in our imagination or in our memories. We dream no brilliant futures.

That choice of less awareness gives us a view of life seldom experienced otherwise. The leaves of the tree vibrate with a new life, and the colors seem more vibrant. The limbs are positioned exactly right. The tree is complete, perfect. Everything is in its place and as it should be. We feel a wondrous fullness, a completion, a union with other things around us, even with the tree itself. This simple exercise of suspending thought in order to see a tree can refresh us and bring joyous meaning into a tired day!

TRY IT:
Look at a tree in your yard or out on the street. Take in the image of that tree with your whole being. Dismiss, in disinterest and with no emotion, any thought that may come by to pull you away from pure seeing.

As you look at the tree, try to feel its essence. Let it speak to you in its own language. Feel its perfection. It’s perfect as it is. The limbs are fashioned with precision. The leaves vibrate with life. Even the dry branch with its dead leaves has its role to play.

You don’t need a tree, for this exercise. Try it with anything a pencil, the moon, a spider sitting on your bathroom wall. Many of us, though, get a little help from nature in finding a peaceful break in our flow of thoughts. If you are one of those, then doing the exercise with a tree, a flower, or the moon may be especially powerful.

I remember a time when, surrounded by friends in an intense discussion about the meaning of life, my mind glided into such an intense mood of peace, such joy in simply being, that I listened, overjoyed and in awe, to the sound of coffee perking in the coffee maker and thought that in that unpretentious little noise, I was hearing the music of the entire universe. Hearing that sound was the auditory counterpart of truly seeing a tree. For a brief moment, I was truly hearing coffee perking!

The mind walks on our thoughts. The more thoughts we chain together by association, the stronger the bridge becomes for the mind to walk upon. When we cut back on the inner dialogue, we break down some links in the chain and allow for silent spaces between our thoughts. If we learn to stay intensely aware while in those silent spaces, we begin to see and hear the world in a newly vibrant and dynamic way. We actually give ourselves the chance to see a tree and hear coffee perking.

Try to imagine what our lives could become if every moment we were fully conscious of everything around us, we were fully seeing trees, pencils, people, we were really hearing babies cry, mothers weep, birds sing, we were smelling a rose as though we had never smelled one before. In such a world surcharged with the intensity of our pure, aware thinking, we could never be bored, no experience would ever be stale, and no thing or event would ever be taken for granted. We would literally be reborn fresh every moment of our existence!

Shift Your Thinking To Experience Peace!

The Essence of Vedanta is to show us how to transform the stresses of everyday life, whether at work, at home, or in the community, into meaningful exercises for self-fulfillment. Let us see “WHO AM I?”!

We define ourselves by what we do or what we have done. Our lives consist of citing names, dates, and lists to prove that all those things we’ve done have created a being worth his or her salt. But where was I in all this restless doing? And where did I disappear once the doing stopped? Now that the doing has stopped, am I still a worthwhile person – not even to speak of a person who might be respected, adored, praised? How do I define myself now, now that I am no longer a publisher, software engineer, gourmet cook, board member, or gardener

Most of us spend many years searching for ourselves – for our personal truth – outside ourselves. We seek that truth in a career, in parenthood, in undertaking impossible challenges. When careers get short-circuited in a demotion or layoff, when the youngest child leaves home for college, when a medal finally won, we are forced to stare nakedly into our own face and apprehend our essential identity.

Many of us dread that face-to-face encounter more than most other challenges of life. So we continue to add new layers of complexity to our lives as soon as any one layer falls away by accident or intention. We have barely left one job before we feverishly clutch onto the next opportunity, no matter whether or not our pocketbook allows us a respite. We finally succeed in abandoning an unfulfilling relationship, yet weeks later we’ve already engaged in another. We don’t allow life to become simpler. In fact, we’ve become experts in complicating it – and then we suffer from the ensuing worries, stresses, and endless complexities.

Our lives have much in common, yet each is unique. For you it may not be necessary to jump off the spinning merry-go-round in order to regain the center of your own truth. Many of us, though, are caught helplessly in the web of our activities, and we cannot begin to see ourselves unless we first make a conscious effort to stop. Once we make that stop and re-establish our inner balance, we can then continue to undo the frenzy – over and over again, while remaining in the midst of an active life. We do that by learning to use the mind in a new way.

You are what you think! If your identity is defined by the thought, “I am a talented software engineer” and then if that identity is further enhanced by the thought (probably never expressed out loud), “I am a worthwhile person because my talent has led me to achieve a respected position in my company”- you are never with yourself, never centered in your own being. You are also at the beck and call of the fluctuations through which your exterior identity may go. Position gone, identity destroyed. Position improved, self-worth soaring.

Thus, we dance like marionettes obedient to the strings pulled by the thrusts and changes of the world around us. The trick is to learn to think in such a way that we remain centered in our being no matter what changes may take place in the roles we happen to play (engineer, board member, gardener) or how intense the pace of activity around us may become. No need to quit jobs, change alliances, runaway from frenzied households. We can learn to push the ‘undo’ button while continuing with our lives as they are. We just need to shift our thinking! In the following steps (chapters) I offer some powerful ideas for creating such a shift in our inner lives. They also provide a series of exercises in undoing – in learning to find the quiet eye at the center of our varied storms!

The Solution To Our Everyday Problems Can Be Found As The Undo Button Within Us!

I envied my neighbor’s cat, who seemed a consummate expert at doing nothing, yet the cat exhibited no guilt over it. I found myself not very good at that cat-like repose. I always had so much to do, and I felt so very responsible for doing it. And if for some rare moments I succeeded in doing not much at all, guilt was sure to plague me.

Many of our lives sound similar notes of countless demands on our time, mental unease of one sort or another, and stresses of various kinds that pressure us with increasing tenacity from day to day. This is even truer if our lives consist of both working in a profession and managing a private life.

The in-box at work, whether on the corner of your desk or in the electronic mail program on your computer, seldom stays empty for more than a few minutes. When you’re at home the ardent telemarketer inquiries after your well-being, just as you finally head toward the dinner table. With dinner barely finished, you’re off to deposit your youngest at the piano class teacher’s door. Demands for your time and mind press on relentlessly. This pace is typical of the Western world. Every man and every woman, young or middle aged, are undeniably upwardly mobile in personal motivation.

Amid this frenzied productiveness, you sometimes may have felt tempted to push a cosmic “undo” key not unlike the kind you can find in some computer programs. You have just typed in a mess on your computer screen, and you reach for the button that says “undo”. Instantly, the clutter in front of your eyes disappears, and you’re back in the original space, now of course cleared of the complications you had mistakenly created.

On the macro scale of our lives, some of us try to push the cosmic “undo” button in various ways by quitting a stressful job, leaving the megalopolis-GTA to move to Montreal, abandoning an unsatisfactory marriage or relationship or taking a three month trip around south-east Asia. If we’re lucky, the step we’ve chosen to take allows the immediate pressures within us to subside, and we regain our inner balance. But many of us are lucky only for a while, until new pressures mount once again, making us feel bound hand and foot, prisoners inside our own lives and minds.

It can take a while to discover that the real undoing begins inside, not by merely rearranging the outer situations of lives. It certainly took a while for me—first to understand the idea and then to begin to apply it in a very practical way to my own life.

For years I’d been rushing daily work to attend to a pressured management job only to rush home at the end of an exhausting day to attend the needs of a family, going non-stop until bedtime. My mind felt as though it were pressed into a vice by the onslaught of thought on thoughts beating at the door of my awareness. “I must remember to e-mail that memo to Vatsi tomorrow…I probably should have forced an earlier cut-off of that lengthy discussion of alternatives at today’s planning meeting. The telephone bill and internet bills are due by the tenth, must not forget…Dinner party at the Rathy’s on the thirtieth, and did I RSVP?”

Now and then I would stop my dash through the day for a second or two to sneak a quick glance at a tiny poem I had tacked up some years ago on the bulletin board in front of my desk in my study at home.

“I am not eager, bold, or strong—all that is past
I am ready not to do, at last, at last!”
-Peter Canesius, 1521-1597.

It was a strange poem, one that seemed to speak blasphemy in the face of my upbringing that urged me to do, to accomplish, to be industrious conscientious, resourceful, and relentlessly strong, eager and bold. Yet, for years, the yellowing piece of paper with its simple, perplexing words continued to hang in my study, beckoning me toward a different kind of thinking from that which I was used to. I barely understood that way of thinking, yet I was inexplicably drawn toward it. It spoke to me of ways of being that had little to do with doing as we usually define it.

So I continued my dash through the complexities of life I myself had created around me. However, I kept wishing for a “undo” key to push that might unravel the cocoon of complexities around me and bring me closer to the simplicity that Peter Canesius seemed to be hinting at. For so long I felt close to suffocating, like a silkworm wriggling inside yards and yards of silk, unable to get out.

How to undo this cocoon I’d created? The rush seemed endless and the self-created pressures real. The need to succeed was overwhelming, and so was the inner push constantly to do something in order to prove to myself that I existed—and worthily so.

I had known for a good many years that the real undoing—the inner transformation that brings us to a new plateau of balanced clarity—begins inside. Yet, I found that impossible to accomplish while spinning at high speed on the carousal of activities I had chosen to mount. One day, I decided to get off the merry-go-round without even waiting for it to stop I quit my job. At first, I reeled from the momentum I had created. I could hardly keep my balance as my body kept lunging forward with the motion already set in its limbs. My mind too, continued at a frenzied gallop, even though many obligations had already fallen away. But in time, I came to a relative rest. My mind and I stopped the mad rushing long enough to begin to hear, feel, and think—simply to be.

In my case, as in the lives of many others, an outside event was needed as a catalyst for the inner act of clearing the mental dross and simplifying the emotional complexities. Yet I knew all along that the real magic—the liberating transformation we long for—takes place ultimately in the landscape of our minds.

That lesson I was still to learn through trial and error—and unrelenting practice. Over and over again, day in day out, I had to relearn, integrate, and put into practice a few powerful, self-transforming ideas that I had had the good fortune to be exposed to in my early adult life. This shows how to move away from a mental culture of finding all solutions outside ourselves to learning how to forge solutions inside. They show us a new way to be, how to liberate ourselves from our self-created complexities and learn to find our sense of self in naked simplicity of the moment.

While it remains a worm, the silkworm is confined to its cocoon. It bursts the walls of its cocoon of gossamer thread only after it undergoes transformation into a moth. We too, need to allow a profound shift within ourselves- a transformation- before we can feel the radiant simplicity of a liberated life.