Step 4

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!

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!

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