A CONVERSATION WITH MYSELF
“You have been conversing with your beard (imagine, no wonder people find that weird), with your Destiny (please I think they have had enough of that stuff about everything being destined) and only God knows (sometimes I also wonder who or where he is and what he knows) to who else. But you have never really sat down to talk to me. I wonder why? I do have a faint idea that it is because you are frightened to do so. Seriously, I feel abandoned.”
This happened when I sat down for my meditation this morning. Though for a moment I was upset, I recovered and said “honestly, I never really thought you would be so offended. I always considered that you and I are inseparable, that you have always been with me through whatever has happened or is happening. So let me set things straight and for a start we shall have a conversation tonight and I promise to clarify whatever you believe that I have kept away from you”. I felt a slight vibration and I knew that he had receded back to his abode within and would resurface again tonight to put his questions to me.
‘At the stroke of the midnight hour’ he came and sat before me on a pile of books near my computer. Bald, bearded, bespectacled and the size of the glass of water on my table, that for a moment I thought that I was looking into a miniature mirror. He smiled as he looked at me and said “well here I am, and shall we talk?” I said yes and settled down for a long chat.
“I am not in the habit of asking too many questions. I always let you do the talking, to me of course. I can always make out when you are truthful and when you are being dishonest with ‘yourself’, that is me. So I am here to hear you. For a long time I have been intrigued watching you performing things which you never seriously believed in. Why so?”
“Seriously can you be more specific? I am unable to comprehend what you are saying. I always thought I am doing what I believe in.”
“Well, for instance I watch you as you sit before that cupboard of yours containing some idols and pictures of various Gods and performing certain rituals before you close your eyes and start your meditation. You have always maintained that you do not believe in rituals then why?”
“Oh that! If you say that cleaning the idols, decorating with flowers, burning an incense stick and making an offering of food as a ritual, you are right. I do those things. Have you ever wondered why I remain silent at those times, so silent that I do not even wake you up? Of course you must have been awake, for how else could you have observed that I do these things. But you will agree that I never did disturb you at such times.
When I am in the process of performing these things I have found that even my mind becomes silent. There is no thought as to the futility of the entire exercise. I do it because one fine day it just happened and I asked myself why not, as long as I do not have an agenda. You are right when you pointed out that I do not believe in ritualistic prayers. But let me clarify that I do not believe when there is an agenda attached to the exercise. It has become a part of my daily routine like my daily long walks and it keeps me focussed. Now in the recent past I even visit the temple next door daily after coming back from my walk and having my bath. You had noticed that though my wife goes to the temple daily, I used to go there only occasionally. One fine day I asked myself, why not? Not because I believed that the God over there was going to help me tide over crises or grant me boons. I found that it was a sort of commitment that I made for you, myself. I recovered a sense of purpose and discipline creeping into my daily activities. I would call it ‘Zen and the Art of Praying’
Long ago I read Herrigel’s ‘Zen and the Art of Archery’ where he says
“The archer ceases to be conscious of himself as the one who is engaged in hitting the bull's-eye which confronts him. This state of unconscious is realized only when, completely empty and rid of the self, he becomes one with the perfecting of his technical skill, though there is in it something of a quite different order which cannot be attained by any progressive study of the art”.
You will ask me what bearing this has on what I am doing. Well though you pretend, I know that you are aware what I am trying to explain. The key operating sentence here is ‘This state of unconscious is realized only when, completely empty and rid of the self …..’. This entire process has aided me in the process of my daily meditation.
It is through years of practice, a physical activity becomes effortless both mentally and physically, as if the body executes complex and difficult movements without conscious control from the mind. Zen emphasises the suspension of all judgemental thinking and letting words, ideas, images and thoughts pass by without getting involved in them. I would call that one hour in the morning my Zen time. I believe that each one of us has his own Zen time whether it is gardening, cooking, making tea or maintenance of your motor cycle (refer ‘Zen and the art of Motor Cycle Maintenance’, Robert Pirzig’s classic novel). One sentence from the book still keeps ringing in my head “Other people can talk about how to expand the destiny of mankind. I just want to talk about how to fix a motorcycle. I think that what I have to say has more lasting value”
So you see that I am still doing what I believe in and I also believe that each one has his own way of expressing his commitment to a cause he believes in and through which he hopes to attain a freedom from the bonds that tie him down and realise his entire potential.”
As I finished I found my Self sitting on his perch in front of me with his eyes closed. For a moment I thought that he had gone to sleep with all this long winded speech of mine. So I cleared my throat in a bid to wake him up. He slowly opened his eyes and said “so you thought I was asleep? I heard every word you said, I always knew it but I wanted it to come out from you. You will see there is more clarity now.”
“So what next?” I asked.
“For now, that is enough, I can see your eyelids drooping. Isn’t it late now? We shall keep the rest for some other day. I am watching.”
He vanished and I stopped.