“It is about the current step…”

Yesterday, my wife and I joined Murali, Meera and two other friends (Charan and Krishnakumar) on a bike-trip to Skandagiri. We started from Murali’s house at 5:00 AM. By 7:15 we had reached Nandigrama – a village near Nandi hills. We had breakfast there and from there we continued our journey to Skandagiri. By 8 we had reached the base point of the hill and started our trek – up the hill. We went trekking up the hill, which was about 1.3 kms in altitude; but climbing up and hill and down is about 10 kms – I guess. The trip and the trek thereafter was lots of fun, although very exhausting.

Skandagiri Trekking
Left to Right: Meera, Nandini, Me, Krishnakumar

As I was climbing the hill, I was getting very very tired. We were not even 25% into the trek and I was almost down from total exhaustion. Murali looked at me from a distance and after sometime he came to me and said – “it is just about the current step…”. I was making up so many stories about the path ahead and how steep it was that I was making my current step difficult. An integration of current steps would become my trekking experience – which would have appeared hell. Anyways, after Murali told me – “it is about the current step”; I began to enjoy the current step. I got present to an old saying – “Life is NOW!”. I started getting present to the sounds around – sound of the air, sound of birds chirping nearby, sound of frogs, sound of my heart beating, sound of the next step…. Every once in a while, I stopped when I got tired. Enjoyed the break. Took a look at the peak and the path ahead just to make sure that I am heading in the right direction – but then I would get back to enjoying the current step. one step after another, I did reach the peak of the hill. The journey and the destination was highly enjoyable!

Many times in our life we get so stressed – perhaps because of the stories we make up about the “perceived” future. After a while the place where we are in life seems hellish and so would the journey. Life is about the current step. Take a glance at the required destination once in a while, but dont forget to enjoy and ‘be’ in the current step.

Detachment.. what it means?

Almost every book on philosophy and enlightenment seem to suggest that the most important stage in the path to enlightenment is “detachment”. I was reading the Bhagavad Gita a couple of months back. In Chapter 3, Verse 9, Sri Krishna tells Arjuna – all actions, other than the ones done in detachment and as sacrifice to the Lord, cause bondage and hence suffering. I am not a Sanskrit pandit, but this is how I understood the words. If you want to rant then I suggest you read this post of mine first. Anyways, I think the point Sri Krishna wanted to make is just this – if you perform actions without attachment, then you will be free from bondage. But then what is the meaning of ‘attachment’ and ‘bondage’ in this context? I have understood, or rather made it mean, as explained below.

Eckhart Tolle in his book – A New Earth, talks about Ego in every human being. In his book he says that the Ego creates the identity of its host by means of identification with things, people, status etc. Identification is derived from the Latin word ‘idem’ which means “the same”. So when one identifies with something – he/she is basically saying I am same as that. For example – if I call myself as Software Developer then I am saying is – ‘who I am is same as software developer’. If I say – ‘this is my BMW’ then what I am truly saying is – ‘who I am is same as the other people that own a BMW. So I belong to a elite club.’ According to Eckhart Tolle, the ego creates identity of its host in terms of things, people and status that it identifies itself with. And if we look at it closely those things, people and status is external to the host. And once that identification is created – the human being becomes same as the identity and nothing else. For example – suppose I successfully execute a project. My ego creates that success as my identity. If I succeed again the next time, the ego inflates – if I don’t, then I get deeply disappointed. When we look at it from a third person’s point of view – the success or failure doesn’t mean anything. The point I want to make is – our ego creates identity, which becomes who we are and hence we are bound by it. That’s the bondage, I think Sri Krishna is talking about.

But who creates that bondage – the Ego of-course! The ego has an affinity to turn everything personal. Success is personal, failure is personal, happiness is personal, pain is personal, pleasure is personal and so on. In other words the ego loves to attach significance to everything that happens around its host. It is this attachment that creates our identity and hence the bondage.

That brings us to detachment. Detachment, I think, is about being the consciousness that notices Ego as it attaches significance to the result or outcome of any action. The Ego will attach significance, there is nothing I can probably do about it. But if I can notice it; then that’s detachment. When the outcome of any action doesn’t define who I am – then I can function from the space of pure possibility and not from the past or from the self-created identity. This means that I can take on executing actions irrespective of whether similar attempts in the past have been successful or not. That brings about a lightness in life.

We are all so concerned about something called – reputation. What is reputation? Nothing but an attachment to an identity created by the Ego. Put in other words – it is a description of who we are based on the past successes (and sometimes failures). If we are so attached to reputation – then every time we take on some new action, we will be concerned as to whether the outcome of the action will remain consistent with the reputation or not. Detachment frees us from this. Every action taken is new. Every result is new. We can truly get to a space where we can say – I did this and this action in the past and this was the outcome. I did the same action in the present and this was the outcome. Either way the outcomes are not labeled success or failure – and more importantly they wont feed our self-created identity.

One of the top takeaways of my SELP program was the distinction – Attachment vs Commitment. When I am attached to something then the outcome determines my identity and hence becomes breeding ground for strong-suits and rackets – and then I begin to function from the past. But when I am committed – then I will function from the space of pure possibility. I will keep taking action to generate the desired result. Every outcome will occur only as something that is consistent or inconsistent with the possibility.

Messenger and the Message…

The finger pointing at the moon is not the moon. What’s the meaning of this statement?

Suppose a kid comes and tells to you – “I have never seen the moon, can you show it to me.” You take the kid to the terrace of your house and point your index finger to the moon and say – “That is the moon.” So saying you bring your hand down. The kid, instead of looking at the moon you pointed to, is looking at your index finger – assuming that the index-finger is the moon. After staring at your finger for sometime the kid says – “the moon is not so interesting!”

The finger pointing at the moon is not the moon. What’s the philosophical relevance of this statement in our lives?

Suppose that you and I are driving our car from Bangalore to Hampi to visit the Jaina Temple. Enroute to the temple we see a signpost like the one below.


The moment we see the signpost we stop the car by the side and catch hold of the signpost and say “ah.. Temple! Temple!.. we got our temple!” How absurd is that?

Commonsense says that the signpost pointing towards the direction of the temple, is not the temple. That’s exactly what – the finger pointing at the moon is not moon means.

As a race, we have a dysfunction in all of us. We don’t know the difference between the finger and the thing that it is pointing to. We don’t make a distinction between, say, a book and the knowledge it is imparting to us. We read the book from cover to cover and then become fans of the book. We protect the book and advertise about the book – all the while not paying attention to its content. I am not saying that once we read the book we should rip it apart or that we should not tell other people about it. I am saying that we should consider that the book is a signpost, leading us to some knowledge. We should perhaps first make an effort to get that!

We don’t make a difference between the messenger and the message. A “messenger” is someone who is delivering a “message”. But we are all so dysfunctional that the moment we hear the message, we get attached to the messenger. This is exactly what is happening with “spiritual gurus”. The guru is communicating a message to us – but we get attached to the guru. We sing praises about the guru, we get more people to follow the guru, we create a cult following for the guru and we also get to the point of playing politics in the name of the guru (my guru is better and more than yours! OR my guru is the only guru in the whole world, your guru is useless).

In my opinion – that’s exactly what’s wrong with the Landmark Education followers. Granted that the Landmark Forum, Forum in Action Series and the Advanced Course and SELP (in parts) are good. But at the end of the day – the whole curriculum teaches us to create a new view for life, so that we can experience the transformation in ourselves and be at the source of it. But the common thing among graduates is that they get attached to the Landmark Education. They become sales persons for the company and trick people into doing their courses. All the time – not really being the source of transformation; which was of-course the intent of the curriculum for living! Even the people working for the Landmark Education (either as employees or as volunteers) have a feeling that the only way to be is to continuously trick more and more people into doing sales or unpaid voluntary jobs for the Landmark Education. Apparently, not doing some work for Landmark Education – makes you a stupid and dull person, and you will no longer be transformed! Can you see – they are hugging and kissing the signpost and not even bothering about the destination that it is pointing too!