The Basics: Nisargadatta

“You give no attention to your self. Your mind is all with things, people and ideas, never with your self. Bring your self into focus, become aware of your own existence. See how you function, watch the motives and results of your actions. Study the prison you have built around yourself, by inadvertence. By knowing what you are not, you come to know yourself.”  I Am That, p4, Ch2

All mystics through the ages have stressed on this basic idea. Forget the blazing lights, the pure bliss, the oblivion of body. The hard work of bringing the daily self into the foreground is what they primarily emphasize (Krishnamurti, Joko Beck, Buddha himself) and yet this is the toughest part, the primary challenge, for our wandering minds.

“Your mind is all with things, people, ideas.” The fundamental point that Nisargadatta stresses upon is our identification with things, people, ideas. I see a picture of a gadget, say the new Kindle. My curiosity is aroused, but it is not just an abstract curiosity. I feel a strange sense of fulfillment, a swelling of my self, an added sense of solidity and self worth, when I imagine myself holding the Kindle. I feel that it will be a deep source of pleasure. I project myself holding it, explaining its power to my friends, I sense their curiosity and slight envy (unless of course they have a better model!) There is a deep abiding bond that is built up between myself and this object. In fact, my identity seems to have penetrated the object, so that we are one entity.

(If you feel that all this doesn’t apply to you–and many people reject the above model–just remember the last time you lost your wallet, or your cell phone, or your car keys. The bond with a familiar object, and with the security it represented, was broken, perhaps forever. What were your emotions at that point?)

And yet, when I acquire the object, why is there the sense of quiet deflation, the sense of a promise not quite fulfilled? Already I am planning mentally on the Kindle upgrade.

If all this is true of things, the depth of identification with people is exponentially stronger. I identify with my girlfriend because she is my primary source of pleasure: the pleasure of sex, the pleasure of “ownership” (yes, very subtle and refined, but ownership anyway), the pleasure of control and the pleasure of submission. The cycle of fulfillment and betrayal, emotional and physical, oscillates gently through the days, bringing in its wake tenderness, anger, jealousy by turn.  This cycle is so fascinating that it keeps me interested for months and years, until maybe a new fascination comes along.

And, finally, ideas. I feel no one has explained our obsession and identification with ideas more clearly than Krishnamurti. My idea of nation and my identification with it; my idea of religion and my identification with it; family; work. The list is endless. And, very much as with relationships, powerful emotions are associated with these identifications. When the identity is questioned, fierce anger and insecurity are aroused. When there is affirmation, there is a glow, an enhancement of self and (seemingly) well being.

…continued

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