Beyond biology, the need to be more
by Sreejit Poole
How could we just be gone forever?
Growing up, my conception of God and mysticism was on par with my romanticizing of after school cartoons. I wanted to believe in the world of the Thunder Cats, of magic portals, of closets that took us to other realms, and if I tried, I was sure that I could breathe them into existence.
I once called a friend on the phone and told him that he had to come over immediately, because I found a way to turn my bathroom mirror into a secret portal to another dimension; a dimension where we would be warriors fighting the forces of evil. My friend convinced his mom to bring him the 20 minutes to my house only to find that my bathroom mirror was only good for reflections. I was sure that if I could get my friend to believe in it, the mirror would be forced to reveal its secret powers.
Understanding forever is difficult in a world without magic. Forever is not part of our linear conceptualization. Everything has a beginning and an end on our plane of existence – the plane where we see and feel through our biological senses.
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
What is the image of God? Surely it couldn’t mean a physical one. The story goes that we fell from grace after being contaminated by the tree of knowledge. It must have been a great fall. But, without knowledge as our basis, in what way could we have been God-like?
Twice in the last month I’ve heard a story from lady friends of mine that went along the lines of, “I looked out of my window and there was a man staring at me while masturbating.” One of the incidents was in America and the other in India. Sadly, both times I had the thought that this is what it means to be a man. Not a man in the aspirational sense, of course, but a man in a foundational, biological sense, of having an animal scratching within. This incident may seem extreme, but I would question how we still call ourselves civilized, when men whistling and staring shamelessly at women is an everyday occurrence.
We have achieved technological heights that couldn’t have been imagined 100 years ago. Who would have thought we would be communicating with brothers and sisters all over the world via computer, even 50 years ago? But for all that the Internet has brought us, it turns out that many just use it for porn. It seems that we have used our brightest minds to serve our most base level instincts.
I tend to think that after creating God in our own image, we stripped of him everything that related to the animal senses. We still allowed God to be a man, but a perfect version of us, not tied to likes and dislikes, pleasure and pain, passion and pride.
We’ve stripped from him what it means to be human, subject to a beginning and an end, life and death, and allowed him to conquer our greatest fear by bestowing on him immortality.
I’ve passed many years without a fear of my own death. I’ll get flashes of emotion over the potentiality of the death of loved ones, caused by the trauma of the death of friends, but when my own death is concerned I normally have the attitude that it’s going to happen eventually, so no point in worrying about it. We are biological creatures after all. We are subject to the laws of nature.
It’s not like going to sleep for awhile and then waking up again, it’s forever.
Recently while traveling on Amma’s Indian tour, we visited Vrindavan. I don’t know if it had something to do with the holiness of the sight, but that first night in Vrindavan, when I lay down to go to sleep, an old childhood fear awoke in me.
How could I just stop being?
In a flash, I was in my 10 year old self’s mind, trying to imagine dying and then being gone forever.
How could there be no ME?
The only way I could stop this vicious cycle of thoughts was to ask myself another question. What if it just went on forever? Forever? What if the pains of existence never stopped? What if time had no end?
Most of us are not blessed with the minds of mystics. The mystics really have no mind at all but are plugged into a thoughtless consciousness, complete awareness from a nonlinear perspective. For us, we are unable to conceptualize a world without a beginning and an end. Time works on a chronological path. We move through time.
If this is it, how should we live? Should we be true to our animalistic roots? Or should we be more than them?
“Three important revolutions shaped the course of history: the Cognitive Revolution kick-started history about 70,000 years ago. The Agricultural Revolution sped it up about 12,000 years ago. The Scientific Revolution, which got under way only 500 years ago, may well end history and start something completely different.”
– From Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Harari
The hunter-gatherer instinct may well be part and parcel of our DNA, but what has separated us for 70,000 years from the rest of the animal kingdom is our ability to imagine. We have created civilizations, in all of their creative and destructive glory, that have, both literally and figuratively, reshaped our planet.
In the end, living can’t be a lowest common denominator existence. Living means using our ability to its greatest potential. Maybe we have created infinity with our imagination, or maybe we have glimpsed it through revelation, but to live means to respect death and do with life as much as we can, while we can.
You may ask how someone with such ambiguous ideas towards God could spend the past 25 years living in Amma’s ashrams. But, it’s never been about faith for me. I know that God doesn’t need my certainty. Omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient is doing just fine on its own. For me, life is about making the most out of what we’ve got. How do we want to spend the precious time we have here? Whether we are going to come back again to try countless times to get it right, or we are just here for one good fight, makes little difference. God or not, we can choose to live divinely.
In the eight concluding verses of the 12th chapter of the Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna lays out clearly what it means to live a divine life:
He who hates no creature, who is friendly and compassionate to all, who is free from attachment and egoism, balanced in pleasure and pain, and forgiving,
Ever content, steady in meditation, self-controlled, possessed of firm conviction, with the mind and intellect offered to me, he, my devotee, is dear to me.
He by whom the world is not agitated and who cannot be agitated by the world, who is freed from joy, envy, fear and anxiety – he is dear to me.
He who is free from wants, pure, expert, unconcerned and untroubled, renouncing all undertakings or commencements – he who is thus devoted to me, is dear to me.
He who neither rejoices nor hates, nor grieves, nor desires, renouncing good and evil, and who is full of devotion, is dear to me.
He who is the same to foe and friend, and also in honor and dishonor, who is the same in cold and heat and in pleasure and pain, who is free from attachment,
He to whom censure and praise are equal, who is silent, content with anything, homeless, of a steady mind, and full of devotion – that man is dear to me.
They, verily, who follow this immortal dharma as described above, endowed with faith, regarding me as their supreme goal, they, the devotees, are exceedingly dear to me.
I tend to think of living, as rising. Rising in happiness, rising in motivation, rising in selfless actions. Whether divinity was created by us, or we by it, the qualities of the divine is what we as a species have come to revere. As Amma says, “Let us pray that our lives become like incense sticks, spreading a beautiful fragrance to the lives of one and all.” In that way, by adding to, rather than taking away from, the beauty all around us, we can truly live.
I am a King
without a Kingdom,
in a world with
wrapped in the spoils
of jealous heart,
and my people’s
Do you have something to say about living and dying? Check out the prompt, 365 Days On Living and Dying, and add your voice to the series.
Featured image via http://www.digitalblashemey.com