Wednesday, October 9, 2013

How to Hide a Monk in Plain Sight

"Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz?
My friends all drive Porsches and I must make amends."
~ Mercedes Benz, lyrics by Janis Joplin
After my awakening, one revelation I had, more important than any other, was that human beings are slaves to repetitive behavioral patterns. The less awareness you bring to day-to-day actions, the more likely the possibility of remaining stuck. Uttering the same lines, repeating the same anecdotes and jokes for years, responding the same way to a favorite food, smell or sensation, and most important, reacting the same way to powerful stimuli like lust for sex and greed for money or material belongings. Especially powerful is the tendency to compare yourself with your peers. Like the song says, my friends all have Porsches, I have to make amends.

Dock of the Bay

In my last post, I touched on the various Yamas and Niyamas. Before my awakening, when I was living the consumer avatar with gusto, I was buying fancy clothes. New, expensive designer stuff every month. Never even wore them twice. But the minute I saw the next new pair of designer jeans, I wanted them. Why? Because society trains us that way. To crave more and more. Desiring a nice set of clothes is not the problem. Never feeling satisfied no matter how much you have, is.

Kundalini brings unfulfilled wishes to the surface. I had a choice. Fulfill them and be done with the craving. Learn to enjoy the object without craving the next one. "Lord give me this," once granted, lived and no longer craved, is then removed, never to be replaced with more of the same. This, more than anything, is the greatest blessing. It is a cliché to say "enjoy the small things in life," but really, that is what it's all about. Whatever has been said so far echoes something very similar. Live in this moment. Drop illusions. Enjoy life as it is. Be grateful for each moment and live happily.

It is a misconception to think that kundalini leads to a rejection of the material world or wealth, or that it instills a craving for renunciation or vairagya. The true meaning of vairagya is non-attachment to wealth. If I decide to renounce my worldly possessions and live in a cave, the basic temptation is still there. It has only been suppressed. In fact, creating a polarized anti-material point of view will make the rebound that much more difficult. True renunciation includes a pragmatic aspect. When it comes from within as a consequence of a kundalini awakening, you could be a billionaire and be totally unattached to your wealth. Yes, I possess these things, but I am not described by them. Neither do I fear losing them.

Over the dunes to the house

Yes, you need these things, but you learn to separate needs from wants. Your needs are for living a fulfilling life, not to join the rat race to show others how much more you have. That will only lead to disappointment if the other person remains unimpressed. All illusion is created by the ego. Understanding this, you focus on real needs, you are not tempted by every new shiny object, and you do not consume to impress others.

Once an individual awakens, The Adjustment Bureau mechanism set in place by society jumps into full-rectify mode. Look, your buddy is now a CEO. He drives such and such a car. That guy has a giant screen home theater. 

Still worse is the destructive chatter the mind throws out: dire images of poverty, fears of ending up on the street begging, etc. The sub-conscious mind generates these negative images and emotions. Society feeds people fear as a control mechanism, making them more likely to live out the fate they fear most. Create dark ideas and they will manifest themselves. Create feelings of gratitude and more will find a way into your life.

Shifting sands

Society wants you to become a robot and constantly run after another dangling carrot. If you stop and think for a minute about what you really want, the whole mechanism will collapse. What do you actually need? Food, clothing and shelter. Once those are taken care of, a life lived to the maximum of its potential is much more rewarding.

Effectively, one becomes a monk and lives hidden in plain sight. I drive a nice car; I live in a nice house; heck, I even trade stocks and make money in the stock market. I have a family. Definitely not a cave-dwelling ascetic. But within me, each of these things fulfill a purpose. My own dharma. More and more, they are done with total detachment to the outcome. Each action done for it's own sake. Being a good householder and fulfilling your karma towards your family is a good use of the three lower chakras.

The lower three chakras are firmly in the physical realm. The base chakra is involved with matters of survival and earning a living. A healthy way to deal with it is to optimize your profession and align it with your real self. To not run after making the most money. Living in a cave is actually unhealthy self-abuse and creates new blockages if you neglect survival and other basic needs. The sacral chakra, expressed in a positive way leads to healthier sexual relationships and creative expression. Lust and craving are resolved in a healthy way. Living in a monastery, but yearning for sex is not helpful. Learning to cope with success is sometimes harder than learning to cope with failure. If you keep your ego in check and stay on an even keel, despite adulation and a growing sense of accomplishment, you have prevented third chakra blockages.

That is the reason every method of kundalini awakening, raja yoga, Kabalah or the Tao emphasizes balance. If this is misunderstood, the mind creates a no-win dualistic scenario: self-deprivation and monastic abnegation on the one hand, wanton self-indulgence on the other. Neither path leads to awakening. The path towards self-realization is about two things, Intent and Balance. It is not enough to have intent; it is important to learn balance. Going to extremes of hermetic renunciation and keeping yourself away from society will have no positive impact on the quest and will only inflate the spiritual ego.

None of the measures mentioned in the Raja Yoga post need to be done with spartan discipline. A gentle nudge towards simpler means suffices. The goal is to recognize craving and programmed behavior, and to move away from them.

Desiring a comfortable existence in and of itself is not wrong or evil. Sexual desire is not wrong. But submitting to programmed indoctrination that renders you feeling dissatisfied, restless and craving has a negative impact on the smooth flow of energy within the chakras. The process of achieving balance is quite literally, a balancing act. It requires constant attention. You can't achieve it all at once; it is not a once and done process. You have to constantly train the mind to achieve mindful awareness.

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