Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I Am So Lonely!

"I am so lonely!"

One often complains that one is lonely because one does not have a girlfriend, boyfriend, wife, husband (or even some 'friend' to while away time talking inanities) and that one is, therefore, unhappy.

It's a complaint that I don't see much sense or substance in.

I firmly believe that if one knows how to live with oneself, one is never alone.

We are born alone; we live alone - though we all erroneously believe that we have friends, relations, and companions; and we all die alone. When we ultimately reach His Abode, we reach it alone never to return to the Cycle of Births and Deaths and remain alone there.

This is not something to grieve; this is in the nature of Creation.

Call it Divine Comedy, call it Divine Tragedy, it is all woven around this and a few other simple 'realities'.

"Kaa te kantha? Kaste putrah? Samsaroyamatheeva vichitrah ('Who is your wife? Who is your son? Life is indeed ludicrous.)," averred Adi Sankara in the famous "Bhaja Govindam".

I believe that the theme of Bhaja Govindam is the place where one starts one's philosophic inquiry. One may not have read Bhaja Govindam and yet the mental state leading to one's initiation into spiritual inquiry would correspond to the theme of Bhaja Govindam.

Then there is the complaint that one feels a lot of pain or that one is unhappy because some given event has happened or not happened or because one doesn't possess a certain object of pleasure.

Does any event or possession have the capacity to make one happy for a lifetime?

"Pain is my only companion," a friend of mine insists.

Is that indeed so?

Pain is no more real and no more one's companion than Happiness is.

One is miserable today? It shall pass. One is happy today? That too shall pass.

The future Dawn of Happiness is no more permanent than the present Darkness of Misery. Both shall pass - only to occur in unending cycles.

"Dhyaayatho vishayaan pumsah, sangastheshoopajaayathe ..." So go a couple of stanzas in the Gita. As one keeps thinking about something, one develops a longing, an attachment. And ultimately, the discontent of Man is rooted in that.

Have wife/husband, children, money, a plum job, a palatial house, orchards, cars, ornaments, social standing, learning, or any of the umpteen things that people covet and possess ever made a man happy? There are people who have given up huge wealth to seek a higher happiness - higher in the sense it lasts a lifetime.

One may not have a companion to live with. So what? Is every person with a companion really not alone? Or happy? Or contented? If one has a companion, one may end up complaining about the quality of the companionship!

Does one have enough means to have two square meals a day, decent clothing, and a kind shelter to live under? If one does have these, then one indeed has a cause for celebration.

All of us who have the means to live with dignity - satiate the hunger of the stomach, have something decent to wear, and have a comfortable shelter to sleep under - have a reason to be thankful to Life and God. Because by taking care of these three very primary needs for survival, God has given us a chance to live honestly and a chance to seek Him in relative peace.

Anything else beyond these is a luxury; if one has it, fine; if one doesn't, well, just as fine!

Because there is just no end to what we can wish or seek.

If one wish or desire is gratified, another steps in; a fulfilled desire gives temporary happiness till the new desire creeps in. And the unhappiness created by a frustrated desire lasts only till the next desire creeps in. In either case, the happiness or unhappiness of one moment is replaced by anxiety about another desire; that in turn leads to momentary happiness or momentary unhappiness. This is an unending cycle - as long as one is alive.

Nowhere in the history of humanity has the satiation of desires been found to ensure happiness. Actually, the contrary has been noted to be true. Because desires are a never-ending stream. Then, what is the solution?

The hoary men of the past ages have all been telling us in resonating unison that developing contentment through control of the the mind is the only key to happiness - happiness that lasts.

The happiest of the people we know have their own causes for unhappiness; either we do not know the people sufficiently to realise it or they mask it well enough - for a while, at least - to present a picture of happiness. So, there is no point in comparing our lot with what seems to be the better lot of someone else.

It could be useful, though, to compare our lot with those who are in a condition worse than ours. It would at least make us grateful to God for what he has given us.

Pain is somewhat relative too.

For the man sleeping on the road, sleeping under the hot sun on a bed of hot, dusty soil is the cause for unhappiness; for the delicately-built, pampered princess disturbed by an irritating strand of hair in her cushioned bed, that strand of hair is the cause of unhappiness.The man sleeping on the road would laugh his heart out at the princess upset by that strand of hair; it is simply unimaginable for him that one could be unhappy for such a trivial reason.

There is none who doesn't experience pain - or pleasure.

Sometimes the duration of one is longer than the other even as both Pain and Pleasure are cyclic in their occurrence.

Perhaps that is where the Law of Karma comes in. We cannot mitigate past Karma except through suffering. But we certainly can - we are told - control the accretions to Karma by controlling our present and future actions.

Pain is as real as life - though neither is real in a philosophical sense.

Coming down to the mundane, I think it makes for greater happiness (or lesser unhappiness) to find ways to modulate our reactions to pain. It is this control of the mind that ultimately ensures happiness.

This is where the spiritual path comes in; this is where the various spiritual practices and the help of Guru come in - if one is unable to find one's way along at least in the initial stages of spiritual endeavour and mitigation of misery.

A Guru can certainly help - provided one sticks to a well-chosen Guru instead of flitting from one Guru to another in expectation of an instant solution (or, what is even more ridiculously ambitious, instant salvation).

There are no instant solutions to the fundamental problems of life.


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