Gratitude, Sri Ramana Maharshi, and The Paupers
We are here to make each other's lives better. It is so easy to forget, and strive for personal satisfaction. The nature of existence is that everything exists in relation to everything else; nothing exists solely for itself. Seeking gratification or living solely to quench the thirst of desires through external experiences or material conditions, the Buddha identified, is the axis around which our craving surrounds us, and this endless turning evokes a deep sense of discontentment or suffering. In the yogic tradition, the awareness of our own nature allows us to see the emptiness of pursuing validation, satisfaction, and contentment through external means. In connecting with the limitlessness and mystery of the deep well of wisdom and power within ourselves we recognize that all seeking, striving, and desire arise out of a misunderstanding that things need to be some other way and that what we are is separate from the cosmic intelligence that moves through all things big and small.
Taking things for granted, were it an art, would make most of us world famous. The number of constantly changing conditions that make it possible to continue to exist are beyond counting. Our world would probably have a deeper character of humility if we were truly aware of the staggering changes that made this planet a place where multi-cellular life could thrive, and that all of those circumstances happened completely independently of our human will, desire, or self-conception. Some philosophers argue that knowing the deep organizing principles that shape existence are beyond the capacity for the human mind. They say there is a biological threshold, and that for evolutionary purposes, the raw hardware and processing power of our brains are dampened so that we would not go mad from the sheer volume of information that our nervous system is constantly engaged with. For example, walking and chewing gum requires so many fine motor skills, as well as inner feedback mechanisms (like orienting to space using our body), that if we were fully aware of all that is happening we would likely be overcome by the sheer intensity of stimulation within our own body. It would likely make us all curl up and whimper if we could really appreciate that the planet we are on is simultaneously moving through space, acted on by gravitational and energetic forces, and rotating, all while the molten core is churning. My stomach is mad at me for even thinking about it.
The antidote to taking things for granted is obviously gratitude. To be awake to the nature of things does not, however, cause a kind of existential terror. Instead, living with awareness we can completely appreciate and marvel at the awesome intelligence that makes it possible to exist. We begin to recognize that we ourselves as much as every other life and non-life on this planet, as well as the fabric of space and every other visible and invisible aspect of the great and impossibly large cosmos are all equal participants in one seamless self-expression of intelligence itself. We also finally feel ourselves shed the weight of expectation, anticipation, and the dross of desires to know, to do, or to be something more than what we are already. From such a place we might understand the following dialogue exchange between Sri Ramana Maharshi and a questioner:
Q: Is contact between spiritual leaders of the East and West possible. Is India the spiritual world center?
M: Spirit is unlimited and formless, and so is the spiritual center. There is only one such center.
Whether in the West or the East, the center cannot be different. It has no locality. Being unlimited, it includes leaders, world, forces of destruction and construction.
You speak of contact because you are thinking of embodied beings as leaders. Spiritual people are not bodies; they are not aware of their bodies. They are spirit: limitless and formless. There is always unity among them. These questions cannot arise if the Self is realized.
Q: Why don't Mahatmas (Great Souls/Awakened Beings) help?
M: How do you know they do not help? Public speeches, physical activity and material help are all outweighed by the silence of the Mahatmas. This accomplishes more than anything else.
When we face the challenges of our everyday lives, and put effort towards realizing the depth of our own being, we begin to find clarity amidst confusion. When we engage, with enthusiasm and curiosity, the places within ourselves where we feel stuck, and seek to get to the heart of our own struggle we see it bound up in the misunderstanding of our nature. When we recognize that all our struggle, doubt, fear, and anger stem from the same spinning wheel of separateness we can start to move towards what is, within us, not separated from existence itself. We begin to discover that underneath the veneer of conditioning of body and mind, under many lifetimes of habits and identification with various forms of separateness, there is an openness and spaciousness that is already present. From that deeper place we are always connected with the entirety of being, and from there arises no craving, no animosity, no hatred, no judgement, no tension. It is love, awareness, wisdom, and compassion that arises spontaneously from within us. All that keeps us in struggle is the deep identification with separateness. As we shakily step forward from slumber and we feel burdened, isolated, alone, powerless, or afraid may we have the courage to remember, as The Paupers sang, "It's Your Mind."