This is the age of great awakening. It is also the age of profound darkness. It is the age where we are coming to understand the value of life. It is also the age when we are finding how to exploit life outside or inside the scope of law.
The more we enact laws, the more we understand the insufficiency of laws to cure the human condition. For those of us who were born much after the world wars, the people and leaders who led to the war appeared distant and abnormal. It appeared foolish. For those of us who were born in the post-colonialism, post-slavery era, these ideas appeared silly too and we were distant from those times.
But, the recent wars in the Middle East have shaken all of us. In our own times, we have seen children being killed. In our own times, we have seen the most cruel exploitation of women. In our own times, we have borne witness to horrifying accounts of torture.
By what kind of law do we prevent such violence against our own?
While one has to salute those fighting legal battles to bring the miscreants to justice, it appears that their efforts alone would be insufficient.
As one explores the human condition, one understands that the roots of abuse lie at a much deeper level. It all starts with self-abuse. How would you feel if you were humiliated, disrespected on a continuous basis and dragged without dignity from one slavish task to another? We would feel bad, wouldn’t we? We would want to find a way to escape this situation. But, when the self inflicts this violence upon itself, it simply fails to see it.
An unexamined life is a life of abuse, self-abuse. Feeling for oneself is more important than and is the root of feeling for others. Just as only a wealthy person is able to donate to charity which helps poor people and an educated person able to teach others to remove their ignorance, only a person who has come out of self-abuse can work towards preventing abuse to others.
In the western world, mindfulness has become a big movement despite its detractors and skeptics. It allows an examined life. It awakens us to how we are abusing ourselves, pushing ourselves to danger. Though some may contest the correctness of the name ‘mindfulness’, there is no problem as long as it is well understood. In mindfulness, one acknowledges the nature of the mind as being dissipated and fickle. It keeps grasping or creating one thing after another. The mind is a beautiful tool as long as it is an instrument. When it ceases to be and becomes a master, it wrecks havoc with our lives. The disciplines that teach us to control and starve the mind do not work because that does not sit well with the nature of the mind. The mind is always eager for something. Stopping it is committing violence against it. One cannot solve the problem of abuse by abusing the mind. Instead, one must come to an understanding of the mind itself. We allow the mind to have some support on which it can rest while we explore deeply. The mind is assigned the task of watching the breath, looking at the body condition or anything else that is suitable to us. In this way, the mind is not controlled. It is not starved. It is given a task to keep it busy.
When the mind is thus focused, one gets the opportunity to shift to a different kind of awareness. The result of mindfulness is not mindfulness itself but the transition to a different kind of awareness. It is a state of awareness that does not judge, that does not cling but only observes with clarity. In this state, one can watch, bear witness to, the self being dragged in different directions at the level of the mind. One can bear witness to the absurdity of some of our passions and certainties, our likes and dislikes. Some of us call this deepest sense of awareness, God, but it doesn’t really matter what you want to call it. Nowadays, it appears that the less we invoke the name ‘God’, the better it is.
It is in understanding how we abuse ourselves to the vagaries of the mind that we find both the way and the opportunity for universal compassion. We realize the human condition across the world and discover ways to cure the condition. Acting from this deeper sense of awareness is superior to acting from the level of the mind because in this former state is understanding, lack of selfish desire or some other form of insanity.
Awakening to the nature of the mind, we awaken to the immediate and grave dangers of leaving it unchecked. We realize that the solution is not to control the mind – it will fight back with a vengeance – but to understand and learn to live with it. The mind is like a child that will throw tantrums and misbehave when no one is watching. The key is to watch it and let it behave.
The need to stop abuse in this world is urgent. While on the one hand, we dream of exploring space, integrating with machines, etc. it is not necessary that our next step of evolution should either by shaped by external nature or by machines. It can happen at the level of consciousness and here lies the way to a creating a more dignified and free life for all of us – a way of life where you don’t have to lose for me to win.