Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Conversation with Shriram

(Post from my old blog. Originally posted on October 03, 2006)

I met Shriram on the last weekend at his house. The day was quite cloudy and I reached Shriram's place around 12:30 in the afternoon. As soon as we entered the compound we were welcomed by a small and cute puppy. There was a beautiful front yard which had lot of plants and trees. It was a nice change for me to hear the sounds of chirpings of the birds, the gentle breeze and the swaying trees.

The small little puppy was joined by another one as we reached the front door. It seems Shriram picked both from a dustbin when they were dying of cold and hunger. He also recollected an interesting story that his father hated dogs but the two puppies simply melted his heart!

I had a nice talk with Shriram about various things. I learnt a lot from the conversation. As the days proceed after the Jeevan Vidya shivir, the effect of shivir in terms of analyzing and thinking slowly fades away. And after the conversation I felt rejuvenated about the whole thing as if I have taken a "mini"-shivir. I am very grateful to him for taking his time out on a weekend and telling me so many things inspite of the fact that I spoiled his weekend. I should also thank Shriram for the wonderful lunch!

Below is the summary of the points we discussed. Although I added my comments here and there, most of it is told by Shriram. I really really thank him for painstakingly going through the draft I wrote and adding to, correcting and improvising it.

1. Serving others:
Many a times when we are involved in serving others two things are likely to happen:
  • Superiority Complex: We start with the notion of superiority complex - the other is disadvantaged, he doesn't have/possess something which I have. So we end up becoming dominating, we pose the role of giver while we put the other person at the receiving end. This might be happening consciously or even without realizing that this is happening. This could also lead to blaming others who are not doing the same thing as us.
  • Self-righteous: Whatever we are doing for the "good" of the others, we think that we are doing it right. If we don't think that we are right, we won't be doing it in the first place. And we never question whether it is the right thing to do or give. And when things don't workout, we try to find something else to blame but we never look back and think of the possibility that what we are doing may not be the correct thing to do.
Many a times we think/"decide" that the problem is at a place X. This Is based on the current level of information available to us and our analysis of the same. But in reality the problem could be else where. What Jeevan Vidya proposes is that the problem is not only with the physical facilities. But all these years we have been thinking or told to think that if we solve the problem of physical facilities, all the problems will be solved. But is that the case? For instance, the central Government released crores of rupees to give loans to the farmers where suicides happened in the recent past. And it has been found that the number of suicides did not decline but the sales of hero honda motorcycles in these villages increased. So if people are buying hero hondas and committing suicide, do you think the problem is just absence/lack of physical facilities? The problem of physical facilities/ access to the same does exist but it is more a problem of distribution than one of production. We see today that:
  1. People want to hoard wealth. They want as much as they can.
  2. They are not happy/complete even after they achieve all this.
Human society has not progressed much in terms of happiness, prosperity and well-being of the human species. The more we try to solve problems, new ones seem to crop up ... there is a need to think beyond the current nation, state, politics, economic growth, social work, activism paradigm and study the human being at his root. After all, since we are trying to do all this for human good, should not we first understand the human being and what he wants? We can then compare what we are currently trying to do with this ... otherwise, our current efforts will end up being localized patch work and might not be of any real, lasting use.

But it could take a lot of time for us to really understand that the problem is elsewhere and the solution is something else. Even if we dont realize it now, after putting 15 years of effort in solving what we believe the problems are, when nothing comes up out of that, we will automatically realize that problem is not only with the physical facilities - it is elsewhere too.

Also, ‘serving others’ should be seen as us fulfilling our relationship at various levels, - these relationships exist in reality. It is not a case of sacrificing something to do something else. The notion of selflessness is often steeped in this.

2. Self-introspection:
The process of doing something for others should first start with ourselves. Unless we are content with our life, how can we do something for others and make them content with their life? Unless we are at peace with ourselves, how can we talk about community peace? Are we truly having something to give people?

Shriram recollected a small incident that happened with his friend in Pune. Shortly after he came into contact with Jeevan Vidya, Shriram told his friend that now he wants to focus on his self and understand himself better before he can do something for others. Then he friend retaliated back saying that "Now you want to focus on yourself! Selfish! You dont want to do something for others? How mean!".

We always start with the premise that we are alright and the other is not. So we try to do something so that the other is set right. But we don't realize that we ourselves are not in the right state. When we ourselves don't know what we are, why we are and what we want how can we do something really useful/lasting something for others? in some sense, we start thriving on problems. Our existence becomes based on the fact that there are problems to solve.

3. Spreading Vidya:
This is about how to spread Jeevan Vidya. When we start having the right understanding, the spirit of Jeevan Vidya will get communicated to our immediate contacts by means of our actions and behavior. Although we may not put in any extra effort in telling them about Vidya explicitly, our behavior draws their attention towards it philosophy. What about spreading Vidya to people other than our immediate contacts? Now two questions arise: 1) should we do it? and 2) how to do it?
  1. Should we do it? Yeah, we should spread Vidya to bigger audience definitely. In fact there is a need to share this knowledge of Vidya with others in order to fulfill our relationship with them.
  2. How to do it? I asked Shriram: Should I have the complete understanding and then tell others about Vidya or can I start spreading the message even when I myself am in the process of learning. Shriram suggested the latter. When we understood something, it may not be complete, but if we are convinced that this is something important, we will automatically try to tell it to everyone we encounter. We can tell them that this is what I learnt, it changed my life so far in these ways and this is something important and should be looked at. But we have to remember that we can at most bring that person to our level of understanding, not any further. So when the person gets convinced that Vidya is important, we should direct him/her to the right sources when he/she can continue his/her exploration. In this way, by his/her experiences thereafter you too will benefit and he/she might help you to go a little further. It becomes a process of mutual benefit.

    But all the while, the focus should be on improving our understanding. Unless we reach complete understanding, we will fall short in what we can truly give people. One pitfall to watch out for in this process is that we might end up assuming we have completely understood because we can reason and convince people. The sincere internal check of where we only have the word and where we truly have its meaning, what we are ourselves able to live, should be always present. In any case, within us we know whether we have understood or not. The check is that we are feeling tripth (satisfied), we have answers to all our questions (why and what of everything) and able to live the understanding in human conduct, at all times.
4. Definite human conduct:

Vidya tells us that with the right understanding we can have definite human conduct. So the question is: is this definiteness of human conduct possible when only you have the understanding or should everyone around you should also have the right understanding? The question arises because even if you have the right understanding when something wrong is going on before your eyes, how can you be still happy until you change the other person? The answer is when you have the right understanding, irrespective of other factors, your conduct will be definite. You cannot base your conduct based on the understanding/ignorance of others. You can never be happy if you do so.

And the second question that arises is that many a times we end up being in conflict with ourselves because we are forced to do things due to our circumstances which we know are wrong. For example, giving dowry is wrong and I am completely aware of it. But if I dont give dowry, I cannot get my sister married. What do we do in this case? The answer to this is that if we see that there is a conflict then it means there is lack of understanding on our part somewhere. When we have the right understanding, giving dowry for instance will not cause conflict in you. Just like, if we don't have the right understanding and don't give dowry, it doesn't mean anything as far as the understanding is concerned. Similarly, if we have the right understanding, giving dowry because of other pressures is ok. If we have the right understanding, then as a long term goal in future we will definitely work on this problem. The bottom line is: only the lack of understanding on our part is the cause of all problems we see. Once we have the right understanding, we have a definite programme of action for the problems and go about completing them.

5. Catch-22:

A slightly related topic to the above is the catch-22 situation that arises between you and others. As stated earlier, we always start with the premise that we are ok and we need to set the other person right. And we will not be ok until we set the other person right. But we fail to realize that the other person will be ok only when you are ok. There is a recursive relationship, deadlock. Only when we start the process of self-introspection, we can see this.

6. Levels to operate:

There are 10 levels at which humans operate:

Praman (Expression)Anubhav (Realization)
Sankalp (Will) Bodh (Understanding)
Chitran (Desire/Imaging)Chintan (Imaging)
Visshleshan (Analysis)Tulan (Comparing)- Priy, Hith, Laabh,Nyay, Dharm and Saty
Chayan (Selecting)Asvadan Taste)

Whatever is in state, gets expressed in its action. We interact with the body at the lowest level - chayan.
  • Anubhav is of existence. It is direct experience of units and space.
  • Bodh is understanding of the basic nature of all entities in existence – physical, pranic, animal and human.
  • Chintan - is understanding the meaning of entities in existence.
  • Tulan - is weighing/ or comparing.
  • Asvadan - is taste that is stored in us. We can taste either values (mulya) or ruchi (taste).
There are 10 components to it and the human being wants to operate at all these 10 levels, otherwise he/she feels a void inside him. The exact meaning of the 6 sub-components of Vichar (thought) are:
  • Priy: Related to our senses. Which satisfy our senses.
  • Hith: Related to our health. Which help us in our being healthy.
  • Laabh: Related to things (vasthu)/possessing.
  • Nyay: Relationship between a human I and another human I.
  • Dharm: Relationship between a human I and the rest of the beings (another I, animals and plans).
  • Saty: Relationship between entities in space and the space around them.
Currently, most of us operate at only 4.5 levels (shown by the shaded region). We get some input from the body and based on the 4.5 levels we react to the input received. Our desire, thought and selection is either based on the sensory inputs we receive from the body or based on our pre-conditioning which we have already gathered over time in chitran and other places. In operating at the shaded region, we are primarily trying to satisfy the senses. But our needs are continuous, our activities are continuous and hence we are not satisfied with the discontinuous nature of senses. Materialism means ability to repeat this experience in as much variety as possible! But still, this leaves a void within. And leaves many facets of our lives untouched. Hence, just ensuring physical facilities is not enough. We need to understand what physical facilities can give us, and what they can’t.

We currently have many contradictions within in chitran, visleshan and chayan and hence keep oscillating within which leads to ‘shram’ or ‘effort’/tension. This is because chitran, vishleshan and asvadan are misaligned. They will be correctly aligned (from the top) when the 5.5 levels operate.

We currently ignore 5.5 levels and operate on these just 4.5 levels. In this case, we feel void, which is the constant clawing within. Only when all the 10 levels are operative, it leads to completeness and definiteness of human conduct.

We can now see why people seem to have different preconditioning - manyata. Depending on my input, I have a different assumption in chitran. Which I may believe is right. But it may not be true in existence. I can access the reality in existence only if I operate in all 10 levels.

When human's thought process operates only at the following three levels:
  • Priy (kaam unmaad)
  • Hith (bhog unmaad)
  • Laabh (laabh unmaad)
it is said to be animal level of operating. Unmaad is madness. The animal seems organized (niyantrit) since it does not have needs beyond this. But humans have a need beyond this, which they try to fulfill ONLY through this, which becomes a problem.

When Nyay is also ensured, it leads to Akhand Samaaj. When Dharm is also ensured, it leads to Saarvabhowm vyavastha. And when Saty is also ensured, it leads to Swatantratha. When everything is ensured, then it leads to completeness of Jaagruthi. Right understanding is at all 6 levels:
  1. Within the self: Knowing who I am, what I am, how I am, what my needs are and how to fulfill them.
  2. With the body: My relationship with the body and how to fulfill it. Physical facilities - The purpose of physical facilities is primarily to ensure this.
  3. With family: Understand human relationships and fulfill them. Physical facilities - Few physical facilities might be needed here.
  4. With society: Know what human target is, what role I have to play in it and fulfill the same. Physical facilities - Things like machines, communication, etc are needed here.
  5. , 6. With nature/existence: Understand all other entities I am related to and fulfill my relationship with all of them.
Human understanding thus becomes ALIGNED with the way existence is. And existence itself is in harmony, as co-existence. Thus, the basic thing to work on is right understanding. The rest will automatically fall into place. If point 1 above is incorrect, the rest will go wrong. No matter how much we try to ‘fix’ them. All our current efforts are to try and do this.


shnu said...

what you are saying is hundred percent true, most of the times we feel that the solution for all our problems is physical facilities, but its not correct.
Regarding the herohondas example i'v analysed a lot and came to know that there are various reasons for their deaths
like 'Improper financial planning' (not saving the financial gains obtained through higher yields for the next seasons and spending that money on physical facilities (in this contest Hero Honda), which is not immediately needed
And other reasons like 1) Family burdens like education of children and marriages.
2) lease of lands beyond his capacity (suppose if he owns one acre of land if he leases one or two acres that will be with in his reach but most of the farmers they take lease of more than 4 to 5 acres which forces him to go for higher loans and if the crop fails continuously for more than two years he will be in great debt.)
3)1) Vices (drinking habits and others),
4) Injudicious and imbalanced application of inputs (fertilizers and pesticides)
5) Selling the produced commodities immediately after the harvest at lower rates because of lack of storing facilities
So i finally came to the conclusion that its not just physical facilities that influence the life of humanbeings.

shnu said...

Talking about self introspection,i would like to add a quote by Gibran Say not, "I have found the truth," but rather, "I have found a truth."
For self is a sea boundless and measureless.

shnu said...

And also about "Giving", There are those who give little of the much which they have - and they give it for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts unwholesome.

And there are those who have little and give it all.

These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty. There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward.
You often say, "I would give, but only to the deserving."The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture. They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.(Khalil Gibran).
Iv found that most of your ideas and views are similar to Gibran,you can find some answers to your questions. So i advice you to read Gibran's The prophet", its surely an interesting book or you can read it online
hope you will enjoy it.