Tragic Optimism.

“The man I am, greets mournfully, the man I might have been.”
~ Hebbel

I contacted a Senior Teacher of Vipassana in Pune yesterday, whom I have known since the last more than two decades. He was a highly successful Medical Practitioner as was his wife but, both have quit their practices to devote their full time and energies to Vipassana. I contacted him to find out how best I can attend a camp with my health issues. Being a doctor and a teacher of Vipassana, I thought that he would be the best guide to approach as I felt that I needed a concentrated meditation camp at this stage of my life. He guided me to my full satisfaction and also assured me that he will ensure that I will be well looked after in the local Meditation Center.

It was a nice long chat catching up with each other on many subjects and I intend keeping in regular touch with him henceforth.

After the talk was over, he sent me a photograph taken during the early days of a Vipassana Meditation Center at Markal near Pune with me and two students of meditation in it. The link will take you to show you how the place is now.

This was circa 2003 when it was still in its nascent stage and accommodation and meditation hall were still in early stages of being set up. I was approached by the same teacher to be a volunteer to serve the attendees as by then I was already a caregiver to my incapacitated late wife. In this particular case, they were a group of blind students who had to be looked after, and guided around the primitive undeveloped area so that they did not come to harm and the ten days that I did this changed me for ever.

Spending eleven nights and ten days with blind people and serving them will do that to any body. One is humbled by them with their good cheer and will to survive despite their handicap and their total trust and unconditional affection for me was a high impact emotional experience for me. My caregiving duties only increased and was even doubled after my then 91 year old father came to live with us.  That period till ten years later saw the most stressful times that I have ever experienced and thankfully I was able to withstand and survive those situations due, I have no doubt, to my regular meditation practice.

That experience with the blind students changed my attitude towards life and just about that time was when I first came across Viktor Frankl and his Tragic Optimism. His profound conclusion that I share with my readers below describes my current situation at the age of 77 with health issues.

“From this one may see that there is no reason to pity old people. Instead, young people should envy them. It is true that the old have no opportunities, no possibilities in the future. But they have more than that. Instead of possibilities in the future, they have realities in the past—the potentialities they have actualized, the meanings they have fulfilled, the values they have realized—and nothing and nobody can ever remove these assets from the past.”

Unplugged.

This topic was very likely to have been chosen after reading this WhatsApp forward.
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My tryst with unplugging started in the good old days of car batteries overcharging and being advised to unplug the battery from the alternator. I did not connect to the modern usage of the term as defined below.

This is a different ballgame altogether and something that needs a different approach to one’s daily life without any electronic gadgets. Can you imagine such living?

I have a lot of experience unplugging during the pre mobile phone phenomenon.  I used to regularly attend ten day meditation camps where contact with the outside world was completely denied and have benefitted immensely from those retreats.  I doubt very much that I will be able to attend one of them now, having settled into a different life style completely.

I know some people who live without modern electronic gadgets and who seem to be blissful in their lives. I do envy them their bliss. I can’t however dream of being without my mobile phone handset and computer with an internet connection, particularly now in the lockdown sans newspapers and crossword puzzles. It is also very comforting to see that all my contacts on the  also are using them to avoid climbing walls I suppose.

Having now taken a fresh look at the phenomenon and the message right on top of this post, perhaps, after the lockdown is lifted and some semblance of sanity is returned to our lives, I should give unplugging a shot to see if I will survive such an experience. When and if I do, I shall certainly make it a point to post my experience about that in this blog.

This is my take on this week’s Friday 5 On 1 blog post topic. The other four bloggers who write on the same topic every Friday are Sanjana, PadmumShackman and Conrad.  This week’s topic was suggested by Padmum. Please do go over to their respective blogs to see what they have to say on the topic. Thank you.

Reflections.

As I sat in my verandah earlier today with my morning mug of tea, I was in a reflective and introspective mood and I observed that in a short spell of about half an hour, I went through a range of emotions.

First it was gratitude that I had this facility where I could spend my mornings quietly watching the morning rituals that take place every day.

Then it was great admiration and respect for the man on a moped with boxes all around him who supplies freshly baked bakery products to his customers every morning. I know for a fact that he would have been up since around 4.00 a.m loading his vehicle and the boxes so that he can start his rounds at around 6.00 a.m. Then the mind went to the men in the bakery who would have been at work perhaps all night long to service many other such vendors before dawn.

Admiration and respect continued as I watched housemaids being dropped off by family members so that they could start their daily grind of at least two and mostly three homes to work at. For them to do that, they would have had to get up at some ungodly hour to get ready for the day and cook the meals for the family to be packed and kept for them to carry to their places of study or work.

Next it was envy seeing young people jogging and older people walking briskly. Something that I wish I could indulge in but cannot due to my health issues.

Then came respect for an obviously handicapped person with some problem in one leg who walks every morning with the help of a walker.

That was followed by great annoyance at a couple of skinheads on a motor cycle with its silencer removed who zoomed across causing a great racket. As if not to be left unnoticed, that was closely followed by a car trying to overtake the motor cycle blaring its horn. Both oblivious to the fact that it was early morning and people may still be sleeping.

And finally appreciation for the punctuality of my newspaper boy who, like clockwork, drops my daily dose of them exactly at 6.20 am. With that last emotion, I came into the house to take possession of the papers and to start reading them.

Sometimes, the mornings can go into other reveries too about which I shall write another post when that happens next.

What would you do given 38 minutes to live before Nuclear disaster were to strike?

Inspired by an actual incident that took place in Hawaii, my co-2 on 1 Friday blogger Shackman has come up with this very interesting topic for today.

I have had quite some time to think about an answer for this question and I have one. And I am very serious.

I will sit down in my usual meditation pose in the same place that I meditate everyday and await the strike. Why? Please see this clip to understand how one man lived one day at a time treating each as a blessing.

I urge you to read this article as well and you will understand that for me, each minute will be a blessing and I would like to spend those 38 minutes in doing what I like doing best.

Please do go over to Shackman’s blog to read what he has to say about the same topic.

Meditation.

An old Farmer lived on a farm in the mountains with his young grandson. Each morning Grandpa was up early morning and sat for meditation. His grandson wanted to be just like him and tried to imitate him in every way he could.One day the grandson asked, “Grandpa! I try to meditate just like you but thoughts disturb me, and what I do understand I forget as soon as I come out of meditation. What good does meditation do?”
The Grandfather quietly turned from putting coal in the stove and replied, “Take this coal basket down to the river and bring me back a basket of water.”

The boy did as he was told, but all the water leaked out before he got back to the house.

The grandfather laughed and said, “You’ll have to move a little faster next time,” and sent him back to the river with the basket to try again.

This time the boy ran faster, but again the basket was empty before he returned home. Out of breath, he told his grandfather that it was impossible to carry water in a basket, and he went to get a bucket instead.

The old man said, “I don’t want a bucket of water; I want a basket of water. You’re just not trying hard enough,” and he went out the door to watch the boy try again. At this point, the boy knew it was impossible, but he wanted to show his grandfather that even if he ran as fast as he could, the water would leak out before he got back to the house. The boy again dipped the basket into river and ran hard, but when he reached his grandfather the basket was again empty.

Out of breath, he said, “See Grandpa, it’s useless!”

“So you think it is useless?” The old man said, “Look at the basket.”

The boy looked at the basket and for the first time realized that the basket was different. It had been transformed from a dirty old coal basket to now clean, inside and out.

“Son, that’s what happens when you meditate. You might not understand or remember everything, but when you meditate every day, thoughts starts to diminish, like dirty coal basket transformed to clean, in same way you tend to be pure, you will be changed, inside and out. That is the work of Meditation in our lives.

Never give up spiritual practice. By doing spiritual practice daily all heaviness and unnecessary things tend to fall and you start feeling light. This is the indication that you are evolving.
Slowly you will feel peace and calmness within you. Instead of reacting you start responding.”

Disclaimer.  I have simply copy pasted a mail received from a friend.  I am unable to find the source of this story.  I have shared here as the moral of the story resonates with me.

A Reason For Being.

Please click on the image for a larger resolution.


The Japanese have a word for this – Ikigai.

Try as I might, I cannot find this particular type of Reason For Being at my present age of three score and fifteen. What possible reason can motivate me to get up in the morning to face another day? I often write about the impact that Viktor Frakl’s book Man’s Search For Meaning had on me some decades ago, and now struggle to find some meaning to his conclusion of the Western kind. He concludes “it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly. Our question must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.”

Truth be told, what gets me up in the morning is simply that I cannot sleep after 5.00 am no matter how late I go to sleep because of habit ingrained from boyhood when a martinet of a father insisted that we got up when the crows cawed which was inevitably well before sunrise and day break.

Subsequently, I got into the habit of meditating and yogabhyas in the mornings which continue to occupy my time in the mornings but, those two activities are not the reason for my being.

I look forward to reading the morning newspapers and solving the crossword puzzles in them. Is that the reason for my being? Once I finish those very likeable activities at around 12.00 noon, what will keep me going? The prospect of lunch, the siesta that inevitably follows, the session at the computer to catch up with mail, facebook posts etc?

I wonder what the Japanese will suggest as a word for someone like me!

Which wondering brings me to the Indian philosophical approach to the same situation. It is called Purushartha or The Object Of Human Pursuit. Please do spend some time on the Wikipedia exposition on this concept so that, you can follow my take on life’s purpose in my current stage of development.

The four components, Dharma, Artha, Kaama, Moksha can be compared to a bracelet of three beads with Dharma being the holding string that holds the three otehr beads together. In other words, a morally lived life of acquiring means to enjoy the pleasures of life which hopefully will take one to a stage of satiety and the last stage of seeking freedom from the very essence of life, wanting! Moksha is the ultimate goal for Indians which can be obtained by learning and understanding the highest philosophical ideas. This process is called Shravanam, mananam, nidhidhyasanam, or, learining, understanding and reflecting on the knowledge gained. Quite a bit of my time is taken on this activity and so my Ikigai may well be Moksha!