Can Wisdom Be Bite-Sized?

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

We love to have information on the go. We want to be able to understand something as quickly as possible. We prefer to listen to a clip of a podcast or grab a summary of a book. We do all these things so we can somehow remain knowledgeable and aware of current events and most of all, remain relatable.

Who wants to go out with friends or spend time with family and not be able to talk about the latest viral clip out there or the book that transports us to another world? Or discuss that self-help book that taught us one good thing and has dramatically changed our lives. The new diet that has worked when all other diets didn’t work. That new Netflix show that we binged upon. We all want to remain relevant and when technologies and social platforms are taking us in all different directions, there is only so much time, therefore only so much capacity to learn about everything.

The same is with spirituality these days. It desires to be relevant. You can see popular gurus and wannabe gurus (mainly the self-help types) give small clips of 5-10 minutes to capture their new and existing audience and gain new adherents. They also want to gain popularity on social media platforms with reels and TikTok videos, going viral is the next best thing for the Gurus, who wish to put thousands of pages of ancient wisdom in 30 seconds clips. They most likely have a media team that works on this content and who knows how many bots may have been bought to get these gurus featured on Facebook or Instagram. Some disciples share the clips of their gurus and make them viral too.  Some gurus may be completely innocent of the fact that they are now featured on a social media platform. The impossibility of sharing bite-size wisdom somehow becomes possible but with massive disadvantages.

Spirituality requires time. There is nothing instant. The only way to climb up a mountain is to use your hands and feet. If you take a helicopter and go from the bottom of a mountain to the peak, you cannot claim to have climbed the mountain. Sure, it is a shortcut and although the destination is the same, the journey is completely different. The person who climbed up the mountain can talk about the terrain, the view from each side of the mountain, the wildlife, the vegetation and the difficulties faced during different weather conditions. They can talk about the whole journey with confidence and interesting tales. But someone who uses a helicopter misses out on all of these sensory delights. Similarly, the clips we hear of these gurus is never enough. We need to engage with their longer talks or their books to understand their philosophy. We need to know about their experiences and so in turn, we are inspired to apply the teachings.

But like the person who took the helicopter, we listen to the gurus and project their achievements as our own. This is only noticed when we carefully observe our own thoughts, intentions, emotions etc. Better to look within and see what has transformed than sing the glory of a god or someone that we do not know. Just because you caught that Guru featured on Instagram that doesn’t mean you know what it is like to be a disciple of theirs. Bite-size wisdom will not work because it doesn’t provide true clarity. It doesn’t tell us of the whole journey. We get a sneak peak and that is all. But who is satisfied with a movie trailer? We rather watch the whole movie. Same with spirituality, it is better to learn and follow any methods than to just glorify a path that we haven’t taken a step in.

I understand that I may sound ‘traditional’ but I have learned more from the larger books that I have read and the longer talks that I have listened to or watched. I love Swami Sarvapriyananda of Vedanta NY’s talks. His explanation of the Upanishads and other texts probably span over several days and I have deepened my understanding of Reality! I love Yog Vasistha – a thousand page book on Hindu philosophy. Or the 500 page Vigyan Bhairav Tantra by Osho. I remind myself of the thousands of pages of poetic wisdom in the Guru Granth Sahib and the 700 verses of the Bhagavad Gita. I am not saying smaller books and talks haven’t helped, they have. The beauty of The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran is both delicate and strong. The high wisdom of Tao Te Ching is on many levels unmatched. I am not saying that the length of a talk or book measures how much wisdom is contained. I am talking about the thinking, the silent pauses you take when you pause a talk, or put down the book and you begin to ponder as you grab new insights, as you infer your own experiences to the words just heard or read. A verse from the Tao Te Ching cannot be read mechanically, it has to be properly understood. It may take less than a minute to read but it may need a good 30 minutes to understand and comprehend. Trust me, 30 minutes isn’t enough but you get my point.

Wisdom may come in bite-size pieces but eventually, we need to understand things deeper. We need to transcend the potentiality of something become superficial. Once something is superficial, it can become rigid as a limiting belief and we open the gate for ego to enter and expand. Therefore, if we must utilize this bite-size wisdom phenomena that has become mainstream today, we must not lose the art of contemplation so that this wisdom can penetrate us and complete us.

Silence It Is

A space, infinitesimal space, a gap in the middle, 
The mind still, caught in the middle ground, 
Observing, observer and observation suspended, 
That, with no definition, makes It's presence felt, 
It isn't exclusive, It is available to everybody,
Try to monopolize It, watch It disappear in an instant,  
It doesn't seek to convince, It doesn't like language,
It prefers if silence communicates, silence It is.  

A Traveling Thought

The presence of a thought appeared this morning, 
Fresh and crisp as if it was ironed out completely, 
I wonder how this thought came into my psyche, 
When the thought went away, I was in mourning. 

This thought appeared initially dusty and worn, 
As if lying somewhere completely old and withdrawn, 
It was from the dark mind of insidious scorn, 
Today the mind decided it was to be re-born. 

So back to the same old thought I travelled again,  
On this trip I went on the journey with the thought, 
And then I came to clarity in a flash of zazen, 
Stillness and stability of mind that I finally caught. 

Elevate your Self

Following from yesterday’s post, I wanted to continue with discussing Allama Iqbal’s poetry, specifically from the poem ‘Dayar-e-Ishq’.

Khudhi Ko Ker Buland Itna Ke Har Taqdeer Se Pehle
Khuda Bande Se Khud Pochay Bata Teri Raza Kya Hai
Elevate your Self to such great heights that before issuing every decree of destiny, 
That God should ask you, 'Tell me, what is your wish?' 

Here Iqbal is really instructing his son on what to do. The best thing to do in life is to elevate your Self. What is this Self? Who is it? Where does this Self reside? In the some of the Upanishads, they didn’t see the soul and God as two different things but called it the Self, obviously with the capital ‘S’. This was to make us, the listener/reader understand that the true Self is not our ego but the limitless, indivisible, formless existence that witnesses through our senses. Here Iqbal is referring to this true Self. Before I go on, I want to make sure that I clarify what I term as the ego in a quick sentence. The ego is the accumulation of everything that I think is ‘me’ like ‘I am my body’, ‘I am my mind’ or anything subject to change, decay or death. As I have established what the ego is and what the true Self is, the poem further expresses to reach great heights. There is nothing higher than living an awakened life that is in awareness of our true Self.

In fact, here Iqbal really sets an interesting tone that by reaching such great heights that whenever destiny has to be written, or shall we say the results of our karma is to be issued, that God has to ask us what our wish is, what our desire is, what will satisfy us. It’s such delicate poetry that it can be interpreted in many ways. From the point of view that I look at it from, is that once there is oneness with the Formless, then you are literally writing your destiny. This isn’t some new-agey nonsense that whatever you wish for will be manifested. As you are the Self, the Formless, you will be honest in the result of your own karma. Also, anyone who reaches such great heights, most likely will not make mistakes. But sometimes, we do make subtle mistakes and an elevated Self will notice this and will be fair in its outcome.

This line just stood out to me because it contains oneness with one Self – which is the same as oneness with God. How many of us can attain to such heights? Who knows? But one sure thing is that we need to practice. Simply saying nice words, thinking nice thoughts will never be enough but sincere concentration and meditation on the Formless will elevate us. We can do it and it all depends on how important it is for us to reach that life-transforming moment.

Approaching the Great Teacher

Earlier in the morning I was reading a book on J Krishnamurti and came across some beautiful lines:

Awake, arise, having approached the great teacher, learn.

The road is difficult, the crossing is as the sharp edge of a razor.

Katha Upanishad III

These words had an impact this morning. Some of us are fortunate to have a Living Spiritual Master, some of us are fortunate to have had a Spiritual Master in the past. We approach a Spiritual Master to learn something new, to gain some wisdom, to learn the practice of Spirituality that could lead to awakening or enlightenment. When we approach the Spiritual Master or the Great Teacher, do we simply just regurgitate what we have learned without seeing the implications of practice? Therefore, our repetition isn’t a sign of wisdom or understanding. The real words of the Spiritual Master is when practice defines and becomes the foundation of wisdom. This means our failures, obstructions, confusions, doubts all have a part in what is constituted as wisdom.

The attitude to learn is one where we are happy to admit that we do not know and acknowledging the long path ahead of us. As the lines of the Upanishad guides us further that the road is difficult. If we simply think that we are in a state of bliss because we have received a teaching, then that isn’t bliss but inspiration. We can feel inspired and sometimes we mistake this as bliss. Feeling inspired gives us a high that dies down after a couple of days and bliss is a continuous and unbreakable high according to the Sages of the East. Therefore, when we recognize the difference between the two, we can get closer to what is considered to be bliss. We must use that inspiration to move us forward fearlessly.

The crossing is as sharp as the edge of a razor. Do we truly feel this? That one wrong turn then we could be back to square one in our spiritual journey or we come to realize we didn’t move as far ahead as we thought we had. Do we understand that when we cross from knowledge to a practical application that it could destroy everything we know about ourselves. The body that we thought we were, the thoughts and memories that made us who we were, suddenly holds little value in life as we find ourselves at the pinnacle of true understanding. When we practice and realize that we are formless beings and are nothing but a manifestation of the Formless, are we happy to live by this wisdom? Can we live by this wisdom 24/7? These are questions to really ponder about.

Are we ready to arise and awake? Are we ready to approach the Great Teachers and admit we need to know more and that we need wisdom to awaken us? Are we aware of the difficulties that our mind will face once we receive knowledge from the Great Teachers? And can we confidently cross the ocean of materialism unscathed by the sharp edge of the razor called the ego?

Spirituality is the device not the app.

Sometimes I do wonder if Sunday is any different for me as any other day. The reason why I say this is because I attend spiritual discussions on this day for 90 minutes. However, every morning in the week is spent on spiritual contemplation for a couple of hours. I do some reading and think about the meaning behind certain lines, sometimes I enter into a zone upon contemplation of those lines from an ancient scripture or a book based on spirituality.

I find that spirituality is incredibly important but not as an app on the phone that you can just go on whenever you please. Spirituality is the smartphone itself, it is the device. Without it, nothing else can function. That is the importance of spirituality in my life. It is embedded into my life and has a presence all the time.

A conversation about anything will always have my attention, for respect and dignity of the people I am around and sometimes, these conversation can be of great importance to everyone. I have sometimes felt a little bored but I remind myself to be attentive and to be present. Then there are spiritual conversations, genuine ones that inquire to go deeper into the nature of the Ultimate Reality, to understand spiritual practices, how to imbibe them and what are the pitfalls that could be faced. These conversations always have my peak interest and attention. At times, I feel like I need to say something and I do but I always realize later that I could have sat back and been silent and see where the conversation would have gone.

Our attention to spiritual practice and our determination for spiritual practice is what makes us spiritual. Just because we believe in a god, or believe in a scripture, or attend some discussions or worship doesn’t make us spiritual. However, it does make us religious. Then again, would the devout religious practitioner want such people who claim to be spiritual? Therefore, these people are seen to be seemingly lost, I don’t know if I can conclude them to be lost but they certainly are not serious enough to know if they can be spiritual – to awaken to the Ultimate Reality that is Nirankar or Brahman. Therefore, the ones who will be labeled as ‘spiritual’ will be the practitioners who work daily with numerous practices to become Aware of Awareness and eventually dissolving into that Formless Awareness, that is the Ultimate Reality – Brahman. Some may view the above as a little too harsh and may disagree but let’s discuss further. It is through healthy conversation that we can understand what it is to be spiritual, to be religious or to frankly be confused on what one wants to be.

Please, I implore to know your views and please write in the comments section.

Mirror of my mind

I take a look in the mirror of my mind now and then,
And I ask myself how many more talks are needed?
My mind runs through each talk with a quickening pace, 
Often losing track of what was spoken a second ago. 

I take a look in the mirror of my mind now and then, 
And I ask myself how many more books are needed?
My mind passes through multiple books simultaneously, 
Forgetting unique perspectives from the previous chapter.

I take a look in the mirror of my mind now and then, 
And I ask myself what more is there that I can do?
My mind gently tells me to keep practicing,
And I ask it again again on what I should practice on?

I took one last look in the mirror of my mind, 
My mind presented every thought and emotion held, 
Then one by one it took each thought and emotion away, 
Until nothing was left and my mind disappeared with it. 

Remembering a friend…

Today, I was remembering a dear friend, my closest friend and who’s presence I deeply miss as each day passes by. How in one glance, all that I needed to say, was understood.

Sometimes, when I feel all alone, He is the first person that I think of and I smile in the sweet memories that I have of Him. Then an overwhelming sense of grief fills my eyes in the fact that He is physically no longer here.

It was beautiful to know that a human being existed that didn’t judge me, that didn’t make assumptions about me, that didn’t think the worst of me and I guess sometimes I wish everyone was like this.

His innocence that filled the room with love, His sweet nature made many rejoice and His absence gave meaning to a God that has lost meaning in the rising wave of material desires.

His silence filled a vacuum with an energy that buzzed, that tingled with grace and this is when God felt present in the human standing before me. Who could deny God whilst looking at Him?

Each day going by since He departed, has been difficult, each step more difficult than the last. I often wonder why I am still left here and then I realize that I am yet to complete the task that He gave to me.

Maybe we will meet again once the project of enlightenment is complete, then we shall sip on tea and eat digestive biscuits. I will be able to hear the melody in His voice and absorb His meditation contained in His silence.

Miss You my dear Baba ji, how I wish to tell you that your Rahul is nothing without his Hardev.

Cliff Edge

I have withheld all my thoughts at the cliff edge of my mind,
A step further and the emptiness will be filled again,
Many times I have gone over the cliff,
Trashing myself into an ocean of thoughts.

Why do I lose the beauty of an empty mind?
Why do I not allow the song to continue?
Where the Sacred Aum surrounds me,
Yet my thoughts seem to drown me.

I've let thoughts win each time,
Not that this is a battle on my side,
Each time I seek for the Sacred Aum,
More noise seems to appear at the Gate.

Acting like a great host - I let the noise in,
Suddenly my house is frantic with chaos,
I often stand by and watch this drama unfold,
And again I enter into the Sacred Aum.

When the noise has finally entered into a melody,
When the heaviness of thought enters a lighter state,
When sorrow dissolves into an intoxication,
I am bliss, transforming into Formless Awareness.

Not everyone has to be spiritual

Is spirituality for everyone? It may be available to everyone but it is not necessary that everyone will be spiritual.

When someone has found something spectacular in their spiritual journey, when they have walked a path, which has benefited them, we wish to share that with everyone we know, like we do with the latest phone we have. We tell our close friends and our family about it. Likewise, this may be the case if a member of your family or close friends come across a spiritual path that benefitted them, they feel it may benefit you too.

In some cases, you are born into following a particular path and you do as your parents tell you. You reach 16 years and want to make your own choice and you may even choose to follow a different spiritual path. Is that wrong? No. You may choose to drop being spiritual. Is that wrong? No. Even though there are benefits to being spiritual, it is not carved for everyone.

I feel it is better to be honest and the quicker you realize whether spirituality is for you or not, the better. However, I do give a warning that you shouldn’t ‘throw out the baby with the bath water’ so soon. First ensure, that you go to someone that is spiritual in your view and ask them questions. Ask them about their journey and how they have benefited them. What did they gain? Or even what did they lose? The important matter is that we should ask before we choose that being spiritual is not right for us.

Personally, I feel that the very people that guide us down a spiritual path need to be exemplary and there should be as little hypocrisy as possible. The issue we may find that there are contradictions in all aspects of spirituality and therefore we need to mark someone based on their actions, their reactions more than their words.

Many people I know who have turned away from spirituality have done so because their parents or older siblings were not the best example of the spiritual ideals. They claim things which don’t go hand in hand with their behavior. Even worse, in this of rationality and logic, a simple answer isn’t provided or the humility to accept that one doesn’t know.

I do believe that one has to carve their own path and I have certainly done that with my life. I have made choices that are different to my parents and people would regard me as quite a spiritual person. I am a very rational person and so if something doesn’t go along with science then I come up with reasons why I don’t agree with it. However, I think spirituality is something that is invoked within you, it has always been there and it wants to reach its peak of spiritual enlightenment. You have to be natural in it, you have to be in the flow of it. It has to be born from within you and not something you simply cook up.

I will end it here and that is if you have a child that doesn’t believe in your spiritual path, it may say more about where you truly are in spirituality and how important you do find it. Just because one may meditate a lot or go to places of worship a lot, that doesn’t mean that one’s behavior has changed? It doesn’t mean that one has attained bliss and joy. If all that anyone sees of you is misery and anger, then being spiritual loses all of it’s credibility.