The Direct Experience is the only way to bypass systems of thought, intellectual pre-conditioning and Aristotelian logic. But this Experience, by its very definition, is not communicable by standard procedures. This basic difficulty should be obvious. All standard forms of precise communication are isomorphic to verbalisation based on some system of generalised grammar; so how does one convey that which is beyond the systems of thought? No, one cannot communicate it in the usual sense of communication. (And if you are expecting to find the answer from any external source --- like this article --- you are wasting your time!) The only two attempts which were somewhat successful in communicating the uncommunicable, in last 10,000 years or so, are found in the Upanishads and the works of Zen masters. The approaches in these are different, but both are quite amusing:
Upanishads use an extremely clever technique of negation. You can always specify what It is not; and if you eliminate all that is not, whatever remains is It -- something Holmes did appreciate in more prosaic matters. This is the best logic can do. So Upanishads keep emphasising ``... That which cannot be described/probed by words or thoughts, That which cannot be arrived at by logical reasoning or powers of intellect...". You can use thoughts and mind to point to It like you can use the finger to point to moon; mind has as much to do with It as the finger has to the moon. The danger, of course, is that people grasp the finger and think they have got the moon. Most of the so called religious people belong to the class who have grasped some finger and keep insisting that it is the moon.
The approach by negation is not as mysterious as it is usually made out to be. When you learnt cycling, you probably thought you ``acquired balance" at some stage. Nonsense; you can never acquire balance. You can only eliminate imbalance. When you started out, you were struggling to remove every force of imbalance somewhat consciously. A moment arises when you `get it' and you can correct the imbalances unconsciously. What is left, is your natural state of balance on the cycle. If you are sensitive, you will also realise that it is you who created the imbalance in the first place. Translate this lesson into life at large and you can write an Upanishad.
"Wait a sec", one might say, "this is a gigantic swindle. After I have denied the existence of all that I know, thought of, seen ... what assurance do I have that something else remains ? It could be null set!". Sure. There is absolutely no guarantee that anything beyond what is recognised by the the brain and formulated by Aristotelian logic exists. You do this at your own risk! This is the Path of the Adventurer who wants to explore with no assurance that he will find anything or even that he will survive the trip. You don't want to Risk-It-All with no assurance of any kind ? Fine by me. Do continue as you are - may be you should stop reading this article now! I am not in this business to give you assurances. [Aside: While on this theme, what assurance did you have while starting to cycle and falling down innumerable times that you will eventually stop creating imbalances ? You can't prove it logically because I know guys who never managed to learn this skill who were otherwise normal. Of course you saw a vast majority could learn to cycle but that is no assurance for any single individual. You probably weighed the pros and cons - the chances of success, the utility and fun of being able to cycle, the number of bones you are willing to break,....- and took a chance. That is the point. There are no guarantees in this life; only probabilities.]
Let us get back to the second attempt to communicate the incommunicable, which Zen Masters tried. Zen tries to get you out of logic using situations which defies logic; the most well known example being the questions called `koans': like ``What is the sound of the single hand clapping?" The student is supposed to meditate on it. Since it has no ``logical" answer the mind and intellect grow tired at some stage and --- if the guy is still at it! --- the attention shifts to a deeper level and he reaches `satori' or nirvana.
The Upanishadic method is more direct and less mysterious but both work. Something I particularly like about the Upanishadic method is that anyone could have discovered it on his own over a weekend's thought and --- if they come across the Upanishads at some later stage --- tell himself ``Oh I see, these guys have also got it ok"! In fact, that is the best way to do it. Nobody needs gods, god-men or gurus; creators dont need interpretors. Instead, if you try to "study" [or much worse, understand!] an Upanishad, you will get absolutely nowhere. This is particularly true of the Upanishads which appear to be very logical (like Mandukya)! Your situation will be similar to the pole-vaulter who refuses to let go off the pole after reaching the peak. "What a wonderful pole without which I could not have come this far! I will hold on to it and get to the other side" - only to find that him and the pole crashes down. Logic in Upanishads is the pole which can take to this far and no farther - and if you hold on to it you fall back on where you started. Never read an Upanishad until you are ready to write one. Zen Masters are more direct in this regard; they attack the logic right from the start giving you no illusions.
Is it that easy ? Yes, it is easy. In fact it is easier than most other artificial things one tries to excel at --- say, swimming or tennis or chess or research (I wasn't frivolous in the first para when I said making pancakes is a different ball game). Human body and nervous system are probably not naturally programmed to swim (for one thing, nature didn't provide us with fins) or contemplate weird shapes on a board of alternating colours or study atomic physics. One needs to put in artificial effort. On the other hand we are naturally programmed to discover the Answer and we struggle hard every moment not to see It! This has to do with a deep sense of insecurity one feels in going beyond mind. From childhood, we are familiar with the mind and we feel --- most of the time --- comfortable with it. As one probes oneself deeply, there will arise a stage at which one simply has to take the plunge into the unknown --- with no previous experience or guarantees! One's mind usually resists it and clings on; one has to gently give up the clinging and slide into another state. The rational, intellectual mind is suddenly going to be sacrificed for something which is beyond logic and reason and the rational intellect doesn't like it one bit. Very clear thinking, which requires an ultra-sharp intellect, can prepare you better for this because a such an intellect can (intellectually) appreciate the limitations of intellect. (A sharp but not-so-sharp guy will think intellect is all-powerful!). But even this preparation is not much help - you just need nerves! .
In fact, the key reason for most of humanity preferring the non-answers is that one likes the comfort of ignorance and is too insensitive to the avoidable struggle which goes with it. In a way, all these hurdles can be summarised by one word: ``clinging". We cling. We cling to life's possessions, life, our body, our memories, our intelligence, our preoccupation of verbalisation. Let go off the clinging and you are done. In fact, Rishis of yore, with the characteristic devotion to details, have formalised the letting-go-procedure (Oh, you thought American psychiatrists invented it ? Sorry, no. They merely misuse it.) in an ancient ritual called ``viraja homam" --- which is the last ritual performed by anyone before entering sanyasa. This ritualistic sacrifice in front of a fire, involves a conscious listing of several possessions and taking a vow to renounce them. The mantras accompanying the ritual goes like "I am now burning my clinging to money", "I am now burning my clinging to land and material possessions", "I am now burning my clinging to wife, children and other relatives", "I am now burning my clinging to my body, mind and intellect", "I am now burning my clinging to life and the visible universe" ....., You die so as to live.
``That is all fine," you feel like saying, ``but what is actually the Answer ? You haven't told me that". No one can ``tell" you the Answer any more than I did, without killing Its essence. You have to do the rest on your own and let your logic and intellect self-destruct without any assurance of what will become of you! You don't have that courage? Sorry, friend. Then kindly go away and suffer and suffer miserably. I sincerely hope you suffer really really badly so that you will start searching. The trouble with our upper middle class, uneducated literates, is that they don't really suffer; also they are not intelligent enough to learn from other people's suffering. Something which is not appreciated about the Prince Siddhartha --- who later became Buddha --- is the following fact: that guy was really sharp. The story goes that he led a sheltered life in his palace during his early youth without coming in contact with any misery. One day, when he managed to slip out, he saw an old, sickly man and a dead body and he could draw all the relevant conclusions from it; it was probably the greatest intellectual achievement any human being made --- the only other exception possibly being Shankara. We should all feel ashamed that though we were never sheltered in a palace and have known old age and death (and much worse, just turn on the CNN), we continue to miss their significance. We are insensitive cowards (and fairly dumb ones at that, irrespective of any Nobel prizes and wealth we amass; remember, wealthy and Nobel laureates die) if we don't search for It. Just shows most of the people are dumber than some prince of north India in the simple, brain teaser, I.Q sense of the word.
And remember that if you really want the Answer, you will get it in no time, literally. Most people really don't want the answer. They are generally happy with the world and all these philosophy stuff for them are some kind of side business, intellectual past time to appear cultured on coffee tables; sure, when your child dies or you get hepatitis you brood over Deep Questions for 15 minutes a day but you will get over it ... until the next disaster comes along. There is nothing you don't have which Jesus or Buddha or Krishna had so that they claim they know It - except a honest desire to know and Courage to search. Think very very carefully: Do you really want it ? Or is it just an optional extra along with coffee in the morning and PGW in the evening in this broadly-all-right world ? Do you have it in you to walk alone in a long way leaving it all behind with zero assurance of getting anywhere ? Does that sense of adventure grab you ? If not, forget it, get nice jobs, get married, get creative, produce children, do social work [which helps in pretending a "meaningful existence"], try to become a Beethoven/Einstein/...., cry a lot, laugh a lot and die in a few decades worn out, tired, afraid, confused in some nondescript way, adding to statistics of humanity. RIP.
So the key question is: Can you reject your whole world the way you see it now? You have to reject yourself, your memory banks, intellect, ...the entire lot. [Except that once you reject it totally, you get it all back with a very different relationship! In fact you will find that you never really had it all until you really went through the rejection process.] You don't want to do it? perfectly fine with me. There are several "answers" available within that framework; I have listed some of them in the first para. Choose any one of them and live happily thereafter and die; you won't be the first or the last to do it; since all those answers are wrong it doesn't matter what you choose. In fact, have a different one for each day of the week! It is always easier for people to accept god-men who bill by hour than Zen masters with sticks. Treating cancers with vanishing creams has an appealing gentleness about it.
But where is Love, Compassion, Concern for humanity, Honesty, ..... in this scheme? They all exist in the domain of mind and intellect along with Hatred, Dishonesty .... perfectly balanced. No choices you are capable of making in your current state, in the intellectual plane, is any better than any other choice. In fact, you can't do any good to others without first doing good to yourself. Actually, 90 percent of the trouble in the world is caused by the well intentioned, semi-compassionate ones. If you will give your shirt to any beggar you see and walk in the cold, you are a Buddha. If you carefully calculate and give 3.86 percent of your monthly income to CRY you are not a Buddha. And if it gets into your ego, helps to quieten a ill defined guilt feeling then you are worse than the guy who won't give anything. If tears come to you when you hear about any death because of your concern for the sadness it has caused to others, you are compassionate; if you cry only when those close to you die, you are selfish. You are crying for yourself- not others.
I am not judging world harshly anymore than a mathematician proving Pythagoras theorem is judging a triangle with 27, 32, 121 degrees harshly. I prove that if one angle is 90 degrees, a^2+b^2=c^2 and leave it at that. You jump up and down saying `` How dare you say only if one angle is 90 degrees it will happen ? What about all those poor little triangles with 27,32,121 degrees, hoping to have a^2+b^2=c^2?. This mathematician is terribly cruel and harsh and I reject him; I shall lead a life of compassion and love for the upliftment of 27,32,121 degree triangles [without changing their angles, of course]". You have to realise that the Zen masters and Rishis are as helpless as the mathematician. They can't but tell the Truth!
If that disturbed you, the positive side is the following: If you wanted to be an Einstein or Tendulkar, you probably can't. You may not have what is required. But if you only want to achieve some simple thing like becoming a Lao Tse or Buddha or Jesus, why, that is trivial! Go ahead and do it! You have in you what it takes.
``But," you may ask, ``it is crazy to ask one to give up clinging which seems so-o-oo natural! why do you think I cling ?". The honest answer to this question puts people off: you cling because you are an insensitive, cowardly, idiot. Insensitive, the way I described in Sidharth's story; cowardly because you are afraid of the Unknown; idiot because you don't think logically.
Is there a more polite, nicer, less hurting way of saying this? Can one take somebody from where they are [with all the insensitivity, cowardice and stupidity] and ``lead them to Light". The honest answer is ``no". There is no substitute for the Zen Master's stick. There is no way to sugar coat the pill since --- in the first place --- there is no magic pill! All religions, all intellectual philosophies, all gurus --- from Krishna, Jesus, Buddha down to the Local God who cures your tooth-ache and performs miracles --- are dealing in falsehood and Truth is not a minor re-parametrised version of falsehood. No one can take you There except yourself. There are no methods, no techniques.
Is there a ``less honest" answer ? Well, there is. In fact, there are several, since falsehood is infinitely diverse. Among them, many are so provably false that it doesn't appeal to the clever-but-not so-clever guys. One can, however, device a very clever falsehood which is so appealing that it is often taken for the truth. This one is called ``meditation" and sells well nowadays. The concept of meditation can be presented in the domain of intellect and hence it deals with verbalisable statements based on standard logic; consequently, it is --- in the ultimate sense --- totally useless for our purpose. But it is useless in a remarkable way, which is worth analysing