The Jain path to freedom
The Changeless Beneath the Changes
Guru Shree Chitra Bhanu
In this course we are going to meditate and reflect on twelve different facets of reality. Reflecting on these aspects, we will come closer to seeing life as it really is. When our mind does not see life as it is, it acts and reacts according to its preconceived concepts of what should be. It then uses all its energy to make these concepts concrete.
When concepts become concrete, then life becomes rigid, like a crystal. Whenever life becomes crystallized, there is no flow. Because of rigidity, we take stands. We go to the extent of fighting in order to maintain our bias. As a result, we become either temporarily happy or temporarily unhappy. If we watch ourselves at such times, we can see that we have lost pliability. In this way, we lose touch with the flow of life.
The twelve facets upon which we will meditate are twelve steps leading to the experience of reality. They are meant to awaken our inner awareness. In ancient days, they were called bhavanas, or reflections. Originally, they were given as meditation subjects to the Jain monks, to the initiates who had just left the worldly life with which they were familiar and whose taste was still upon their lips. They were to steep themselves in these meditations in order to remove this taste from their consciousness and come out from inertia, anxiety, distraction, moods, and desires. Absorbing and ruminating the meaning, they would come to penetrate the depths of their own reality.
Now these same bhavanas are offered to you, the serious students, the genuine seekers, to help you overcome the coverings and delusions which prevent you from seeing life as it is. The first and greatest stumbling block to confront and examine is trushna, or craving. Craving arises in your unawareness when you do not see an object as a thought crystal but, rather, as a means to gratify your desire. Then you put all your energy into getting it. Sometimes you never get it, and sometimes you do. But in any case, the time comes when you have to leave it. If you are aware when you have it in your palm, you look at it and smile at yourself, saying, “Is this the thing I have used so much effort to get? For this I have spent my energy?
What attracts and allures you from a distance does not look the same at close range. When you go nearer, you wonder, “Is this the same as what I saw from a distance?” You might have noticed at some time that when you are far from a mountain, it appears mellow, round, and soft. Covered in mist, it looks like wax. When you are right next to it, though, you see the sharp stones and rocks.
That is why, in order to understand the nature of reality, we have to see what is real without distorting or hiding it. We have to remove all the outside wrappings which are created by our mind. The mind creates many beautiful phrases and mirages. It likes to hide reality with glossy coverings. Like the deer who runs toward a mirage of water when it is thirsty, we too are in a frenzy to get that which is merely an illusion.
If you want to feel the refreshing touch of a lake in summer, you have to remove your clothes. Otherwise, you will not get direct contact with the cool water. In the same way, if you want to enjoy the freshness of life, you must shed your coverings. Words, concepts, beliefs, crystallized thoughts act as coverings. Puncture them and you will see how hollow and insubstantial they are. Remove them and you will see yourself.
So the initiates are taught that they are deluded by outside things. They are given symbolic things to watch. For example, at dusk, the master and student may go out and sit and meditate. When it is monsoon season, there are clouds in many colors. Sometimes there is a rainbow. The master might tell the student, “See the beauty. Experience these colors. Notice in each cloud a shape. Be in tune with nature. Forget everything else. Then close your eyes.”
The student becomes attuned to the colors and the shapes of the clouds at dusk. Then he closes his eyes and brings the picture of this to his mental eye. Over and over, he opens his eyes, watches the changing scene of nature, closes his eyes, and meditates.
After two hours, everything becomes dark. Then the teacher asks, “What do you see?”
The student answers, “I see nothing. Everything has gone.”
Then the teacher asks, “Where have they gone–the beauty, the shapes, the clouds, the colors?”
The student remains in silence, pondering. And yet there is an answer. The beauty, the rainbow, have gone and yet they have not gone. They are there in a way. This is the point of meditation: everything is still there in the universe.
The teacher tells the student, “Nothing has gone. Everything is there. But because of the rotation of the earth, you see changes. Your physical eye sees that something has gone.
“Now use your inner perception. See that the whole galaxy is moving in an unbroken rhythm. The same sun we think of as vanishing here is being seen across the globe as rising. And yet it is the same sun. Lift yourself above the level of earth to the height of the sun. You will always see the sun. Be conscious of that sun in you, there is changeless life in you.”
Behind the continuous changes is the continuity of the changeless. Changes themselves indicate the ever-presence of the changeless.
As soon as a dry leaf drops, a new green leaf is already sprouting. If we are aware, we realize that behind the tiny new leaf there is changeless, vibrant life. Because of that life, one form is dropped and another emerges. And the soul of the old leaf has already gone on to a new form, one with more sensory equipment with which to perceive the world in a new, more sensitive way.
We begin to see that all life longs to move to higher realms of awareness. For that, change is inevitable. Change is what allows the changeless to reveal itself as ever fresh. Without it, there is no growth, no renewal.
When we become convinced that change is for growth and growth is for becoming aware of our inner divinity, we will be inspired to be free, free from the tendency to cling to familiar things. We will become eager to unshackle ourselves from the fear of change.
When this truth sinks into our consciousness, it opens a new door. We stop seeing in a rigid way. The words “gone,” “disappear,” “vanish,” “death” are seen for what they are – as empty or misleading words, based purely on our visual perception, not on our inner insight. So what appears as “death” to one is “birth” to another both are two waves of the same ocean: life.
So the teacher explains to the student, “Changes are causing us to be aware of the changeless, and the changeless is causing all the changes to take place. Until we reach the ‘best,’ we pass through ‘good’ and ‘better.’ All the forms change in order to bring out a better and better form. Ultimately, we become so refined as to be able to experience the radiance of our inner reality, the permanent bliss of our being. So, as you grow, cultivate this awareness that in the sunset dawn is hidden, in the dawn sunset is hidden. Appearing and disappearing are the play of life. Both are manifestations of the changeless.
The reflection on this first point of meditation is called anitya–meaning transient, ever-changing–and nitya–meaning permanent, changeless. For the mind to know the ever-moving nature of anitya is frightening. Why? Because the mind tends to take that which is temporary and believe that it is going to last forever. The mind clings to whatever it has created– things, objects, ideas, relationships, positions. That is why it is not ready to give them up when the time comes. Such a mind says, “It is going to remain with me. It is mine now.” But the nature of nature replies, “Nothing is thine and nothing is mine.”
If it becomes yours, it is going to lose its nature. It will lose its capacity to change. If it loses its nature of change, it will lose its freshness of life. It will become stagnant. If it always remains summertime, you long for winter. If heat remains permanently high, you cannot bear it. In the same way, when winter becomes too prolonged, you dream of summer. Changes make everything new and fresh.
We have to reeducate our mind. Otherwise it tends toward attachment, thereby creating sadness. When things or people depart from us, our mind is not ready to accept it. Grasping, the mind kills the spirit of the relationship. People accept this truth more readily for others than for themselves.
Observe what happens when the mind is not attached. Once an employee in a factory received a telegram telling him that his mother had died. He wanted to take a week’s leave to go to his hometown to console his relatives and to be consoled by them. When he went to the factory owner to ask permission for the leave, the owner was out to lunch. So the employee left his telegram on the owner’s desk, went back to his work, and waited.
It happened that the factory owner’s mother was ill, and when he returned to his desk, without reading the name on the telegram, he saw only the words, “Your mother expired.” Immediately he became sad and depressed. He put his head down on his desk and began crying.
When the employee came back, he saw right away that his telegram had caused a misunderstanding. He wanted to clear it up, so he explained, “Sir, please, I came to ask for leave because my mother expired.” The owner looked up and said, “Your mother has also expired?” “No, sir,” the employee explained, “I put that telegram on your desk when you were not here. It is my mother who has expired, not yours.”
“It is your mother, not mine?” The owner jumped up, and in a matter of seconds he had become light and happy again. His whole attitude changed.
“Yes, sir,” the employee continued. “Please grant me leave to see my relatives.”
Now all of a sudden the owner began to preach and moralize because it was not his mother. He said, “Why do you want to waste your time going there? She is gone, and everything in the world leaves us sooner or later. Why make yourself so unhappy?”
See how the mind can teach beautiful truths to others when it is not bound by attachment. When you weave a thread around something, you are caught by it. This is the way the mind acts. Even the smallest thing which breaks, changes, or goes away can make you lose your balanced mood. Why? Because on that thing you have placed a seal and labeled it “mine.”
Now, if you don’t weave a thread around things that are not related to you, and if you know how to be wise for others, why do you not train your own mind not to cling and be possessive? Why do you not take a loss in your life as lightly as you would have others take it when it happens to them? Why are there two laws–one for you and one for others?
When you have a toothache, you feel as if there were an earthquake in your head. But when a real earthquake occurs, you merely comment, “This is the law of nature.” Why do you feel no effect? Because of your emphasis on “I” and “my,” you have lost connection with life at large. You have put all your energy into your own need, greed, and attachment. You have placed importance only on preserving the cocoon you have built around yourself.
Because of the cocoon, you become sad, depressed, angry. The slightest word, gesture, or insult can upset your whole day. Yet in your callousness, you can insult others and not remember. Why? Because there is no connection with the universal. All is centered selfishly in the mind, and that mind is not permanent. It is everchanging.
So the master tells the monk, “Meditate on nitya and anitya. Find out what is permanent and what is impermanent. Separate the grain from the chaff. Now they are mixed together. You must winnow. Learn how to fan out the husk from the genuine kernel. Then you are able to know what is everlasting and what is temporary.”
This process of winnowing is an inside process. For that you have to come to the center of yourself. First realize and accept the transitory nature of forms. Then you will experience the nature of nature, the changeless behind the ever-changing.
This winnowing makes you selective in your word, in your expression, in your relations. The phoniness goes away. You will not exclaim, “I will die for you!” It is easy to use such words, and yet nobody dies for anyone. It is only make-believe. People die for their own attachment, not for another person.
Before you use a word, feel the word. Taste the word. Just as a person who hears the word “mango” gets a taste and desire for mango in his mind, you get the real feeling of the word in your being. When you really experience the truth of this, then every word comes directly from your experience. You are not in a hurry to be clever with words .
There have been great poets and writers who did not write a lot, but when they did write they experienced deep feeling. They felt what they were bringing out. Whatever they wrote emerged from the depths. And what comes from the depths becomes immortal. Such words carry the touch of immortality.
Now we move deeper into self-investigation. By winnowing the chaff from the grain, by revealing the authenticity of our feeling with each word, we come to what we call “I.” Who is this “I”? Is it a temporary “I” which is there for some eighty to ninety years? When the body ceases to function, where does it go? Has it gone into darkness or does it have some deeper significance of immortality?
Most people don’t know what this “I” is even though they put it in capital letters. When we say, “I want to see you and talk to you,” who do we mean? Do we mean “I” the body, the senses? Are we saying, “My senses want to see you”?
Is there only the body? Or is there something beyond? After all, when the doctor declares that a person is dead, the body is still there, the sense organs are still there. But the conscious, sentient energy that was able to sense is no longer dwelling in that body. Everything you might have thought of as “I” is still there. So what has gone? One minute ago, there was hope. Now the doctor says, “There is no hope.” What has changed? Is there another “I” other than the “I” of body and senses which has gone from the body?
Go directly to yourself and ask, “What is that which has gone? What do I mean by ‘I love you’–is it the body?”
If so, then why do we put it into a casket? Why do we not keep it? With chemicals we can preserve the body, but we don’t want to keep it. Why do we not have the same feeling of communication and aesthetic outlook, the same feeling of love and ecstasy toward a body that is missing the real “I”?
What is missing and where has it gone? That “something” has not ceased to exist. If it has, then the world becomes nothing but constant change, impermanence.
But there is the changeless; essence remains. Only in a particular moment, for a particular person, does it seem no longer to exist. It only appears as though dusk with its beauty and glow has disappeared. And yet we know it has not gone permanently. Dusk is somewhere, in some new form.
If you take a plane which travels at two thousand miles per hour, you can catch the glow of the sun. You can keep up with it and see that it has not gone anywhere. Catching up to it, you will be able to go farther than dusk, farther even than the sun.
We say that the sun rises and sets, but we know that the sun does neither. The movement of the earth is what gives us the illusion of the sun’s rising and setting. The words we use are not precise. In the same way, in reality, we cannot say that the “I” disappears. As soon as it seems to be gone, it has already taken another shape, another glow, another color. When someone is crying over the loss of somebody, already that somebody is making someone else happy! In some house, happiness is bubbling, and someone is realizing, “Oh, I am pregnant! “
What has gone? What has come? Only the forms, the garbs, the houses. Not this “I.” This “I” is moving eternally from beginningless time, becoming more and more aware of its reality through the evolution of form. The whole universe is a means to reach ultimate freedom.
When someone goes from your sight, remember the relation, the communication you had. To accept with solemnity and understanding is different from resisting with depression and sadness. To accept with calmness and deep feeling is not the same as crying, falling into deep mourning, and losing interest in life. People cry and sink to the bottom because of dependency. There was a crutch to lean on, and now that crutch has gone. People mourn not the person but the crutch. Where can they lean now?
It is not so easy to change thinking patterns. We live in a world of concepts, beliefs, and taboos. These are the walls and coverings preventing us from seeing and experiencing the real “I” of ourselves and others.
There is a beautiful example of a young monk named Upagupta. It was nighttime during the rainy season, and the path in the forest was covered with a blanket of darkness. Upagupta found his way to a certain tree and sat down to meditate.
It happened at that time that a famous dancer was going through the same forest to meet her beloved. The darkness was so thick that she could not see where she was going. She was still trying to feel the track underfoot when she bumped into Upagupta.
Oh!” she exclaimed. “Who is this human being?”
Just then there was a flash of lightning. In that flash she saw the person she had accidentally come up against.
“Such a beautiful person is sitting there,” she thought. “So calm and serene he is. His lovely face and body look as though they were carved out of pure marble. Oh, if I get this man, this will be heaven on earth!”
She was proud of her beauty. She was the most famous dancer of her time and men would flock to her feet. She said, “You are so calm. You have such a radiance. Please come with me.”
When he did not respond, she shook him and said, “You are meditating on what? See who I am!” Upagupta recognized the dancer. “I know who you are. But this is not the time, though I know that you love me. You go on your way. I will see you one day.”
The dancer thought, “He knows I love him, he says. Then why delay?”
So she spoke to him again. “What is the reason for postponing? It will be too late. This is the right time.”
He answered, “I know it, but the right time has not come in the right way. I promise you I will meet you. And remember, as you love, I too love. When it is the right time, I will come.”
The dancer thought he was not in his right mind. And she went on.
Youth is like lightning, like a shadow, like the flow of water, ever-moving, so swift. Ten years passed. The dancer had overused her energy of youth and was now exhausted. She had not taken care of her body and was now suffering from a skin disease. She was trembling with fever and there were blisters on her skin. Nobody would even look at her, and the king drove her from the town. She was compelled to go out to a deserted village and live in a tiny hovel. There she was wasting away, crying and alone.
The time was right and a man came to see her there. He took her head in his lap. She was shivering with fever as he applied medicine to her sores, mouth, and head.
“Who are you?” she mumbled.
“I am Upagupta. Do you remember? I promised you. I love you. I have come to take care of you.”
“Now I don’t have anything to offer you,” she moaned.
“No,” he told her, “at that time you had something to offer which was transient, something which you yourself could not keep. Now you have something real to offer. I love that which is not going to go. Our relation is for that. It is the relation of soul.
“In the glamour and ego of the past years, you did not realize the changing nature of all that–of your body, beauty, wealth, and your circle of partying friends. They were all there because there was that need. They were feeding it and now that need is over. My need is not that. Mine is the need of the soul.”
Tears started rolling down the dancer’s cheeks. She began sobbing. All ignorance was washed away by her tears. Upagupta took great care of her.
“Now,” he told her, “let us transcend the small “I” and help others become aware of the real “I.”
Soon the dancer recovered, and when she became healthy and strong, she renounced her old life and became a student of Upagupta. She spent the rest of her days peacefully meditating and sharing her insights with others .
When we are not aware of the real “I” in us, we are continually engaged in trying to keep the unreal “I” intact. The artificial “I” is the one created by society, emotions, and needs. It is what we call the body “I,” the name “I,” the form “I.” Whenever we sense some danger to this superficial “I,” we become upset, angry, and depressed. We have a sense of fear. We are ready to do anything to protect this “I” which cannot be protected.
The intrinsic nature of the superficial “I” is to change. That is why there is fear. Something in us knows that this “I” does not have the quality of permanence. If we identify totally with the ever-changing “I,” we don’t have that fearlessness which comes from knowing that in us which is changeless.
What we need is that fearlessness. It can only unfold in us when we know the real “I” and its permanence, when we know the difference between nitya and anitya. By knowing the “I” which is real, we are sure it is going to remain. Once we know it is not going to go anywhere, we don’t make any effort to keep it.
It is like the difference between a candle and an electric lamp when you stand by the window. Near the window the candle is always flickering in the wind, so you put a protective covering over it. That is like the unreal “I” which we are constantly trying to protect, though it can-not be preserved permanently. But if you have an electric lamp, you have no need to protect it. You are not afraid that it will go out. The wind cannot extinguish it. The real “I” is like this, secure in all circumstances.
From where does this superficial “I” come? It is created, built by karmas, customs, creed. It is a social “I.” Because of different geographical, physiological, and emotional programming, it creates barriers among people. Your unreal “I” is not the same as someone else’s because what is important for your nation, race, or society is not important for his. So our mental structures and emotional needs are relative. And what is relative cannot become permanent.
That is why wise people don’t try to impose their values on others. They see things as they are. They know the difference between the social “I” and the real “I.” They are aware that the temporary “I” is a product of their conditioning and their society’s values. Going further, they see something transcending. The transcending “I” has no local or geographical limitations. It has no fear of losing. That “I” is nitya, ever-remaining, immortal. That “I” is in you. That “I” is in me. That “I” is in everyone.
Your relationships must begin with yourself. First you know that “I” in you, then you will see it in everybody. If you cannot see the real “I” in you, you won’t be able to see it in anybody.
Taking time to know it does not mean you are selfish. It means that you are experimenting with truth on yourself first. Then you will be able to share it with others. Before you give something hot to someone, don’t you first test it on your own skin? In the same way, before you give this truth to someone, first experience it yourself.
So in the light of this meditation, see your own reality. Throw off the outside coverings and see the inside substance. Observe that until now you have made a box around yourself. Now you want to know what is really inside. If you don’t go to your reality, your whole life will be nothing but pretense and fantasy. Living in make-believe, you will not be able to take the last step of evolution. So if you want to go further, be genuine. Go beyond words and come to the truth of experience.
See that although “I” appears to change with the change, in reality it is changeless. When people depart from you or you depart from them, see with the knowledge that something in you both will stay, something in you will meet again. As understanding deepens, relationships become profound. They are not only of the body, but they are perfumed with essence.
Otherwise, life is filled with so much fear and anxiety that it is unbearable. But if you know that essence is never lost, though you feel sadness at a dear one’s departure, still you can come back to your work, continue your routine, and experience living fully. Though there is seeming disappearance, this disappearance is in order to appear somewhere else. In order to go there, you have to leave here. In pure relationship one companion goes ahead of the other. The other follows later. The parting is temporary. They meet again. The changeless indicates that which cannot die, for it was never born; it is the very life of life.
Meditating in this way, we develop a sense of discrimination and a vast vision. Small things which used to trigger our addictions no longer bother us. There will be no need to use so much energy on temporary things. We become generous toward the shortcomings of others. We start to experience a deep feeling of oneness with all life, and we will not cry over the spilt milk of transitoriness. With our inner vision, we see that which is continuously pulsating in all, and rejoice.
SEED THOUGHTS FOR MEDITATION
If I accept rather than deny the transitory nature of all forms, then I can go deeper and realize that there is changeless life behind the ever-changing:
Change is for growth, and growth is for change. Both are for helping us become aware of our inner divinity and for inspiring us to move into higher life.
Let me stop trying to preserve the temporary cocoon I have built around myself so that I can connect to life at large.
Something in us will stay. That I love. It is the relation of soul to soul.
Appearing and disappearing are the play of life. Both are two waves of the same ocean. Both are there to reveal reality in a new and fresh way.