FACET 3: Liberation from the Cycle of Birth and Death
The Jain path to freedom
Liberation from the Cycle of Birth and Death
Guru Shree Chitra Bhanu
To make room in our heart for truth, we have to clear away the clutter of false thinking. For that we need guidance, reflections. With introspection, we are able to see what is real, genuine, lasting. Using our inner eye, we are able to come out from under the domination of distorted thinking.
Why do we live in a world of make-believe? Why do we create so many fantasies? To protect ourselves from fear. Why are we afraid? Because something in us knows that the mind is weak and has the nature to disintegrate. The mind tends to scatter and jump from subject to subject, from form to form. Subconsciously, it has fear of its own decomposition .
In order not to be diffused or disintegrated, the mind seeks protection–in the husband and wife, lover and beloved, parent and savior. It relaxes under this false sense of security. It does not realize that this kind of outer protection is merely a prop. In search of some kind of shelter, we create a fence around ourselves. We may call this fence love, but in reality it is attachment. It is attachment covered up and decorated with beautiful outer wrappings of papery-thin love.
In each person’s life the time comes when the mind scatters like a castle of cards. It stands firm so long as a gust of wind does not blow it down. When the reality of a crisis strikes, mind dips down. You feel depressed rejected, and lonely. Life appears dismal and dark. You experience a state of hopelessness.
Wise people know that the shelter created by fantasy and outside props will not last. This kind of shelter is too fragile. What to do when you are again out in the open naked, and without a roof over your head?
That is why we meditate on the bhavanas. They are a preparation. We build inner muscles with our awareness. Just as an athlete builds his muscles lifting weights, we build our inner strength with special tools. These tools are reflections, meaningful words, and insights.
You prepare yourself to know how to stand alone. And when you really know how to stand alone, you are all one. You have only to go into the depth of aloneness to know the meaning of all-oneness.
Not everyone is ready to do this. These facets are given only to those who are ready. Truth is dazzling. It has so much brilliance that weak eyes are not able to stand it. In the face of that brilliance, those with weak eyes do one of two things–either they turn away and change direction, or they cover their eyes with dark glasses.
But there are those who do want to see the truth. They say, “Let us see what may come.” And ultimately what appears bitter turns out to be sweet honey. As you go on building inner strength, when the time comes for the support to go away, you won’t tumble down.
Those who are eager to face truth reflect on the difference between attachment and love. In reflection, they see that attachment always comes with demands or conditions. Those who know how to stand back can notice it. Using their insight, they ask themselves, “Is what I am calling love really attachment thriving under the shelter of beautiful words? Do I have any demand on the person whom I love? Is it a kind of bargain? Is it a business?”
When we put love in the category of business, it is not love. In business, we see where we get profit. There is no feeling of giving, offering, accepting, only seeing who gets more. Both parties are watching out for themselves. If this is the case in a relationship, then are we not deluding ourselves?
So when you understand this truth, you understand your relationships. Your awareness becomes different. Your perception changes. You know how to give- space, how to give room. Relationships become sweeter, more meaningful. Then the other party starts learning from you. Love is vast. When you encompass that vastness, then you love all. When you love all, then you really love the one whom you love.
It may not happen overnight. It is a slow movement, a gradual growth, not an instant answer or a temporary satisfaction. You need to have patience. My teacher told me: “First you have to learn how to stand on the ground of reality, of truth. That ground has no route. You have to make your own track. It’s a vast territory before you. All directions are open. So don’t tread the well-worn path. That only becomes a rut. Select your way over fresh open ground. Then you will be making a new track, fresh footprints. “
Feel the newness. Tell yourself, “I am taking each step according to my insight.” You can do it when you have faith in your feet and trust in your strength.
The third facet on which to reflect is called samsara, which means to move constantly up and down, down and up, in a smooth, circular, and rhythmical motion, like a Ferris wheel. It is a continuous process. When a person is motivated by greed for pleasure and power, he gets caught up in this perpetual motion and ends up where he began, like an ox circling around a treadmill. But the person with awareness of the purposeful direction of life can use each turn of the wheel for moving forward into evolution, for freeing himself from the need to rush after things which are on the periphery of life. So what is a cause of bondage to one can be used as a cause of freedom to another; it depends on the depth of one’s understanding and approach. That is why this bhavana teaches the aspirant to watch the Ferris wheel of life, but not to identify with it.
We have all heard of prosperous famous families whose children lose everything and are forgotten. We have also observed those who, according to worldly standards, were “nobody” become “somebody.” This wheel is always turning. It is an endless cycle. Sometimes we have days in which life is heavenly. Sometimes we have days in which life feels like a hell. The person you greet in the morning is not the same by evening. There are so many fluctuations in moods.
So the initiates watch the Ferris wheel. They see that the down will not remain down. It will go up. It will go on. Through watching, the initiate learns not to take the downs and ups seriously. “It is the wheel which is moving, not me,” he observes. “I am sitting in the same seat. What is going up and down is the wheel, but I am here –steady . “
Once you have this experience, you will see the game of life. The seriousness, the rejection, the clouds which cover your inner peace will be gone. And you will start enjoying life. Wherever you are and whomever you are with you experience and enjoy.
In this way, you slowly free yourself from identifying with the ups and downs of samsara. The wheel is always moving smoothly in order to bring change. With your awareness, you observe how it is moving purposefully to bring something beautiful, something fresh for you. The motion of the wheel is giving you a challenge. Without change, life becomes stagnant. If there is no test, there is no progress.
By identifying with the changeless beneath all the changes, you are transcending them. In this way, you experience the purpose of samsara–to transform your-self from lower to higher, and ultimately to reach moksha, complete freedom from the cycle of birth and death.
In meditating on this bhavana, we observe our whole cycle. We say, “When I was born, my mother was in pain, crying. Then she saw my face and was happy. The pain was gone.” What the mother suffered for nine months was gone in one minute. At the same time, we look at those close to us in our lives- -a brother, sister, parent, or partner–and see that some have gone and some are still here. The dearest people whom we love and who love us come and go. They don’t remain permanently. The people who hate and are hated also come and go. This is the Ferris wheel; this is the process.
The reflection continues in this way: “Why do I only think of others? I also will go. I will move on, and when I do, I will separate from others as others have separated from me. So why am I upset when others depart? I too will depart. Perhaps I don’t think of that because of the mental fright it causes.”
But the aspirant is not frightened. His mind is not shattered at the prospect of his own departure. Why? Because he or she is completely convinced that what is permanent is not going to become impermanent. And what is impermanent is not going to become permanent. Each has its own nature. The seeker knows, “What I have at the center of myself is permanent. Only the house, the place, the dress, the form, will change. They are the persona, the mask, but the individual flame that I am, does not change.”
What confidence to know that! When it happens, for the first time you are realizing the difference between the husk and the grain. You see how deeply you have identified the grain with the husk. You observe how you have seen your own friends in this fixed, static light–as their persona instead of their essence.
If we relate only to the persona of an individual, the friendship is shallow. It is built on material gain. The person with a spiritual outlook sees things from a different vantage point. He sees that those things on which he once placed so much value are not truly valuable. They are tokens for use in a certain period, in a certain place. If you take a subway token to Russia, it cannot be used. It is meant to be used here. Similarly, the things of the world are to be used as tokens; they take you from one place to another. Beyond that they have no meaning.
Friendship based on the spiritual level remains permanent. Why? Because it has an inner connection, above and beyond its outside connection. In The Last Days of Pompeii, a volcano was about to erupt. An old man of greed and covetousness had jewels and gold coins hidden away in his house. There was scarcely enough time for him to run for his life; nevertheless, he went back to take his box of jewels. It was heavy, and his son, who was also greedy, said,
“Father, let me carry the box for you. It is too heavy and you will not be able to run fast.”
The old man did not trust his son even during that last moment. And the son became impatient and struck his father with a stick, grabbed the box, and ran. At that moment, the volcano erupted and the whole village was buried, father and son as well. Their relationship was superficial, based on need and greed. Their mutual protection was only to get material gain.
So become a spectator. See how the rich become poor, the young become old, the great become small. It is a joy to watch. The ornament changes but the gold remains.
Observe your form. It is beautiful. See who is in the center of your form, who animates all this. Who gives feeling to the body, allowing it to sense and to feel? Who gives voice to the throat and taste to the tongue? Who gives the sense of smell to the nose? Who gives light and sight to the eyes and hearing to the cars? Who gives awareness to the mind? When you realize that you are the one animating all your senses, you will stop accepting false beliefs and outside supports. You will have persuaded your doorkeeper mind to open the door and let you in–to see your own reality. Once you experience this changeless center of yourself, you exclaim, ” That reality is here! That reality is I!”
Now you watch the circumference from the center. You observe life from that point which views all points. You are in a state of equanimity. You are not caught up with each turn of the wheel. In this way, you are free, not from past karmas which continue to move the wheel of samsara round and round, but from the ignorance which formerly made you cling to the changing elements themselves. Freed from the swings of mood, you glimpse the real freedom of moksha. 2
With this glimpse, you have the power to use your will to make decisions, to change what you want to change, even to heal your body. You know that you have at your disposal the energy which is your life force itself. It is the energy which animates this body, its senses and brain. Knowing it in your meditative experience, with patience and persistent practice you can mobilize this energy to erase your karmas and stop the cycle of birth and rebirth. With awareness, you can change wrong kinds of eating, thinking, and living. You can get rid of heavy negative vibrations which you have absorbed and which have turned into mental disturbance or physical disease. For one who realizes how such vibrations came and how they can be removed, the process of self- healing can be accelerated .
There is a story of a woman whose husband was constantly gambling and getting drunk. He used to come home late at night, knock on the door, and wait for his wife to open it. She would do so at whatever hour he came home. Always she remained peaceful, patient.
Eventually, he grew tired of his own vices and ran away. After five years, with spoiled health, he returned home. His wife had known that one day he would. Meanwhile, during the five years in which he had been absent, she had not lost her peace nor had she turned to vices herself. She had used her time to build her inner muscles.
She was so strong that the evening he returned and stood at the door, she only said, “Come in, please!” He could not believe that after five years, after having run away, he could be hearing these gentle words. Then she said, “You must be hungry. Have some dinner.”
Hearing these sweetly spoken words, he began to melt inside. He started to cry. The tears kept on rolling down his cheeks. Gently his wife said, “Have I not told you–you are not bad. It was the company you kept. And don’t these tears show that the core of your heart is good and soft?” He felt like bowing at her feet. “I have heard about saints,” he said, “but if I had not seen you, I would never have believed. Now I know that I have no need to go away again.” He then began moving forward into a purposeful life.
It is knowing your permanent reality which gives meaning to life. So meditate on your evolution and unite the world with your deep understanding of this. Let your real essence emerge and let outer superficiality melt away. This ground of truth has many routes; you create your own track. To reach your reality and feel your freedom, take a step which is full of positive feeling, radiant with light, and vibrant with awareness.
SEED-THOUGHTS FOR MEDITATION
The ever moving is a continuous cycle of change, moving in a smooth and rhythmic motion. I am in the center, steady, aware.
Let me watch the circumference from the center. Let me observe the kaleidoscope of changes from that point which views all points.
Each turn of the wheel can be either a cause of my bondage or a cause of my freedom. With awareness, I can use each turn as a challenge, to free myself from karmas, to bring out transformation, to feel new life, and to lead me closer to my reality.