Expectations

 

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The word ‘expectations’ like the meaning suggests is pregnant with expectations! All kinds of expectations, without limits, no boundaries, adjust themselves according to the context, are situational and are potentially infinite. It is like the universe, ever expanding, infinite and unbounded. Expectations are all pervading and no one can escape from them. Everyone has all kinds of expectations from life, from their partners, friends, job, society and ultimately life. It is one of the most basic instincts in all living things even animals and insects. Just look at a spider waiting in its web expecting a prey to pass by and get trapped. Look at the crocodile waiting in water, with just eyes out, expecting a calf or a deer to stop by for a gulp. It is amazing how it is built into our psyche, we don’t need to be trained or instilled with it.

Expectations start right from infancy and keep growing as we grow and later assume unexpected proportions so much so that they start driving our life. The nature of expectations too changes as we grow. During childhood, they are innocent limited and most flexible. The child of a beggar on the streets is happy with an odd snack or a broken toy. However, a kid from a well to do family expects a pizza or a burger for a snack and a remote controlled toy or a tab to play with. Here the situation has shaped the expectations. However, expectations have an uncanny ability of growing exponentially. As we grow, the expectations start growing like water hyacinth, slowly but surely until the entire lake or pond is covered. Just picture this, in school, we expect our parents to buy us a better school bag, better compass box, better stationery, better tiffin box, better story book etc. In college we expect better clothes, better accessories, better shades, better bike, better girlfriend etc. Further in life, when we start earning, we start expecting a better job, better pay, better car, and better house and now we find ourselves completely trapped in our own and others’ expectations! That’s right; now others also start expecting from us, our boss, our spouse, our children, our colleagues and even our friends. Day in and day out, we are under the spell of expectations. Our boss expects us to perform better at workplace, put in more hours, more effort and more innovation. Even the team that rolls up to you starts expecting you to fulfill their expectations!

After a hard day’s work, when you come home to relax, you face the brunt of your spouse’s and children’s expectations. Just when we expect the expectations to reduce, they bounce back with even greater force and on a larger scale. However, they are not always bad. If they are nurtured and handled properly, can have a positive influence on the situation. God forbid, but if you find yourself in a bad situation, expecting the situation to improve can help in cultivating a positive outlook in that situation. It is kind of a double edged sword, you have to do a tightrope walk if you want to come out unscathed. If you drill down a bit, expectations are results of attachment. Our attachment to things, our near and dear ones, places and situations triggers expectation. Humans by nature are selfish and they expect a reciprocal gesture for every deed, feeling and action. Being part of the society, we are all caught in the web of expectations, all the time. Even God has not been spared of our expectations. Don’t we always expect good health, wealth and life from him irrespective of our deeds? This becomes the cause of our misery. Now we cannot get rid of all the expectations but can certainly keep them minimum and in proper perspective. Not expecting at all or expecting the unexpected seems to be the mantra here. I can’t help but quote Alexander Pope:

“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed”

 

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Our Origin and Purpose

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About twenty odd years back, I vividly remember sitting idle in my house, just brooding over something when suddenly, I had this strange feeling. For a few moments, I was no longer thinking like ‘myself’. My mind seemed to detach a bit and asked “who am I and what am I doing here?” It was kind of losing my identity and questioning my existence. Well, I came back to normal and again started thinking like ‘me’ or not thinking at all! Not that it was a profound life changing experience but that question does keep coming back to me. I am sure many of us are also plagued by the same question. What is it that got us here, in this form, in this time. What is the purpose of our existence and what difference does it make? I was born like millions of others, grew up to adulthood, got a job, started a family, got about with my daily chores, got through mental and physical upheavals etc.. But does it make any difference to this earth, the solar system, the galaxy or the Universe as a whole? Is the Universe affected by me being a CEO or a beggar or me committing a crime or a good deed? Now that is not exactly an ethical question but let us just consider it for the sake of argument.

We are much too insignificant in the larger scheme of things. The earth is not even a spec when it comes to our Galaxy, leave alone the Universe. And there are theories that there are parallel universes!! So why are we really here and what is our role in this universe? On the face value, our existence seems entirely inconsequential, devoid of any meaning except for the fact that we are too tied down with our own lives, our relations, things that we own and above all our identity.

With my limited 3-dimesional intellect, there are two ways to address these questions. First, through science as we know it and second through spirituality which also is a science but NOT as we know it. As we are all aware, conventional science has and is still trying hard to answer these questions. Genetic engineers have decoded the human genes and mapped our DNA and one day might be able to produce human clones. Haven’t they done the same with sheep? Astronomers and physicists have been trying to calculate the age of our Galaxy and the Universe and how everything came into being. New theories are being propounded almost every year and the old ones are being discarded. But they remain just that, theories with no definitive proof. And we have not got any closer to the question of why and how the nature got created the way it is and what we should be doing to have any discernible impact on the Universe as a whole. Clearly, conventional science has extremely limited capabilities. What is needed is something really out of the box, literally.

That brings us to the other side, spirituality. Neale Donald Walsch has tried to answer the question in his book “Conversations with God“. According to him, God, the super entity wanted to experience “itself”. Since God was all that was and there was nothing else, another reference point had to be created to experience “itself”. A simple example, if I want to experience myself, I would have to be someone else, another reference point, to really know or understand what am I like. Similarly nature, which we are a part of, got created through which that super entity is trying to experience itself. Drilling down further, the ancient Hindu scriptures, the Vedanta and the Upanishads have detailed explanations of this. Particularly interesting is the Samkhya philosophy of creation quoted below from the book “Meditation mind and Patanjali’s yoga”.

IMG_20160130_124248942It says, there are two types of super entities called ‘Purusha’ which is pure consciousness or pure sentience, uncaused and eternal and ‘Prakriti’ which is unconscious primordial matter. Though Prakriti is uncaused, it is the cause of everything in this universe, the matter, the energy or even the mind. Prakriti has three constituents, Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas also called Gunas. Needless to say, all these exist at a very subtle level which we cannot perceive. These three Gunas have their own characteristics and are in perfect harmony and equilibrium before creation. The process of creation starts when Prakriti borrows consciousness from the Purusha and begins acting like a conscious entity. At this juncture, the equilibrium between the Gunas is lost and as a result Prakriti starts evolving and changing. The gradual transformation of Prakriti leads to the formation of manifold universe. According to this philosophy, there are as many Purushas as there are conscious beings. So the conscious beings are a combination of matter and consciousness.

Prakriti’s first evolved state is ‘Mahat’ or cosmic intellect. The next evolved state is ‘Ahankara’ or cosmic ego. There are three kinds of cosmic ego or Ahankara:

  1. Ego with preponderance of Sattwa.
  2. Ego with preponderance of Rajas.
  3. Ego with preponderance of Tamas.

The Ego with Sattwa or Tamas cannot evolve by themselves, they borrow their energy from the Ego with Rajas. From the Ego dominated by Sattwa evolved the Jnanendriyas or Sense organs, the Karmendriyas or the Motor organs and the Mind. From the Ego dominated by Tamas, evolved the five subtle physical essences or Tanmantras. The Tanmantras are the potential elements or the Generic essences of sound, taste, colour, smell and touch. From the Tanmantras evolved the five gross elements, Akasha(space), Vayu(air),  Agni(fire),  Ap(water) and  Kshiti(earth). The five elements mingled together following certain permutations and combinations to become the manifold tangible universe as we know it.

It is all very interesting and intriguing when we think that we are a part of the same super entity, only in a gross form, trying to ‘experience itself’. All the Vedas, Upanishads and religions constantly exhort us to be one with God or that Super Entity and the cycle of birth and death is merely a journey towards that goal. So right now am pretty happy to be a part of that Super Entity!

 

What dimension are you in….

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In the 1980s, when television made its debut in India, there was a series being telecast called Cosmos by Carl Sagan. For the uninitiated, Carl Sagan was an astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, author and lot more. Those days, the series was telecast every Sunday. The celebrated astronomer would discuss and explain the intricacies of the solar system, milky way, galaxies, constellations, comets, asteroids and extra dimensions in his own inimitable style. Using groundbreaking special effects, models and simple language, he would make the most complex concepts appear simple even to a layman. I always had the fascination in the concept of dimensions, our existential dimension and the extra dimensions that are supposed to exist. No, am not doing any research or that kind of stuff (nor do I have that capability )but I have “googled” and “you tubed” a lot. References to these can be found in many scientific journals, in Vedanta and even in movies like Interstellar. Scientists still believe that black holes, stargates and wormholes are the gateways to other dimensions or universes. The String theory suggests that there are other parallel universes that co-exist with ours. Theoretically, that means, I could have multiple copies of me existing in other dimensions. Interesting…wonder if my copy in the other dimension is having a better life.

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To get your feet wet, let us go back to Carl Sagan, when he explains the concept of a tesseract to drive home the point of extra dimensions. When we project a square, a two dimensional figure, perpendicular to its sides, we get a cube, a three dimensional figure. The third dimension being the height or depth. Similarly, projecting the cube to the fourth dimension, we get a tesseract. Our existence is limited or bound by the three dimensions. We cannot experience or see the fourth dimension. Here is the video that beautifully explains this concept. Carl Sagan uses an example of a two dimensional “flatland” that has only length and breadth but no height. The inhabitants do not know or experience the third dimension, height. So when a three dimensional entity enters this two dimensional world, it would be only seen as a cross section or some shape. Similarly, we are trapped in our three dimensional world or rather four , the fourth dimension being time. Upgrading to an additional or higher dimension does enhance the capabilities or insights or powers, if you may. For example, if a super entity, that exists in the fifth or sixth dimension, observes your life, it would appear as a tape with frames of you at different points of time. In a single instant that entity would see your past and future! That is the advantage of additional dimensions. It is believed that there are eleven dimensions! So in all probability, God may be an entity that exists in one of those higher dimensions. The question remains, how do we experience or go into other dimensions?  In our scriptures, it is said that Gods, saints and sages would travel to other worlds or “lokas”. Did they have special powers or deep understanding of portals to other worlds? May be they connected with other dimensions through meditation. Do the other dimensions really exist? Are there portals which lead us there?

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Slowly but surely the line between fact and fiction is getting blurred. NASA has discovered portals in the Earth’s magnetic field that connect directly to the Sun’s magnetic field. NASA calls them X points that open and close randomly few times a day and open a path to the Sun’s magnetic field.  It is believed that our three dimensional universe, or at least the way we perceive it, is floating within a multidimensional universe. Imagine if we were able to travel to some other world or dimension through the stargates or wormholes. What if I landed a job in another world where life is much easy and simple. I might as well take my entire family over there and start a new life! Or maybe I could just go for a vacation in another world, spend a few days and come back. The only catch is, those few days should not equal few years on earth else, you can imagine the consequences! Another possibility, if I somehow manage to elevate myself to another dimension, I might get the ability to read other’s thoughts or foresee the future or influence events! The possibilities are endless.

We have just started to scratch the surface and who knows, one day time/interdimensional travel could become a reality and while quoting our address, in addition to the city, state and country fields we might have to add a “dimension” field!

Its All Inside..!

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I came home at 2 am in the morning last night, yes, for me it was still night. After all, isn’t it all relative? After a quick small snack and some water, I hit the bed. This has been my routine since last one and half years. Talk of work life balance! I was woken up by a steady clucking sound of a construction machinery at 0830 in the morning. It has been now been a good seven days since the construction work on an adjacent plot of land has started. I have sort of got used to that sound. Amazing how we adapt to not exactly pleasant situations. The monsoon has just set in and is making its presence felt since last couple of days. Heavens have poured more than 40mm rain since yesterday and still don’t look like easing off.

The morning is damp and hazy and even the refreshing cup of tea has not driven away the sedatory effect of the rains. Just finished reading the newspaper, it’s an old habit. The news about muggings, robbery, agitations and dirty politics has added the “icing” on this morning’s “gloom” cake. Why can’t they report on the sunny side of life? Why can’t I have a cheerful start for the day? Am I going to allow these external situations influence my morning or in the larger context, my life? Unfortunately, most of the times that is the case. Unknowingly, we tend to focus on things that are unpleasant or negative. The mind always “slides down” towards the negative because that is the easiest path, just like water rushing down the gradient. So, if I have to make things better, I have to make a conscious effort to literally “pull up” my mind towards the positive.

Applying that to my morning situation, the unearthly time when I come home, I encounter minimum or no traffic, that really helps. The sound of the construction machinery presents me an opportunity to filter out the unwanted and focus on what I am doing at that point of time. If I practise this, it would help me concentrate on what i’m doing instead of getting distracted. This is especially handy in a densely populated and noisy country like India. The next factor rain, has actually brought down the temperature, made the outside terrain pleasantly greener, helped fill up the catchment areas and has provided me a reason to go out on a long drive to the nearby outing spots. Hmm…not bad! Moving on to the newspaper, I can just filter out the bad news and read the neutral or good ones or else just read a book of my liking. Easier said than done, but worth giving it a try. Also, I can push up the energy levels by doing some indoor workout like stretching, push ups and some brisk skipping.

Here, am strongly tempted to quote the now famous Indian mystic, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev. He says, we cannot change the situation because we have no control over it but we can certainly change the context through which we look at it. In my case, if I change the context, my “gloomy morning” becomes a  “good morning”, literally. Vedanta, the awesome spiritual scripture goes still further. It says the mind is a fertile soil which has a harvest of thoughts, impressions and experiences. These have grown over a period of time. If I sow good thoughts, good impressions and nourish it with positive experiences, the harvest would be all positive. The key is to weed out all negative thoughts and impressions. If someone is talking to you but your mind is distracted by some other thought, you would not really understand what he is saying even though he is looking at you and you can hear him. This is because the mind is focussing somewhere else which is also commonly known as being absentminded. Similarly, I should be absentminded to negative influences.

I have to observe the flow of thoughts and train the mind to cultivate only the positive ones. Our life, says Vedanta, is only a projection of our thoughts and impressions. If you have all the positives stuffed inside, you would radiate positivity outside. So all that matters is what is “inside”. If I manage my inside, my outside is taken care of!