The Game of Life

My Sage in a Bottle

This is the story of an ocean, an infinite ocean populated by millions upon millions of bottles. All these bottles are filled with salty water, the same aqueous element where they are submerged. There is also a plethora of different creatures that share the ocean with the ubiquitous bottles. We will call them oceaners. Oceaners come in a multitude of colors, sizes, and shapes but they all share one common thing that is also shared by the bottles: They are all filled with water. However, the bottles are quite different to the other creatures, and they even think they are much better than the rest since they have the faculty of cognition. That means they kind of know, or at least they think they know, what they are and what is happening around them. Oceaners, on the other hand, are programmed to execute certain patterns of behavior without any chance to change them or even think about them. They spend their existence doing things in a complete unconscious way. Their programs simply prepare them to fulfill two major principles: survive and reproduce, each one according to its unique characteristics. So, we can say that oceaners only have a very basic level of cognition. However, it is also important to point out that some bottles can be very aware of their existence while others’ level of cognition is only slightly above that of oceaners.

All creatures in the infinite ocean, both oceaners and bottles, are filled with water but none of them is aware of it. Well, that may not be exactly true. There is an old story that affirms that bottles are filled with something called water. Many bottles don’t believe it and the ones that believe it cannot prove it because they cannot feel this water. Now, before you start judging ocean creatures, bear in mind that they were all born and have always lived in the ocean so, for them, water is not something they can be aware of since it has always been there. You can tell what air is only because you can also perceive water and earth, otherwise you would never be able to tell that there is something called air. So, despite their cognition, bottles are incapable of understanding that they live in water and that they are also filled with water.

Bottles believe that they are mainly made of glass, plastic, carton, iron, silver, etc, and then that they have corks and labels and so on. They like to gather in groups according to their shapes, color, of material they are made of and to compare themselves with other groups to see who is more intelligent, beautiful or powerful. This oftentimes leads to terrible arguments that end up in fights where bottles clank against each other causing bumps and holes. If it is a small bump or hole, it can still be mended but if the bottle breaks up in half or gets smashed into pieces, it drops to the bottom of the ocean, where it decomposes and becomes the ocean over time.

The bottles that believe they are filled with water, also believe that a broken bottle stops functioning when all the water inside has left the container, even though they cannot prove it because they are surrounded by water. Moreover, they also believe that some bottles, when they are smashed, their liquid content somehow travels to this other ocean ruled by a very powerful water creature, where they live happily ever after. This very powerful creature is called the Water Bearer and it is also believed to be the only thing that existed in the very beginning. From its insides, the Water Bearer created not only all bottles but also the infinite ocean and all other ocean creatures.

Now, in order to travel to the abode of the Water Bearer, you need to have been a good bottle during your existence in the infinite ocean. That means, you have to be good to all ocean creatures, both bottles and oceaners, and carry a good bottle life. If you haven’t followed a good bottle life, then, upon your demise, your water will sink to the bottom of the ocean, a very dark place that no bottle has ever dared to explore. And you will putrefy there forever more.

One day, during a congregation of thousands of bottles, one little, curious bottle asked the elder bottles:

  • “The Water Bearer was all that existed in the very beginning, was it?’
  • “Yes, little one, that is how it was”, responded one elder bottle with a condescending smile
  • “Then, the Water Bearer was infinite”, continued the little one with a triumphant smile
  • “That is correct, little one”
  • “So, if the Water Bearer is infinite, how can we spend our eternity WITH it? Wouldn’t that mean that we would be separate from it? And, if that was the case, how could something which is infinite exist along with anything else?”

There was roaring laughter among the elder bottles after the little bottle finished her question. One of them finally dismissed her by saying:

  • “You are very funny, little one. There are things that you can’t understand yet”.

The infinite ocean came from inside the Water Bearer. It was created from the Water Bearer since in the beginning only the Water Bearer existed. So, the Water Bearer is the container and the infinite ocean its content. Likewise, since we were created to its image, we are supposed to be filled with our personal “infinite oceans”, which means that whatever is inside of us is the same as the infinite ocean. So, if it is true that we are filled with water, then we must also be surrounded by water. And when we crack and cease to exist, our water merges in with the infinite ocean where we are immersed thus becoming the content of the Water Bearer again.

There can be no limits in an infinite being. Therefore, there can be no limits in the Water Bearer. Water Bearer is not a recipient, it IS the infinite ocean. And we are also our inner, personal infinite oceans, which are nothing but a fraction of the original infinite ocean. However, we are encased in a bottle. And that is what causes all the confusion: we can only perceive the bottle and thus fully identify with it. But bottles have consciousness and if you dare to shake a bottle and pay close attention, you will feel its contents moving, softly at first, then forcefully. Legends even say that if you keep shaking the bottle, the contents will one day burst out in ecstasy and the bottle will become water, water encased in a fictitious recipient that all will continue to see but you.

Barriers will be shattered. The spell will be broken. Our water will merge into the infinite ocean. And the Water Bearer will continue to fill bottles with water from the infinite ocean.

The Game of Life

Don’t seek happiness, seek Truth

It is useless to seek happiness. Happiness is not a goal by itself and that is why it can never be reached if we place it as our ultimate life purpose or wish. Happiness is a side effect of flowing with life, that is, living life according to our original plan.

And how do we find out about this mysterious original plan, provided that it does exist at all? Surely it doesn’t come attached to our birth certificate! To answer this question satisfactorily, probably you will need a little leap of faith, for the plan seems to be forgotten just before we are incarnated and so it is pretty much impossible to prove it factually. Or you can carefully observe life and its manifold daily messages and start tying up loose ends. Moreover, you can honestly watch yourself to see what parts of your life resonate with your essence (a sure source of happiness) and which parts do not resonate with you but you still abide by (a certain source of misery). If you try this, I am sure you will soon arrive to some stunning conclusions about the existence of some kind of preconceived plan.

The plan is as simple as following your Truth. Therefore, the path is unique for each one of us for it is a path that leads to ourselves, to noticing what is being manifested through a human body: emotions, feelings, thoughts, desires, and drives, and then beyond the human body, that is, our essence. When you learn how to manage all these “expressions”, you realize they have nothing to do with you, they are just passing guests and not the real you, the original one that never changes (that is basically what essence means).

Unfortunately, more often than not, we allow desires, emotions, etc., to run our lives and end up doing things that have little in common with our real nature or, in a figurative sense, walking along paths that are not our path. That is why the material will not give us enduring happiness since it is sourced out of a fleeting desire that will be finished before you even notice.

The key to all this is mindful, objective self-observation and endless discrimination.

“I am miserable. Why am I miserable? Because I feel lonely. Why do I feel lonely? Because I need somebody to share my life with. Why do you need somebody? Because I have accepted the belief that being with somebody will make me happy”.

Is this your Truth? Do you really think that you are going to find happiness just by sharing your life with another being? Or is it just a nice fairy tale you have created out of thin air or some romantic movie?

I am not trying to convince anybody here. I am just suggesting that you ask questions, honest questions and see where they take you instead of plunging into despair or bottling up your emotions and continuing as if nothing has happened.

If you let life lead the course, you will be living according to your inner Truth; and happiness will be your companion.

LIFE HAPPENS…HAPPEN WITH LIFE!

The Game of Life

Won’t you pick the Pearl over the Shell>

From the windows at the House of Dharma, I see shells scattered along the beach. They are beautiful shells despite their obvious irregularities, strange shapes, ashy tones, and rough textures. They are not about becoming the most beautiful shell in the ocean but about protecting and sheltering their passenger inside. So, they may not be gorgeous to look at but they surely are hard, strong and totally capable of performing their role in nature.

Pearls don’t develop their prized flawlessness because of their strong casing. Furthermore, nobody really cares about the casing once the pearl arrives at the market. The making of a good pearl normally involves years of careful attention and immaculate patience; it is a daily task of tireless self-awareness, ever watching which faults need mending, ever looking for an aspect that needs to be improved. It is an inside job, inside the shell that is, away from the multitudes at the beach, never thinking of the prize that will eventually be paid at the market once the job is completed. This is how nature works…

From the windows at the House of Dharma, I see bodies scattered along the beach. They are beautiful bodies, ripped through years of devotional work-ups, lean through years of devotional diets.  As the oyster, there is a divine jewel that shines inside every one of those bodies, its effulgence a million times more striking than the best-defined six-pack on the beach.

Then, why so much infatuation on steel biceps and ultra-flexible backs, on gymnastic cabrioles and open chests, on upside down stances and physical feats? Why so much chiseling, so much pampering, so much beautification? Surely a healthy, strong body is paramount. We don’t want our bodies to crash the same as the pearl doesn’t want its shell to crack. But what good is it really doing to us to be so focused on this body that, as the shell, will eventually be discarded?

How are we to truly understand this mysterious trip called life if we never care for the needs of the passenger inside? How are we going to find full satisfaction in trying to keep young and alive something that is bound to be reduced to dust? How is the cultivation of the body going to bring any kind of real polishing at the level of the mind? How can methods, techniques or programs, no matter whether they are physical, therapeutic, energetic or spiritual, help our inner passenger understand his role which is far from rationality? Why do we devote so much time to the dry, temporary crust and so little to the juicy, everlasting filling? This is how the ego works…

The Game of Life

Dharma

As I prepare myself to write this blog entry, I cannot but think of Krishna’s words to Arjuna when the brave warrior is despairing before battle: “You have the right to work but never to the fruit of your work”.

Dharma is a big word, maybe too big for us to understand its profound implications in just one lecture, a one-week seminar, or even in a lifetime. Most of us earthlings spend our lives trying to figure out what we are doing on this spinning rock– at least those of us who are curious enough to venture beyond the realm of the senses. And the answer always seems too vague, too unattainable, or maybe too simple for our relentless thirst for fame and adventure.

If we really want to discover which path we are to take on this mysterious journey, it is better we begin by letting go off any preconceptions about our route, illusions about our travel companions, and expectations about our destination. Once we do that, we should simply start walking and try to feel whether this is the right or wrong path for us. This can only be accomplished by stepping out of our comfort zone, which means bidding farewell to big brother Logic and his sister Memory who have been influencing our decisions since time immemorial. Fearful as it may seem, there may be no other way to understand the ways of Dharma but trusting our intuition. At this point, some may argue that their intuition is desperately in need of a good tune-up, but even those should not despair as the Eternal One has graciously arranged the stars, lines of the palm, and other elements in nature as pages in the book of Creation, where avid magic readers can dexterously decipher the original purpose of our trip to planet Earth.

Once the path is known, the wise words of the Gita can lead us into an aspect of the journey which is infinite times more important than the type of path we are walking on. The Gita’s words present a direct challenge to the highest thoughts of the lower mind, defying the ego to dissolve into the inscrutable mist of destiny. We are allowed any action without reservation but not what comes out of that action. This means living the eternal present without room for dreams, hopes, or expectations, simply hopping from one moment to the next, always unaware, always expectant, always starting afresh. Could we detain the inexorable flow of time and decay if we decided to remain in one moment at all times? Is that part of Krishna’s message? Just by posing these questions I am already jumping ahead and demanding the fruit of work. It seems awareness is key, full awareness at all times.

Knowing your Dharma can definitely alleviate a confused and confusing mind; of this, I have no doubt. However, following Krishna’s message of living life as it comes may as well help us uncover our ultimate purpose, for one who flows without reservations will eventually be taken to that place where he is most valuable, to himself and to the rest of creation. Becoming a flow-er (or a flower for that matter) appears to me as a sure, unmistakable way of fulfilling the totality of our personal agenda without forgetting any of the debts we have contracted during previous visits and the promises we have undertaken for this one.

Does this sound as too big a leap of faith? Let’s then return to the battlefield and listen to Krishna’s words of encouragement to the warrior that lives behind our physical heart: “It does not become you to yield to this weakness. Arise with a brave heart and destroy the enemy”.

Photo by Yogesh Pedamkar on Unsplash
The Game of Life

Beware of the Urban Monk

The urban monk sees himself working on his personal evolution through his daily practice. He sees himself caring for his body temple by carefully picking out his daily food. He sees himself attending workshops and seminars to learn how to live an ethical and purposeful life. He sees himself dutifully studying books and attending lectures that help him elevate his spirit. And he sees himself devotedly offering prayers and gratitude to his chosen form of divinity.

Commendable as it looks from the outside, we need to pay close attention to this urban monk since, in his zealous quest to reach the ultimate goal, s/he may unconsciously be following a self-centered path that does ultimately drive him/her to isolation and depression. In this type of spiritual delusion, the urban monk may exclusively enjoy conversations on spiritual matters, avoid most social events, despise former hobbies, and, to a certain extent, see himself as superior on his chosen way of living life. The urban monk works and lives for his spiritual path, thinking that his personal spiritual evolution is all that matters and the only path to true realization.

However, the urban monk needs to understand that this path is the path of the mountain yogi, the renunciate, the wandering mendicant, and not the path of someone still being part of society. If the urban monk is still living in society, it means that his path is still here and needs to be adjusted to the demands of living in society. How does the urban monk understand all this? It may take years of hardships and suffering and denial. Pain is the ultimate teacher when everything else has failed.

A gentler and wiser approach is to start paying attention to the breath, slowly training the mind to focus and refocus on its harmonious rhythm. We follow it as pelicans follow their leader on their beautiful flying formations. One day, the breath gently invites us to notice our senses and later on to notice our emotions, and finally to notice how we interact with the world around us.

And it is then, and only then, that the urban monk will able to understand that all those years he had spent working on his personal evolution through daily practices and workshops and prayer and study and meditation had kept him blind from what was really being requested from him. And it is then that he will be able to finally see himself intentionally listening when his attention is needed; and he will see himself uninterestedly helping when his assistance is needed; and he will see himself preaching only when his counsel is needed; and he will see himself observing his emotions before he instinctively jumps into fear, anger or judgement. He will see the world around him as the divine coliseum where the game of his own evolution is being played.

And he will finally understand. He will understand that all those years of focusing on his personal growth have led him into a state of isolation, a most peculiar form of egotism where his quest for enlightenment or happiness had blinded him from the needs of any other creature beyond himself. And he will understand that, even though, he was always preaching about the world being ONE, he was continually failing at the opportunity of placing the needs of others before his own needs. He will understand that too much “personal training” leads to separation whereas too much mindfulness on daily affairs leads to communion.

And then he will focus on mindfully observing every situation he faces in life. It is only there that he can put his training to work. He will still “train” whenever he can, when he has the time, when his mindful observation advises. Training will still be there but it won’t occupy the core of his being anymore. It will be replaced by involvement in the details and messages of life and the creatures that play a role in the game of life. He will no longer be lost in the technique, in himself. Things will finally start to make sense and then he will be able to understand that growth comes only from playing in front of an audience, not from eternally rehearsing in front of a mirror.

LIFE HAPPENS…HAPPEN WITH LIFE!