Questions are part of human life. As we evolved with time, along with many other things our questions also increased. In this case it is more about cognitive evolution than biological one. As we became smarter, we asked more questions. With every answer, we opened up the way for many new questions. The more we started to look outward, from house, to locality, to village, to region to country, to continents, to the planet and beyond, more we realized that there is more out there than we know. The universe is only as big as we know. As cognition development started, we started to think about various new questions; how can we catch more meat, how can I harvest more, how can I build safe houses, why is sky blue or who cause rains and thunder to happen?
In old times, communities created specific gods e.g. Gods of rain (Indra in Hinduism and Greek’s Zeus), Gods of war (Kartikeya in Hinduism and Greek’s Ares) and so on. These Gods helped to answer some questions which otherwise could not be explained. On the other hand they also became a source of believe for a specific problem. As the stories kept on changing with time, came along the single, all powerful God. This was one-size-fit-all solution for any problem or some unanswerable questions to people, especially kids. If one happens to get into some philosophical argument, then most often than not end of it maybe with a question, “Are you God!” or with a statement, “I am no God who knows everything”. This was and is valid for majority of the people following the wide spread idea of “religion”. Some of them were not satisfied with “all is God’s will” type of answer. So they got creative and invented “Spirituality” and “Enlightenment“. Some find it related to relgions and others independent. Oddly enough, all famous enlightened person are self-declared or the “new people” put them into that category. For this group of people, nothing much changed in high-level discussion and debates. Just that their final question changed to “Are you enlightened!”
Once I was at a meditation community for some time. To take the opportunity of meditative environment, I decided to remain more silent than usual. I did not know exactly why, but it was just a thought which came to me while I was going there. Maybe it was a kind of social experiment with no hypothesis to prove, whatsoever, but take any output that becomes available. There are probably many different practices of meditation and some may argue about it’s exact meaning and purpose as well. At this place it was about awareness and letting go. The day I reached there, I realized that people teaching awareness to others are completely unaware when making even a simple statement. Either they make simple contradiction in the statement or their action is in contradiction with the statement. It is good to observe as an outsider, but it might be a disappointment, if one is a follower. But, then may be follower is not aware either. Anyways, in general it was still a good time there.
One day, all the people of community got called to a common session. It was apparently a tradition/ritual for the place. Everybody comes to meet each other and share some experiences. To explain to the new comers, they decided to do an exercise. People were put in pairs together in a way that pairs know as less about each other as possible. All organization was done and I got paired with a lady from the community itself. We got explained that, we need to share with other person some deep problem(s) that we have for a certain amount of time. The second person will only listen, without interruption but full attention. Once the time is over, same would be repeated in reverse. Even during the explanation, I was wondering what can I say to share any problem. Even more important, why would I suddenly start talking about my problem with some random person, especially when I do not get any response. It is almost as good as talking to a wall or a mirror. I was struggling with these thoughts and searching hard for any problem that I have worth sharing. I tried all directions of life, ran as fast I could in my mind-map but nothing. It is not that there are no problems, but what would I gain, telling someone about my back pain, when she is no doctor or any such thing to do something to fix it. Those few moments felt like too long running and chasing various times and situations in my life. Before, I could reach anything, the bell rang and the game started.
I hoped that lady would tell me something. But that was just me being naïve. The instructor (In) would always make the student make the attempt. So dialog began with the question and kind of went like this
In: So, tell me what problem(s) you would like to share?
Me: Well…. I don’t know…. Jeeeezz…. All seems to be good. Spring is here, air is fresh, sun is shining, birds are singing, flowers are blooming. Things looks to be good, right?
In: No, I am not talking about this, tell me about your problems.
Me: Oh! Well… I see things are good on my side as well. Life is beautiful.
In: So, you have no problems in your life now. Or any problems you had before.
Me: Well, does not seems so and got no regrets about past. Anyways why bother about it.
In: So, no problem at work? You always had good things going. Never had problems with colleagues, boss etc.
Me: Well, yes, there are always problems there. This is why I work to solve them! Otherwise my job won’t be there. Why to complain about that?
In (Started to get annoyed): I cannot believe you. What about your parents? Never any arguments with you or something you do not align with.
Me: Ofcourse we do not align on many things. But, it’s their way of looking at life. I live my life my way. Paths do not go parallel, but no 2 people have same paths, what to say about generations!
In(little more aggression in voice): This is ridiculous! What if you say something or do something, which I did not like and I am hurt. What would you say to me?
Me (in test mode now): Nothing! It is past! It is gone! Nothing can be done about it. Only person holding on to past is you. If you want you can drop it. What can I do about it?
In: No, but I am in pain now. And it is because of you. Won’t you say anything to me?
Me: (By now I was thinking, may be I should say that this discussion is the latest problem in my life). Well, as I said before. This is the pain you are holding on to. Mine was only an action. If I did it intentionally to cause you pain, then saying anything is waste and meaningless. If I did it unintentionally, without knowing, even then saying or doing anything is a mere formality, a facade. You are holding on to the pain with an expectation that I would apologise or do something to pacify you. Just let go of that attachment and problem is solved.
In: (completely frustrated) So, you are a person with no emotions, no emotions at all. You do not care what happens to others because of you.
Me: Well, I think I do have emotions. Just that I handle my emotions in a different way. That is the only thing I can do. I got no right on somebody’s else emotions. And these also come and go, why stay attached to them?
In: (Enraged) So, Are you enlightened? Have you reached the level where you are connected with everyone and “the one”.
Me: (Suddenly surprised by the question) Well… I do not know… and I do not care about that either. You are in this field, maybe you know better.
In: (Totally Lost) I would not like to live with an emotionless person. If I had a situation, I would never choose to live with you.
Me: Thanks. We are in complete alignment on that and I got no complaints with it. I hope it does not cause any other problem to you!
This was a really amazing interaction for me. As an observer and as participant it was very intense. It was not easy to keep listening to myself while struggling with these strange questions. At least for me, this discussion is realization of what I wrote before. The imaginary entities that we created made it easy to come out of such discussions. Only difference is who use this trump card last. Be it the milk drinking statues in India or crying mother lady statues in west, be it the mythological entities or almighty God or any other form of fictional story, it gave mankind a way to bring closure to many discussions.
In this case, it is surprising that how easily, the very concepts the meditation groups propagate vanishes to exist in their day-to-day life. Are you enlightened is the same or atleast similar (to be diplomatic) as saying are you a God?. Both are cognitive believes and there is no way to verify. It works only, if enough number of people start to believe in a statement or enough people would start to believe even without my saying anything. Same works the opposite way as well. One person who holds the status of being enlightened or God can lose that status when the number of people following this belief story falls below a critical threshold. Take examples of greek Gods giving away their status to new Gods or any scandal involving any Spiritual leader.
As we continue to progress on our cognitive evolution path, we may find more questions and more fictional stories. The new Gods today will be replaced by new Gods of tomorrow. The ultimate questions of today may also be replaced by questions of tomorrow. In fact some are already in existence e.g. in the world of science, one can always say, “Are you an Einstein!”. I do not know how the world will change with new developments of robotics and artificial intelligence. But, I hope with all those changes we still keep on smiling. Maybe one day, we move away from arguing over whose fictional story is better, but rather can enjoy the new change while sharing our smiles.
A mechanic sold a car he had fixed up and repaired to his friend, Mulla Nasrudin. The next day he was sorry he sold it, so he went to see the Mulla. “I will buy the car back from you,” he said, “and give you fifty dollars’ profit.” So Nasrudin sold him the car. The following day, he looked up the mechanic. “I am sorry I sold the car back to you,” the Mulla said. “I will give you seventy-five dollars’ profit for it.” So the Mulla bought the car back. The next day, the mechanic was sorry he sold it and bought it back again, giving Nasrudin one hundred dollars profit. The following day, the Mulla came to buy it back, but learned that the mechanic had sold it to a used-car dealer. “YOU DOPE! WHY DID YOU SELL IT TO A STRANGER?” said Nasrudin, “ESPECIALLY WHEN WE WERE BOTH MAKING SUCH A WONDERFUL LIVING OUT OF IT.”