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June 14, 2006

Clear and Present Observation

I checked-in the session by paraphrasing a quote from The book of books by Osho:

Knowledge is objective and is about the external world. Wisdom is subjective and is the knowledge of the knower.

Prasad said that a repeated experience he has been having brought to his attention the difference between being knowledgeable vs. being wise.

He said that he had to deal with four incidences of minor car accidents that did some damage to his cars in a period of 6 months. In each incident, he said he took a decision in a way that would be favorable and convenient for the other person who hit his car. He was trying to be nice, friendly and helpful to others and tried to take decisions that would have the least impact on them.
On the external level, he said those decisions and actions could be described as �compassionate�. But many of them did not pan out that way and he ended up having to pay for repairs and others took advantage of his attitude.

Internally, when he checked within himself, he said that he detected a seed of selfishness in favoring others and a need for approval and he wanted to be �nice� to others. He said that he had a need to appear generous in his own eyes because he has been trying to practice generosity.

Reflecting on these incidents, he recognizes that he needs to discriminate when to be helpful and when to be quiet, when to be generous and when to be stingy. When he uses generosity as a filter, it is like using �generosity� as a baseball bat to hit others or being mechanical and mindless. In other words, any knowledge, attitude or process � when they become a recipe � are not very useful. When you begin to know yourself and how you have created a recipe, then you have hope to be wise someday. The discrimination and awareness of ones role are critical in developing wisdom, he said. When I do things to get what I want without looking at what others want, then I am being very selfish even though the act might appear generous. People notice that and they reject your generosity because they don�t want your charity. It is demeaning for them, he said.

�In most of my actions,� Prasad said, �I� am present (that is, my ego) without any awareness of the total context. How do I remove �I� from the equation and how do I gain perspective on the scenario? If wisdom is the knowledge of the knower then the first step to wisdom is to be a sakshi (witness) of oneself. A sincere, unwavering observation of oneself shines light on the ego and it disappears being an issue because the light of self-knowledge and darkness of ego cannot co-exist at the same time. Of course, once I am out of that scenario, the wisdom is forgotten and the ego is back. So it is not having memory or knowledge that helps but being aware and being present as a witness is critical.

Jay checked in by saying that he is looking forward to his last day in his current company. Though he quit is job and knew this is coming, he said that the actual last date is creating a little bit of discomfort but otherwise he is largely relaxed. He said that he has been curious about what is creating that discomfort and how he could deal with it.

Rudrasen checked in by saying that he is on a two month sabbatical and is going on vacation to Italy with his wife and son. Originally, he thought that he would go to a place like Italy much later in the future. But when he looked at when that future might happen, he suddenly realized that if he doesn�t go now, the chances in future is very less.

He said that he has also been re-looking at his career and feels it is time to put all the cards on the table � including his degree and experience. And find out what he really wants to do.

Ten years ago, he said, because he took a firm decision to go to the US and work in a big firm, he could overcome all the odds and do it. Now he said that it is time for him to take another firm decision related to his career.

The way he decided to go to Italy for vacation seems to be indicative of the way he is looking at his career too.

I said that one of things I have been thinking for a week is the difference between conceptual clarity and experiential clarity. When I come to a conceptual clarity, usually I am able to extend that clarity to other concepts, see connections and expand my clarity. But when I have had a clear experience of something, usually I find it difficult to transfer that clarity to another experience.

It is as if, every single experience is highly unique and one cannot extract a generalized lesson from it that one can apply in other situations.

For example, I started following a practice of setting up multiple alarms in my cell phone to alert me throughout the day. Every time it vibrates, I decided to check whether I was mindful in whatever I was doing.

When I started practicing this, I came across many problems. Since each time it rings I find myself doing something different, there is no one way for me to check whether I was mindful. It looks as if I could easily cheat myself that I was mindful by looking for a standard set of indicators of mindfulness.

So I asked, �How do I reliably check whether I have been mindful every time my cell phone vibrates?�

Prasad, Jay and Rudra all of them said that I should take it easy and not analyze my mindfulness. They all seemed to be saying that is it probably ok to ask oneself �Am I mindful� but after asking, one should just move on and not stay to analyze it. Because, staying to inquire whether I have been mindful or not would take me towards the conceptual realm and away from being mindful. Prasad also mentioned about being mindful is very different from being �full of mind� and when I analyze the situation, I am no longer in the present, no longer mindful but fully in my past, judgments and expectations. The present moment is long gone.

A few days after the session, I received �thought of the week�, a meditation email that I subscribe to. In it was this thought by Alan Watts:

Now the great deal of talk about the difficulty of action, or the difficulty of concentration, is sheer nonsense. If we are sitting together at a meal, and I say to you, "Please pass the salt" �- you just do it, and there is no difficulty about it. You do not stop to consider the right method. You do not trouble yourself with the problem of how, when you have picked the saltshaker up, you are going to be able to concentrate on it long enough to bring it to my end of the table. Now there is absolutely no difference between this and concentrating the mind�s attention to see into the nature of reality. If you can concentrate the mind for two seconds, you can do it for two minutes, and you can do it for two hours. Of course, if you want to *make* this kind of thing horribly difficult, you begin to think about whether you are concentrating, about how long you have concentrated, and about how much longer you are going to keep it up, All this is totally off the point. Concentrate for one second. If, at the end of this time, your mind has wandered off, concentrate for another second, and then another. Nobody ever has to concentrate for more than one second �- this one. [...]

If you try to watch your mind concentrate, it will not concentrate. And if, when it is concentrated, you begin to watch for the arrival of some insight into reality, you have stopped concentrating. Real concentration is therefore a rather curious and seemingly paradoxical state, since it is at once the maximum of consciousness and the minimum of ego-feeling ... The only way to enter into this state is precipitately �- without delay or hesitation, just to do it.

Well, talk about divine intervention!

Posted by Ragu at June 14, 2006 02:38 PM