Sunday, February 13, 2011

Stability and Intensity

Stability (Samatha) - the well shielded lamp, whose flame wont get extinguished and Intensity (Vipasyana) - the intense flame that gives enough light to study the mural in dark (self or selflessness)

These are the two important parameters of meditative state.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

No Fear

"The whole secret of existence is to have no fear. Never fear what will become of you, depend on no one. Only the moment you reject all help are you freed."

- I found this line on this website regarding meditation.

I liked it because it reflects exactly what my mindset and philosophy of life is these days.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Evolution of Mind

Evolution is a continuous struggle to operate more effectively as an organism in a given environment.

If you look at how human beings evolved from microscopic unicellular creatures, you can see that there has always been a struggle to overcome one's basic tendencies to develop responses that can help manage the environment better. That's how we started walking up on two legs, developed opposable thumbs, developed a huge brain, and the sense of self - consciousness.

If you think that evolution is over and that man has reached the peak or apex of what he can be, then you are far from truth. We are still struggling - but what is it that the modern man is struggling against. When I say "modern" over here - its in evolutionary sense, not in our socio-political sense. The man who shifted from being a hunter-gatherer to a farmer some 10000 years ago is as modern for me as man of the twenty first century Anno Domini.

The modern stimulant for evolution is this brilliant evolutionary product called mind and specifically consciousness. The human mind is the "tool" that brings both the best and worst in us. But to understand how the mind can be so significant and how its shaping this evolutionary struggle of present, we have to go back to the origins to understand why the mind came into being in the first place - why did organisms that have a mind, mind about having a mind!

As organisms developed from their hoary unicellular origin, most probably symbiotically becoming more complex organisms - they required a system to manage their interrelationships better and work for the overall good. Every cell struggles to survive and thus the organism which is a complex system of multitudes of such cells reflects but this behavior. Every organismic system is intended to maintain homeostasis i.e. stability and integrity of the system vis-a-vis the environment, metabolism i.e. the process of transforming matter into energy to keep the cell up and running.

As Antonio Damasio has explained in his book "Joy Sorrow and the Feeling Brain" - in more evolved organisms like primates, emotions and feelings developed as a mental heuristic to respond better to the collective survival will of the organism.

On one hand is this existing natural tendency to preserve one's life and promote its well being which in modern sense makes us go after material possessions, to maintain and safeguard them - while at the same time this sense gives rise to fear and anxiety in the brain with regards to losing these material possessions and this fear and anxiety counter-acts the sense of well being, so that we are back to square one.

Also the increasing drive towards material possessions gives progressively lesser and lesser pleasure and one requires more possessions for same amount of pleasure - its akin to addiction to cigarette or drugs - more and more of these give progressively lesser pleasure than earlier.

What we find in society is two extremes so to say - there are on one hand people who go after material possessions and are always ridden with fear and anxiety and also guilt, in case these are ill-gotten possessions. On the other hand there are the abstainers, the ascetics who are so spiritual that they have forsaken all responsibilities of life and expectations. Now if the second category of people are ascetics who have renounced world and gone in some secluded ashram, then perhaps their way of life is in tune with their environment. But most of us are not ready to sacrifice a lot and yet we want a life of happiness, well-being and freedom from anxiety while being in the midst of this world and its chaos. How to manage that - that is the modern evolutionary struggle.