Samsâra is a beautiful Sanskrit word well-known in Indian cultures meaning “wandering-on”. In Hinduism it refers to the cyclicality of life, matter, and existence; the journey of the soul. In Buddhism it is the suffering-laden cycle of life, death, and rebirth, without beginning or end; liberation from this impermanent cycle of existence would be to reach Nirvana, Heaven, or Moksha. Samsâra is suggested to be the foundation and most important purpose of life; that of attaining Enlightenment.
Enlightenment according to Emmanuel Kant is “man’s emergence from his self-imposed nonage”. Nonage meaning immaturity or youth. So then it seems that throughout our lives, even in the later years, most are still encumbered with an immature mind. However, without understanding the basis of Enlightenment, one might be stressed to believe that they have indeed known a man or woman with much wisdom and maturity, but does this maturation fall under the idea of what it is to be Enlightened? Kant continues by explaining that “nonage is self-imposed if its cause lies not in lack of understanding but in the indecision and lack of courage to use one’s own mind without another’s guidance”, and so it is the motto of the enlightened to have the courage to use your own understanding.
But what exactly does having the courage to use your own understanding mean? To attest to its simplistic nature we must look at whose understanding we are using if not our own. Is it not true that we use books to help us form understandings that dictate our reasoning? Albeit, reading is a form of entertainment, but what of the knowledge in these books if we weren’t to elicit reasoning? Are we not all drawing on the experience of authors, writers, playwrights and the like to form our conclusions as we reason our way through life? The doctor who prescribes medicine that is a decree to my well-being, or the priest who acts as my conscience, the nutritionist who tells me what I should eat, and so on; then I have no need to exert myself. No need to examine, reflect, or resolve. It is a freedom traded in for directions from assumed well-versed professionals, not lending a second thought to our inner-selves as to why we are turning over our inherent right to look within ourselves for understanding. It is not, however, my opinion to deem these crafts as impractical or we as a society incompetent. I run in the same herd as the rest of humanity. But let us, for a moment, focus on the appointed authority to whom we have traded our innate freedoms in for guidance.
Let yourself imagine for a moment, drawing yourself back into the past, meandering along a lane littered with damp undulating cobblestones in the old town of London. The humid air kept heavy under the bleak mass of silvery clouds and on either side of you stand tall wooden gantries holding up tattered entrances to dilapidated barrooms, shops and the occasional brothel. As you maneuver your way through the hustle of the bustling street you notice a small rickety stage to your right and it’s owner, a puppeteer, preparing a short performance. You curiously pause deciding whether to attend when, without warning, the show begins. You note the care and attention given to each of the actors in his performance. The scrutiny and attention given to each detail of the puppets he masterfully jaunts across the battered stage in an orchestra of preconceived life-like movements contrived from the delicate fluttering of muscles in his hands and fingers. Each subtle pull of the puppet strings triggering an authentic response to which the audience oohs and aahs as the play unfolds. His mind effortlessly reconstructing the motions of an action script he has reenacted a thousand times over.
Strings attached to prevent the docile and delicate puppets from opposing his instruction and imperfectly taking action on their own mindless behalf. It is the puppeteers’ professional authority to prevent and thus help the mindless puppets from making a single move without the leading-strings to which they are fastened. The danger of not being attached would be the failure of the play for which his livelihood depends. Obvious now, you see the correlation to the current state of humanity. We are shown or told of impending danger should the strings become unfastened, threatening us all if we would perhaps, in this circumstance, try to perform on our own without the strings. But it is conceivable, while the minimal danger of stumbling exists, we would at last learn to play our own roles. However, the lessons of such failures subdue and discourage all further attempts. Thus, as is the status quo, it is not only tricky to recognize the strings, but difficult to pull ourselves from the nonage we are accustomed to by being strung up by them.
Allegory of the Cave, presented in Plato’s Republic, also captures this unwillingness to seek out the truth of life for ourselves. We choose to accept what has been presented to us rather than exerting ourselves by looking for truth elsewhere. The images of life dancing on the cave walls while shackled to others came with an implied certitude from their masters that this is all there was. When the opportunity to leave the cave presented itself, they simply did not grasp an awareness that there could be something more, and thus lacked the courage to understand that they were prisoners. Credos, dogmas, doctrines, teachings, all tools and learned mechanisms designed to put our focus on how we should live our lives or what is acceptable; suffocating our natural gifts and falsely binding us to the impermanence of nonage permanently.
I’m not writing this article to convince you to do anything. This article, like any other I write, is an infinitesimal piece of knowledge that will not mean anything unless you decide that it has meaning. I enjoy writing about ideas with elusive answers by which no concrete judgments can be made. A cosmos of ideas and the foundations on which they have been cast are constantly melding into different translations. This is a muse.
The pleasure principle is the instinctual seeking of pleasure and avoiding pain; In the early years of our lives our behavior is dictated by the pleasure principle, pursuing the instant gratification of our needs. It isn’t until later in our lives that as maturity develops, we learn to endure the pain of deferred gratification. However, I think we can all agree that no matter where we are at in our maturity levels, individually, we are all in the pursuit of happiness. We pursue this happiness “out there” as if happiness is a commodity. We have become slaves to our own desires and cravings. Humanity has been conditioned to think that happiness is something that can be pursued or purchased, and the constant thinking about how to get what we want is an epidemic in today’s society.
It is this thinking sense that we have been conditioned to nurture and cultivate throughout our lives. The incessant need for information in order to reason. The Egyptian Eye of Horus depicts six human senses; five of which we are accustomed to but according to the Eye of Horus we have mislabeled thought as something other than a sense. A sense is defined as “a faculty by which the body perceives an external stimulus”; and by its very nature, is a reaction to something external from ourselves. If we follow this law of nature, then thought is simply a reaction to external stimuli. If you require an example, then you only need to look at the words in which you are seeing and the reaction that this external stimuli has created in your mind.
Is the true nature of our reality really about the hunt for the happiness that all of our senses perceive and condition us to strive for as the pleasure principle suggests? The horsepower under the hood of a car we just saw in a television commercial? A pair of shoes that will match our shirt the next time we go out to impress? The job that will allow us to purchase that bigger house our partner wants? The phone that has a bigger display than the one I already have? Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology, was once quoted as saying “one who looks outside, dreams. One who looks inside, awakes”. We, as a global civilization, are on the precipice of a consciousness shift that will change the landscape of our minds environment, we simply have no other avenues by which our minds can travel. The word human is derived from the Latin words hummus (from the Earth) and humanus (humane, civilized, refined), however the phrase Human Being wasn’t coined until the 18th century. The term being can simply be described as a state of presence, existence, or the overall physical condition. We are not human doing, or human sitting, but a human being as it refers to a state of presence or existence.
The notion of being relies on a connection to our inner self. The loss of this connection has caused an imbalance in our society. “Know thyself” has been replaced with a desire to experience the world outside of ourselves. Who am I? We all want answers, a purpose, but the truth of who you are does not need an answer. You are not your mind. The truth lies, not in more answers, but in less questions. Am I looking for the meaning of life, or just the experience of being alive? The state of being awake? All religions, as mentioned above have a name for being awake, it is Nirvana, Moksha, Heaven, etc. Our senses only give us indirect information. Our notions about this mind-made physical world are always filtered through the senses, and therefore, always incomplete. This thought sense has been given such a high status, that we identify ourselves with our thoughts. However, trying to explain to you that thought is a sense is like explaining water to a fish.
A suffering-laden life seems to be a preconceived notion of what lies ahead of all of us in this cycle. Nonetheless, circumstances do not matter, only the state of my consciousness matters. Meditation in Sanskrit literally means to be free of measurement, comparison, and all becoming. It is the idea of not trying to become something else, only that you are okay with what is. Whatever you resist, persists. The more you resist something, the stronger it gets. Like the exercising of a muscle, you are actually strengthening the very thing you wish to eradicate. The way to rise above the suffering of this sense-driven realm is to embrace it fully so it becomes something within you, rather than you being something within it.