Tag Archives: awareness

Consciousness Courage Personal Growth Relationships

The allegory of the cave

Below is a video representation of a very popular and interesting allegory(A story that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning) by Plato called, The Allegory of the Cave. Different people might arrive at different meanings from it and that makes it even more interesting. Go through it once if you will.

When I first came across this allegory, it re-raised some of the questions I have faced before. I will discuss them in short but, for those who decided to skip the video, …

A short description

In short, there are people inside a cave who are tied in a way that they cannot see the entrance to the cave. They have been in this state for ever. They only see some shadows forming on the opposite wall and think these shadows are real(as opposed to being caused by something else). One of these people becomes free and goes outside the cave for a while. He gets to see that shadows are not real and are caused by other ‘real’ objects. He sees the world, the sun, the Earth, different forms of life… everything.

After getting this better understanding of reality, he decides to go back to the cave where his former friends are. Because it is dark inside, he has difficulty seeing things. His friends are busy discussing the shadows they see. They notice that the enlightened one cannot see as well as before.

When he tells his freinds that what they are seeing is unreal and that these shadows are infact caused by some other things, they laugh at him. They say he made a fruitless effort to go outside and check things. The only thing he managed was a poor eye sight. When he persists, they fear he will corrupt others and decide to kill him.

This allegory, among other important insights, shows what effect an individual’s improvement in wisdom has on his relationship with others around him.

Here are some questions that this allegory raised in my mind –

Should the enlightened one return to the cave?

Should the enlightened one go back to the cave, knowing that trying to talk sense into the people there can be dangerous?

Maybe you can relate to his plight. Maybe you have progressed in life and have now come to a place where, when you look back to the people you were once among, you feel they are burdened by a lot of illusions, fears, myths etc. Would you go back to them and try to help them see reality in a better light? Would you try to improve their lives at the risk of being misunderstood, mocked or worse, punished? Or would you leave those ignorant and ungrateful people behind, knowing that trying to help them can backfire on you, and just move on ahead in your life?

If you decide to go back, do you think you will be able to cope with the loneliness of being the odd one out? Would you be able to cope with the initial suspicion and hostility? Would you be able to cope with the uncertainty?

In other words, would you be, what Plato calls, the sun who provides life to all creation by burning itself in the process?

Or maybe you have decided not to go back. Do you think you are generally happy with your life? Do you feel satisfied and feel no pull towards your past?

Probably a middle path can be carved out. But what could be such a path, that ensures your safety(to whatever extent it can be ensured) while you still try to help people? And you will still be leaving a lot of comfort and security, and accepting discomfort and doubts.

The wise man’s burden? Is it?

Do you really know better or is it just your ego?

And how does one know (s)he is enlightened?

Does making more money make you enlightened? Do you become enlightened just by spending more time on this Earth? Does seeing different people and experiencing different cultures make you enlightened? And correspondingly, those who don’t go out too much(but probably look a lot inside), are they necessarily unenlightened?

If you think about this allegory, the people sitting inside the cave also believe they know reality. In real life, all of us think we understand things well enough. Things are probably more clear to us about the allegory because we are observing the events in third person, because the illusion here is about something we all agree upon(whether shadows are real objects or formed by something else) and find very simple to understand. But when we are among people and are discussing not so obvious things about life, how do we know that we know better than the rest?

Remember that Plato’s Guru, Socrates, said that “All I know is that I know nothing”.

Is the pursuit of enlightenment a path of sorrow?

Does the search of enlightenment and wisdom invariably lead to loneliness and sorrow? Does it necessarily have to invite hostility and mockery from others?

Most spiritual texts might say that ultimate enlightenment takes you to a state of bliss, it takes you away from the sufferings of this mortal world. But then who knows?… As far as can be seen from this allegory, the search of wisdom is not comfortable. It can lead you to your death too. Is it really worth knowing these truths if they result in alienation and mortal danger?

Can ignorance be really bliss? If you believe ignorance is bliss, then, once you are out of the cave, would you wish you had not gone out. Would you wish you were just sitting there with your old friends, discussing the nature of the shadows and anticipating what would come next, feeling very smart in the process? If you coveat ignorance, would you really want to be an ignorant child again, believing in fairy tales, ghosts and what not, dependant totally on your parents and guardians for sustenance in the real world?

*****

For this post, I felt like not providing my own ideas on the questions raised. I just wanted to raise some doubts and questions in your mind and then leave you to grapple with these questions, ponder over them and see what answers appeal to you. I would love to read your thoughts in comments below.

Until next time…

Career Motivation

Midway through the journey

For most of us, adult life begins with following what everyone else is doing. We trudge on along the beaten path, hoping to find our happiness somewhere on the way. But, with time, many realize that their calling lies in a different direction. Often this realization seems to lead us away from the masses and towards an unbeaten path. The uncertainty and possible perils of such a journey induce intimidation and fear in most. Most will never dare on this path.

There may have been times when you broke out of your comfortable shell and took on this unbeaten path. You saw a light in the distance and felt attracted to it. There probably was some hesitation, you were scared. But your determination and curiosity were greater. You drew a deep breath, summoned all your courage and broke out of the herd, all alone.

The path was long. You made plans, you followed them diligently, you became a daring adventurer. The new direction aligned with your heart and the journey gave you a sense of freedom. You felt alive!

You probably haven’t reached the light yet. The journey is still on. The initial enthusiasm has probably come down slowly. You enjoy the journey none the less and accept the reality of it. The uncertainty of this journey doesn’t scare you, you have made peace with it and accept it as a part of the trade.

But ever so often, you find yourself on the cross roads again. Doubts start creeping up. You come to a place where you are not sure which way to go. You feel unsure whether it was a wise decision to have come on this path, you are not sure which of the multiple direction that you see here you should follow. Maybe the light that seemed so clearly in the beginning has become a little hazy, maybe it has become a little less attractive.

Should you just turn back and try to find your way back to the direction of the crowd? On one hand, you enjoy adventure, you feel that you can not enjoy the drudgery of following the masses. You do not want to go back to something you don’t like and accept defeat in the process. On the other hand, you are not sure whether you want to keep moving forward.

Should you accept defeat? Or should you carry on?….

Ego self

First and foremost, I think the question above is the voice of the ego self. Your ego holds itself higher than others(because of the courage you had shown earlier) and does not want to ‘fall’ back to their level. Also, it is afraid of what will happen on the current lonely path. It is scared of staying without control, of not knowing what to do next. It is scared that the heart will lead you to doom.

Doubts and growth

The path of the heart is not a one way ticket to doom. It has scary moments, when you become clueless or when you fail in a grand way. You start doubting your heart when it leads you to confusion. But confusion is not bad. These recurring moments, when you are unsure of yourself and your life, are moments of learning and growth. You probably have better questions now than the last time you were in doubt. You may not have reached your dream goal but you have improved, you have learned and you have grown. There are more steps to go. You will get there in time.

If you focus solely on being in control, on finding answers, you may loose the lessons. Being humble, open and receptive will help you in assimilating new lessons and insights. Be ready to be surprised pleasantly by the new avenues that come up. It is sometimes in these moments of loosing control, in these moments when the intellect starts shutting down, that quantum leaps in growth happen. You may witness a sudden rise in your sinking enthusiasm levels, you may find new meanings in life.

Less money on this path?

Some fear their heart will always lead them to lesser money. The heart only leads you to that which you truly enjoy, and that may mean taking on lesser paying jobs for some(not for all). But think about it, it is happiness that you ultimately want. If you are getting it with lesser money, why would you want more? In fact, more money than is necessary can cause a lot of unhappiness, since you will be worried about handling it properly.

Of course, if it is expensive things that you find happiness in, your heart will lead you to it.

In any case, it will make sure you take care of your basic needs, it will take care that you do not starve or do not loose true and close friends.

What your heart might make you loose is doing things to just comply with social norms, trying to appease others, to fit in. It will take you to what you, as your unique self, will most enjoy your life with.

Aliveness and the heart

In a sense, moments of doubt are also moments that make you feel more alive than ever. If you just allow them, these moments often lead to such crystal clarity that you again start working with passion and enthusiasm. That is something a lot of people would give anything for, for they have lived safe lives that have now become meaningless and directionless. They can not, for the life of them, realize what’s wrong? Why do they not feel enthusiastic about their lives when they have all the comforts and securities one could ask for? They crave for the enthusiasm you have gained by braving your doubts.

Urge to quickly define things

When in doubt, you may have a strong urge to reason things out in your mind. You may find a solution with all this thinking, or, as often happens, you may find that no solution is forthcoming, no matter how much you push your intellect.

This overpowering urge to be in complete control, to have all the answers often makes us want to jump to conclusions, especially when they are about ourselves. We try to quickly define, name and label ourselves and our situation, and find security in these explanations.

Unfortunately, trying to define things does more harm than good. We are looking for the truths of our life. But the thing is, truth and reality are fluid, they are constantly changing. If we give ourselves a definition(I am good at such and such, this or that is not my cup of tea), we instantly limit ourselves. Also, these definitions are usually very extreme as they are inspired by our fears.

Uncertainty is the way of life, especially on the path of our heart. Seeking security and complete control won’t help here, what may help is faith…

Faith and hanging on

Above and beyond confusion, when your mind is totally clouded and intellect seems to be failing in providing an answer, what matters is your faith. What matters is carrying on with a deep connection to yourself such that you neither beat yourself up and try too hard for an answer, nor leave the effort completely. You sort of hang on. You have no idea absolutely of what is best now. But you hang on with faith and you stay connected to your Inner Self. You hang on with alertness and full awareness, ready for the solution to show up.

And when the solution shows up, you follow it, whether it takes you in the same direction, a new one, or leads you back to where you came from, the masses.

Until next time…

Image: anankkml

Consciousness Experiences

Your camera or your happiness?

Recently, I went to a beautiful hill station here in India. I visited some popular tourist attractions and took a bunch of pictures.

Once back, I made a collection of the pictures I liked and shared them on Facebook(FB). Now if you are on FB, you can probably relate to the satisfaction one can get out of the likes one’s pictures receive.

But when I was taking those pictures and, later, as I was seeking those likes on FB, I felt something was not quite right with the activity. There was something bothering me but I didn’t know what. read more »

Experiences Wellness

The Joy of Bathing

There is something very conscious about lifting a mug of cold water and pouring it over your head. Thought subsides and you become present in that moment.

For me, a bath is a rendezvous with liveliness. It refreshes me and induces me to activity, it takes away stress and leaves me positive. read more »