Keeping a ‘secret’ is the most difficult thing in the world. When someone is sworn to secrecy, he or she is put under great pressure not to pass it on, particularly if it is a secret that everybody wants to know. ‘Not knowing’ is just as difficult to endure as keeping a secret.
In order to cope with ‘not knowing’, man has developed his faculties of thinking and predicting to such a sophisticated degree that they have become his byword for handling daily life. If it cannot be thought about it is not real; if it cannot be predicted, and with some accuracy, it is not real. Such have become the qualifications for reality.
Man has accepted certain parameters for life, which allow him or her to navigate the course from birth to death. Birth is the start of such a course and death the end. In between these two there exists a host of states and conditions, each of which has considerable influence and validity in its sphere: time, destiny, love, actions, happiness, praise and insult, words, and many others. From where do they derive their authority and power over man’s world?
How are we to understand the course of life that supposedly begins with birth? Surely not by recollecting our own birth, for we have no awareness of that: we only know what we have been told, whilst our awareness of birth of another is provided by the manifestation of a new body and a new mind. So we have no direct experience of the start of the course of our life. Do we have direct experience of its end?
We meet countless experiences whilst we are alive. Some exhilarate us, some depress us, some leave us amazed and some perplex us, provoking serious questions. How are we to understand them?
We wish to repeat some experiences and avoid others; we look for answers. At the heart of all of this is the conviction, or perhaps more accurately, the hope that we can direct and determine events ourselves. When they do not turn out as planned, we may call it failure and resort to blaming, judging and criticizing. Others may call it fate, destiny or the will of God, and so accept the outcome. Is one view right and the other wrong? Who is to say?
Everything is in its place: there are no mistakes in life.
This is not a statement with which we can readily come to terms. Consider the case of the child, who was being taught its first words by its mother. Every time the pet dog came into the house the mother would point to it and say ‘dog’ to the child. This lesson was repeated a number of times until, one day, when an important person happened to be in the house, the dog entered. The child saw it and immediately said ‘dog’! ‘Clever boy!’ applauded the guest. ‘What a clever child you have.’ The mother glowed with pride. A little while later, the pet cat came in. The child pointed to it and exclaimed ‘dog!’ The mother froze. When the guest left, the mother shouted: ‘You silly boy! You made a mistake!’ How are we to understand that the child did not make a mistake?
There is a process of growing in life, a process of evolving, and a process of discovering. The appearance of separate events in life is an optical illusion rather than a reality. But to believe that there are separate events in life, some seen as triumphs, some as disasters, some as successes, some as failures, some filling us with hope, some with fear, is no mistake: it is part of the process of growth, maintained by the power of illusion – a great, magical play.
In this great play there is innocence and there is guilt; there is love and there is hatred; there is misery and there is happiness; there is poverty and there is abundance; there is construction and there is destruction; there is understanding and there is misunderstanding. Who could deny that this is so?
But, in truth, life is a singular flow – there are no gaps, no separate events. Nothing is out of place; everything is in harmony. This is life’s secret - to be shared with everyone. Yet, who knows it? Who would know it?
In this remarkable book ‘The Power of Illusion’ Dr Shankar offers his profound observations and deep understanding of the great play of life.
Peter Julian Capper
MA (Cantab) UK