It’s rare for a song to move me emotionally, but ‘There Is A Time’ by the Dillards deeply moves me. It’s a beautiful song.
There is a time for love and laughter
The days will pass like summer storms
The winter wind will follow after
But there is love and love is warm
There is a time for us to wander
When time is young and so are we
The woods are greener over yonder
The path is new the world is free
There is a time when leaves are fallin’
The woods are gray the paths are old
The snow will come when geese are callin’
You need a fire against the cold
So do your roaming in the springtime
And you’ll find your love in the summer sun
The frost will come and bring the harvest
And you can sleep when day is done
When you’re young, there always seems to be greener forests elsewhere, so you’re searching for that experience which will define and fulfill you. You search for the ideal partner, seek fulfillment through a career, dream of traveling to exotic locations, and look for your place in this world. That’s the time for love and laughter, but that will all pass like summer storms. As you get older, those paths that were once exciting when you were young are now well worn; things are colder. Those green woods are now turning brown and the leaves are falling. You can’t wander forever. You do that in the springtime, but there comes a time to finally end the search, regardless of whether you’ve found what you were after or not. Winter is setting in and you’ll have to find your inner fire. You must take what the world has given you and use it to express a deep love that comes from within, no longer relying on outer experience to define and control your happiness. That’s the natural progression. At first you seek outward and explore, and you do that for a season, but then it’s time to return inward. That’s the cycle of growth.
This is a dialog Nisargadatta Maharaj had with a man who came to ask him questions. They ended up having a discussion of the true nature of Self and the Source.
Q: Can the unconditioned be experienced?
M: To know the conditioned as conditioned is all that can be said about the unconditioned. Positive terms are mere hints and misleading.
Q: Can we talk of witnessing the real?
M: How can we? We can talk only of the unreal, the illusory, the transient, the conditioned. To go beyond, we must pass through total negation of everything as having independent existence. All things depend.
Q: On what do they depend?
M: On consciousness. And consciousness depends on the witness.
Q: And the witness depends on the real?
M: The witness is the reflection of the real in all its purity. It depends on the condition of the mind. Where clarity and detachment predominate, the witness-consciousness comes into being. It is just like saying that where the water is clear and quiet, the image of the moon appears. Or like daylight that appears as sparkle in the diamond.
Q: Can there be consciousness without the witness?
M: Without the witness it becomes unconsciousness, just living. The witness is latent in every state of consciousness, just like light in every colour. There can be no knowledge without the knower and no knower without his witness. Not only you know, but you know that you know.
Q: If the unconditioned cannot be experienced, for all experience is conditioned, then why talk of it at all?
M: How can there be knowledge of the conditioned without the unconditioned? There must be a source from which all this flows, a foundation on which all stands. Self-realisation is primarily the knowledge of one’s conditioning and the awareness that the infinite variety of conditions depends on our infinite ability to be conditioned and to give rise to variety. To the conditioned mind the unconditioned appears as the totality as well as the absence of everything. Neither can be directly experienced, but this does not make it not-existent.
Please allow me to slip on a tinfoil hat for a moment. I’ve always questioned whether or not to carry a cell phone. To anyone keeping up with the world, we’re all aware that our devices, such as cellphones, are gathering data from us. Tech companies like Google and Facebook make their money by exploiting our privacy. And don’t forget what Edward Snowden shared with us just a few years back! That’s terrifying. This web goes deeper than most of us can imagine!
I quit carrying cell phones a long time ago, but it wasn’t for privacy reasons. When I ran my software business, I had too many people calling me. I’d go to spend time with friends and get call after call. It was driving me nuts. But in recent years I’ve changed. Since I’m now a professor, I don’t have as many people calling me, so now it’s convenient to have one. I can text my friends, make calls, it’s pretty great actually. But let me tell you all what happened yesterday.
With a lot of our S&T physics faculty retiring, I’ve been asked to teach a different course. So the other day I met with my new boss who is head of the program. He’s a newer faculty member and I haven’t had a chance to meet him. We’re sitting in his office and he’s telling me about his days at Texas A&M, how things were taught there, he compared their program to ours at Missouri S&T, etc. So over and over he’s saying “Texas A&M”, “Texas A&M”, “Texas A&M”. Now I go home, log into Facebook, and my entire feed is filled with Texas A&M stuff. Facebook is trying to sell me Texas A&M merchandise, they’re showing me Texas A&M sports highlight clips, and pushing Texas A&M sales material. Out of nowhere. I’ve NEVER searched for Texas A&M on Facebook, Google, or anything like that. I don’t even keep up with college sports, in any way, shape, or form. Then I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket, stared at it a moment, and wondered, “Have you been listening in on every conversation I’ve ever had over the past several years?” Probably. Everything it ever hears is sent to some server at Google, with AI systems transcribing every word. I bet there’s a giant log somewhere with every private conversation I’ve ever had. But my phone is from AT&T and runs Android. Isn’t that Google? How did this conversation end up with Facebook? *sigh* I don’t know anymore.
I don’t have anything to hide, but I still value my privacy. But maybe that’s an illusion in today’s world? My television is a smart tv, connected to WiFi, so it could just as easily be doing the same thing. My Windows 10 PC surely does this stuff for Microsoft. I use Chrome so Google’s A.I. programs likely know me better than I know myself. Even my truck has a computer system which handles mp3s, ties into my phone, and has all this smart stuff built into it. At any given time, I don’t know who or what is watching me and it makes me uncomfortable.
This is a documentary about Papaji, a disciple of Ramana Maharshi. I wanted to share a particular moment within this film where a woman realizes who she truly is.
She did not identify as her body, but she felt that she was a Mind. She meets Papaji and he grills her for a short bit, asking her to find this Mind. Then she realizes, oh, who is witnessing the passing sequence of thoughts? It’s me! But what am I? She thought of herself as some collective bundle of these thoughts, as if she was some Mind, but she looks for this ‘I’, this Mind, within these thoughts and she can’t find it. Then it’s like POOF, this false identification with thoughts vanishes. This ‘I’ is an illusion and there is no Mind. Without this ‘I’, there is no doer of actions, nor are there others. Without taking some bundle of your experiences and associating it with ‘I’, there can be no ‘others’ which lie outside this arbitrary collective identification. There is no freedom nor is there any bondage. Who is free and who is bound? There is no knower of anything or anything to know. Who is there to know these things? All of these dynamics are just ideas and an identification with them.
Look at how happy she is. This is what it’s like to realize there’s nothing to think about, nothing to worry about, and nothing you have to do. The interviewer asks, “What’s changed?” Nothing externally that others can notice, but in your inner awareness EVERYTHING has changed. There’s just inner stillness and contentment. You’re back to a more fundamental state of conscious awareness, and out of some illusory state of consciousness.
It’s sort of like going outside and seeing a flower garden in the backyard. It wasn’t in your awareness until you walked out there, and when you go back inside it will no longer be there. Within a few weeks it’ll all begin to decay, and within a month or two it’ll be dead and gone, rotted back into the soil. Wouldn’t it be strange for someone to say, “Those flowers are me!” They come and they go, but you are still around. Who is it who is still around? You, the observer, the witness of events unfolding. So how are thoughts any different from the flower garden? They come and they go. At one moment they’re in your awareness, at another they fade back into the void. The content of thoughts changes, just as flower gardens change in the backyard. They’re not you. And any collection of thoughts is not you either, in the same way that the flower garden is not you. There’s no difference at all. You realize this and thoughts are just another part of experience. Flower gardens are fun to look at for a time, but when you get tired of seeing the flower garden you go back inside and they are no longer in your awareness. You can do the same thing with thought, and walk into an inner space where they’re not there.
When this woman made this realization, she just bursts out laughing. The same thing happened to me. Freud said that one form of laughter is when we feel superior to something. Comics will make us laugh by acting like silly clowns. Why was this woman laughing? I think she was reflecting on her former self and was seeing it as something completely ridiculous; she couldn’t stop laughing. “Why did I not realize this before? It’s so simple.” If you watch the entire film, Papaji himself says, “This is easier than anything else.” There’s nothing easier. Nothing simpler.