He Has X-Ray Vision!

Women don’t like it when men glare at them probingly, hungrily. But I loved it that he could see every inch and corner of my mind. “He has x-ray vision!” I thought, while I was reading the book A Course In Miracles.

A Course In Miracles is a mind-correction course. To correct something, we have to understand it. To this end, A Course In Miracles (ACIM) explains the state of our mind with clarity and exactness.

Our mind is split says ACIM. Split between the truth and all other illusions that we have created, which, being illusions, are all false. All the illusions that we have created, emanate from a conviction that we are separate from each other. This conviction of being separate is the ego, says ACIM. It then explains the workings of this falsehood, the ego, in detail.

In talking of the falsehood of the ego, it does not in any way dishonor our individuality and our unique beauty. In fact, again and again it underlines our intrinsic worth, which is far greater than anything that our petty minds can imagine. “You, then, have two conflicting evaluations of yourself in your mind, and they cannot both be true. You do not yet realize how completely different these evaluations are, because you do not understand how lofty the Holy Spirit’s perception of you really is,” says ACIM.

In addition to this false notion of being separate, truth still exists within us. Thus our mind is split, where both the false and the true abide. The truth that continues to exist in us, because truth can never be destroyed, is our inner guide, the voice of our true Self.

I have come to view this split mind and all its inner conflicts as the battle between Durga and Mahishasur. My job is to side with Durga my true Self, not Mahishasur the impostor. Now as the story tells us, Mahishasur keeps taking new forms, sometimes as a bull, sometimes as an elephant, but Durga always recognizes him and slays him. So that is what the ACIM’s detailed explanation of the ego does — it helps us recognize the ego, the Mahishasur in us, that keeps popping up in multifarious ways, so that we may choose again and again to side with Durga instead of Mahishasur.

Comparison, suspicion, viciousness, fear, are the hallmarks of egoistic, petty, false thinking. As we learn to observe our thoughts more and more, each thought that contains these attributes is to be rejected.

“The ego literally lives by comparisons. Equality is beyond its grasp,” says the ACIM. In another place it says, “The ego is therefore capable of suspiciousness at best and viciousness at worst.” So whenever we encounter thoughts of comparison within us, however minute, seeing our self as lesser than or greater than any another being, it is not ok to let that thought harbor within us. If we are serious about feeling happy and peaceful, about living an authentic life, it is not ok to harbor egoistic thoughts within, and each and every moment the attempt is to be made to move towards equality among our brothers.

Harboring egoistic thoughts of pseudo-humility or pseudo-greatness does not make us a bad or sinful. We are utterly perfect creations of God, a perfection that is totally indestructible, with joy and peace being our true attributes — this is again and again emphasized by ACIM. However, harboring egoistic thoughts of falsehood is just plain sad, tragic rather — that we keep our self bound in a mindset that destroys our happiness.

As we choose to side with our true Self, our ego becomes more vicious, taking us to moments of rapture and then right the next day making us feel shitty about our self. On a pristine morning as I approached my yoga mat I was feeling lousy and depressed. Just the previous evening I had been dancing about in the living room happily. I recognized this stark and mean change of mood as the ego acting up. “You had so many weapons to slay Mahishasur,” I said to Durga, “what do I do?” Then I realized that I have multiple weapons at my disposal too: awareness of my breath, just plain physical exercise of the kind I enjoy like swimming, and cycling, activities that give me happiness like painting and being with nature, consciously being grateful one by one of the many ways I am already blessed, having true conversations with myself via writing, and just plain awareness, with fascination, even of my negative thoughts. We all have been given our own unique set of weapons to side with Durga and slay Mahishasur again and again as it raises its head. To me, to always move in the direction of happiness and living a true and authentic life, is a sure-shot way of siding with Durga. This includes giving our self the permission to feel sad when we are sad, rest when we are tired. It is the vicious ego in us that keeps on with its self-critical litany inside our mind.

Just as the ego is so good at making us feel shitty about our self, it also changes shape and gives a false sense of greatness. “They have plain lost it!” we tend to think of others. This is just another form of the viciousness of the ego. This false sense of greatness, greater than, more sensible than, wiser than others in our life, is explained beautifully in ACIM in the section in the Text titled Grandeur and Grandiosity.

Grandeur comes from connecting to our true Self, our intrinsic self worth and holiness, that comes from being an intrinsic and crucial part of the whole universe. “Grandeur is of God, and only of Him. Therefore it is in you. Whenever you become aware of it, however dimly, you abandon the ego automatically, because in the presence of the grandeur of God the meaninglessness of the ego becomes perfectly apparent,” says ACIM. Connecting to that sense of intrinsic worth that fills us with a peaceful grandeur does not require us to connect with “God” religiously with piety. Any sense of connection to the Whole, to the limitless universe, maybe by singing with abandon, by being with nature, by delving into the ever-changing field of energy via science, all fill us with that peaceful sense of being unlimited, whole, complete. Grandiosity comes from the ego acting up when we feel we know better and strut around in self-righteousness.

Having explained the workings of our mind in detail, so that we may observe and understand it better, ACIM says, “Do not be afraid of the ego. It depends on your mind, and as you made it by believing in it, so you can dispel it by withdrawing belief from it.” Yet, it recognizes that dispelling the ego by withdrawing belief from it is challenging for us. Our investment into a false sense of a separate self is so deep rooted. After the Text portion of ACIM, is the Workbook for students, where it systematically works on correcting our mind. Before I go into how the Workbook has helped me, there are some more intricacies of workings of the ego to be discussed. Particularly, how it uses the currency of guilt to propagate and maintain itself.

This article is part of an ongoing extended book review of A Course In Miracles.

The previous articles are:
How I Started Reading My Favorite Fat Spiritual Book
How He Endeared Me To Himself
Only One Relationship Here, Between All Of Us

Image credit: Moon, Universe, Space, Milky Way from Pixabay.com

Only One Relationship Here, Between All of Us

The objective of A Course In Miracles is to restore joy and peace in its students’ mindheart, to remove all barriers to love that we construct within our self. It achieves this goal by mending our relationships. A Course In Miracles is a relationship coach.

There are only four characters in A Course In Miracles:

God: our Creator
I: the teacher of the course
You: the student of the course
Your brother: any fellow-being the student may think about or encounter

So, for all practical purposes (of receiving the teaching of the course at least), there is only one relationship here among us: we are brothers to each other.

My romantic partner is my brother, my parents are my brothers, my friends, my nephews, niece, children, any relative near or far, any office colleague, boss, any person I know remotely, meet briefly, think about, everyone is my brother.

Essentially, the one person who is on my mind right now, at any given moment, that is the brother towards whom any resentment, anger, bitterness, fear is to be washed out – to whatever tiny extent that feeling may be there, it is to be washed out. “Your patience with your brother is your patience with yourself. Is not a child of God worth patience?” says A Course In Miracles, but it does not ask us to do disservice to our self. In fact it teaches that when we honor our self, we honor our brother, and vice versa — because we are One Self, One Mind, very literally.

In following the teachings of A Course In Miracles, I have found it very effective to consider all my relationships as a relationship with my brother. In her book You Can Heal Your Life, Louise Hay suggests, we look at our parents as little children, to connect with and empathize with their pain. This sure does have some merit — not just for looking at our parents, but anyone, of any age and social standing — it is important to connect to our fellow-beings’ pain, to empathize with it, to be sensitive towards it. However, to remain at that perspective, I have found is not healthy. That sensitivity and empathy, that understanding of that person’s pain, can then easily convert into pity. This does gross disservice to our self, and to the other person. It binds us and the other person into very unhealthy mental patterns. Irrespective of what anyone goes through, ultimately it is each person’s responsibility to process their pain and emerge from it. In this, it helps to look at our fellow-being as a brother, as an equal — not higher than, nor lower than us in any way.

Our body-consciousness is so insidious. It is easy to look at a child as a child who needs to be ‘moulded’. It is easy to look at an ‘elder’ as being in some way greater than us. This is so far from the truth. Any human being, irrespective of age and condition, is a complete being and deserves of being seen as such. It is important to strive to not receive anything that is undeserving of our innate worth, and not accept disrespect towards our brother too — and each small instance is important. Even if the brother talks in a self-deprecating, self-flagellating manner towards their own self, we must, reaffirm the innate worth of our brother. Whether we say anything verbally or not, reaffirming the innate worth of our brother in our mind is powerful enough. What we think of our brother is what we think of our self, emphasizes the course.

Yes, all this is not easy. Relationships are the number one struggle in most lives on the planet, the number one reason for pain and lack of peace. However, A Course In Miracles achieves this cleaning process in a very methodical and relentless manner via its Workbook — and yes, it is an ongoing process. At times it feels great, at times it feels things are getting messier, but it is better than things being pushed under the carpet with the pretension that the issue does not exist. Until an issue is truly healed in our heart, it shall continue to fester, irrespective of how much we push it away with pseudo-wisdom or distract our self with other stuff.

This article is part of an ongoing extended book review of A Course In Miracles

The previous articles are:
How I Started Reading My Favorite Fat Spiritual Book
How He Endeared Me To Himself

Next post in this series:
He Has X-Ray Vision

Photo: The Walk to Paradise Garden by W. Eugene Smith

How He Endeared Me To Himself

A state of awe is worshipful, implying that one of a lesser order stands before his Creator. You are a perfect creation, and should experience awe only in the Presence of the Creator of perfection. Equals should not be in awe of one another because awe implies inequality. It is therefore an inappropriate reaction to me. An elder brother is entitled to respect for his greater experience, and obedience for his greater wisdom. He is also entitled to love because he is a brother, and to devotion if he is devoted. It is only my devotion that entitles me to yours. There is nothing about me that you cannot attain. I have nothing that does not come from God. The difference between us now is that I have nothing else. This leaves me in a state which is only potential in you.

This passage is there in the book A Course in Miracles, in it’s beginning pages itself — page 7 to be precise, in the text portion of the book (A Course in Miracles, consists of two parts primarily – The Text and The Workbook).

I felt so good reading this. It was so liberating. The teacher of the course is telling me that awe is not an appropriate response to him, that he and I are equals. He is my elder brother, but we are essentially equals. This is not a course in some institution that I had signed up for. I was not going to be going anywhere to attend classes, where I would be told to touch the feet of the guru. This is just a book and the teacher is just a voice in the book, but that is one of the most intimate and intense ways of sitting with a teacher — via a book — and I was sure glad to encounter this. That is how the teacher of this course endeared me to himself, right at the beginning. Again and again I have admired him for saying this.

Reading this told me that I need not bow down and touch the feet of this teacher. It told me that I need not sing peans in honor of this teacher. It told me that I am free to focus on the teaching of the book, and take it if it seems helpful, and then, if I wish I can feel a sense of devotion towards the teacher. The respect, obedience, love, devotion that the teacher, the elder brother said he is entitled to, did not seem a requirement of being a good student, a pre-requisite of acquiring the learning — but rather, a natural by-product of acquiring the learning.

This is the message in all good texts of all Eastern teachings too, and probably so in any good text of any region of the world — however the teachers of the texts start requiring a regimented show of respect and gratitude as a pre-requisite of being a good student, or even a good human being.

As a child, around the age of 13 or 14, I had attended several Geeta talks by Parthasarthiji with my mother. One thing he used to often talk about, with some frustration, is how spiritual seekers get attached to their guru. They are taught to let go of falsehoods in the world, but then they latch onto the guru instead. We are so convinced that we are despicable vermins that need a benefactor. It is far easier to be servile than to come into our own. “You are a perfect creation” is so tough a pill to swallow.

This is not a practice in humility. This is disregard for the intrinsic beauty and strength given to us by our Manufacturer. This, the Course says again and again, is arrogance. We know better huh? Better than The Force from which all of the universe emerges? Better than The Force that sustains it all? Perfection can only create perfection. It cannot create anything else. So indeed when we think of ourselves as good-for-nothings, we consider The Force to be a nincompoop too, to have created a bunch of good-for-nothings.

Not just in the context of a spiritual teacher, India prides itself in its practice of touching the feet of elders as an intrinsic part of its social fabric. Children are made to learn this by being physically pushed down to touch the feet of elders (elder by age, elder by social hierarchy) and pretty soon people start performing this regimented show of gratitude and respect like robots. This is sad, because this hampers the natural and true expressions of love, it hampers the natural flowering of the relationship into its truest, most beautiful form.

Yes, irrespective of what false scaffoldings of practices we may introduce and establish, love and truth always finds a way to flower. Even within the robotic social practice of touching the feet of elders, true love does flower (in any relationship, not just between romantic partners). That is the power of love. It can never be snuffed out. However the perpetuation of false robotic practices does perpetuate false mindsets — that I am lesser than X or that I am greater than Y — and the sooner we can let go of these false mindsets, the better. It generates needless conflicts within — the same conflicts that all good spiritual teachings aim to wash away. We are anyway all rife with inner conflicts emerging from fear. We might as well not add to those conflicts by the further addition of these false demonstrations. Viewing someone as lesser or greater than us, hampers our ability to think independently and to honor our independent thinking. Yes, our independent thinking, the voice of our inner guide, like love, never really gets snuffed out.

I have at times in life felt that extreme sense of gratitude and sense of oneness with a fellow human being where I have most naturally felt like touching that person’s feet. It is such a sublime feeling. I do not want to do disservice to that utterly pure, sublime feeling by robotic and false enactments of that gratitude and respect. That kind of gratitude happens rarely. That is the time when I would like to bend down and touch the feet of the other person — when my inner being naturally wishes to do so. Falsehood does disservice both to myself and to my fellow being towards whom I perform that false demonstration.

I have two elder brothers. I do not touch their feet anymore. This enables me to observe them and receive them free-er of expectations. Each day it enables me to discover their beauty and our relationship in newer ways. I do not touch my parents’ feet at all sundry instances nowadays, but only on Diwali and on other instances when I do want to. This gives me greater confidence to tell them something that I might be otherwise be too scared to tell them because they are parents sitting in some lofty tower to be venerated. That I am able to speak frankly to my parents, is thanks, in huge measure, to my parents too. I try my best to not touch the feet of visiting elder relatives. When there is natural affinity and feeling, hugging them comes easily. Sometimes I do end up bowing down because the robotic practice is so deeply inculcated and I do not wish to be viewed as insolent, but it rarely carries any feeling, so it is false and robotic.

I have told my nephews that they need not touch my feet, and I have told them why. In this ever changing world it is always possible that I might get limited in my views. I do not want to inculcate this thought in me that “I know better”. When my nephews wish to take action contrary to what their elders want, I want them to be as free as possible to go forth, with peace and ease, as per their true inner voice. Yes, they may still experience internal conflict which basically emerges from fear, but the lesser it is exacerbated by the effort it takes to break against regimented compliance, the better. The robotic practice has already seeped into them, so they do automatically bend down at times. My niece has not become so regimented as yet so her demonstration of feeling, her demonstration of gratitude and love in the form of hugging and burrowing her head into my tummy is still spontaneous, true, and beautiful. She has never had to perform regimented respect towards me.

To my cousins and relatives younger to me that sometimes visit, the time is too short for me to explain all this so I simply let them perform their demonstration of respect. If you who are reading this, are a relative younger to me by age, please know, you need not touch my feet. Age does not make us lesser or greater than each other. If you feel grateful about something I have done, please do convey it to me, because it is always good to know that my action contained some nourishing beauty. However, do not, in your interaction with anyone, let gratitude go into its negative extreme: servitude.

In all of this, there is one particularly weird practice where daughter-in-laws (bahus) are made to touch the feet of their sister-in-law (their nanad). It is a particularly good example of how this practice of touching the feet seems to me like an elaborate social scaffolding of falsehood and ego-boosting that keeps us from connecting to true feelings and our inner truth. I am at present sharing with you an extended book review of A Course In Miracles — what I liked about it and how it helped me. Since I have already digressed considerably by talking so much about the practice of robotically touching the feet of elders, I shall digress a bit further and next week I will write about this practice of bahus having to touch their nanad’s feet.

For now, consider this: you are a perfect creation of God. Your warts and vulnerabilities with stuff that you already know as your strength but take for granted — all of it together makes you perfect and beautiful. Because of it and independent of it, you are beautiful. You just simply are.

This article is a part of an extended book review of the book A Course in Miracles. The previous part is How I Started Reading My Favorite Fat Spiritual Book.

Next post in the series:
One One Relationship Here, Between All Of Us

How I Started Reading My Favorite Fat Spiritual Book

Those days, moments and settings of my childhood used to flash back to me vividly. So I wasn’t surprised that yet another moment from my childhood had presented itself in my mind. That moment put me in the grips of fear.

Emotions constantly change form. Even within seconds. So ok, that moment from childhood had presented itself and had generated a gripping fear in me, but I expected the moment to fade away. I expected the fear to change form. It did not. One week passed and the fear continued to grip me in its clutches in exactly the same way.

Calling the people involved in the moment from my childhood and demanding, “Why did you do this!” would not have helped. I had already communicated their impact on me some months ago. That moment in the past had occurred. Point is, I was in the clutching grip of fear right now. It was my present problem. I had spoken to my counselor about it and while she acknowledged my feeling, so what? I was still in the exact same grips of fear.

That is when I ultimately picked up this book to read: A Course In Miracles.

A miracle is a switch in the mind from fear to love, from the false to the truth. This course teaches how to make that switch. I had read about A Course In Miracles (ACIM), from another book, A Return To Love by Marianne Williamson. Marianne told me this book, ACIM, teaches that there are only two primary emotions, fear and love, and it teaches how to make a switch in the mind from fear to love. Now whether I was interested in love or not, I sure wanted this fear to budge. No other option seemed to remain. Days passed and the fear had not budged in the slightest. So I started reading this book.

A Course in Miracles is my favorite fat spiritual book. Some months back I had shared with you my favorite thin spiritual book, Vigyaan Bhairav (The Science of Shiva). That book, is only 17 pages thin, so it took only one article to share it with you. This book, A Course in Miracles, is 1180+ pages thick, so it will take a little more than one article to share what I like about the book and how it has helped me.

The book is divided into two main parts. 1. The text. 2. Workbook for students. Today I end this post by sharing one teaching from the workbook.

“I am not alone in being affected by my thoughts.”

I meaning me, I meaning you, I meaning us. Each one of us. We are not alone in being affected by our thoughts.

Not only are we responsible for our speech and actions, not only does our speech and action impact our life and the lives of the people around us, and the world — each thought we hold impacts us, the people around us, and the whole world. Even if we do not get up and go out of the room and articulate the thought to anyone. Whether we like it or not, that is the way the universe functions.

I am not alone in being affected by my thoughts.

You are not alone in being affected by your thoughts.

Next post in this series:
How He Endeared Me To Himself

Image credit: Mohamed Hassan from Egypt, via pixabay.com