|To Change Beyond Change|
You cannot step twice in the same river.
of life flows constantly, with its waters not
The Yaksha had asked Dharmaja, the eldest of the Pandavas, "What is the strangest phenomenon of life?" The wise son of Kunti had replied, "We see our near and dear ones die around us every day and mourn over it. Yet we never consider the fact that we too will have to die."
We live in the comfort of an illusory constancy forgetting that this too will pass. We rejoice that at last there is stability in our lives – this moment and those to follow belong to us. We fail to remember that the ‘wheel of Providence is always in motion; and the spoke that is uppermost will be under; and therefore mix trembling with your joy."
Life on Earth, generating from the volatile composition of the five elements is always susceptible to change. Matter changes form, organic matter decays and regenerates into new life forms. Even thoughts and feelings change as the matter the body consumes, influences them. Finally, the human body too is given to change.
The human mind, the seat of all impressions however is resistant to change. It has a natural tendency to quickly arrive at fixed ideas. It is very much afraid of change, because change means rearrangement. Each time we rearrange, we feel we need to refresh our inner being.
History is a telling commentary of misery having overcome man when he has not come to terms with change. Bhagawan Baba reminds with a sense of finality, "Change is a natural quality for things born in this world." We cannot stop aging, we cannot stop human movement, we cannot stop the change of human nature, we cannot stop the change of fortunes or the change of seasons. It is this angst that made the Buddha leave hearth and home and come to the not so encouraging conclusion of life: sarvam dukkham dukkham, sarvam kshanikam kshanikam – everything in life is full of misery (because) everything in life is momentary.
Fine, that being the case, why does change take place? All matter constantly moves to a condition of dissolution. Old forms of matter begin to wear out their bonding and start looking out for fresh reconfiguration. Gary Zukav would have to say in Dancing with the Wu Li Masters, at the quantum level, everything is dancing all the time. A systemic approach to science will show us components combining to produce dynamic structures. The essential question seems to be to die and be replaced or to transform and evolve. The world, Jagath, semantically means that which is always on the move.
The components of any system are continually interacting, exchanging information and energy with each other. Consequently, the information is constantly revised, changing and adapting to its environment.
This applies also to the process of constant changes in the history of human thought. Science has been accused of being fickle, always changing in its postulates. Over the ages various philosophies of life too have been prescribed giving rise to almost a dictionary of ‘isms’. Religious thought too has undergone tremendous change – each suggesting a way to Godhood and each being subsequently replaced by a new religion. Even in contemporary times, we have great masters all around, each to suggest another exotic way to Nirvana.
Does all this reflect a failure of reason in human thought? Why can mankind not make up its mind? Why does it have to invent sledges and then invent the wheel? Why was the world first considered flat and then round? Why did we think of worshipping God in the form of stone in one religion and then go about destroying them in the name of another? Oh, Bard of England! Could not thou have sayeth, "Frailty thy name is human"?
Is history then a testimony of human failure – the embarrassing elegy of the pinnacle of God’s creation?
Let us not be carried away by such foolish notions. We are not speaking of a moral question.
History is, in fact, an education of the growth and evolution of human thought. The quest for refinement has challenged the human spirit to always seek farther than the beyond – ever culturing, refining its thought. Humankind has never been tired to seek the truth although moments of weakness have deluded it to revel in fantasy. One of the greatest virtues of man is hope and it is this hope that has prompted man, across the vistas of time, to carry the burden of the quest for truth with a Sisypian obstinacy. Carlyle had rightly said, "Change, indeed, is painful, yet ever needful; and if memory have its force and worth, so also has hope."
It is a struggle of the spirit exemplary in its thirst to fulfill itself. The struggle of the spirit is a spiritual quest. Spirituality is the search for newness. It is to love life in a manner that every moment is new. The Divine has been attributed as the eternal and yet the ever new. It is this newness that debunks rigid and dead ritual, it is this newness that inspires change. The divine has constantly been inspiring change in Nature – the change of seasons, the change of winds and river courses. To be constant in nature is inconstancy. The old order changeth to bring in the new. Renewal is the stage beyond decay, beyond chaos, beyond death. It is the new order, new incarnation, new life.
Yet, under this grand celebration of life, under this vast change drama lies the calm of one cosmos. It is the substratum that always remains constant. It is the Principle of the Creator that remains changeless as the unmanifest divine as against the manifest power of creation, a turbulent creative energy that even its creative activity seeks to unite with the unmanifest – the Prakriti yearning for union with the Purusha. It is the state that all change ultimately aspires for.
The truly spirtual is a state of being. It does not become. It affirms change and in doing so affirms life. However, it remains actually unaffected by it. It has the quietude of a manas sarovar (mythical celestial lake symbolic of a calm human mind) even when the Dance of Shiva is in progress. It is a reception of the present, torn away from impressions of the past or broodings of the future. In such acceptance of the powerfully present, does one transcend all aspects of time and touch the fringe of eternity. With the absence of time consciousness, even space does not seem to matter. Eternity and infinity dissolve into the Self and the Spirit fulfils itself. All that change and renewal were seeking ultimately finds fruition. Man becomes God.