Envisioning the future is a unique talent, here we delve into the visions of fellow Nirmal Karta as he talks about his personal interpretation of an idyllic life. A fine peppering of Zen philosophy some good old common sense and plenty of zest for life, a fine piece for an afternoon’s rumination.
2028, January 1st, 01:00 AM.
A new year that would probably have been like the 40 odd new years of my past, had it not been “that” stray thought which whizzed through the channels of my brain at the strike of 12. Describing that thought in the language of words and reason cannot do enough justice to the emotional effect that it had on me. It wasn’t alien; it wasn’t a perfect stranger at my doorstep. No, I had seen it almost 15 years back. A question whose answer I couldn’t even possibly comprehend what it could be. I still can’t.
“What is the sound of one hand clapping?”
A koan is a riddle or a story which, when told by a Zen master to his student, has the potential of shocking that particular student into a state of consciousness known as satori – Japanese jargon for ‘sudden’ enlightenment. In this state of consciousness, all distinctions and evaluations you’ve ever had about the outside world evaporate in a puff of white incense, leaving you with a profound admiration of the unity in the universe and of all the experiences possible in the universe. There’s no logical or scientific response to the thought; merely a humble but profound “Wow!” reaction. But how does this thought have anything to do at all with what I’m now, in this present moment in time and space?
Liberating myself from the focused pursuit of money in this dog-eat-dog world had been no easy task. In other words, it is imperative to draw a line of distinction between profession and business, in terms of their end goals. A business generates your wealth whereas a profession generates your salary. Still not clear enough? As of now, I have close to a dozen different sources of passive income that keeps building my wealth irrespective of whether I’m relaxing in my cultured marble bathtub or I’m out preaching life to the masses – a motley mixture of paper and real estate assets in India. Wealth is not measured in terms of money; it’s a measure of time – the time you can survive, starting from the instant you say a loud NO to ‘actively’ working for money. Although that nugget of wisdom seems like it just came out of a run-of-the-mill fortune cookie, it had helped me understand a profound thing or two about humanity. As the Australian aboriginal saying goes, We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are all just passing through. Our Purpose here is to Observe, to Learn, to Grow, to Love and then, We Return Home. Work, as we define it today, is the source of nearly all misery in this world and the “office culture” essentially consists of the totality of all totalitarian controls in the workplace – “office discipline” is what the factory and the office have in common with schools and prisons and mental asylums. I’ve reached a point in my life where I can lock myself in my penthouse on the 30th floor, set amidst the clouds of the Bangalore sky, and still live the rest of my life with my accumulated “wealth”. But that’s not what I want or intend to do. Wealth has freed me from the chains and shackles forged by the concept of work, which has opened up new horizons to invest time and effort into. As I sit here writing, safely ensconced in my den with a delicious Marlboro Red placed between my lips and an Italian crystal glass of the best Jack Daniels Tennessee whisky – a personal favorite – I ponder over what I want to do about something close to my heart –Education.
15 years back, only 10% of India’s burgeoning student population ended up receiving professional college education. Sadly, the numbers haven’t changed much since then. The whole education system’s bogus, if you ask me. Children are whisked off to concentration camps called “schools”, primarily to keep them out of Mom’s hair but still under control, incidentally to acquire the habits of obedience and punctuality so necessary for workers. The system educates creativity out of these kids, focusing just on the brain and that too, only one half of it. If I had known what I know now back when I was a child, I would have had second thoughts about getting “educated” in a system that sees the human body merely as a vessel to transport the heads. I do not know how to achieve it, but I envision a future where play substitutes work. “Work” – That’s such a dreadful term, a Pandora’s box of sorts with waves of negative energy trapped inside it. The “playful attitude” should not be confused with aimless loafing around. It’s much more than that. Play is voluntary. What might otherwise be play is work if it’s forced. The attitude doesn’t stem from “a suspension of consequences”. The point is that it’s not without consequences. That demeans the concept of play. The point is that the consequences, if any, are gratuitous. In such a system, children should be teachers, not students. They embody the spirit of “play” and the adults can learn a lot from them. Adults and children are not identical but they can become equal through interdependence. Only play can bridge the generation gap, I feel. With those thoughts in mind and time in my hands, I hope to create a revolution in the same system whose inadequacies and blemishes I had observed during my journey in this world. Maybe not now, but definitely ‘then’.
So, what is the sound of one hand clapping? It became a part of my core personal philosophies since the time I’d heard it from a friend of mine. You cannot wrap your mind around it. You’re not supposed to. Hence, my path to, for lack of a better word, enlightenment began with accepting the fact that control is an illusion and nirvana is not about attaining some far-out state of consciousness. Life’s illogical and absurd at times. It confounds reason. At the end of the day, it’s all about being in the here and now. To quote from a favorite book of mine, “What we have trouble getting is how enlightened consciousness can be both ordinary and transcendent simultaneously”. Destroy your ego, detach yourself and be an observer. Sounds too much to handle? Here’s one more koan then, before you transcend all sounds and reach the soundless sound:
“What did your original face look like before you were born?”