Churning of the Ocean of Thoughts

The sun disappeared behind the distant hills, in what could have been a scene taken right out of a painting, and I got up to head back. Walking alongside the Bhima, I couldn’t help turning my attention to a largish bird which was performing fantastic aerial stunts above the water. I’ll ask Prabhat to find out which bird that was.

As I reached the path that would take me back up the hill to the school, my thoughts again went back to hovering around the reality of my being here- in this place, at this moment. I suddenly noticed a dark piece of rock lying on the ground, and for no reason tipped it over with my foot. It revealed a fascinating shiny crystal formation on the other side. You find so many such crystals lying around here. These hills are believed to have been formed in massive volcanic eruptions around 60-70 million years ago.

I’m fascinated by the mere fact of my being here, of having spent almost a year here, so far away from home. On second thoughts, what is home? Where do I really belong to? Isn’t the whole world my home? Well, this place definitely feels like home.

The new path has made the walk down to the river and back up an easy affair. In a few minutes I’ll be back in school, in time for my evening prep supervision. Prep is a good space to sit quietly and observe the children. In class, so many things happen at the same time and you yourself are fully engaged in the moment, so there is no opportunity whatsoever to step back and observe the events from a distance.

Today they are doing their work silently. Only last week they were extremely noisy and boisterous, and had to be spoken to sternly. What exactly is my relationship with them, as a teacher of Chemistry, as an adult? What is it that I have to help them with? To prepare for exams, to keenly observe the world they live in, to have confidence in themselves?

They are already thinking, aware human beings. Many of them come from urban settings, and this place has made a difference in their lives. Many of them do grow up to be sensitive, sensible individuals. That’s not to say that that doesn’t happen in other places, but I do feel this place provides a good atmosphere for children to grow up. They are already adept at expressing and articulating their ideas and opinions, many of them more so than I am.

They won’t accept most things unquestioningly, but they do listen to reason. I’ve realised that it is important to be very clear in my head about “why do it?” when I ask something of them. This engagement with them on a level playing field, treating each other as equals, has been a huge learning experience for me. But they can also be extremely irritating and trying at times, with their tendency to slip into lousiness, and give in to impulses. It does seem like they need to be held together actively at all times, and that perhaps is one of the jobs of a teacher living with children.

I’m so lucky to be able to do work that I enjoy. It is a pleasure to be able to help children learn about the world we live in, learn new skills… But I’ve also encountered situations in the classroom where the whole exercise seems pointless, when I’ve asked myself, “Why am I doing this?” I’ve sometimes felt that I’m doing the same things to my students that I despised some of my teachers doing to me.

When I started teaching, I was desperate to perceive myself as a “good teacher”, to convince myself that I had taken up the right thing, having decided to deviate from the trodden path. As a result, for some time, I couldn’t accept the fact that I had problems with the work I’m doing. Today, I no longer feel uncomfortable confronting these questions, sharing them with other people. Being able to be honest with myself has been liberating, and has enabled me to begin to tackle some of these issues.

And it’s a boon, to have people around you who are at the same wavelength. It is absolutely wonderful to be in a place where you are valued for who you are- not something easy to find in this world. And the space to pursue all your interests and exercise all your faculties- without having to work around any narrow definition of your role. I’ve surprisingly found a continuity with who I was before I joined college, before I became excessively pessimistic and cynical!

After dinner, I go for a stroll in the cool breeze. The sky is clear, and I can see countless stars. Only last week I had my first glimpse of the milky way, when I went to the library roof with Prof. Mahajan early in the morning and had my first stargazing session. I’m going to spend some time learning about the objects in our night sky and observing them. It evokes a certain kind of wonder, which must be the same wonder our early ancestors had, which gave rise to science and religion.

But being in a place like this, there is a danger of becoming too preoccupied with oneself. It’s important to keep asking the question, “What is my relationship with the larger world?” I’m tempted to say “the world out there”, but I know I’m also part of that world. The world of corruption, powerful and greedy politicians and corporations, millions of homeless people, but also organisations which are making a difference in small ways, often unheard of in the mainstream media. Closer to home, what is my relationship with the dadas and didis (the support staff) from the villages down below, whose silent work keeps the school running? What is the children’s relationship with this world they are living in? Isn’t it a question of crucial importance for a teacher? Not just for oneself, but on behalf of the children too.

On a related but different (and more abstract and philosophical!) note, I have often felt that different parts of me come alive and active when I’m doing different things, when I’m relating with different people. It’s as if I’m a messed up assortment of unrelated fragments. Can I have a single scheme of things where each of these has a place? Not that I want to relate to each person or each activity in the same way, but I want to be the same person when I’m relating to different people or activities.

The children go home tomorrow. The school will become quiet and devoid of life for two and a half months now. I’m looking forward to spending some time here on my own when it’s quiet. That should be an entirely different experience.

5 thoughts on “Churning of the Ocean of Thoughts

  1. We run away from homegrounds in search of freedom. At that instant we keep simplifying things by phrases like “freedom from…”, “freedom for…” etcetera. Once this simplicity wears off what are we to do..? Will we ever be able to conceive and enjoy freedom dropping all prefixes and suffixes to float in an empty sky like a bird enjoying its flight. How do we graduate to that level breaking away all walls of domesticity scaling pinnacles of secularism and spirituality.

    When the contents of a cauldron starts churning it is time to add the finer ingredients. Let me try to add some. Here is an excerpt from Taittiriya Upanishad.

    …Let me conclude by quoting a section from the Taittiriya Upanishad that takes one through the steps of aesthetic refinement, to the transcendental state where one looks at the world from a position of leadership. What is given here is the purport of the condensed verses as seen by the author of this paper.

    “The sovereign inner substance that gives form to the bliss of Brahman governs everything in the manifested universe. The winds of vitality blow in accordance with its will. All sources of energy, fires of passion and ideals that provide the foci for the application of energy follow its wishes. The five categories of objects that constitute the manifested universe play their roles in accordance with its wishes. All functions of time operate by its wishes.

    All quests are the search for the bliss of Brahman. Joy is a manifestation of the bliss of Brahman. At each step in the pursuit of the bliss of Brahman he has attained a certain capacity to experience joy. As he climbs higher and higher his capacity for enjoyment keeps increasing manifold. Ultimately, when he attunes himself to the principle of Brahman, he is led to the peak of the bliss of Brahman. To explain the various steps the capacity of a disciplined, strong and resolute worldly man to experience joy is taken as the standard. The physical world with all its treasures is at the command of such a man.

    When this man fine tune his sensibilities to develop artistic perception his capacity for experiencing joy, when he is engaged in the pursuit of knowledge and is not tainted by desires, is hundred times the joy experienced by a worldly man. Adherence to the pursuit of knowledge and detachment from worldly desires is essential at all steps. Whatever be the identity one has managed to evolve into, complacency and avarice will compromise one’s ability to experience joy.

    An idol is the personification of an ideal. When the artistically evolved man becomes an idol the joy experienced by him, when he is engaged in the pursuit of knowledge and is not tainted by desires, grows hundredfold.

    The idol becomes a legend when he gets entrenched and perpetuated in the memories of others. The joy experience by such a legend, when he is engaged in the pursuit of knowledge and is not tainted by desires, is hundred times the bliss experienced by an idol.

    A legend evolves into ideals that transcend the time domain. Such ideals are not touched by the comings and goings in this world. They are timeless and not affected by the events here. The bliss experienced by a man when identified with an ideal that transcends time, when engaged in the pursuit of knowledge and is not tainted by desires, is hundred times the bliss experienced by a legend.

    An idealist is like a volcano that can ignite the fires of passion in others, to move them into actions that contribute to universal welfare. The bliss experienced by an active idealist, when engaged in the pursuit of knowledge and is not tainted by desires, is hundred times the bliss experienced by a true but passive idealist.

    By propitiation of the fires of all passions in projects that contribute to universal welfare one becomes Indra, the master of all ideals. The bliss experience by a master of ideals, when engaged in the pursuit of knowledge and is not tainted by desires, is hundred times the bliss experienced by an active idealist.

    The ideals can be perceived and communicated only by one who has a broad vision. He is Bruhaspati, the preceptor of all ideals. The bliss experience by a visionary, when engaged in the pursuit of knowledge and is not tainted by desires, is hundred times the bliss experiences by a master of ideals.

    Visions emanate from the ability to transact with integrity in the states of wakefulness, dreams and dormancy. All transactions give rise to products in their wake. These products are to be nurtured and governed for the development of visions. The bliss experienced by one who responsibly governs all the products that emanated from him, when engaged in the pursuit of knowledge and is not tainted by desires, is hundred times the bliss experienced by a visionary.

    Absolute command over the three states of wakefulness, dreams and dormancy can be attained only when one is in touch with the fourth state, which is none other than the Brahman. One who has attained absolute command over the three states is established in Brahman. The joy experienced by such a person, when engaged in the pursuit of knowledge and is not tainted by desires, is hundred times the bliss experienced by the one who responsibly takes care of the emanations from him.”

    1. The best thing about the experiences during this one year, is that it has made me reorient my outlook to be more grounded and aligned with reality. It has made me hold my ideals more lightly, which doesn’t mean giving them up, but I’ve realised that there can never be hard and fast ideals in real life, and you have to keep going back and forth in a constant tussle. I’ve been able to be connected and alive to people around me, and enjoy what I’m doing, after a long long time.

  2. Are u still teaching there?our son has just joined in clas 7.its an absolute pleasure to know teachers who are connected with the source.we all need some stirring within to eventually connect to our higher consciousness.n if children our going to be with such teachers,they will surely be well guided.

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