The downside of believing in God is that you become a child and want to be looked after by the father, forgetting that if there is a creator of this world the force of that creator did not create you from some material outside of itself. You are a holographic projection of your own self and also retain all its potentialities and have no separate identity of your own. The identity that one feels is self-created and disappears when one locates the source of the projection.
Religion makes us believe that we are here for a purpose and it is our job to figure out that purpose/our calling in life, assuming there was an essence that preceded our existence in this world. Whereas Existentialism teaches us that existence precedes essence. There is no father watching us all the time, taking care of us, and protecting us. The energies of creation are non-interventionist, and they are also governed by certain laws of the universe. We exist first as free beings and in that freedom create whatever essence we want to create. We are the authors of our life. Realizing this basic truth is called awakening.
This awakening can happen at any stage in one’s life including childhood, and those of us who have experienced that, even in a miniaturized form, will not allow our circumstances to mold us but will understand that it is our responsibility to mold our circumstances and create a path we can walk on, without treading on other’s toes.
There have been people at all times and in all cultures who can be called stubborn, determined, detached, passionate, driven, etc who did not tread a well-trodden path but created their own paths. This resulted in a lot of hardships for them and several years, sometimes decades, of struggle. Perhaps what kept them going was an awareness of an inner direction and a conviction about what was right for them, and they eventually reached their destination. They were able to see that people who were opposing them were not fully knowledgeable about their affairs and therefore were able to resist outside pressures.
A few names that come to my mind are:
He left home when he was 16, a few weeks after he had a profound spiritual awakening, although painful, which made him realize that he was not who he thought he was, and that there was a whole new universe inside of him which had to be explored. He wanted to renounce the life of a householder. He knew that his family wouldn’t let him leave the house, so he left home without informing anyone and traveled on a train for two days without having sufficient money on him, and reached Tiruvannamalai where he stayed for the rest of his life, didn’t leave that place ever. A few years later his uncle came to his place to take him back but he won’t go. His mother came to fetch him but he wouldn’t go, eventually, his mother and his brother came to live with him and became renunciates. His teaching was to keep asking yourself, “Who am I.”
Henry David Thoreau
He died young at the age of 44 of tuberculosis but left behind a large volume of writings. He was labeled an anarchist for refusing to agree with and follow the country’s laws and traditions of the time.
He refused to pay five dollars for his diploma from Harvard, and also declined to purchase his master’s degree as it was written on sheep skin vellum. Later on, he was arrested for not paying the taxes on moral grounds and was kept in prison, but his mother arranged to pay the taxes and got him out.
He was the first proponent of civil disobedience which inspired mahatma Gandhi for initiating the non-violent quit India movement. He also left home to live in a forest in a very simple and basic way to experience life without the trappings of everyday comforts. According to him, the comforts are not only not dispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.
In 1920 at the age of 27, he got a vision during meditation that multitudes of Americans were passing before his mind’s eye. This prompted him to make a plan to go to America although he knew no one there and fought with his father who was vehemently opposed to his going to America.
His father even refused to give him money to travel to America, and Yogananda had no clue from where he will get the money. His father eventually yielded and gave him the money to travel.
In high school, he started looking for a spiritual teacher and would travel long distances against the wishes of his father who used to work in the railways and managed to get him caught by railway employees and the police at the next railway station and bring him back home.
Elon hasn’t followed a trodden path but has created new paths – not in terms of creating new ideas but extending them and putting them into practice. He started his journey by creating systems of collecting payments online (it became Paypal after the sale) and then moved on to developing tesla cars, solar energy systems, and planning a move to Mars so that people can live there in the future. He is also putting his money into researching the use of brain implants for curing illnesses and developing human potential. He is a good example of taking extreme financial risks as he did not have money even to pay salaries to his employees at Tesla Cars and SpaceX projects the following week, and now he is the 4th richest man in the world.
He lived with his parents in England until the age of ten, when they decided to move back to India, the young Salman decided to continue living in England although there were no means for him to stay. His parents yielded to his request and asked a distant relative to let him stay with them. Salman struggled a lot professionally as a writer and success eluded him for most of his youth, and he felt envious of other less talented writers who were making millions and he was getting nowhere. But writing was a compulsion for him and he kept writing, he used to say, “I am not writing for any rewards, I can not write, it’s a compulsion and a way of release.” Writing for him was like being pregnant and he had to give birth as it can’t be like this forever.”
An Indian singer who left home at the tender age of 13 against the wishes of his parents who didn’t want him to join the singing profession. He said he wanted to learn classical singing. He had nowhere to go and survived on the street doing menial jobs for musicians and tabla players who never taught him anything and used his services. He has a very small physical structure and had suffered from low self-esteem. He went to commit suicide by drowning himself in the Ganges river but couldn’t succeed, and eventually thought there must some purpose to his life otherwise God wouldn’t have saved him. He failed miserably in business and finally got his break at the age of 30 when he sang a song – Tuta Tuta Ek Parinda. After that, there was no stopping him.
He sings Sufi and Nirgun Bhakti (worshipping formless – having no desire to seek objects with a form and not being attached to forms) songs. His songs are romantic like most Sufi songs are addressed to a beloved or a friend, but there are spiritual undertones. The expression of love is totally consuming, single-pointed and with full devotion, transcending all human quality. Sufi songs were popular in Sindh and Punjab. Sufism originated from Islam but Sufis are non-conformists and don’t strictly adhere to the Islamic laws, hence they come into conflict with traditional Muslims. The purpose of their spiritual practices is to seek higher levels of consciousness, akin to Hinduism and Buddhism.
Kailash Kher never learned classical music but there is classical music in his lyrics, music, and singing. He says, “it was perhaps learned in my past lives.” He doesn’t follow the standard methods of singing but the outcome is good.
The core feature of these individuals is that the opinions of others don’t matter to them when it comes to their passions. Repeated failures have no impact on their convictions and they keep making further attempts because deep down they know that on the matters in question they are right and the rest of the world is wrong. The whole world bows to their wishes.
© Kishore Chandiramani, Consultant Psychiatrist
Emotions Clinic, Education and Training Centre Cic, Staffordshire, England