Tuesday, October 16, 2007

“There is Nothing to be Transformed”

On the one hand, UG seems to assert that you accept yourself exactly as you are and that there is no need to change anything. On the other hand, he himself couldn’t accept people’s behavior and wouldn’t tolerate their behaving in a certain way. He would do everything to change it or ask them to change it.

In all fairness, it must be admitted that no matter what he says and does, when things already happen in a certain way or done in a certain way, UG would never question them. He would simply accept them. When something like a flat tire or a car accident happens, his question was always, "What next?" No blame, no regret; only what has to be done next. But before things happened, he might want to change them.

When it comes to personal problems of an emotional nature, he would always encourage people to accept the situation; for example, if a person has a phobia of some kind, he would encourage that person to accept it. Sometimes he would ask people to make amends with those with whom they were at odds, if such were possible, etc.

But how about people’s lives and behavior? If there is nothing to be changed, then why should they do anything? Surely when it came to matters of making a living, UG is all in favor of developing and exploiting your talents in this world.

So, what exactly is it that doesn’t need to be transformed? UG means spiritual transformation. His interest is mainly to show that all these spiritual practices to transform oneself into something more sublime, to become some higher being, are a waste of time, because there is no Self there to be transformed and what is there doesn’t need to be transformed.

It doesn’t mean you don’t have to live in this world and be related to other people. Toward that end, people have to do various things to adjust their behavior to the world around them; that includes having to deal with him.

Notice that from a distance, UG wouldn’t deal with someone unless they want to deal with him (I noticed many times he didn’t have a thing to say to a stranger because the stranger would keep mum). But if you came close to him or interfere with his daily routine, he certainly would take you to task. He would not tolerate hypocrisy, inefficiency, indolence or possessiveness. He might attack or poke fun at you or what not. Yet people know that no matter what they were, they were still accepted and allowed to be around him.

Freedom or no freedom? There was many a time when UG said that there is no such thing as freedom. How does one reconcile this statement with his constant prodding people to do this or that, to succeed in the world, make money, exploit your talents or what not?

Without getting lost in the maze of the controversy of determinism vs. freewill, I think the answer simply lies in UG’s idea that our behavior is conditioned by our background, and whatever we do is governed by the pleasure principle, i.e., our search for pleasure and avoidance of pain. The pleasure principle is what perpetuates the continuity of the self. Within these parameters, we can still do various things as governed at the moment by the pleasure principle. For instance, if you want to get ahead in life, you do (and can do) such and such; to woo your girlfriend, you have to give her nice gifts and praise her beauty and so forth.

These are choices to be made within the parameters of the pleasure principle. The specific pleasures, such as the pleasure from winning a girlfriend, are determined by circumstances, your background and what you are exposed to. But outside those parameters, there is no freedom. You are stuck with the pleasure principle. Whatever action you do on the basis of whatever idea you have is all determined by it and you don’t have the freedom to change any of that. That includes all the efforts you make to attain enlightenment and so forth.

It doesn’t mean that the effort always bears fruit; on the contrary, some of it, like our striving for enlightenment, is misguided and will never bear fruit, for it only strengthens the self instead of free you from it.

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