Test the idea that pain is a delusion.
Unbeguiled by the oleaginous ease and smooth facility with which it winds its way down the paths of human discourse seemingly innocuous since frequently invoked and honored as the highest desideratum handle the concept of happiness with a wariness no less nimble than you would a serpent clothed in an undulant rainbow of colors from whose fangs still concealed from view a lethal venom flows.
Belles Lettres, Birth, Consciousness, Death, Delusion, Existence, Hinduism, Indian Philosophy, Life, Literture, Pain, Philosophy, Reality, Religion, Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana, Suffering, Wisdom, Writing
Before they can be investigated—before they can even be seen to exist—some things must be dredged up from the depths where they sleep; but aren’t those precisely the things nobody wishes to dredge up?—precisely the ones we would rather let sleep?
Three of our most fundamental and most harrowing experiences as conscious beings, inhering within three of the most essential stages of our existence, are lost to us—totally lost. It is as if they had been obliterated, blotted from our minds.
But these blank areas where our life should be don’t trouble us, and nor do we trouble ourselves about them. Content to declare irrecoverably lost what we fear to find, we forge ahead with our daily projects, rendered insensible to reality’s depths by the deadening force of routine, and the suffering we endured during the initial phases of our embodiment in a material form remains buried in darkness and silence.
Indeed, a man can live and die without ever once becoming aware certain essential parts of his experience have vanished and without ever once reflecting on the significance of this disappearance.
The remarkable passages from the Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana which follow could be interpreted as a valiant attempt to recover that lost knowledge we would all like to remain lost, to remember what eludes memory and what memory is glad eludes it.
Read them if you dare!
Passages from the Srimad Bahgavata Mahapurana Describing Life in the Womb, at Birth, and in Early Infancy
Deriving its nutrition from the food and drink taken by the mother, the fetus grows and remains in that abominable receptacle of feces and urine, the breeding-place of worms. Bitten again and again all over the body by the hungry worms in the abdomen itself, the creature suffers terrible agony on account of its tenderness and swoons away moment after moment. Nay, adversely affected by the bitter, pungent, hot, salt, dry, acid and other such irritating substances consumed by its mother, the fetus experiences a painful sensation in every part of its body. Enclosed by the amnion and covered outside by the intestines, it remains lying in one side of the abdomen with its head turned towards the belly and with its back and neck arched like a bow. Unable to move its own limbs like a bird which cannot freely move in a cage, the creature in the womb finds its memory awakened by the will of Providence and recollects its doings committed during hundreds of previous lives and feels suffocated for a long time. What peace of mind can it have under such circumstances?
The fetus, though endowed with consciousness from the seventh month of its conception, is tossed by the winds that press the embryo downwards during the weeks preceding delivery, and cannot remain at one place like the worm born of feces in the same abdominal cavity. Tied to the physical body, made up of the seven ingredients, which are like so many cords to bind it, the human soul, which regards the body as his own self, is much afraid of the process of gestation being repeated in other such births, and with joined palms he entreats and extols Him by whom he was cast into the womb, in a tone full of agony.
Pushed downwards all of a sudden by the wind, the child issues out of the womb with great trouble, head downward, breathless and deprived of memory out of agony. Fallen on earth in a pool of blood and urine, discharged by the mother, the new born babe tosses like a worm sprung from ordure, and having lost its wisdom acquired in the womb and reduced to a state of self-identification with the body which is just the reverse of wisdom, cries loudly.
Being nourished by people who do not know the mind of another, it is given something which was not intended; and the pity of it is that the child is unable to refuse it. Laid on a foul bed infested by sweat-born creatures the poor creature is incapable even of scratching its limbs to relieve itching, much less of sitting up, standing or moving itself. Just as smaller worms bite a big worm, even so gnats, mosquitoes, bugs and other creatures sting or bite the babe, who is most tender of skin and, deprived of its wisdom acquired in the womb, cries bitterly.
Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana
What is shocking is not that we should occasionally think we’re wasting our time but that we should ever think we aren’t. For in the end what else can be done with time but to waste it? If we’re not wasting it in one way, which our own insistent self-reproach spotlights, we’re wasting it in another which, at least for now, under the spell of some gratifying misperception, we laxly characterize as profitable. Yet in retrospect all of our enthusiasms and all of our devotions are revealed as void or illusionary, while the hopes which upheld our efforts in the prosecution of this or that enterprise are inevitably exposed as vain.
2012 New Year’s Address
(2017 Anniversary Edition)
Friends, readers, fellow conspirators; critics keen to judge and judges quick to condemn; supporters and disciples who celebrate me, undeservingly, as the unforeseen reillumination of a flame long ago snuffed out; enemies, implacable and unresting, whom my numberless acts of criminal wrongdoing have accumulated over countless lifetimes; birds of the air, beasts of the field, fishes of the sea, insects of the soil; angels of heaven and devils of hell; ghosts and spirits pervading all worlds, beneficent and malign alike; gods and goddesses who, stupefied by the comforts of the higher realm you presently occupy, improvidently forget your fortunes are subject to reversal; beings unknown, creatures unnamed, and deities unacknowledged: I greet and salute you all without discrimination at the beginning of this new year, extending my warmest regards and sincerest best wishes on this third day of the first month of 2012 when the moon is in its waxing phase, the celestial influences or diamones awakened from dormancy by the Quadrantid meteor shower moving my passive hand, stationary just moments before, and prompting me to write these mysterious but true words which you are reading now, words which, before they are written, and before they reach you, enter my mind as if transferred through an unknown conduit from another dimension.
We dislike books which say things we dislike, and so make us dislike ourselves. On the other hand, we have an unhappy tendency to become attached to those which inflame our delusions, excuse our character flaws, and flatter our vanity. The truth is that our mind requires, to maintain its health, a much stricter diet than it is accustomed to. More bitter foods bring it greater nourishment. But we indulgently feed it what it craves most and finds most delicious, thereby reinforcing our habits and preferences and perpetuating our inveterate slavery to them. Is there any way out of this trap? If someone has succeeded in escaping from the prison of self-love, why doesn’t history record his name? . . . Let us try, now, to imagine a book whose contents we would normally construe as a pitiless attack on everything we hold dearest and identify with most strongly, but so cunningly and seductively written that instead of adopting toward it the lofty and scornful tone of the critic, instead of simply dismissing it as bad, we would succumb to it as if to a wizard’s spell. No sooner would we have finished reading this anomalous (I had almost said, miraculous) tome than we would renounce all of the ideas we had hitherto clung to and so break free at last of that oppressive and delusive “self” which had solidified around them—that unconsciously fabricated monstrosity which, with so much conviction, we call I. Does such a book, can such a book, be found—anywhere? Perhaps not. Perhaps each man, in a supremely heroic act of positive suicide, must write it for himself.