Essays — 11 February 2014

Shanti reflects on the universe and its amazing work to produce us, encourages us to participate in this gift of life and ultimately to wake up.

Over the very few years of this short “Life as Shanti”, I have learned a couple of languages: Dutch, French, English, German and classical Latin and Greek to start with and later on present day Italian. One of the first things I came across in each language, as a kind of starter, is the wonderful sequence: I am; you are; he, she or it is; we are; you are; they are.

So the first thing to learn is the pronomen personale, the personal pronoun and its corresponding form of being. In some languages the pronomen personale is omitted, because the corresponding form of the verb gives us that relevant information. In Latin, for example in the well-known quotation of René Descartes, “Cogito ergo sum”, the pronomen personale is lacking. The same is the case in Spanish for example, when someone is saying “bailo”, I dance, instead of “Yo bailo”.

What is meaningful to me in this sequence is that each form of life, I, You, He, She, It, We, You and They has its own specific way of being. They all are participating in that one-and-the same verb “to be”, but all in their very own and unique ways. They all share this same verb. They all are in the same business. It is the same “being” which flows through each one of them in an all the time different way.

But, maybe we have learned a “fiction”, something which is non-existing in reality. Maybe the pronomen personale is made of the same stuff dreams are made of.

We nowadays live in a Golden Age as far as research and findings into cosmology are concerned. Asked what the most astonishing fact is he can share with us about the universe, the American astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson answered:

What is the most astonishing fact is the knowledge that the atoms that comprise life on Earth, the atoms that make up the human body, are traceable to the crucibles that cooked light elements (like hydrogen and helium) into heavy elements (like carbon and oxygen) in their core under extreme temperature and pressure. These stars, the high mass ones among them, went unstable in their later years. They collapsed and then exploded, scattering their enriched guts across the galaxy, guts made of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and all the fundamental ingredients of life itself.

The ingredients become part of gas clouds that condense, collapse and form the next generation of solar systems, stars with orbiting planets and those planets now have the ingredients for life itself.

So when I look up at the night sky I know that, Yes!, we are part of this universe, we are in this universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts: that the universe is in us! When I reflect on that fact I notice many people feel small because they are small and the universe is big, but I feel big because my atoms come from those stars. There is a level of connectivity. That’s really what you want in life. You want to feel connected, you want to feel relevant, you want to feel like a participant in the goings on of activities and events around you. That’s precisely what we are, just by being alive!”

When I reflect on that scientific fact that my body is made of stardust, that I and the universe are so intimately interconnected, the sense of “I” and “Me” and “Mine” pops like a soap bubble. That once imagined need for a space between the pronomen personale “I” and “am” is gone, as I wrote here before.

I do never feel small when I look up at the night sky. There is neither a small nor a big “I” standing there, watching the immensity of space. I simply don’t feel any distance, any in-between. I do feel at home, included, like a baby in the womb, I guess.

Over the millions of years these ingredients of life Neil deGrasse Tyson is talking about have flowered. Although we do not know how it happened, the guts of the galaxies became alive. They flowered into minerals, into bacterial life, into plants, into fishes and mammals, into men and buddhas, known or unknown to the world, they flowered into you and me and that just goes on and on happening.

Geological Time Spiral

Image courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey

So, here we are. For about 13,8 billion years the universe has been working to produce us, you and me, all of us. Nevertheless, sometimes we feel that the result of this long evolution is not-okay. We may feel a need to “work on ourselves” and on our so-called “seven chakras”, instead of enjoying and celebrating the being, the happening we are, that only-once-in-an-eternity gift from the universe, as in my case, the “Shanti chakra”.

Who is this dream figure, this small or gigantic fantasy figure that wants to do better in a short lifetime than life managed to do in eternity? Why don’t we relax and enjoy this gift of life? Why not consider and welcome and embrace and celebrate the energy we are as our “favourite chakra”? Why not “let it be”? And why not now?

“What day is it?” asked Pooh.
“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
“My favourite day,” said Pooh.

Osho’s approach to these questions, as I understand it, is throwing the bucket of ice cold water all over our sleeping body. He says we are dreaming ourselves and he calls this dreamt one the “ego”. Over and over again he hints at the non-existence of it, but dreams have their own reality. They even manage to make us sweat and scream like hell. Although the rope we mistakenly or half asleep take for a snake cannot really bite us, it can frighten us to death! Waking up from this dream is the way to realize that there is no such a thing as a snake or an ego, that we are just a child of a much greater time and space than we could ever imagine.

The good news today, both from the recent findings of cosmology and from the study of the history of our planet Earth and of the evolution of Life as well, is that we don’t exist as an outsider, that we are a participant. There is nobody out there at all, no one to feel big or small. We are within this mysterious universe and it is within us as well, as Neil deGrasse Tyson is phrasing it. We are at home in eternity and in the cosmos, we have never been out and we will never fall out of it.

What IS too small are the frames we still use, the concepts of a past which wasn’t aware of who and where we are. As far as our family is concerned we still think of the family tree of relatives instead of the family tree of mankind and of life itself. As far as our space is concerned we still think of our house, our garden, our village or our town, our country or at the most our planet instead of a universe or a ‘multiversum’. Maybe our mind itself is too small an instrument. Maybe our minds were never meant to meet this mysterious universe! Entering into that mystery we may have to leave our minds where we leave our shoes.

It feels to me that studying cosmology and the Big History of our planet can be of some help to blow these limited boxes to pieces. To say it more precisely: it can have the same effect as the bucket of ice cold water. It can wake us up, it can trigger in us an experience, something different but comparable to what happened to some of the astronauts, when they were the first ones of us to see our planet from a distance, that “pale blue dot” in space, as cosmologist Carl Sagan lovingly used to call our dear Earth.

The study of our cosmos and of our Big History can wake us up from this dream of being an outsider instead of a participant. This waking up can be as easy as taking a walk through time.

A glacier is solidified, frozen water. In the absence of enough solar heat, the glacier may look like and imagine himself to be an independent body. But when it gets warmer it melts away, showing the stuff it is made of and flows into the river and finally back into the ocean. My feeling is that studying cosmology and our Big History can be helpful in a similar way in that melting and merging of our I, you, he, she, it, we, you or they, back into that greater whole.

Only in a dream each “pronomen personale” has an existence as an independent body, as an outsider. In reality no one of them has ever been out there as a small or big business and all of them will always be a participant.

Whatever the case: may we all embrace and enjoy that once-in-eternity-energy each one of us is already today: our favourite energy on our favourite day!

Shanti-TNShanti is Osho’s sannyasin for more than 35 years. A psychology teacher by profession, he translated the books of Roberto Assagioli and introduced ‘Psychosynthesis’ in Holland. He gave numerous workshops on witnessing and accepting sub-personalities. Later he was trained by Dr Edward de Bono in ‘Thinking Skills’ and worked as a management trainer. Nowadays he enjoys writing a book, The ‘Chronicle of the Earth’, the history of our planet from the Big Bang up to Now.