Article by Pratiksha Apurv published in Speaking Tree, New Delhi, India, on June 28, 2015.
Update: The following year the artist received the National Artist Award for her painting titled, Cosmic Balance.
In life, there is no possibility of living in the middle. One has to remain available for the opposites.
Cosmic Balance, 60′ diameter, Oil on Canvas, 2014
We all want happiness and pleasure in life, even at the cost of forgetting the basic mantra that one cannot separate pain from pleasure; they are two sides of a coin. There will hardly be any disagreement that our approach towards life is very selective and fragmented, and we want only happiness, not sadness. If someone rejoices in pain or sadness, people might call that person a madman, because we are not supposed to welcome pain with open arms. Our whole effort is to avoid pain. This is despite the fact that life is full of extremes, and there is no possibility of living in the middle. One has to remain available for the opposites.
The secret, as expounded by great mystics, is to enjoy the moment in its totality by witnessing everything in life — be it happiness or sadness — like an outsider. Sages say that balance in life happens just by witnessing pleasure and pain, which they have also described as beauties of life.
It Keeps Us Alive
The seventh shloka in Bhagawad Gita’s chapter six gives a glimpse about this state: Jitatmana prashantasya parmatma samahitah, sheetoshnasukhdukheshu tatha manapanamayo — Godliness enters the heart of that human being, who accepts happiness-sadness, respect-insult and heat-cold in their totality and with complete peace. Krishna tells Arjuna that is no complaint; a person is at peace and enjoys all these opposites with same enthusiasm, with the same spirit, if there is balance in life. The togetherness of these opposites — what we call cosmic balance — keeps us alive.
Osho often talked about a tightrope-walker who constantly moves from left to right, and from right to left. Whenever he realises that he has shifted too much to the left, and there is fear of falling, he immediately balances himself by moving to the right, the opposite of left.
Osho called it the secret of balancing, a dynamic process where one has to go on moving from left to right and right to left, to remain in the middle or centre. One has to accept the extremes for balance in life, but it has to be choiceless and you just need to remain available for both the extremes. Happiness and sadness — both the states have their own beauties.
There is this story about a man who sought a Zen master’s help to avoid heat and cold. The Zen master gave a simple and short answer: “Just be hot, be cold.” It means, to avoid pain, the pain itself has to be accepted in its totality, just as you accept pleasure, and the process has to be natural.
Laughter cannot be without tears, day cannot be without night, heat cannot be without cold, and birth cannot be without death. Just witness both these extremes, and balance in life will begin to happen on its own.
As Kabir put it: Jahan nahi sukh-dukh, sach-jhuth nahi, pap na pun pasara, nahin din-rain, chand nahi suraj, bin jyoti ujiyara — In the palace, there is no happiness or sadness; there is no truth or falsehood, there is no sin or virtue, no day or night, no moon or sun, but still, the palace is illuminated without light.
Whatever you have, just accept it in totality. There is nothing in your life that is meaningless. Live life in all possible ways, but don’t choose one thing for the other. Balance will come by itself, by accepting and witnessing all the dimensions of life, and it will happen naturally, not through your efforts.
Stop living your life with rules, just live in its totality. If there is bitterness, there is also sweetness. Experiencing bitterness will make you appreciate the sweetness of life. One who knows how to cry, will fully understand how to laugh. The totality and continuous movement from one extreme to another will bring grace in your life, and it will also prepare you for the state that Krishna and Kabir talked about.
When unhappiness comes, you would know that it will pass, and when pleasure comes, you know that it too will pass. The only thing that remains is your witnessing, and that witnessing triggers cosmic balance in our existence. In fact, this witnessing of opposites is the very balance. Accept that life is interdependent and not independent or dependent. You depend on trees for oxygen, and trees depend on you for carbon dioxide. Males and females are dependent on each other for their own existence.
Some people are hell-bent on destroying ecology by cutting down forests. But we cannot survive without trees and neither can trees exist without us. Our very existence is interwoven with nature, the ecosystem, and if humanity has to survive, this interdependence has to be understood in totality and respected.
Ecology doesn’t only mean the environmental aspect as the elements are closely linked to one’s inner spiritual world as well. If you witness this interdependence quietly in every routine thing that you are doing, you will realise that life is in a state of deep interdependence.
Update: The following year the artist received the National Artist Award for this painting: National Artist Award for Pratiksha