My Wake-up Call

From Pratiksha Apurv's desk Media Watch

When we walk, sleep, or even perform a mundane activity with awareness, it becomes meditation and the centring of our being begins, writes Pratiksha Apurv. Published in Speaking Tree, February 4, 2018.

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There are so many things we do through the day as a matter of routine, without conscious thought. For instance, on arriving home, our hand instinctively reaches for the front door to enter. When we leave office, we open our car door without even thinking. We perform all these actions mechanically, as though in sleep. We live in a state of constant inattentiveness even if we were to simply move our hand from left to right! Just as an experiment, let us try and move our hand with awareness. We will immediately realise that the particular moment was full of grace. The unawareness or sleep is gone, we are now fully awake, and this aware state is what the Buddha called ‘wakefulness’, and it is this wakefulness that is the way to living life.

The Dhammapada states, “Awareness is the path of immortality, while unawareness is the path that leads to a life lived in sleep and eventual death. If a person is awake, aware and lives accordingly, he or she will certainly find joy in life.” It further says that this awareness is the difference between life and death, and that we are not alive just because we are breathing, but because we are truly aware. The Buddha’s emphasis was on two very important aspects – life and awareness. And, if life is our goal, if living life to its fullest is the ultimate aim, then awareness is the only highway to reach there. I have tried to depict the state of this continuous presence that ‘we are’, through the painting, Awareness. When we walk, sleep, or even perform any mundane activity with awareness, it becomes meditation and the centring of our being begins. This centring leading to crystallisation is very important for the birth of our being.

Awareness, oil on canvas, 2009
Awareness, oil on canvas, 2009

That’s when we are born again and become the twice-born. In the painting, the girl’s shadow indicates her state of awareness. The chandelier is about to fall and break; she instantly realises this through awareness, and at that very moment moves away. Mandukya Upanishad describes this phenomenon as the ‘wake-up call from the sky’. It says that when we realise the Self through awareness, and we further discover this Self in everything, we are no longer an object or machine, but become an awakened one. Osho put it very simply by saying that whatsoever you are doing, go on doing that one thing continuously – just be aware of yourself while doing it.

When you are eating, just be aware of your eating, and when you are angry, just be aware that you are angry. This constant remembering of the self creates a subtle energy in you and you begin to be a crystallised being. Kabir’s poems beautifully describe this awareness in his rustic but beautiful language. Many of his poems are a call to acknowledge and live in this awareness, which he termed as Jatan. He says, “Man Gorakh, man Gobind, man hi Aughad soy/ Jo man raakhe jatan kari, aape karta hoy.” Kabir says that the body is not doing anything; the entire activity is governed by the inner world of awareness. We only need to be aware of ourselves and the rest will follow.

This is the most significant phenomenon that will light our inner consciousness. In his poems, Kabir describes ordinary village women returning home from the river with vessels full of water carefully balanced on their heads. They never use their hands to support the pots even when they are deeply engaged in talking to each other, or while singing a song in chorus. Kabir wonders how they manage to continuously retain the pots on their heads without ever spilling a drop of water. He himself answers it by saying that it is because of pure awareness – a watchful inner guard. Kabir tells us that we should all live, work and walk just like those women who – with precariously balanced pots on their heads – reach home without even spilling a drop of water.

Next time, do remember to open the door of your house with this awareness, and when in a crowded marketplace, be present with this awareness. Jatan for Kabir means an inner remembrance, which the Buddha calls ‘right mindfulness’ – whatever we are doing, just remember to be aware, in a state of ‘I am’. Slowly, a certain fragrance, a certain luminosity, a certain grace will spread around us, and the mind will become clean and pure as godliness. When we become forgetful, it means that the mind is playing tricks and is overpowering the state of awareness.

There is a very thin line between forgetfulness and unawareness. Kabir has more to say on Jatan, awareness: “Das Kabir jatan kar odhi/ jyon ki tyon dhar deeni chadariya.” Kabir says he draped the subtle yarn of awareness around him, and returned it just as he received it from the lord himself. This is what awareness is all about – living our life, maintaining a constant remembrance and witnessing our self totally.

Pratiksha ApurvPratiksha Apurv –

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