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In Search of an Awakened Existence - By Asif Zaidi

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I have always had a craving to reach deeper into the show of things in order to decipher the reality that sustains the show apparent to the eye.

I find the Prophet of Islam’s prayer “Oh God, may I see things in their reality!” an inspiring wish. I like people who negotiate unwaveringly the path of knowledge in a bid to understand the hidden meaning that lies locked up in the bosom of all existence. The path of knowledge is a difficult one to negotiate and requires its pilgrims to move on it with painstaking steps. Only those who brave the perils of this demanding journey are likely to see the light. It is man’s privilege to strive for higher ends in order to attain the knowledge of his own reality. As Ali Ibn AbiTalib explains, by discovering the manifestation of divine life within the inner recesses of his own being, man can so transform the quality of his consciousness that it offers a transparent medium to the universal, thus making it possible for him to understand the secret of the universe. People like Einstein or Tolstoy manifest this in their own ways. However, while it is possible for man’s consciousness to mirror mentacosmic life, it is very difficult to achieve this because the two most powerful instincts that control our consciousness are the instinct of self-preservation and the instinct of preserving the life of human species. These two constantly functioning instincts consume most of our energy and attention, leaving little time or energy for us to endeavour beyond the biological level of our existence.

These two instincts are of instrumental value for the preservation of human life, but the achievement of their satisfaction by man cannot be considered an end-in-itself. The problem is that for most of us their satisfaction becomes a matter of paramount importance, polluting our consciousness to an extent where no other purpose can be completely undertaken by us. Our biological preservation becomes a halter round our necks as we live virtually in bondage to those instincts well beyond the achievement of survival and security without ever realising the value of being free from that bondage. Most religions embody a well-calculated attempt to free man from the thraldom of these two instincts by confining their influence within their legitimate limits. But, under the excessive influence of these instincts leading to greed and lust, man manipulates the religion too, except, of course, those few who discover the real joy of giving. Giving of themselves and of their belongings like Mother Teresa, Abdul Sattar Edhi, John D Rockefeller, Bono, Bill Gates etc.

I feel that most of us, including myself, are content to exist in the basement of the high-rise building that is life. We are afraid to make an effort to scale higher levels of human experience of life. There are quite a few though, like the ones mentioned above, in our personal experience who are fully committed to self-reform. As Bono explained, when after supreme hard work the moment of liberation comes to us we have a feeling of waking up from slumber and discovering the wakeful state of consciousness. No wonder why the outstanding human beings have been down the ages known as awakened ones. People like Edhi or Gates manifest that sacrifices and efforts required for achieving higher consciousness and moving on into a new dimension of life are a worthwhile investment to make on the “bargaining counter of Time”. The likes of Socrates manifest that man has a higher destiny than that of mere animal existence. Young Aitzaz (who laid down his life to stop a suicide bomber from blowing up his school with hundreds of children inside it) is a vivid example that life often offers us an opportunity to rise above the inevitable end of biological life. To not to realize the fullness of life is a tragedy. Aren’t the bargains we make on “Time Exchange” worth greater consideration than, for instance, the ones we trade on “Stock Exchange”?

The injunctions of different religions such as the dictates for prayer, fasting, or pilgrimage are just methods to draw away man’s attention from these two commanding instincts. The aim of humanity’s seers and guides has been to make man look at himself and the world he inhabits from a direction other than the perspectives which are mere projections of these biological instincts. The idea is to help us transcend our limitations for higher objectives, allowing new vistas of existence enter into our consciousness. It is from this advanced awareness that man can scan the entirety of his environment –physical, moral, mystical, cerebral, psychological- and can play an effective role in the scheme of things.

My emphasis on the pursuit of higher consciousness is not about advocating the gospel of otherworldliness. Far from it. It is about living fully and effectively on earth and contributing to its wellbeing. It also does not mean to discourage from actively seeking to get well-heeled. It’s good to be rich or to be successful in a career just as it is good to be intelligent and smart. What matters in the final analysis is how we use our gifts and our resources, especially beyond the satisfaction of our needs. Almost all the evolved people I have known personally have known to use their career success to higher ends. In fact my humble and meek voice merely echoes the plea for our being inspired by higher ends made by all our wise men, sages, saints, because without relating ourselves to higher life we are apt to be lost in petty personal objectives or completely dictated by those unimportant immediacies of life which always distort our perspective of things. Once we let these immediacies take control of our existence, it is like servants taking over the high-rise of our life - leaving the real master to bide his time in the basement.

It is amazing that man is often so occupied with the means of keeping his life going that he never contemplates about its purpose. Most of us only react to what occurs outside the borders of our being; thus the ground of our action lies outside ourselves and we never really act on our own. As far as our awareness of our development is concerned, we are, at all times, part of nature and yield to the domination of the powers of nature without objection and minus protest. All spiritual growth, on the other hand, consists in making a conscious effort by placing emphasis on our identity. The more developed our awareness of ourselves the more we are able to change the level of our life and evolve in the true sense. Our life’s experiences expose to us the insufficiency of the authority of our observation and judgment. And we tell ourselves if we were more evolved we would know the rules of the universe to make right decisions about our worldly promises and objectives. The more we evolve the more our vision is able to grapple with the problems that confront us in life. Our moral and mental powers are developed not by running away from life but by contending with it. As a result of our determination to face the tests posed by the logic of life we live here below, we can reach a higher state of being. We have no other means of evolving.

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