Yes, there is a civil war raging inside all of us, including those who look very happy or materially and financially very well-off or very spiritual. In fact, especially those falling in these three categories, they have a terrible war going on inside. All of us fall prey to this war. No one, except the very few who can be counted on one’s fingers (whom I call the great wisdom teachers), has been exempt.
What is this civil war? This is the war going on between opposite ideas, opposite ways of behaviour, opposite desires, opposite goal or purpose in life, call it whatever.
The ancient Chinese teachers gave us the concept of yin and yang. They saw that the world consisted of opposites and they came to the conclusion that these opposites create one another. Life brings death. Day means that night is coming. Good recognizes that there will be something bad. Youth is a sign of old age in future.
The German philosopher Johann Fichte (1762 – 1814) for the first time advanced the theory of thesis-antithesis-synthesis which meant, simply put, that a thing (thesis) gives rise to its opposite (antithesis) and then the two merge (synthesis) to create something new (another thesis) and the process continues. And this is how the world goes on. (This is sometimes erroneously attributed to the other great German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel (1770 – 1831), but actually the theory came from Fichte.)
I wrote an earlier post titled, ‘Which Direction To Follow’, in which I tried to expand upon one of Jesus’ well-known quotes wherein he said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Bible, Book of Matthew, Chapter 6)
Starting with this quote, we looked at the two worlds Jesus was trying to distinguish between, i.e., the world of God and the world of money. Or, if you will, the material world and the spiritual world.
Now, the thing with Jesus is that he was talking to mostly uneducated, illiterate Jewish labourers who had previously very limited exposure to spiritual discussions. All they had probably heard previously was recitations of the Jewish scriptures without anyone taking the pains to explain how the same applied to the people’s everyday lives. Jesus was one of the few who made the effort to present a more easily understandable version (of his own mystical view of the universe).
If, on the other hand, we look at Buddha, we see a totally different picture. Buddha did not talk about God. He talked about how the human mind worked, how desires created suffering. He could talk in a more sophisticated way probably because the ancient Indian civilization was much more advanced than the Palestine of Jesus’ time.
Coming back to Jesus’ view of the two worlds, i.e., the world of God and the world of money, I think Jesus realized that both belong to the world of attachment and that if he was teaching people to pick one, then he was still teaching them to remain attached. But, he did not have the option to use more sophisticated words; otherwise, his audience would not have understood a single word. He had to give them something plain, simple and very easy to understand. He could not have told them to ‘meditate’. He could not have told them to go beyond the known world and to search for the unknown, to search for ‘nothing’. No, he had to give them ‘something’ to look forward to. He had to talk about ‘God’ or the ‘Father’. He couldn’t be very subtle. He had to keep it simple enough for the average Palestinian man on the street of his times. And that’s why he used the terms the ‘Father’ and the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ or the ‘Kingdom of God’. The idea was the same. He still wanted to show people that they had the option to live in an ego-less world, to drop all layers of the ‘self’ and to experience the pure nakedness in which they would come across the source, the creator that created them. But he was just doing it in a way that suited the environment he was working in. Every great teacher knows that waking people up from a slumber of many millennia is never going to be an easy task. So, they use methods that are more conducive to the given environment.
Anyways, coming back to our own times, today we can talk more directly. We can understand better that whether you talk about the world of money or you talk about the world of God, you are talking about attachment. You may be attached to money, power, sex, material progress, etc. Or, you may be attached to God, religion, spirituality, oneness, etc. If there is a desire, if there is a direction, if there is an idea of becoming something better than you are right now, if there is an idea of growth, if there is an idea of movement (spiritual or religious progress), there is attachment. There is duality. There is polarity.
There is a beautiful Native Indian Cherokee story, in which a father teaches his son about good and evil through a parable involving two wolves. He tells his son that there is a terrible fight going on inside him between two wolves. One is good and the other is evil. The evil wolf has anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, greed, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego. The good wolf has joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, kindness and compassion. This fight, he told the young boy, is going on inside every one, including the little boy. The boy is listening attentively. He asks, “Which wolf is going to win?” The father says, “The one you are going to feed.”
Beautiful story and, again, there is that duality, those opposite ends of the pole, the polarities. A play of opposites. The pendulum swings from one side to the other.
And, as the Chinese wisdom teachers said, opposites create one another.
I don’t believe there will be peace inside as long as the opposites exist, as long as the two wolves exist, as long as there is a thesis which is going to become the antithesis. No, as long as the polarities exist, the war will keep going. The struggle will continue. The battle will keep raging.
The only way to end this war is to balance the pole, to stop the swing of the pendulum, to stop feeding either wolf. The only way to end the war is to stop all activity. I am talking about utter silence and stillness. Some call it meditation, others call it prayer. Not prayer as in begging ‘God’ to grant this, that or some other wish, but prayer as in dropping / letting go of all layers of the ‘self’. When you drop all layers, when you let go of all attachments, when you become absolutely naked, then the individual meets the universal, the temporary meets the eternal, the creation meets the creator. That dropping of all layers and letting go of all attachments is true prayer. And that true prayer happens in utter silence and stillness.
In such silence and stillness, you stop taking sides. You stop making one end of the pole heavier than the other. You stop choosing one thing over another. You stop being in the world of ideas, thoughts and words. You stop being in the world of images and attachments. The pole is balanced. Actually, to be more precise, the pole and the polarities, both, disappear. You move beyond the world of opposites.
If and when that happens, you might come upon something totally new, something which is not a reaction from the past, which is not a product of our conditioning, which is not an illusion created by the mind, which is not a part of the games played by the ego.
This something new may bring us face to face with our source, where we came from, what we call God or what Jesus called the Kingdom of Heaven or what Buddha called Nirvana or what Mahavira called Moksha or what Mohammad called Tawhid. Call it whatever. Some teachers have called it a choiceless existence.
To conclude, if you have felt this war going on inside, this constant strife, agitation, worry, stress, conflict, weariness, if you feel the constant need for relationships or alcohol or weed or cigarettes or other addictions and you just cannot stop and you want to try something different, then try something new… try taking yourself out of the world in which you normally live, put the everyday stuff aside and just sit quietly and breathe and feel your breath coming in and going out. Just feel that movement. Enjoy that rhythm. Thoughts and worries will come. Not to worry. They will be like clouds on a clear sky. Keep watching these clouds without getting fixated. Just note what are these thoughts and worries. Those are the attachments which are causing the problems. Just note what these are and tell yourself that you are going to find a solution to those problems. Or if you can already think of a solution, note it down and plan to start working on it and that cloud will disappear. Don’t let there be any lose ends. If there are lose ends, i.e., issues that you are no doing anything about, then, there will be stress, anxiety, etc. Once you tie up all the lose ends, you will have room to be free and to practice doing nothing. In that freedom and nothingness, you will find the greatest treasures man can find.
Just keep working on tying up all the lose ends and keep finding that time to just breathe. Everything else will happen on its own.