The fundamental question

The most fundamental question of life is “Is there joy and peace in my life?”

It’s the essential question, and yet most of us run away from it. We’re pretty good at not facing up to ourselves. I suppose most of us believe that life has to be the way it is. We buy into the popular definitions of success and we believe when we’re successful we’re happy–when we have money, when we have approval, when someone is bringing us flowers–we’re happy then, and when there is grief, we say, well, this is just the way it is, this is the human condition, we have to buck up and deal with.

I suppose we feel that if we do everything right, at some point life will open up and reward us. Or death will.

I certainly looked at life in this way for forty five years.

It was only because of suffering, an exhaustion from a two decades of depression and anxiety and confusion, and in circumstances where I was not getting what I thought I wanted, that I was able to face this basic question head on, and with this openness, a reading of Tolle’s Power of Now suddenly made complete sense.

We might ignore this basic question, but it will not ignore us–it constantly nags at us. Especially in times of grief, we look up at the heavens in search for big concepts, the big secret, God or spirituality or the law of attraction, or the ideas of right and wrong, or the idea of control and reward, something, anything, which is bigger and more powerful than us.

We look outside. Or we look to new beliefs.

We don’t look inside because we have a fundamental mistrust of our inner nature.

Somewhere in the Bible, it says “God shall not be mocked.” This pretty much sums what many of us who tend towards religion and spirituality believe. We reflect our sadness and fear in the systems of beliefs we choose–the beliefs in God, or karma, or success, or whatever it is we are inclined to believe for now. God becomes something outside of us, someone who is judgmental and someone to be feared. We better not mock God, we better not fool around with our karma, we better not stray.

But from an awakened perspective, the meaning is very different. “God shall not be mocked” simply means that God is not capable of being ashamed of us. It’s a blessing, not a warning.

The concept of karma is pretty popular these days, and we’ve made it some sort of universal debit-credit system, where you can make up for your bad deeds by doing good in the future. The concept is bastardized to reflect what we truly believe life to be–we think life is a trial, a fearful journey of right steps and wrong steps. Having taken wrong steps in the past, all we now have to do is to tread carefully and take the right steps, so we can make up for it, and be ahead of the pack.

We fall to systems of beliefs and concepts because we have a fundamental distrust of our true nature. It’s not surprising that we fall to concepts which make judicial sense, which have some justice to them. From a place of fear and distrust, we crave a sense of control, and from a place of fear and sadness, what appeals to us most are concepts which explain life as a trial which punishes and rewards.

When Arjuna fell down at Krishna’s dusty feet at the epic Mahabharata battle of Kurukshetra, he could not see how he could slay his own relatives. This was too much.

Krishna showed him his universal form and told him he must fight.

I always wondered how it is that the divine or awakened Krishna was promoting violence, and not just violence, but the most despicable kind of violence–the violence of killing your own brethren.

Of course, what he was really telling Arjuna is that he must slay his attachments.

That beliefs are one of our strongest attachments may not be an easy thing for some to accept. It can take Krishna’s kind of violence to give up the love of our beliefs and concepts and ideas. Our attachment to ideas which explain the world to us is pretty strong, starting with the concept of an imagined and separate self, and all the subsequent beliefs of success and spirituality and love and rightness and goodness and compassion. We constantly take on and churn these ideas and concepts; they give the mind meaning and sense of control and sense of justice. And we wait for the rewards.

That the attachment to these beliefs are the very thing we must kill–well, that’s not an easy thing to see.

It’s not that we need to take on and polish new ideas and beliefs and concepts to see this. It’s not about spirituality or religion or psychological figuring out or intellectual analysis or the next new big secret. It’s not about ideas or viewpoints at all.

It’s simpler than that. It’s a letting go.

We can let go naturally through observation and honesty.

As you observe thoughts, without the effort to judge or analyze or change, you might notice that thoughts slow down. The gaps in-between expand.

You notice also that many of our thoughts are of self-judgment. This may not be obvious at first–well the obviously self-judgmental thoughts are clearly self-judgmental–but you begin to notice that almost all of your thoughts are in some way about judgment and about self. And then you start noticing what judgment is. And what self is. And whether it points to anything real.

Observance and honesty–in abiding in this quiet awareness, watching, watching thoughts without interfering or participating is a pretty good way to start.

21 thoughts on “The fundamental question

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hehe, well we’ll allow that one belief.

      It’s not the truth or falsity of any particular beliefs–we just have to look at the whole nature of beliefs and see the motivation behind them comes from fear and desire. Mindstuff.

      Haven’t heard from you for while; I hope you’re doing well!

      k

      Reply
  1. Janice R.

    Hi Mr. K.,
    Why am I resistant to the joy? I can actually be having a nice day and there is no boggie man on the horizon and yet I will not allow myself to feel joy or it does not occur to me to be joyful. It certainly is not a natural state for me. I have to stay prepared, you know, have my sword arm ready.
    Love ya like a fat girl loves birthday cake.
    Janice
    P.S. please before anyone becomes offended by my fat girl/cake comment, please allow me this once, as I am the fat girl and yes my Bday is coming.

    Reply
    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hey Janice,

      When you think about it, when our basic needs for food and water and shelter are taken care, why wouldn’t we be joyful? There is joy in simply existing in this mysterious and interesting universe. So why are we resistant to this flow and joy?

      One of the interesting realizations which comes as you get deeper in this stuff is that everyone believes that most other people have it figured out, while they are in the minority, feeling sad or fearful or confused. But if you look, everyone lives in this state of confusion and fear. It shows up in different ways. It’s true that some people may be happy when there is egoic happiness–when there is success or new love or money or whatever–but you can also see that this veneer is fragile.

      Your question is the most basic one. Why are we resistant to joy? One answer is that we’re highly identified with the mind, with thoughts and beliefs and desires and the way things should be. We’re hardly ever present.

      Happy birthday!

      with love,
      k

      Reply
  2. Nitin

    Namaste Kaushikbhai,

    How do you do that ? I salute you..what a great way to explain.

    Your words: That beliefs are one of our strongest attachments may not be an easy thing for some to accept.
    How true ? we don’t let it go our grabbing, we read, write discussed & act like we have changed but NO really, make our self foolish.
    We may not have understood properly all the ancient script like Geeta, Ramayana, Upnisada, Purana, etc, some where in middle age transformation within ages lost the true meaning of it.
    Thank you for the great post once again, I wish, I can observe my thought that easily, keep trying.
    Enjoyed very much. Some how, I felt good / joyful when I understood truly.

    Cheers..
    Nitin

    Reply
    1. Kaushik Post author

      Thank you, Nitin.

      You’re right, it is not more mental understanding we need. We have all the understanding we need–we are highly identified with our thoughts, and this keeps a curtain between us and life. Spirituality and the ancient scriptures you mention can be interesting, and can give us examples, but not more, because recognition can only come from within us, and not through external beliefs or practices. There is nothing we have to do or become to be spiritual–we’re all already spiritual.

      Thanks for your excellent thoughts. Hope you and your family are keeping well!

      cheers,
      k

      Reply
  3. Dark Warrior

    Humility is the best spiritual tool, as David R. Hawkins puts it in his more advanced and sophisticated explanations. His books help the intellect keep pace with being, as Eckharte Tolle advises us to do. I needed intellectual understanding in order to relinquish control and resistance. Humility is my only way around the spiritual super-ego, a very tough nut to crack for me. Pain also has to be transcended. David R. Hawkins helped me where Eckharte Tolle could not. The gradual climb is my path, development of the intellect and persona along with transcending both through plain and simple humility. It is easier when life helps, but life is not always gentle. The meek shall inherit the earth. While you suffer humble yourself before your pain and know that you dont know why it is happening and just watch and learn. Crash, burn,and learn. That which is to give light must endure burning. Just a couple anonymous quotes written by Consciousness itself. Take no credit for anything superhuman or genius or say goodbye to those gifts most likely. Relax with the pain and be humble don’t complain life is just some kind of game and even though when it rain, it fuckin pours, and all us men really want is whores, o’ lord. Transcend your baser animal instinctual brain with spiritual intuition and humility as your sword to cut through ignorance. Your own and the world’s. Humble yourself but be powerful. Stand your ground. Nobody has a right to move you but feel free to adabt as you see fit. Just do your best and try and die before you die or at least overcome the fear of dying. Only through humility can we actually see reality. All else is from us or the collective unconscious. Further! Keep going! But make no effort, just face the inevitable pain and relinquish everything. The agony of dying is nothing compared to the increase of Love and Power, Compassion and Kung Fu. Make nice with duality. Choose both. Be both God and Satan and stop feeling bad about existing for Christ’s sake! Lol! I love you fellow seekers. Look for an aura, a twinkle in the eye, or the eyes on bright. Look for graceful fluid movement and relaxed effort and even ceaseless motion. Not all Buddahs can sit still! The energy is so too fun to use, to mix up into the world. Good luck with the journey. Say a prayer for teaching my 5 year old daughter any humility thanks to her egomanical mother (nah she isn’t that bad) and don’t take no shit out there from those that are sabatoging your awareness and not giving you ample time to think. Like your parents. If you get stuck smoke a little medicinal marijuana it helps open the mind to some other possibilities like I dunno not being miserable just because you exist and life is pain until you know the truth. Once you know, do not say. Just hold the frequency. Shutting up now =)

    Reply
  4. Dark Warrior

    I have a touch of insanity and devilish urges and addictive cravings. Everything in moderation. I also enjoy good merit and positive karma. You can be any kind of person you choose, moment to moment. It is all okay. Most important is to keep heading up, sort of. Humility helps when you want to use the increase in energy and power for your own self-serving needs,wants, and desires. The offer is to obtain God’s Power but Reject God’s Love. An honest mistake, my friends, because the psyche cannot understand the peace that passes all understand. It cannot understand Unconditional Love and non-violence when attacked. To be humble is truely to be insulted and to allow it. To be hurt and to allow it. To die. It will suck. The point is that you go beyond the narrow confines of that stupid, idiotic, moronic existance trapped in conditions. We want to break out! Now! Allow even though you cant accept. Allow and be humble even though you cant forgive yourself or God or others. Its okay. It is not your fault, it can’t be. Because we are all consciousness. We are only as strong as our weakest link. The more humble the person, the greater is Love and Power and Awareness and the less his self can exist because it must die at that point. It has been totally undermined. Its underpinnings removed, and it just… collapses. You give up. Then you start caring. Really caring, not the artificial, superficial so called “caring” and “love” of the ego. Addictive clinging. Attachement! Suffering! The Dark Side! Oh Noooooooo! We will all do fine. Kudos to you Kaushik, you have done an amazing thing in your life. Be proud. Just not too proud, wink wink.

    Reply
  5. Dark Warrior

    Oh and one other thing, I am well aware that my brain has gone all Charlie Sheen on me and I am working out the kinks. Believe me, awakening has wreaked havoc on my personal and financial life but mostly my body through HPV. Its like forced abstinence or celibacy due to the severity of the infenction and my very dirty and shameful “feeling” about it. So I’m messed up so don’t listen to my advice too much. Dr. Patrick Porter has some relaxation tapes that help with chronic pain and mental-emotional body-mind stress. David R. Hawkins will take your mind to new heights. Just read, the whole point is you dont get it. Thats why you read it. Because you don’t get it all. Its absurd. It doesn’t make sense. Does not compute. That shit takes you beyond mind. Beyond mind is life itself and even if your life sucks the spectacle of Reality trumps your problems. My life is a nightmare of hellish proportions. And i am not even a real sinner. I’m just ignorant despite my spiritual genius and i have the same genetically defective brain and body as the rest of you. Its all impersonal. The inner judge and victim are traits of unawareness. It is just the absence of love, that is why we feel like shit. Humility opens you up to REAL LOVE. Its startling and it will sweep you away in the current and you will go where life takes you at the very least and at best manifest wonderous things and hopefully build a tolerance to pain. Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. This is true. Take it from me. I hurt so bad everyday, yet i am in spiritual ecstasy and bliss. I even have a lot of sorrow and mixed up stuff. But there is peace, and that is enough. God bless and good luck. We are all almost there. Once you get there keep going. It doesn’t end. It does not ever end. There will be no end but there will be relief so keep going.

    Reply
  6. Dark Warrior

    I did some brief browsing on The Sedona Method and the most valuable thing I didn’t already know was in order to release big “traumas” like the ones I described, well the ego corrupts those experience and your dark side (the pain body) can become slightly depraved and defiled. Like Las Vegas type of stuff lol, drugs sex and rock & roll. Anyways the point is the part I read was it’s okay to “feel anything.” This loosened up some of the knots and brought more Attention & Allowing into my pain, as well as a loosening of the very painful knots and strange body pains. These types of experiences are so lonely, luckily a kundalini yoga class just opened at the gym i haven’t been to in a while! Anything I am missing besides Breathe, Allow, Surrender? I have released enough contractions, blockages, obstacles, barriers, limits, disability, and all types of pain that I can finally actually do some physical yoga and toss the drugs, even medicinal cannibas. Not trying to lay my troubles at your feet. My feelings of “entrapment in total pain and continuous why bother attitudes and intellectual gymnastics and physical self-improvement” do not lead to peace. Neither does self-destruction, unless we are talking about ego purification or ego-death. How do undo the spiritual ego when a weak person is given power we weant to exercise it & make a bad life better. Humility is difficult but surrendering to God at great depth bring about rapid advances in consciousness. I just want to evolve & heal. Not really interested how people percieve me, that is their business & i can’t control it, only influence it & go by intuition. How do you surrender the un-surrenderable or accept the unacceptable or forgive the unforgiveable. Obviously this would kill your self or send you into low self-esteem, self-consciousness, self-image and reputation problems. A true zen master would not care about things but living in the world but not of it is difficult when you have ties to the world. Responsabilities and obligations. I tell you this not to lay my problems at your feet but to ask a fellow seeker what you might do given this limited information. I truely experienced kundalini, but integrating an experience of that magnitude is difficult, not having a healthy sex life is also damaging. The blow to the ego is enormous, and spiritual growth is unstable and unreliable as is the world and myself in general. I am doin alright for the shape im in, lol. Found an odd enlightened sense of humor. But clreaning up the mess is my problem. It seems impossible for the conscious yet dysfunction person with kundalini and physical challenges like backpain and hpv symtoms who just all of a sudden “half awakens” to succeed in the world. I must be avoiding complete honesty accidentally because of the pain it will cause my psyche. The death of the self is very painful I have heard but it is cushioned by the love of the Self. Some of these words are Hawkins, who mother Thereasa said about his book “I”, “The real author of the book is consciousness itself.” Power Vrs. Force is good, Eye of the I is better, and I is very nearly truth itself as far as the intellect can go. Anyways I come off wrong but I don’t care nobody seems to seek like a man who’s hair is on fire seeks a pond as I do. I can’t live without being free from physical imprisonment, I dunno about you guys lol. I probably need to surrender the illusion that I can fix or heal any of my problems or other peoples “problems” and just be for a long enough time. That feels like doing nothing but I think that is the point. It relaxes the nervous system and we relax into life. We become less nervous fish. Remeber, small fish strange pond. Origional name of the movie Frenemy. Take er’ easy all.

    Reply
    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Dark Warrior,

      I can tell you my experience. You’d have to judge how it applies to you. I don’t have much experience with the symptoms you describe. I don’t have any experience with physical pain and some of the other troubles you describe. My troubles are with depression and anxiety, and connected to these there have been often periods of very low energy and low motivation.

      You’ve already had considerable success with releasing. My advice is to continue, while you remain open to everything else. Letting go happens in layers, as you already know. In my case, I first learned to let go of the obvious things, the hard emotions, like anxiety and worry and compulsive thinking. And as I continued to let go–I found I can let go of attachments to beliefs and ideas much in the same way. Where it all leads, I don’t know, but I can say that there is an inner calm. This is a pretty good place to live life from. Certainly, it isn’t perfect, I have preferences and aversions, I want, I don’t get what I want. Things happen in life that I don’t like, and sometimes circumstances can bring anxiety or fear or worry. There is often a tendency to want to control the process, to hurry it up, but this too can be observed and let go off. And it can come back, and I let go again. The stuff of life happens, and it affects me because I’m not completely free yet, but still there is an increasing connection with calm and peace underneath.

      The deconstruction happens in layers–sometimes it can seem that it’s three-steps-forward-and-two-back.

      You say that you’ve released blockages and can now manage without medications–that’s tremendous progress. Continue to be open to medicine and medical solutions. Unlike many others in these circles, I don’t espouse western medicine. There is obvious success and solutions in medicine. What you have is physical pain from physical causes–it seems to me that this what western medicine is particularly competent with.

      k

      Reply
  7. Jeff

    Hi Kaushik,

    Your writing flows more and more – wonderful. You seem to be coming full circle here. Telling your story that we all journeyed with you over the last months(or year) but now in such a more succinct and gathered manner.

    Bravo.
    Jeff

    Reply
  8. Philip

    Hey Kaushik,
    I think the fundamental question should be, Is there life? What ever form that may take is whatever form it takes, peace, love, hatred, negativity. It’s all part of the same completeness. The departure is when it is seen to be not, or there is striving for something else something other than what is (good or bad). The secret is to see that it’s all wholeness and fully complete, it just appears or is judged to be lacking or missing something. The mind does everything after the fact pretending it has control. Its almost like you are on a wild water slide, just relax and experience it, you can’t get off or change it’s course, you are not in control that is illusion. Looking for something different or better or worse even is just more separation from what is. What a relief to unburden the organism from the seeking, with the collapse of the belief that there is a person with something to find or get or achieve. Do you think the mass muderer had control over the events that brought about the killings? No it was his false seeking self, striving for completeness, belief in the illsuion of lack. Who had the belief? Illusion in completeness.

    Reply
    1. Kaushik Post author

      Yes, the void, emptiness. This is Tolle’s presence, Adyashanti’s fullness, essential awareness–people refer to this in many ways. It’s not a thing, it is you.

      But often this void can feel nihilistic. It feels empty–the mind says is this all there is?

      And that’s because the energy of seeking has momentum. We continue to seek the self in the void. We continue to look for some real-world benefit, we want control.

      It’s with the recognition that the void is real–yes it’s nothing but it’s real, that the energy of lurching can drop away.

      Reply
  9. Anil

    Hi kaushik love your posts.I have been going through depression and anxiety worrying about the future. I was not like this before now I constantly worry about the future and most of the thoughts that I think are worry thoughts how do I get out of this it is making me miserable

    Reply
    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Anil,

      Yes, I understand about anxiety and depression–that’s what impelled me on this path to figure out what’s wrong with me and what’s wrong with human beings. And it turns out that what’s wrong is a simple thing; it’s a basic fear we have, which we’ve always had, from the beginning of our lives. This fear and the damage it causes becomes the prism through which we experience life and thoughts and beliefs and feelings.

      What’s worked for me very well is the technique of “looking at you”.

      Also the release technique is very useful.

      k

      Reply

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