Saturday, August 18, 2007

Melting into a bigger pot

Last evening, a bunch of us friends went out to watch 'Chak de India'. The movie portrays extreme patiotism oozing out in the context of hockey and the Indian hockey team. I am not going to write about the movie here, but a whole thought process that it triggered inside me as I sat in the theatre.

Why does patriotism send strong signals of awe and inspiration inside us? Why does one feel respect and admiration for the heroes who died for their country? Let us analyse this in the context of our daily activities.

If you see carefully, most of our thoughts, words and actions are centered around fulfilling our needs, bodily pleasures and comforts, either directly or indirectly. For many, their food and sleep are very close to their hearts, for others it's their work or salary. Our identity with this body and mind is so strongly engraved in us. All name, fame, money and recognition in society that we are after, all are fuels that keep this so-called body-mind identity alive in us. This stops us from thinking beyond.

At one level above, you do not stop at thinking about just youself, but go to the extent of thinking about other members of your family. Even here, you are thinking about them because they are strongly and directly connected to you rather than an overflowing compassion or love to a fellow human being. If the latter were to be the case, we would have loved any stranger on the street as much as we would 'love' our parents or spouses.

Now, going back to the movie, every time the Indian team scored a goal, a huge wave of applause echoed in the audience, celebration time! Perhaps this is a similar sentiment that becomes alive when we watch a cricket match and literally pray for India's victory. At that time, nothing is more important to us than India winning! A similar, but more serious sentiment happens when we hear about heros like Mahatma Gandhi and Bhagat Singh who readily sacrificed their lives for the nation.

In each of these cases, what really happens is a shedding of our body-mind identity for the sake of a bigger identity, for the country. Soldiers who die for their nation are ready to let go of their personal small identity consisting of one or few people, for an identity that binds millions together. In the movie, at first, all players in the national team introduce themselves by saying their name followed by their state. The coach, Shah Rukh Khan gets mad at them for that. He tells them to identify themselves with Team India and asks them to shout their name and 'India'. During this scene, one could feel a gush of pride in the audience. From an individual level, we start to connect as one single nation on the stands of the stadium.

If we go one level deeper, each individual connects to the other at a cosmic level because we cannot escape the fact that we are part of the Whole. Self realization is all about melting the individual identity of body-mind (called Jivatma) for merging with that higher identity (called Paramatma). The individual identity or our 'ego' is an obstacle that blinds us from our real identity, something much deeper and vaster than what we normally perceive. A life led with awareness and the grace of an enlightened Master can simply knock this obstacle and put us face-to-face with who we really are. Only we should be willing and curious for this encounter to happen!

-- Ma Nithyananda Arpana

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