The real ‘up and down’

Someone messaged me yesterday that his guru had warned him, “You are going up now but beware, you will come down soon.” I comforted him that whatever happens is for the best, and that there is no ‘up or down’ really. All evens out in the cycle of life. These events are temporary, anichcha.

Our little SMS conversation got me thinking about the ‘ups and downs’ in my own life. The term is usually used in the context of material success. But from my experience, when we go ‘up’ in our outer reality, we distance ourselves from Grace, from gratitude and faith. We become complacent and laid-back about our spiritual practices. This inevitably leads to the deteriorating of the ‘up’ cycle into the ‘down’, when things don’t seem as bright as they were. Cracks begin to show on the surface, and sometimes, things crumble and fall away.

And that’s when we begin to pray, have faith, strengthen our resolve and find what is meaningful for us, what our priorities are. Our ‘downs’ are precisely the time when we get closer to the God within us. So they aren’t really negative at all. There’s joy and meaning in both ups and downs.

Many years of Buddhist practice had instilled in me the discipline to pray even during the ‘calm’ and ‘happy’ phases of my life; it was to ‘stock up on good karma’ so that I’d be spiritually strong when the inevitable challenges came. I no longer chant my Buddhist mantra but I have kept this lesson in my heart — never give up on the gratitude. Take NOTHING for granted. Everything is temporary. Don’t get attached. Neither success nor failure can affect you — the real you, which is eternal, formless and role-free.

I believe in the concept of infinite life and reincarnation. To me, this existence is a kind of a TV show. It has a beginning and an end, and a story line. There is laughter and some tears. It mostly has a happy ending (if you go by sit-coms). But the point is, it’s just a show. It’s not real. When one ends, another begins. The only thing that’s permanent is the observer. The consciousness. Life itself.

Just as in a soap opera, we are addicted to each subsequent show to know what happens, so in life, we are compelled to take form over and over until the karma is played out. At first, we impulsively switch on the sequel as soon as one show ends. Then we begin to get saturated, and realise the futility and repetition of it all. The frequency of the shows reduces as the observer is more and more detached from the outcome.

Until one day, the observer does not feel the need to put on the show at all. The observer knows what’s going to happen, and is awash in a wave of knowledge, acceptance of all that IS. The observer has no compulsion to take form; there’s no more desire, no more attraction, repulsion, hate, love, lust, possession, ego, power-play, nothing. There’s just oneness with all that is — the animal, the human and the divine.

I’m writing this down today to remind myself that there are really no ups and downs in the real scheme of things. There is just one story, and then another, and then another. There is no point in being attached — no matter how real it seems. The real story is the one that’s happening within. How many more compulsions remain? How much karma to play out? What is the theme of the show going on here?

Life isn’t what’s happening in my office or my home or on the street. It’s what’s happening in the space between my ears. How far have I really come?


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