“यथा सोम्यैकेन मृत्पिण्डेन सर्वं मृन्मयं विज्ञातं स्याद्वचारम्भणम् विकारो नामधेयं मृत्तिकेत्येव सत्यं ॥“
“Dear boy, by knowing a lump of clay, all things made of clay become known; for all transformation has speech as its basis, and any change to clay is name only. Clay as such is the reality”.
Chandogya Upanishad 6.1.4.
We are at a lecture hall. There is a stage, with two or three chairs on it and a lectern to one side of it. There are thirty or forty chairs in the hall arranged in rows and a few extra chairs at the back, bundled together one on top of the other. The hall is almost full, the main speaker, sitting at the centre, on the stage, is elaborately explaining a new idea, a new concept to an attentive audience. We notice that all chairs are very similar; all are plastic chairs with arm rests, same colour and same size. Obviously, they are all moulded chairs, most probably made on the same machine using the same mould. We know that molten plastic when poured into a mould with the form and shape of a chair and subsequently cooled, becomes the chair.
All the chairs here look new. After a few years of usage, some of them will have broken legs, some will have broken seats or armrests. Most probably all unusable, broken chairs may pass through various trading channels and reach a factory where they are melted again and re-made into mobile phone bodies, automobile parts, credit cards or even buckets and mugs. Or maybe chairs too! That is their life cycle.
What is it to be a chair at this hall? This unoccupied chair at the back row could be really upset, angry or even sad. Why am I left like this, he could be asking, at the back row, nobody choosing to use me? What did I do to deserve this? I am strong, as clean or cleaner than those chairs in the front row which are all occupied. Still why should I be in this corner, unnoticed, unrecognized? Look at the chair on the stage, it is not as shiny as I am, but it got the prime place and the chief guest. I am certain that chair must have talked to the organizer of this event and met him properly outside his office to make this happen. We all know how these things are done, don’t we? What does it have which I don’t? And look at all those chairs in the front row… aren’t they looking back at me with contempt and pity? I am happy on one count though… look at the guys behind me in the other corner, one on top of the other. I am certainly in a better position than that guy carrying all others and not even pretending to notice what is happening around him.
Look at the chairs. They are all made of plastic. Plastic is the material cause. All of them are made from molten plastic. Their legs are plastic, their seats are plastic, their back rests are plastic, their arms are plastic; they are plastic all through. Can we separate the chair from plastic, are plastic and chairs two separate, independent entities? No. If plastic is removed, chairs disappear. The chair is only a name and form. Their cause is plastic, their reality, their substratum is plastic. Chairs exist because of plastic. Existence belongs to plastic; chairs have only borrowed existence. Chairs come and go. They get made, they get used and once they are broken, once their lives are over, they get melted back to plastic again to be re-made into new chairs or some other plastic products. Being a chair, they go through this endless cycle. Being a chair, they suffer, feeling incomplete, feeling cut off, feeling one in many, facing the perceived threat of others and living in fear.
Aren’t we all like those chairs? Jealousy, competition, pride, self-pity, frustration – that’s what we get when we are one among the many. One wave among many waves; one pot among many pots; one ornament among many ornaments. We suffer because we consider ourselves to be individual beings separate from others. We suffer because we are ignorant of our true nature, our reality. We suffer because we consider ourselves to be incomplete, pushing ourselves into a never ending chase of name, fame, position and wealth to make us complete. If only the chairs recognized their reality as plastic. Then all chairs are one, there is no other, the chair on the podium and the chair in the corner carrying the unused bundle are all one and the same. There is no plurality, no multiplicity. There is no competition, no jealousy, no frustration, and no fear. Once the chair recognizes its reality, it becomes immortal, plastic remains, only the empty name and form of a chair get reconverted. The reality doesn’t undergo any change, it remains totally unaffected.
Can the chair know it is plastic, can the waves discover their reality as water? Can we? Yes, of course we can discover our true nature and be free of the person whom we think we are. The entire spiritual journey is for that purpose, to recognise our true nature, Existence-Consciousness-Bliss.
Blog Author: Prakash.K