LIVING BY A LINE
By Arun Babani
I guess everyone keeps a line or two by his bedside to live by. I've had my share of such telegraphic messages too. At sixteen we heard Henry Miller say “Always Merry and Bright,” and fell in love with the expression. At the prime of youth it sounded like a sunshine song; no matter if our throats weren't clear, and our guitars were not tuned; but it was our song and we began to sing. At eighteen we met Osho who said “Be Authentic.” I promptly put the commandment on the cover of my college journal; soon I got into trouble; I didn't realize that to be authentic means to be vulnerable; not to wear a mask meant trust everyone with your innocence. But, said Osho “It is better to be cheated than to cheat.”
Later, another line came by from another Master, “To want to be extraordinary is the most ordinary thing in the world.” To learn this when you are twenty is a calamity; when everyone is in the hysterical race to prove their extraordinariness, we were left with no shadows to chase! Wisdom being a delight is also a cruel teacher! Nonetheless, I have even today tried to live by the line that spelled magic for me a generation ago.
A line, rather a Haiku from Basho, then Zen Master, most favourite of Osho, was the next to inspire us; “sitting silently, doing nothing; spring comes and the grass grows by itself.” What an intoxicating line to live by! Osho people made a few variations on that one. “Don't just do something. Sit there!!”, a line that was made into a poster, a card and a book mark. “Isness as usual” was another such variation on the same them of slowing down, traveling inwards. These lines came at crucial junctures of our lives, and we trusted the truth of each of them, and sincerely tried to “follow” and live by them. They became the “Maxims” we emulated and practiced.
Then came a devastating line from U.G. “Not knowing is your Natural State.” Statement with tremendous energy behind it. Out went all the Psychology, all the Spirituality, all the wisdom learned so painstakingly over three decades. Here was a line that just took the air out of the mystic balloon, so to say! A line to live by becomes operational in one's life only when it hits your like a thunderbolt, and you laugh with relief, just as you take a deep breath upon unloading a great weight from your head. This line from U.G. (there are others like “You don't have to do a thing” or “Fortunately there is nothing to be got from all this”) is a swish of a sword that cuts, and cuts in such a way that you don't even bleed!
The line just clicks, at the right time, and your life changes something like when you are traveling and you see a milestone indicating an arrow for the opposite direction; you just turn around, trusting the validity of its claim. You have changed direction. It points East when you are headed West. Now you are relieved to have found the way, you are happy! When a line shows you the way, it becomes a Guideline. It is perhaps such atomic messages given by Masters to intimate disciples that years later turn into proverbs that a civilization believes in and possesses. They contain the search and the subsequent answers to deeper longing of man to say Hello to his Creator! These lines are the clues to the creation of which we are a part! My mother gave me one such line to get by in the world, actually it is a Doha from Kabir that is a great lesson in Social Psychology; “Kabira Khada Bazaar mein, maange sabki khair; Na kissise Dosti, Na kissise baire.”