To move on in life, one should learn to be like an hourglass; let go of the past
The year 2011 was rather tumultuous, gripped with violence, rioting, economic collapse, rapes, and charges of corruption. Perhaps the only silver lining was India lifting the World Cup. The crimson sun sank on the 31st of December and the skyline was dotted with stars as the majestic moon made an appearance. The rapidity with which celestial bodies exchanged places gave fodder to thought that they too seemed depressed and oppressed by the clamorous events that had unfolded in society.
Yet there was hope for a better morrow.
The weather was cold as a group of friends from Delhi University heralded the New Year with their unabashed revelry. Bottles were uncorked as they gyrated to some hard rock music. Among them were two students of Zen Buddhism who eschewed liquor but did dance. Simultaneously, they were also involved in an animated conversation on the esoteric subject of Zen Buddhism and mindfulness.
“Zen Buddhism is an amalgam of Indian Mahayana Buddhism and Taoism. China is the country where this philosophy took birth and soon spread to Korea and Japan. It became extremely voguish in the West in the mid-20th century. The essence of Zen is attempting to understand the meaning of life directly, without being misled by logical thought or language,” proffered a student.
“Tell me friend, why does one equate Zen Buddhism with an hourglass?” was the riposte of the second student.
“I am not quite sure,” was Lee’s response to Wangchuk. They hailed from Sikkim.
On New Year’s Day, the two wished their Master and posed the question of the hourglass and its relationship with Zen Buddhism. The erudite scholar was surprised at the question raised by his mentees.
“It appears that the demon cannonaded your mind on New Year’s Eve instead of celebrations,” remarked the professor.
“Well, an hourglass is a timing device with two connected glass bulbs containing sand that takes an hour to pass from the upper to the lower bulb and Zen Buddhism is observing the process,” uttered the professor.
“Simply put it is nothing but mindfulness and keen observation,” he added.
Aeon’s ago in ancient China a learned man once went to visit a Zen teacher. As the master spoke, the learned man frequently interrupted the teacher to express his own opinion. Eventually, the Zen teacher stopped talking and began to serve tea to the learned man. He poured the cup full and then kept pouring until it overflowed.
“Learned Zen Master, please halt,” said the learned man. “The cup is already full and there is no more room to pour in additional tea,” he said to the Zen Master.
“Exactly like this cup, you are brimful of your own opinions,” replied the man of letters. “Unless you do not first empty your cup, how can you taste the cup of tea?”
The learned student at once accepted his ignorance and arrogance to realize that he was too self-opinionated to grasp any fresh idea and knowledge.
To reboot and re-engineer his mind, even a learned one needs to surrender, and become humble through intense meditation and breathing techniques. One has to become truly hollow and empty.
“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being,” Carl Jung was to say.
This is the mystery behind the hourglass...
(Ravi Valluri is the CEO of Chhattisgarh East Railway and is a faculty of the Art of Living, views are personal)