The Nature of the Self

The self is riddled with desire. The nature of the self is to give in to this desire. This leads to suffering, teaching us nothing.

I first began my steep ascent the day I lost control of my senses. My eyes would not be still, they jumped from object to object. My ears strained at the leash to hear all kinds of sounds which had no meaning. My tongue swallowed everything but forgot to taste it on its way in. My nose was not blocked for the first time in ages, yet I smelt nothing, or everything, which made no sense. Soft touch was upon me all over my body, yet--

My sixth was in the sky, in the clouds, on electric wires, or buried deep beneath the ground, I don't know which.
            I must have looked like a madman at that time. My eyes were rolling and my hair stood on end.
            However, it was neither a trance nor a vision. It was not at all a mystical experience of any type, of any description. It felt rather like the end of experience.

In the last month of that year I began to suspect that something was happening over which I had no control.
            When the telephone rang I would not pick it up for fear that it might be somebody I know. It was not that I was afraid, of anything. It was just that I was… turned-off, so to say. Switched-off, in a manner of speaking. It was as if my lights had been dimmed the better to see through the darkness. I saw nothing.
            Living in this 'shut down' state, I began to have waking nightmares, which were basically my past life broken up into pieces.
            I relived particularly that rainy night when fear had crept upon me by way of my spine, when I knew that what I was about to commit would manifest consequences over a long period of time.
            It was not murder. It was, simply, standing on the ledge of my ten-floor high apartment and looking down, knowing that my heart in my mouth would fail. It was, even worse, standing there long enough to allow someone to 'save' me.
            As the rain fell on my face and arms wrapped themselves round my body, it might have been a love scene. Instead I was taken to a hospital or a police station, I don't recall which first.
            I had no intention of killing myself. I was just trying the shoe out for size.
            But try telling that to the inspector, or the doctor, or the psychiatrist. I knew I would be psychoanalysed to hell if I opened my mouth about any shoe of any size. So I kept it shut and they thought I had no tongue.
            In reliving this particular event of my life, I would always get a smile first and then a moan. Since the moan always came last, I knew it was a chronic nightmare.

The first time I met Brahman was in one such waking nightmare. He said hello and I gave him a hi back. I was more interested in watching what would happen to me in the dream - whether I would survive it, yet again.
            He watched me watching a while, and then turned away as if what he saw was not of sufficient interest. His act of turning away from my nightmare, which gripped me, caught my attention and I turned to look at him who had turned away. He turned back to look at me looking at him and smiled.
            'I knew this would work,' he said. 'People are so interested in themselves.'
            This sounded to me like a damned generalisation and I was about to object when he raised his hand.
            'Now, listen to what I say,' he said. 'What I have to say is of the utmost importance.'
            I wondered what he was going to say when he lapsed into momentary silence. Within a very short while I began to itch to get back to my nightmare. He observed the movement of my eyes, sighed and walked away.
            I have never seen anyone look so unhappy.

Brahman came to me often and at various times. Once when I was sweating through all my pores in a room devoid of electricity, he walked in unexpectedly and sat right next to me, though I must have smelled. I turned to look at him and the first thing I noticed was that there was no sweat on him.
            A single drop would have sufficed to make him look more human; but in the matter of sweat, it seemed, all humanity was reserved for myself.
            He did not speak much at such times. It was a strange intense look that he gave me, almost erotic I would say if it was not also highly mystical.
            Maybe he wanted me to meditate on the nature of the self. Mind you, though - if this was so, he never said it.
'What is the truth that will set us free?' he once asked me, in one of his rare moments of conversation.
            'T-truth,' I blabbered.
            'Truth?' I managed to squeak once more.
            'Yes,' he said, patient.
            'The truth that will set us free?' I was sounding idiotic even to myself now, repeating a simple question thrice.
            'Truth that will set us free,' he said.
            'I don't know,' I said, rather lamely after all the lead-up questions.
            'Think,' he said.
            It took me a moment to take this in.
            'Think, you said?'
            He nodded.
            I was utterly and completely indignant.
            'Think! Do you know what you're saying? Are you aware of anything? What else do I do but think? Nothing, nothing, nothing, but think! I bloody think all the time! And now you blow in breezily and ask me to start thinking even more! Are you crazy? Have you gone out of your senses?'
            'Good. You're progressing,' he said, with utter calm. 'It is good that you object to thinking. Now, if not thinking, then what will lead you beyond your senses?'
            'I don't fucking want to go beyond my senses!' I shouted back without thinking.
            'Think,' he said.
            'You must be crazy,' I whispered, looking at him disbelievingly.

Everything is pure consciousness.
            It is the concept of purity in this that attracts me, more than the concept of 'everything' or of 'consciousness.'
            I don't care if everything is consciousness.
            But if everything is pure, then…
            Though how could it be? I had only to look at myself.

They say that the truth is elliptical.
            At least Brahman always said that the truth could not be a straight line.
            'Maybe it is a crooked line,' I said.
            'It is a point, not a line,' he said. 'The point where we come from, where we go to.'
            'Speak for yourself,' I said. 'I'm not going anywhere.'

Why do we trail the 'self' behind us, like a shadow or like a tail? Or like a line of crackers that's been tied to the donkey's tail? When the crackers are set on fire, they explode, and the poor donkey is reduced to wildly jumping up and down till the outburst of sparks subsides.
            It is very funny for everyone except the donkey.
            There have been several occasions in my life when I have been called a 'donkey.' I wonder if I have been able to do full justice to the term.
            The Good Lord knows I have jumped around enough in my life, quite wildly at times, and occasioned enough merriment for everyone's satisfaction.
            Yet this line of crackers never seems to end, there are always a few more left to explode and someone is always setting them on fire.
            I swing my tail and prance hither and fro in desperation and fright. My braying resounds within my own ears until my head too seems ready to explode.
            And then that ass of a Brahman arrives and begins to tell me about the nature of the self.
            Nature of the self, my ass! I would happily trade my nature and its self for a few moments of peace!
            'Good,' says Brahman, beaming approvingly at my stinging words. 'I was waiting for you to say this.'
            He had waited a long time.

All this seems to me like a big metaphysical conspiracy.
            The Gods are out to capture my soul - my 'self' as they call it - and appropriate it for themselves.
            But I'm a stubborn ass. I'm not going to let go of it so easily! They're not going to get past me!

I have been thinking about taking coaching lessons in wrestling.
            For every day I wrestle with a new desire, or an old one coming back to haunt me anew. I wrestle, I grapple, I struggle, I submit; I grow frustrated.
            I invariably lose.
            And yet the desire never wins.
            It keeps coming back to haunt me again and again, in ever newer forms. No number of victories can satiate its appetite. It is more ravenous than anyone I have ever met.
            I asked Brahman if he would give me wrestling lessons.
            'Lessons, you know,' I explained, 'in order to wrestle with desires.'
            'Who is it that is wrestling with desires?' he asked me.
            'My self,' I said, and lapsed into silence.

My nightmares grew less frequent now but more intense when they appeared. And they now involved Brahman.
            He came only in my nightmares now.
            He would appear in them with a vengeance, with a fury, like a tempest, like an angry Jehovah visiting his wrath upon the Jews, carrying a trident, with fierce eyes, flowing white locks, deep wrinkled face and a crown on his head.
            His trident raised, he would plunge it into my heart again and again, until I went out of my senses, even in the nightmare, and blood oozed out of my open wounds.
            These nightmares were not moments from my past. This was a future yet to be.
            I trembled in fear, in panic. I began to store up blood in preparation for the time when I would have to let it flow without end.
            Brahman disappeared from my life and arrived straight into my nightmares.
            After a point it was difficult to say which was which. My life turned into a nightmare and my infrequent dreams the time when I really seemed to be alive! (Though dying, with a trident gone right through my heart…)

Since Brahman was no more preaching to me I forgot all about the nature of the self. I opened my eyes each morning to see precisely nothing. I moved my arms as if in a void and walked to work in a space that did not exist.
            With nothing to think any more, and no nightmare to watch, I stared at the world with vacant eyes. People around me grew worried and thought that I had lost my senses, or my memory.
            I did not contradict them. There was nothing to say.
            On one such day I was walking along the road when I saw nothing - when I actually saw it for the first time.
            Afraid to pick it up or to touch it, I tried to walk past round it, pretending not to have seen it. But from the moment I saw it, it was always by me, or rather just behind my back, at the level of my right leg, when I walked. I felt it all the time. I looked over my shoulder to disperse it, scatter it, chase it away. I walked mile after mile, faster and faster, in order to walk away from it. But I could not defeat it. I could not ignore it. There was nothing I could do with it.
            It walked with me wherever I went and in time I grew used to it. In the midst of crowds, in marketplaces full of glittering wares, in offices and in lifts full of people, it was constantly beside me.
            In my bathroom it would not leave my side, when I would stare blankly at the tiles, and neither on the hilltop.
            In the rain it was with me, watching, and in the eventide. I saw it on the faces and even more I saw it in the eyes.
            I saw it in the mirror and the mirror saw it in me.
            I almost abandoned my way of life but it would not leave me no matter what I did. I could not sell it off, at any price.
            In the end, I picked it up in my hands from the point on the road where I first saw it, put it to my heart and embraced it, like a street dog that one adopts as a pet or an abandoned baby left crying on the pavement. I rocked it gently in the bed of my arms and softly caressed it to sleep. We slept.

In one of my last dreams Brahman appeared to me and said, 'Who are you, O Sleeper, who sleep?'
            'I am the one who sleeps,' I said.
            'And who is it that will wake up, O Sleeper?' he asked.
            'It will not be I, my Lord, not I,' I replied, and slept.