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Being and nothingness, and the idea of life

The moment you acknowledge your own existence, you start to hallucinate

o, I was watching Bajirao Mastani and just when I was about to doze off as the climax approached, the last scene really connected with me. Now, before some of you start to defend the movie, let me just clear the air by saying that I am not going to write a review of the movie. I respect your opinion if you liked it (I am not intolerant, you see) and agree with you if you think a 30-minute story was stretched into two-and-a-half hours. So, let’s get to the point, shall we? Warning: Spoiler alert!

In the last scene, the sick Bajirao runs in the river (possibly the Godavari) on seeing a cavalry approaching to kill him. The horses are running on water as if it’s a small puddle, and suddenly there are even flaming arrows coming from the skies. Bajirao is hit by a few of them and they set the water alight. He is also pierced by the men on horses. It’s real, quite real for him.

He has in his hand his belt-like metallic sword swaying and he is fighting the cavalry, but in vain. His attacks have no effect on either the horses or the men astride them. He swings his weapon on one of the enemies and the horse just passes through to an unclear destination, as if the warrior in the river didn’t exist. Bajirao tries to fight and avoid the flaming arrows but they hit him, yet don’t hurt him. He stops swinging after a while.

At a distance, his wife, Kashi, looks at her husband swinging his sword madly at an invisible object. The whole world is peaceful except her husband.

Bajirao soon realises the truth and the cavalry disappears. The arrows and the fire on the river disappear, too. Bajirao is laughing. He is laughing as crazily as he was swinging his sword at, well, nothing. He’s realised the truth and that he was being crazy. He is liberated, and quite literally soon after, from life itself.

Wouldn’t you feel liberated too? What if the job that you hate so much but have to do every day, was a hallucination? Would this knowledge liberate you? What if the fact that your father doesn’t understand you is just a hallucination? What if your financial problems were a hallucination? What if that nagging girlfriend was a hallucination or that insecure boyfriend was? Not only your problems, the good stuff in life can be a hallucination too. That iPhone worth almost half a lakh, your dream house, your bank balance, the carefree life that you enjoy, it’s all a huge set of hallucinations.

So why is it a hallucination? Feels pretty real, doesn’t it? It feels real to everybody else too, so how is it a hallucination? The answer to this lies in the question, what’s real? Nothing is real. Nothing is absence of everything. I know it’s a basic definition and there’s nothing epiphany-like in it. But have we really tried to understand this definition? Do you know when you get nothing? All right, I’ll give you nothing right now. You ready? Just imagine this and go slow.

The chair or bed you’re sitting on isn’t there. There’s no table either. There are no walls around you. The clothes that you own, including the ones you’re wearing now, don’t exist. Your glasses (if you use a pair) don’t exist.

There are no bedsheets, pillows, blankets, footwear, bathroom supplies, food, trees, plants, animals, other human beings, grass, insects, birds, buildings, vehicles, not even air. There’s no Earth or other planets and satellites. This computer isn’t there either. It’s just you in this entire universe.

You look around and it’s all dark, black. There’s no sense of direction or speed as there’s nothing to compare these two dimensions with. There’s a blackout and that’s all there is, forever. You’re floating but you don’t know whether you’re moving or not and if you are then towards what or in which direction. Is this ‘Nothing’? No. Now, imagine that you don’t exist either. Now we have ‘Nothing’. Everything is absent, nothing is present. This is real. A blank canvas, an empty notebook.

The moment you paint, the moment you write, is the second stage of hallucination. The first stage being, your existence. The moment you acknowledge your own existence, you start to hallucinate. This is so because you start to create meaning out of your existence. Of course, you’re a baby initially so you accept the meanings that are told to you by others and as you grow up, the basis of meanings created by you are the ones you had accepted before. Nobody is born an Indian or a Hindu or Muslim but these identities are cast upon us and we are taught, really well, how to hallucinate. Some hallucinate about engineering, some about medicine, some about flying a plane and more. We create meanings as if they are permanent, we create rules as if they have been the governing force of all mankind, as if the ‘Gods’ want us to follow these rules. We also create a God and worship our creation as if it is our creator. It is all a hallucination.

So, if this so and nothing is real, then how do we get out of this hallucination and reach that reality? There is just one way, death! All the great saints, sadhus and babas are aware of this hallucination but are still a part of it. This is so because we are not meant to escape this phenomenon. We are meant to realise that we’re hallucinating but we can’t escape it. But the realisation does put our hearts at ease, doesn’t it? Knowing that everything around us is not real, it is all a figment of our own imagination and creation, gives us some degree of power. The fact that your partner is upset with you is your own creation and thus you can change this fact. How? That’s a question only you can answer as it’s your creation but nothing is permanent. You create everything and you have the power to create whatever you want, it’s your blank canvas, your empty notebook. You may not know how to paint and write yet, but practise and you will be a great painter like the Buddha or a great writer like Krishna or Christ. We call them gods but they were all just normal humans like us, hallucinating but always aware of this fact, and they created what we know about them today. They knew they can’t escape the hallucination but what they could do was hallucinate about what they desired. And this is exactly what we need to do today.

This doesn’t mean we sit all day just imagining stuff. When you hallucinate, the hallucination is so real it alters our actions. Therefore, whatever we desire, should reflect in our actions. If you want to be rich, your actions should be such that you’re getting richer. Rich people work hard (unless you’re some billinaire’s son) and they plan everything among a lot of other actions they take. If you want to be famous, do something that makes you famous. Whatever it is that you want, take actions to hallucinate about that reality. In the end, none of it is going to last. But for as long as you last, create for yourself that you wish could last forever.

sachinjalan90@gmail.com

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Printable version | Apr 3, 2020 10:24:07 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/Being-and-nothingness-and-the-idea-of-life/article13980945.ece

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