I recently went to see the film Up in the Air with a friend. At one point in the film, George Clooney says, "Make no mistake, your relationships are the heaviest components in your life." His character was demonstrating how we as people bog ourselves down with unnecessary attachments to others. When walking home, my friend made a wonderfully 'sensitive' observation of how my yogic lifestyle seems detached from lust, passion, marriage, babies, and love--that I seemed to be an unfortunate example of Clooney's icy declaration. "Don't you feel anything?" said my friend. "Sometimes," I said with a naughty smile. "Robot," she said.
Joking though she was, my friend's view of a yogic way of life is rather common. To consider a life of detachment as robotic is to decide that life isn't worth living if it does not include family, money, sex, or love. People try to preserve themselves by holding onto these things, and, if they're unsuccessful in finding someone with whom to share their life, wish for the pain to end at any cost. Why, though, are we alive in this body? Why do we hold on to life when faced with death, but when younger and healthy we glutton, inebriate, or intoxicate our time away toward a quicker death?
Another question raised by one of the characters in the movie was what is the point of living? We get up in the morning, eat breakfast, go to work, eat lunch, come home, have dinner, and go to sleep. In between, we do other stuff like watch TV, play games, have sex, yearn for sex, go on holiday, have arguments, complain about our jobs, complain about our parents, and yearn for something better than what we have. And yet, we are scared of dying. Very few people ever express any sense of genuine contentment at living this repetitive saga, and even fewer break out of their attachment to marriage, children, relationships, overworking, or other experiences and take spiritual charge of their life.
To fear death is to hold on to the false notion that this is the last stop on the escalator of life. The one sure thing each of us can count on, beyond anyone and anything, is that we will leave this body, but rather than be the last stop we will simply travel to another level. Though we die physically, we only leave the material body to take another form. Once we understand this--once we see this casing only as a house for our soul--we will not spend so much time thinking about the outer surface and start to see the inner life calling us to play. When we consider the spiritual life, we ask ourselves: Do we want to live, or do we merely want to be alive?
On the yogic path, it is possible to experience death on our own terms. It is our goal to attain Maha Samadhi, which is making the decision when to leave our body and doing so in a state of peace and contentment. Why doesn't everyone know about this or choose this way to depart? Most people are busy and distracted with daily, mundane living. It takes much sacrifice, discipline, and patience to reach this state of being. To pursue this state of peace would be to live in a cultural anomaly. People would perceive us as a robot.
I attempted to explain this to my passionate friend using a metaphor. I asked her to picture a building with different entities living on different floors. Each floor represents a different level of awareness, and the more conscious our lifestyle, the higher we go in the building. The more attachments we have, the heavier we become and the more difficult it is to rise to the higher floors. Our ultimate purpose is to find a way to reach and connect with the basic power within us--which we can also call our soul.
From the yogic point of view, the death of the physical body sets the soul free. It is considered a gift to pass from the physical form to other forms of existence, which means that equating life only to the physical form is not seen as the higher path. If we want to be in true love while in this body, though, we will have to cultivate a loving relationship with every living being. To be in love, we must be connected through our souls--not a sense-orientated lust for pleasure and pampering.
The next time you encounter a person who has succeeded in detaching themselves from their material surroundings--and they are rare--take a look into their eyes. Notice what you see. Is it a robot, that doesn't seem to be able to feel anything or take an interest in others?
Or is it someone filled with light and life?
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