‘The Shiva would often embark on an inward quest

‘The view outside my window’


While deep in thought, Shiva would often embark on an inward
quest that was hardly close to being a pleasant exercise to indulge the faculty
of the intellect in. It was a grueling journey of self-interrogation, which
would leave him with an amalgam of expressions on his face: mostly a frown and
a half-smile. This stage was what philosophers would call an ‘intermediate
stage of confused happiness’. After the seemingly debilitating contemplation, Shiva
would open his eyes and look at his rather flummoxed friend, a friend who would
accompany him on most days to the tree beneath whose branches they sat for
hours on end. He would then ask him the most fundamental of all questions, ‘Can you see that which is not?’

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The friend’s initial replies mostly constituted vehement
nods, which underwent predictable transformations on subsequent questioning,
into shoulder shrugs that probably signaled an acceptance of being ignorant.
While the authenticity of the responsive gestures of the friend could be
doubted on account of him varying his responses just to incite some excitement
into an otherwise banal and insipid question-and-answer session, the state of
being ignorant and the act of accepting the same are to be considered rather
highly in any quest, whether mundane or not.  

Meanwhile it must be noted that one never knows how to
measure one’s preparedness for the occurrence of life’s greatest of events,
which would herald a complete transformation of the self. But then, if
life-changing moments were to occur, why would the doctor order it when in a
metaphorical state of stupor?  It is
inexplicably rare that an individual is not ready or even conscious at these
life-altering moments. One such unmissable event is that of the dawn of wisdom,
which I would rather call an ‘onslaught’ due to the event’s sheer dominance and
brutality in its nature of occurrence.

The onslaught of wisdom could be ethereal, but it would be
preposterous to assume the absence of a physical, chemical and a biological
counterpart to it. Deep inside the mental make-up and possibly amidst the
neural networks in the brain there must be a mechanism to infuse wisdom into
the individuals. But then again, wisdom is nothing that man can pinpoint at, for
such an act or validation itself requires a superior cognizance with which one
could recognize wisdom in the first place. The ignoramus knows not how to treat
wisdom for such an entity never did come into his awareness or cognizance
earlier in life, or presumably when such an entity was indeed perceived by him
in the past, he was left baffled and disarmed to act upon it.

Was Shiva now ready for such an onslaught? Was he now ready
to receive the answer to the question that he would periodically bombard his
friend with? By nightfall, when Shiva would return home, he would muck about
restlessly, and call out to the wind and the stars. Sleep was not a necessity
anymore, but being awake meant a terrifying conscious wait for the dawn. But
then, dawn came with half-promises and hopes of delivering the panacea that he
sought, to cure his chronic ignorance. It was chronic due to the underlying
truth that ignorance can never be
separated from the ignoramus. At dawn, he would have to proceed to the tree,
whose branches seemed eager to provide him with the shade that would assist him
in his quest. Maybe the life in the tree too hoped that he gets what he sought
after, and in the process the tree would be glorified for eternity, for being
the catalyst in his success.  

Shiva had no friend in the neighborhood but on the very
first day that he had met someone who sat beside him, while he was in contemplation,
he had very mysteriously and instantaneously recognized him as one. He never had
wittingly sought any company. The friend would arrive quite unpredictably, but
would always be there when he would open his eyes. It became such that as the
days went by, the friend was felt to be there for longer periods of time. Was
he also pondering over the same question or was he there just to witness the
seemingly futile exercise of seeking answers to abstruse questions? “Can you
see that which is not?” he was asked again and again.

At the heart of the question lied Shiva’s preconceived
notions of existence and non-existence. All that his eyes saw, existed, but
what of anything beyond? What if he were to shut his eyes from the world?
Nothing would be seen except what he had planted inside his head either
consciously or subconsciously. The physical attributes of matter were so
convincingly conceived that to assume away their authenticity in adding to
reality meant a Herculean effort. The frailties of the mind were seldom
tampered with, and to delve into this realm of the spirit required an
incredible amount of courage. He was a saint by demeanor, but a warrior at
heart with huge repositories of courage waiting to be utilized at the opportune

None of his days under the tree were visibly fruitful; the
states of confusion and happiness did seem to coexist and linger on for more
than he thought it would. Then came a very fine day, a day when he was
exceedingly satisfied with himself. There was a sense of emptiness in him, like
that of the interior of an empty cup waiting to receive in full capacity
whatever was to be poured into it. Such an epoch-defining moment could never
occur without tell-tale signs preceding its occurrence. Whether it was to be an
onslaught of wisdom or just a period of temporary bliss, was yet to be seen.
But one could tell from the intensity of the moment that some implausible event
akin to the disintegration of matter into spirit was to occur, albeit within
the framework of his own mind.

What shows you the world? Not
your tiny little eyes.

It is a tinier entity: the mind,
without which you see nothing.

All you see is through this tiny

That acts as a window to your own
world within.

What of the friend? On that particular day, the friend shot
him a glaring glance at the end of the usual session under the tree. This time it
was the friend who had asked the question, rather rhetorically, “Can you now see that which is not?”
Even the birds who listened to this, chirped at their loudest and began hopping
around the branches of the tree, creating a symphony that seemed to be the
background score for what was happening under the branches of the tree, which
was their stage. The rhetorical question had hit Shiva so hard that he burst in
ecstasy; he became an embodiment of joy. Everything around seemed to be
ephemeral yet eternal; he felt that he was an immortal celestial being treading
upon earth, but also experienced the entire eternity in the span of a moment.
The friend was laughing beside him, and the next moment he was gone as if he
were never there in the first place.

Containing this new-found joy within him, Shiva stood up and
walked around in the neighborhood and enquired of the first person that he met,
of the whereabouts of his friend. The bewildered person replied that there was
no such person in the neighborhood.  In
fact, with responses from the people that he met subsequently, the truth was
only hitting him harder; he had been sitting all alone under the tree since the
beginning. A second wave of wisdom now dawned upon him, taking him to a
pedestal rarely treaded upon by other mortals. He now saw that which was
non-existent, and surmised that the non-existent was the basis of the existent
reality. He said to himself “That which is not, is the basis of that which is.
What I see, is the view outside my window, and as shown to me by the window
itself.” He returned to the tree, and this time sat there without any
confusion, with no agenda on his mind and seeking nothing whatsoever. The
friend was there too. But this time, no questions were asked between the two.
And so there were no answers.