If anyone asks me what is the one thing everyone should realise but doesn’t, I would send them this episode of mine. There is of course a lot of unlearning that needs to happen to really enable absorbing all of it and let it change the way you perceive the world, and that is exactly what The Unlearning Playground is all about.
The separation fallacy is one of the most fundamental ways in which the truth evades us, but it is so hardwired into the way we lead our lives that it is almost impossible to see that it is indeed a fallacy. An important fallacy, no doubt, but like all fallacies, it comes back to bite us when we forget its true nature.
I talk about what the ancient Hindu, Zen and Buddhist saints (and also modern ones like The Dalai Lama) meant when they said, “Be one with everything”, and what we need to unlearn to really understand that.
I talk about what Alan Watts meant when he said, “You do not come into this world, you come out of it.”
Hope I did a good job. Only one honest way to find out and tell me. Dig in.
If this episode resonates with you, and makes you ripe for more unlearnings, would recommend going through the next series of The Unlearning Playground episodes too right away.
Let’s play the game the better way.
I’ll see you in the playground.
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I wanted to dedicate this episode to a fallacy that underlies so much of our lives that we hardly even notice it. For the purpose of putting forward the idea, I’m calling it The separation fallacy.
There are various ways to talk about it, none of them perfect, but a lot of them are good enough to get the point across. Let’s try one here.
I was born in the year 1992, and it’s very commonplace for me to say that I came into this world in 1992 and if we were having a conversation and I said so, no one would bat an eye and we would keep going on with our lives.
But if we were to just take a little backseat, and observe what I just said, we would be surprised at how incorrect that statement really is. Look at it – I just said that I came into this world in 1992. Well, from where did I come into this world? As if I was before in some other place outside of this world and 1992 was the year when I was put into this one. Of course, that isn’t true.
So then what is the right way to say it instead? The philosopher Alan Watts used to say that You do not come into this world, but rather you come out of it, like an apple on an apple tree. And I do think that this is the right way of putting it. We do not come into this world, we come out of it! That is how un-separated from it we really are. We are one with it.
Let me propose a train of thought to get this point across better. I call it The Interconnectedness thought train. Here you go.
The next time you see an infant, realise that just a few moments ago, it was a part of its mother. It was connected to its mother, in the most intimate way possible.
Then proceed to realise that in exactly the same manner, the mother was connected to her mother just a few moments ago, and again, in the most intimate way possible.
And then, if you must, take this train of thought all the way back, all the way back to the very “beginning”, and realise that all of us, each and every ‘one’ of us, each and every ‘thing’ around us, is connected. And again, in the most intimate way possible.
This interconnectedness is the point I’m trying to make. Our separation as individual beings is true, but only from one perspective, and a limited one at that. Another perspective, which is what I put forward a few moments ago, is that all of us are already as connected as we could be, we just don’t realise it.
You are standing in front of an ocean, and you can see waves forming, rising all the way to their max and then falling down and merging back into the ocean.
This visual is almost exactly the correct analogy to what I’m sharing here. From the point of view of every wave, it is a separate entity and has its own existence. But from your point of view, the point of view of the observer who is watching the dance happen from the outside, there is only the ocean and the waves are just symptoms of the ocean – they are not separate from the ocean – they never were.
In one manner of speaking, this is what the Buddhists meant when they said, “Be one with everything.” You already are, you just don’t see it.
In the same way, this is what the Hindus meant when they said, “Tat twam asi” or “You are it.” or even “Aham Brahmasmi” or “I am Brahma”.
You see, most of us haven’t been exposed to this perspective of the world ever, because by default, we live in our heads, as a separate me – a separate ‘I’. The only connectedness we feel with others, is with the people next to us, and that too, on most occasions, till the time it benefits us in some way, which only serves the purpose of strengthening the illusion of the separation anyway.
So then, is what I am talking about merely a romantic idea? A whimsy which is nothing but impractical. Not at all. But I can totally understand if you’re feeling this way right now, because that is where I was when I first came across all of this. I’ve been there, believe me.
But you see, things like these, or rather, truths like these hit us at the very core of all we think we know about the world and how we go about living our lives. And that is why they are usually treated this way. We call them impractical, we call them useless.
And instead of really understanding them, we try to find ways around them to keep continuing with the same old stories in our heads without really letting these truths take hold of our reality.
That is exactly why most ‘religious’ people almost always know the words written in their sacred books by heart, they know how to celebrate all the festivals and perform all the rituals, but almost none of them really embody those words and those rituals and the messages behind those festivals in their everyday lives.
Because nobody ever spent the time to really understand the depths of all these things, let alone teach them to others. And now we are at a point where all of it is basically just Incomplete people teaching incomplete misinterpretations of incomplete words to other incomplete people.
Someone really needs to break this chain.
Buddha was enlightened, they say. And what does enlightenment mean? They say it is when you become one with God or rather one with everything.
And I hope that rings a bell with you now.
One man whom I really respect and admire and whose books I would recommend everyone to read is Jiddu Krshnamurti, or JK as people fondly refer to him. I have always called him Uncle JK, because I always felt like he was like the wise, old uncle I never really had.
Anyway, I’m not quite sure, but I think Uncle JK has been quoted to have said something like – No one listened to the Buddha, and that is why we have Buddhism.
Whoever said this, whether JK or not, couldn’t have been more right, and yeah, Buddha and Buddhism are just placeholders here in this sentence – it’s true for a host of other religions and belief systems we hold.
We follow our favourite organised religions not because we well and truly understand them, but because we identify with them, they’ve become a part of our identity, a part of our separate ‘I’.
Now then, back to what we were talking about. I do not want your key takeaway from this episode to be how you should tell people your year of birth. The semantics are none of my concern, and neither should they be yours. What I want you to take away from this episode is to realise that the separation that we live under, is only one way of looking at the world. And that when you look at this perspective objectively, you realise that it leads to so many destructive actions that one can do nothing but just stare at it all in amazement.
If the idea of separation takes root in one’s psyche, which is the default for us, we tend to look at life with the lens of one-upping it. The world is suddenly an alien world, which has to be conquered – my surroundings have to be put under my command or I lose – and that makes us do all sorts of things in a manner which would make any objective observer come around and say, “Why are you fighting it so much boy? You know, relax.”
And this relaxation is a natural side-effect of absorbing and embodying the truth that I just talked about in this episode.
Well I guess that’s it for this episode for now. If you think it has been a bit too much too soon or too useless too soon, please give it a listen again whenever you can. I’m sure you’ll feel differently if you give it an objective ear.
The chief idea covered here is one of the main unlearnings I‘m trying to share via this show. Of course, how it manifests in each of our specific lives would always be tailored to our specific situations, which is the beauty of it.
More on that in the future episodes. Until then, peace out!