All the world’s a stage’ wrote the great bard. Of course, he goes on to say that every one of us is an actor. There seems to be a major difference, however, from theatre to our real life play. On the stage we are given our lines beforehand and given time to be prepared with these lines too. The space that is allotted to us, the time that we can take, the emotions that we must display are all spelt out by the director well in advance. We are repeatedly subjected to the discipline of following the director’s instructions and surrendering to them by and large. If at all we wish to make some deviation from the director’s vision we can do so only with the explicit permission of the director. Surely, we would not wish or dare to make any impromptu changes of script on stage as that could jeopardize the role of our fellow actors or change the entire play itself. Thus, we strive to give our best with a clear picture of our boundaries and within those bounds.
In the play of life some of us may begin by believing that we are in control of our own script. However, we soon find that we cannot have the complete freedom to script our lives because we cannot direct or modify the world around us, except notionally. Ultimately we discover that we cannot even script the state of our body and have no control whatsoever over how long we will live. When this very basic fact of existence itself is not in our hands what can we say of scripting anything else with regard to life?
So we begin to accept that our script has been prepared in advance, that we can speak only the lines that have been written for us or act only in the manner that the Supreme Director has planned for our roles. Yet, this puts us in the horns of a new dilemma. How are we to act in a responsible manner when we have no idea until the action is over as to what we are required to do? So, many of us are often in a quandary as to what is the right path and what the wrong path of action.
Bhagavan Ramana, all-knowing Director and perfect Actor that he is all at once, lays out some very simple rules for us to follow. He asks us not to worry about our lines at all, not even to worry about what our role actually is. Rather, he asks us to give complete and total attention to the Power that enables us to act and play our parts. By unrelenting and continuous attention to that Power we will become so fully in tune with it that all our words and actions will be in perfect harmony with that Power. In fact they will be words and actions of that very Power.
What then is the Power that enables and sustains action? Let us say it is the Supreme Director. The question then arises as to whether the Director is outside of us or within us. On further enquiry we find that unless there is a power within us that perceives and understands the directions given by the Director and guides us to act in accordance with the Director’s command, the command would not be executed. Hence we recognise that the Power of the Supreme Director must manifest within us in order to enable us to follow the directions at an external level. Thus, paying attention to the Power that directs action implies turning attention to the source of that Power within.
When we try to pay attention to this Power within, we realise that in fact all the actions of the body are controlled by the mind. Not only this, most significantly, the actions and experiences of the body actually happen only in the mind! The entire drama of life that appears to be played out on a physical plane is actually experienced by each one of us as if it were a film being played out in our mind. The words that we speak, the movements that we make, the reactions that we display are all, each and every one of them, not just governed by the dictates of the mind but actually lived only in the mind. Thus, the entire drama of our life is really being played out in our mind.
Then, who is the actor and who the audience and what indeed is the stage? Our desires, our goals, are thoughts. Our efforts are thoughts and our achievements are also thoughts. And what is a thought? It appears to be a wave, a movement of a subject towards an object. But then, movement is what a thought does. What is the stuff of thought? What is the material of which thought is made, if we can call it a material? Is not thought simply the light of awareness which appears to have assumed a form just as the light in a movie appears to have a form on the screen? And the ‘I’? Is not the so called ‘subject’ also only an object, only one more mental form? Indeed the first object that rises is the ‘I’ and all other objects in consciousness rise based on this first object. What then is the true subject? Who am I? Ramana never tires of reminding us that seeking the true nature of ‘I’ is the key to all questions and all answers.
The author Dr Sarada is editor ‘The Ramana Way’, a monthly journal of Ramana Maharshi Centre