The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.
Every human being, at some point in time, needs to develop a concept of life. Science rests on two principles— experimentation and repeatability—before accepting any hypothesis. I decided to employ the same method on spirituality. In a way, it is easy to accept something by faith, and all religions demand faith, to begin with.
My theory goes somewhat like this: the life of an individual is the story of his evolution towards full potential, which, in other words, can be defined as the purpose of their life. I might have had smaller objectives and aims within this framework, such as aiming for a good education, making a career, earning well and starting a family. However, life’s purpose can be different things for different people; it can even just be an aim to be happy, whatever that happiness may mean. But a larger picture is essential to obtain a better perspective and to avoid certain complications and complexities. Chasing happiness may sometimes become tiring if you don’t know what will make you happy or what happiness means.
This overarching view of life, as a process of self-evolution towards reaching one’s full potential, opened many questions and possibilities. What exactly do the words ‘self’, ‘evolution’ and ‘potential’ mean and how am I supposed to attain this goal? I was born with certain things and I had no choice in the matter, such as a body, a mind and the environment into which I took birth. These are irreversible, and I could have done nothing about it. I needed to work from that point towards realizing my full potential. To that extent, these things which are given to me at birth become my tools for such a work; a body with all its limitations and potential, a psychology including my mind and its possibilities, and the cosmology, which includes the environment into which I was born.
When I say I am given my body and mind, that implies that I’m not them. If I have a car, I’m not the car. Then who am I? Shall I call that the self? The Bhagavad Gita calls it atman. My body has a name, Sampath, and address, some qualifications, family and possessions, and terabytes of impressions and experiences pouring out of all these things every second of my life and existence. If I’m not my body, then who enjoys the fruits of such experiences? My body can’t because it’s inert, it’s driven like a car which can’t enjoy the coastal ride. It’s the occupant of the car who enjoys the journey or suffers injuries when met with an accident. Shall we then say it’s me, myself or simply the ‘self,’ which enjoys or suffers the experiences?
So, I am here in this life to evolve and realize my full potential for which I have been given the tools of body, mind and an environment. The body is the primary instrument, in the sense that it houses my essential self. It comes equipped with its own set of subsidiary tools to help—the six senses, limbs, organs and everything else required to function effectively. Here I have a nagging question—if the body has the full capacity to process experiences such as these, then why is a corpse not able to eat food and digest? That only means there is something else, which is responsible for these things, including the signals sent by the senses. I suspected this to be the mind guiding the body through these experiences. I eat ice cream when I have the mood, and don’t if I fall sick. That means the mind is not alone, but a whole lot of other things which decide what and when I eat, and the body follows mutely.
Another important point is about maintenance of the tools. If the devices are not used correctly, they go to waste. Similarly, the body and mind are subject to decay and need constant vigil and maintenance. The body needs to be nourished and used correctly to stay fit. Then comes the environment—both the outside world and an individual’s inner world—that needs to be healthy for a person to thrive.
I have the responsibility of maintaining both inner and outer environments, mainly the external, as it is a shared environment. I can see the role that the law and societal rules play to ensure that the outer environment is conducive to all. Then comes the question of the people who inhabit this external environment. The community consists of people and what makes them all different from each other? Why is someone short and another tall? Why is someone rich and other poor or why do some believe in God and some others don’t? Will all of them evolve to reach their potentiality? Is ‘potentiality’ the same for everyone or is it different for different people? G says everything depends on one’s ‘level of being’. This level is decided by the total of my internal environment including my thoughts, feelings, emotions and actions.
The ‘level’ of my being led me down the path that my life took. That explains why I was a police officer; someone else was an actor and someone the prime minister or president. The question is whether I would be able to influence my level of being and change it to attract a different kind of life or is it just a matter of chance, luck or accident? It occurs to me that it should be possible to reduce the role of chance in my life and change my level of being, provided I work on myself. To work on myself, I needed knowledge and understanding of how to go about doing that. Over several millennia, all masters, religions and philosophers and all the scriptures were trying to tell humanity one thing only: How to work on oneself. Sounds simple enough! But the question is with so many teachings available, whom to follow and what to do. To know the truth and to detect the underlying unity, I needed a key to understanding them.
Gurdjieff with his Fourth Way concepts provided such a key to me. With that, I could open the large treasure houses of scriptures from various religions. Remembering the original task of working on myself, with the help of the given tools and conditions, I needed to transform and evolve so that I uncover my real potential. The body and the mind were both necessary for the acquisition of knowledge, followed by understanding what I had imbibed. Or it’s possible that both, knowledge and understanding occur simultaneously. Through the power of knowledge it should be possible, I speculated, to switch from instinctual to intellectual to intuitive planes of existence. Once intuition takes over, it should be possible to know the way to transformation. I also figured happiness and fulfilment occupied a place somewhere between intellectual and intuitive planes. It is the place that could be free of the urges of the instincts of hunger, sex, fear and other demands of life and free from the intellectual interferences of thoughts, logic and reason. This space is precious where your wants are met, and your logic takes a back seat as you realize the futility of words and expressions. Space stands created for higher influences to enter. That may be the reason why humans seek happiness by default.
I reflected on my theory of life for a long time. It was not perfect, and I could see gaps which needed to be filled. Nevertheless, it appeared to be a good starting point. Still, many issues needed to be resolved. The most important issue was that of God—whether He exists or doesn’t. First, the answer required to come from inside and not outside. The world is largely divided between those who believe and those who don’t, though the number of atheists far outnumbers those who don’t. That doesn’t mean by any measure, that those who believe necessarily got the answer from the depths of their being. Those who don’t believe often take the route of rationalism and evolutionism that life evolved by itself. The other theory is called creationism, which maintains that God created life. For me though, the life process appeared too intricate and awe-inspiring to be a series of random processes. I believe that the universe was created by a single force, which can be understood provided we make efforts. Efforts, which help in finding ourselves before finding God. If we don’t know ourselves, how could we possibly know another, let alone God?
Then there are the agnostics, who neither believe nor disbelieve in God. Osho says God is needed more by the poor than by the wealthy. You need the theory of God existing if you need to survive. Once you have money and other things in life, perhaps, you only have a God, who is waiting to punish you for your misdeeds, and who wants to be punished. There are other varieties of people who say work is God or that you see God in the innocent smile of a child, etc. To me, God is someone who needs to be discovered by working on oneself.
Once I accepted this theory, the next logical question was where I could find Him. Most of the organized religions, based on dualism insisted that God was external to oneself, far beyond, high in the skies. There are parts of Vedanta philosophy, such as monism, which talks about God as someone interior to all human beings, sarvantaryami. In other words, there is nothing except God in this universe. The Visishtadvaita, the basic philosophy of Vaishnavism, believes that God is both inside and outside. I take it that this means He is so high and far above that, I can’t reach him quickly. At the same time, He is also deep within me, provided I make the effort to find him. I identify most with this theory because it means I needed to work on myself. Thus, I resolved the issue of God for myself.
Religious and spiritual traditions make the claims that through methods like yoga, meditation and devotional practices such as prayer will ultimately lead to Him. I believe that such practices may result in a point from where finding Him may become a little more feasible, like climbing a mountain to catch a glimpse of a glorious sunrise. There may still be issues though, such as a cloudy day. You may have to wait there until the clouds clear. It was evident that to think of God and find a path that led to Him, I needed to cross several stages and work through different layers, and despite that, I still was not sure of reaching where I wanted. In a state of clarity and calmness, one may get the next clue, like on a treasure hunt. You keep getting hints when you follow the arrow marks. Someone may know where the treasure is even without the clues. But I needed the clues. I also found that the philosophies of the East, particularly India, was related to the mind and the Western views worked primarily on the body. It appears they approach this concept from opposite ends. However, the Bhagavad Gita reconciles both, by saying that karma yoga done with a sense of non-attachment could be the way to go. Yoga includes physical postures, but I feel that most of the masters worked on their minds. The idea is that a sufficiently trained mind will take care of the physicality. I felt working on the mind to start with might be challenging and work on the body should precede work on the mind. Gita put karma yoga before dhyana yoga and bhakti yoga. I also realized the importance of selflessly serving society and the role it plays in one’s evolution. Finding God in the process of finding one’s potential, however, needs to be verified by one’s experience. Who knows, finding one’s potential might include finding one’s God too.
Transcending one’s identity is not the same as forgetting. In all these wanderings, I firmly had my identity in my heart. Without it, I would have been like a kite without a thread being held or like a climber without his rope. That identity has four parts: first (and foremost), I am a Hindu; second, I am a Tamizhan; third, I am a Brahmin; and fourth, I am a Srivaishnavan. I am aware that all four have been under siege for hundreds of years. I am confident that one day, all of them would triumph.
What I gained from this life are tonnes of experience, an estate of consciousness and vast acres of mind, which, I wish, remain with me forever.
I have wound up my life in India, sold and dispersed whatever assets I have gathered during my lifetime, booked a senior care home in the outskirts of Chennai, as I need a place to stay when I return from the US, and left some money in the bank in my wife’s name. And I do have my pension from the government service.
My days in the US are fruitfully spent; in addition to going to the school twice or thrice a week, once in two or three weeks to the cyber security group meetings at Stanford University, helping my wife in household chores and gardening, reading books to my grandchildren, and, of course, a lot of reading. Going to the gym has been a regular habit. In the near future, I propose to explore the world of biohacking with the Bulletproof Labs in the beach town of Santa Monica in Southern California. This is about taking the health and fitness science to the next level. At the mind level, quantum consciousness is another field I would like to explore with Amit Goswami, a quantum science expert. I am also curious about what ‘Siddha Veda’, tells us about the meaning of human life.
If I get restless with my present life, what would I do? Perhaps reinvent myself all over again!
ABOUT THE BOOK
V.R. Sampath leaves his comfort zone the moment it gets too comfortable. Now retired but still a seeker, Sampath’s life is governed by freedom and knowledge. He left a stress-free bank job to join the highly demanding Indian Police Service, and then quit the police force at a very senior position to seek challenges in the corporate world. In the corporate world, he rubbed shoulders with the likes of Mukesh Ambani, Anil Ambani, G.M. Rao and Gautam Adani. If he had a close-up view of how political and administrative power worked during his police days, he got to know the world of money power during his stint in the biggest corporates in India.
In Restless, Sampath talks about his life and his encounters with the ‘Indian way of life’. Through his varied experiences, he feels that India is on survival mode even after seventy years of independence. This struggle for survival has made Indians devoid of trust, compassion and humanity, more often than not. Then, how does one survive?
The book takes an honest and hard look at the definition of success and happiness. Sampath believes that people need to keep reinventing themselves constantly. That is the only way to keep the spirit alive.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
V.R. Sampath is a former Indian Police Service officer and one of India’s top private security professionals. He has a Ph. D in aviation security. After retirement, Sampath is pursuing a Ph. D in consciousness studies in the US. He lives in California with his family.