What is free will? (Part 2)

For part 1 click here.

A guru always takes you for a ride

At this point in the seminar our hero Adam perks back up. He remembers something from another seminar he attended a few weeks ago called “Your First Steps on Your Blessed Spiritual Journey” where the long-haired teacher was saying something about mind, body and the soul. Adam stands up and yells out, “If I’m neither the body nor the mind then I must have a soul”.

Our guru, fully expecting this answer, intends to take Adam for another ride (they always do). He asks Adam to point to where he thinks his soul is. Adam, thinking that he is finally onto something, places his left hand onto his chest and lets out a big sigh. Ooooommmm. He learned this at the previous seminar too.

Our guru lets out a loud belly laugh and tells Adam that even though he is neither a PhD, nor a trained doctor, and even though his education is only from the Himalayas, he is pretty sure that he is touching his chest. At best, his heart or his lungs. And in any case, “Adam, you only have one sole…I have two, a left and a right one. That’s why I’m a guru.”.

Adam does not much appreciate the guru’s wordplay. Once again, our hero sits back down. He concedes that this spirituality business is harder than doing sun salutations in Lululemon yoga pants, or adorning his body with crystals during a cacao ceremony on Bali.

Belief ≠ truth

For millennia, humans have formed beliefs about things they could not decipher. This is a very dangerous thing to do. You can either believe or not believe something but you’re no closer to the truth itself.

There is tremendous potential and value in saying instead, “I don’t know”. I will concede that this is not a very popular sentence in our culture, one that expects, nay, demands that everyone have an opinion about everything. However, unless one has clarity in what they perceive, they can only give their opinion, which is tainted by their likes, dislikes and preferences.

You’ll hear people say, “I’m confident in this” or “I’m confident in that”, but really they don’t have clarity. Operating based on such misplaced confidence has created a torrent of pain and destruction in the world, all of which could have been avoided. By having (over)confidence, we’ve built a world on the outside, one which neglects the inside, much to our detriment.

If you answered the question of “Who am I?” with “I don’t know”, instead of confidently making stuff up, you are one step closer to understanding, and you have a platform with which to proceed further.

Pleading ignorance is a tremendous possibility for exploration, instead of taking someone else’s conclusion, without much clarity or understanding, as the truth. Living by conclusions, instead of by questions, or at least some with kind of reverence for the vastness of the universe and the many things we don’t understand, makes for a very limited life experience.

So back to this question of you.

Poor Adam is just devastated. He is not a body, neither is he his thoughts, emotions or feelings. He can live with all that, but now this guru is telling him he doesn’t have a soul either. That’s too much. What is he then? The devil himself? The guru sees this confusion in Adam and approaches him with compassion. “Don’t make things up which are not in your experience. Don’t add to things. Rather, seek to take away until nothing else is left but the truth,” he instructs Adam.

Fixed vs infinite ways to be

Just look at animals. Their lives, as cute as they may be, are largely fixed. They eat, sleep, reproduce, get territorial and die. Their lives are effectively concerned with survival. They do most of it in a state of unawareness. Admit it though: it reminds you of some humans you know, right?

Humans are different from animals. We have been generously bestowed with the possibility of having awareness. To see that we can see. To be conscious that we are conscious. This is all on top of the animalistic survival instincts with which most people seem to be satisfied anyway. No matter how extravagant it might be, whether you live in a slum village or travel by private jet, it’s still just survival after all.

For this boon that existence has granted us, we’ve largely gone about misusing our lives. Instead of identifying with this, we’ve chosen to identify with our minds and bodies. This is the ultimate fall from the garden, as they say. There’s nothing wrong with living this way, it’s just a very limited life. If you identify with your body and your mind, you’ll inevitably identify with separation, limitation and all the various compulsions both of them have.

For a human who is willing, or one who has had a glimpse beyond the body and mind, this existence has generously offered the possibility to go beyond this very human nature, to something much much greater. In other words, the opportunity to touch this intelligence. If this existence has enabled us to experience this, then it must be that this thing – call it whatever you want, the soul, consciousness, holy spirit, atman (if you’re up on your Sanskrit), or not call it anything – is existence itself. It takes one to know one, right?

Going beyond conclusions

It’s not that this thing is something else, it’s that this thing is who You really are. Because of who You are, You have a body and a mind. Because of who You are, you have a name, an identity, a nationality, a profession, a spouse, a house, a car, children…your life story, in other words. Not the other way around.

Just think about it: what would it be like if your awareness or consciousness didn’t exist? You’d just be floating around in this vast empty space, right? There’d be no consciousness of being and this whole thing that you call life wouldn’t exist. If no one is aware of life, it doesn’t make sense any more, right?

I’m sure you’ve heard the cheesy new-agey quote which goes something like: “we’re not humans having a spiritual experience, but spirits having a human experience”. Please, I beg of you, don’t start saying things like “I’m a divine child of god” or “I’m an infinite being”, because this is not the truth of your experience. Once you’ve extricated yourself from this mess you call your psyche, please do not make any more conclusions. Do not build your house on sand. You might not have the answers and it might be uncomfortable, but at least you are beginning to see.

You can either believe or not, but if you’re sincere enough and your intent is to go beyond the body and mind, because this eternity has at least somewhat opened up to you, gurus, sages, seers, saints, mystics and yogis from the East for eons have told you that you are the highest thing that walked the planet of this earth. But you don’t see it because what you’re looking at. Yours and everyone else’s survival process is not a very high thing to look at.

Compulsion ≠ free will

Back to this free will business. Ask a smoker if they’re using their free will to light up the tenth cigarette of the day. No, it’s the cigarette that is making them smoke. Ask a binge eater why they are snacking after three full meals. It’s not free will, it’s the chemicals and the compulsions of their body and mind. Once you begin to have some kind of realisation or experience beyond the mind and body and their compulsions. and once you set your intent higher than mere survival, then you can begin to talk about free will.

So now, I hope we’ve sufficiently addressed this question of who is the real You. It is not your bundle of compulsions. Rather, it’s that thing (left unnamed for now) that is aware that you have these on your hands. If you can be aware of something, let’s say the unconscious compulsions of your mind and body, it means that you can expand your conscious will to change it, should you be so inclined, right?

Stay tuned for the final part.