Checked Into Nirvana. Where Is Joy?

Eckhart Tolle lived upto his twenty ninth year in a state of almost continual anxiety interspersed with periods of suicidal depression. Then he woke up one night with a feeling of absolute dread. The silence of the night, the vague outlines of the furniture in the dark room, the distant noise of a passing train - everything felt so alien, so hostile, and so utterly meaningless that it created in him a deep loathing of the world. "I cannot live with myself any longer." This was the thought that kept repeating itself in his mind. Suddenly he became aware that if he could not live with himself, there had to be two - he and the "self" he could not live with. He was stunned by the realization. He became enveloped by powerful feelings.

Tolle had little memory of what happened after the powerful feelings overcame him. He woke up into a new world. His depression vanished. For the next five months, he lived in a state of uninterrupted bliss. While it diminished somewhat in intensity, for another two years, he sat on park benches in a state of the most intense joy. He felt that what he experienced was a form of enlightenment, of union with the eternal, somewhat similar to the experiences of Buddha. He quoted Buddha's definition of enlightenment as "the end of suffering". Tolle became a respected teacher, with dedicated followers in Europe, North America and India. His book, The Power of Now, was on the New York Times best seller list.

Both Tolle and Buddha reportedly experienced a sudden release from the intense pain of powerful negative emotions. Their joy was understandable. Across history, there were many stories of the intense rapture associated with a sudden release from the emotions of fear, dread, guilt or anger. In most cases, these were sudden happenings, when such emotions just dropped away and the person felt an intense sense of freedom. But, actually, getting rid of negative emotions could be very practical and down to earth. The mind perceives, recognizes events and then interprets those events as emotions. Emotions are just a set of nerve impulses, which fire when you recognize an event.

Paul Eckman, the world famous emotions scientist said that the evaluation that turned on an emotion happened so quickly that people were not aware it was occurring. "We become aware a quarter, or half second after the emotion begins. I do not choose to have an emotion, to become afraid, or to become angry. I am suddenly angry. I can usually figure out later what someone did that caused the emotion." So you have no control over the emotions that are triggered when you recognize an event. But, there were things you could do to prevent a surge of those emotions.

Begin with the small turmoils. Traffic snarls, minor discourtesies. They trigger bad feelings. Just laughter could help by relaxing you. But, most people find that difficult. Instead, you could do something similar - pump your stomach ? repeatedly expel air from the pelvic area. That disperses the excess adrenalin into the system and carries away the negative emotion. Ten minutes later, you may not even remember what it was that upset you. That works for most minor disturbances.

In more critical situations, emotions are the plans of primitive nature for action. Anger incites you to attack. Guilt persuades you to submit. And fear suggests you run away. But, if you have a plan of action, animal nature sits back. Negative emotions recede. There are only three things you can do when something bad happens. Do something about it. Prevent it from happening again. Or, if you can't do anything, accept it as inevitable. So, plan, wait for time to bring you a plan, or decide to live with it. Over the years, if you are the type who plans, you will have plans to deal with most difficulties in life. So, over decades, the loud negative emotions subside.

That leaves you with those moods, which drive you crazy. You don't know why, but you feel the world is about to end. Actually, those are internal drives, which switch on, mostly without your permission. Some stray event, which you may even have forgotten. Getting rid of moods takes a little more practice. Relaxation exercises help. Better to develop a familiar awareness of the mood. Oh, oh, here I am, in the same frame of mind again! An intense outside awareness works to kill it. Easier if you can spot the physical symptoms of the mood. A familiar strain here, a tension there. Identify it and the mood vanishes. It can be done.

So, suddenly, one day, you find you have reached Nirvana. Bad emotions rarely bother you. Those repetitive thoughts that circled around have stopped. You are able to prevent stray thoughts from coming in. You can focus your mind for long periods on a single problem, or even on just silence. The burdens of life don't bother you. You have decided to do your best right now. Hell with the rest. You have reached. The funny thing is, there is no special joy when you get there. Only an empty silence. Could all those who were euphoric about a sudden release from pain, have kept up their joy over the years? Tolle got off the park bench after three years. Euphoria, yes. But, permanent joy doesn't sound real.

Abraham Thomas is the author of The Intuitive Algorithm, a book, which suggests that intuition is a pattern recognition algorithm. This leads to an understanding of the powerful forces that control your mind. The ebook version is available at http://www.intuition.co.in. The book may be purchased only in India. The website, provides a free movie and a walk through to explain the ideas.

In The News:

Exploring the truth  Daily Pioneer
What the pandemic can teach us about political philosophy  EUROPP - European Politics and Policy
A quest beyond philosophy  Times of Malta
It's Not Just a Game: Advancing the Philosophy of Sport  College of Social & Behavioral Sciences
Hope for the Lost Souls of Liberalism  The Wall Street Journal

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