Misery of Identification

stormy forest, digital, astitva

Diogenes was a well-known Greek mystic. Once he was captured and taken to a slave fair. There he was being auctioned. One of the prospective buyers asked Diogenes a question, “Where do you come from? Where do you belong?” “Everywhere,” said Diogenes. Diogenes belonged everywhere because he had dropped all his identities, he was connected with all, he was one with the whole. He felt a bonding with everything, hence his answer “Everywhere”.
Do we belong everywhere? If somebody asked us where we belonged, our immediate answer would be our hometown, or the name of the state or country, etc. And the moment we say we belong to that particular place, we declare that rest of the world doesn’t belong to us, nor do we belong to the rest of the world. This rest of the world is outside our family, it is a stranger at best and an enemy at worst. So the moment we say we belong to a particular place, we have estranged ourselves from the rest. The same is true when we talk about our social, political, institutional, professional belongingness. The moment we say that we belong to a particular group, a particular political party, we have created a wall, a barrier between us and the others, the ones who don’t belong to that group. This is how getting identified with one thing alienates us from the rest.
This identification is the root cause of our most of the miseries, because the moment we say we don’t belong to a particular place, we don’t belong to a particular group that they are outsiders, we have created a wall around us that separates us from others. This separation causes a feeling of fear within us. We are withdrawn into our shells and in that shell we are suffocated. There are so many such identities that we have created in our lives and these identities are crushing us. The walls of these shells are closing in on us on all sides, pressing us, crushing us.
A Hindu is bound to be a stranger to a non-Hindu. He cannot accept a non-Hindu, no matter how much he talks about universal brotherhood. Likewise, the moment a person says he is an Indian, he has created certain subtle hatred, dislike towards non-Indians, say Pakistanis. This is how identification divides us. Identification is very divisive. And what happens when we are divided? The worst part of this division is that we grow very apathetic. Somebody who is not us, somebody who doesn’t belong to us, somebody who is not part of us, somebody who hasn’t pledged allegiance to us is an outsider and cannot be loved because the person can’t be accepted. How can you love somebody without accepting him? It is not long before that apathy turns into cruelty, hatred in fact. Haven’t you seen people enjoying when enemy soldier dies? What a celebration we see around us. When so called “our army” wins, we go on singing all around, without realising that those who died were also human beings, that an enemy soldier’s family must be missing him, lamenting over his dead body as much we do over our loved ones. We can celebrate somebody’s murder! This is what identification does. Hundreds of poets have questioned the very logic of killing somebody, simply because he belongs to the other. Thomas Hardy, a well-known English novelist and poet, wrote a poem where he says that, “I am going to kill a man tomorrow. He is my enemy because he belongs to the enemy’s army. I don’t know him, but I am going to kill him tomorrow.” Can you feel the pathos of this soldier who is going to kill a person simply because he belongs to the enemy’s camp? Who has created these barriers? Who has taught us that those are our enemies and they have to be killed? Just in the name of nationalism, politicians exploit us, they instigate us to kill because they warn us that, “If you didn’t kill them, they would do us.” How many millions of lives this single word “nationalism” has devoured! Nationalism is a kind of identification. When you start believing strongly that you are an Indian, then you have to believe also that Pakistanis are your enemies and enemies must be killed. This is how nationalism poisons us.
Then comes the priest who also divides us into Hindus, Muslims, Christians and what not. Then conflicts arise. For example, in 1992 in India, a certain Hindu fanatic mob demolished a mosque Babri masjid. Now the political mullah can use this incident as a tool to brainwash the Muslim mind: “Hindus are your enemies, you should beware of them. Keep distance.” Likewise, people are taught to hate each other. Religion is also a kind of identification.
So we go on creating these identifications and we go on creating these walls between us and others. Then we are bound to feel lonely. And in this loneliness we feel miserable because we feel disconnected, disowned, rejected. We live in constant fear: there is fear of Pakistan, there is fear of Muslims, there is fear of Christians that Christian missionaries are converting Hindus into Christians, they are tempting poor lower caste Hindus into accepting Christianity, so they look like enemies. Then the whole world is turned into enemies. This causes misery. All identification causes misery eventually because it cuts you off from the world.
Secondly, identification is fundamentally and essentially anti-life. Existence never meant us to be separate. Existence is one life, and unless we enjoy that one life we are anti-life. And whosoever is against life is bound to be in misery, bound to suffer. As Osho always says that whenever you swim against the current you are bound to suffer. So by identification we try to swim against the current, against the flow of the river, then we are tired, broken, desperate. Life never creates any divisions. Right now you are breathing, and when you breathe out CO2 that CO2 is received by trees. Do trees ask whether this CO2 comes from a Hindu or a Muslim? They receive lovingly. Even a tree in the garden of a Christian will happily receive the CO2 of a Muslim. After converting that CO2 into O2, it is given out freely. Are you sure that the oxygen that is coming to you is Hindu oxygen or Christian oxygen or it has been created by the member of your community or your family member? That breath of oxygen is possibly coming from your enemy. It is the enemy who is giving you life. What a paradox! Life is so interconnected. Can you refuse that oxygen, can you afford to refuse that oxygen? Can you create some kind of instrument that can tell you that this breath comes from a Christian or a Hindu or a Muslim or a Sikh? And being a Sikh would you choose to receive oxygen from Sikh only? Nature treats us alike. We are all beloved children of nature. Nature is never partial, never biased. But we are. This is why in the whole of nature nothing is miserable except humans, because nothing else gets identified. This is at the level of matter.
Now at the level of emotions the same impartial unity, undivided oneness works. Do you know when you are happy you emit a certain kind of happy vibrations that create a joyful, soothing, encouraging, delightful atmosphere? You create a certain happy atmosphere around you, a joy field you can call it, just like energy field or magnetic field. Anybody who comes in contact of this field is bound to be influenced by it. So even your neighbour who you think is your enemy is going to be blessed by it, is going to be benefited by it. Can you stop him? Try it, and you will feel miserable because you choose not to be happy. Because the only way to create unhappy, miserable vibrations around you is to be miserable within. So will you choose it? Will you choose to be miserable? Indeed, few masochists will do it. But the rest won’t. We cannot stop our joyful vibrations from reaching to our “enemies” because nature has not meant it to be done. No matter how many walls and borders we create between us and the others, but vibrations will travel, air will travel and Indians’ oxygen will go to Pakistanis, Pakistani joy field will touch Indians.
The day I started destroying those barriers between “me and them” I felt being loved so immensely. I must say I am very blessed because there are countless people who love me! It is such a blessing! Being a teacher, I have been in contact with Kashmiri students as well. There is anti-Kashmiri atmosphere in India, primarily because certain news channels exaggerate the images of Kashmiris favouring Pakistan, shouting anti-India slogans. So if one person or a handful of persons do that, we think the whole of Kashmir is like that. Media creates those images and we blindly cling to them. I was also like that: media–blind. There is colour-blindness, so is media-blindness. It is only when I got in touch with Kashmiri students, Kashmiri Muslims, I felt they are as wonderful as we are. They are as good as we are and they are as bad as we are, because they are humans. They are very respectful to me as much as non-Muslims students are. Further, I have been in Punjab for last 7 years and although being an “outsider” here I have never faced any problems here. So many students love me and there love is overwhelming. Sometimes I am so utterly fulfilled! Who is enemy? Who is stranger? Who is outsider? I have taught Africans also and still I recall 2 boys Zeta and Nathanial. Whenever I came across them, how their faces brightened, how their eyes glowed! So cheery a welcome they gave me always! So respectfully and lovingly they wished me! I have never forgotten their faces nor their names. Who were they? Because they were non-Indians, I should have created a distance from them. And had I done that, O, what I would have missed in my life! What right did I have to hate them, because they were not Indians? Then there were Bhutani students. I received as much love from them. There was a boy named Kinley. He loved my English and me as a person so much that he would attend any class wherever he found me. He had my timetable, so whenever he could spare time, he came to my class and sat there. Though he was a student of B.Com., sometimes he would attend even an M.A. class. Naturally he could not follow literary theories, so sometimes he also fell asleep in the class. Once I asked him: “Why do you come to the class when you can’t follow what I teach?” He simply said that, “I love to listen to you. No matter what you speak, I just love it.” It was a touching moment! I am telling you these anecdotes just to remind you that life is so full of love. But because of identification we go on denying this love. Because somebody is Bhutani or somebody is African or Kashmiri, we refuse their love and care. I must repeat I have been very blessed that I got such loving people in my life. Whenever I was disappointed, whenever I felt heartbroken, whenever I felt lonely, I always found people around me to get help. I cannot name them because they are too many, but they know who they are. There is a sher “Dil jo tuta to kai hath dua ko uthe/ Aise mahoul me ab kisko paraya samjhun” (When my heart broke so many hands raised in prayer for me, who is stranger in this prayerful atmosphere?) There were people who prayed for me and I am alive because of their love.
These so-called strangers had given me so much love, and there are people, my so-called own people, who have condemned me, who have criticised me, who dislike me still because I didn’t live up to their expectations, because I haven’t done what they wished me to have done. Just observe your own life and you will feel that there are people whom you have never known, complete strangers, and in a moment they fill you with tremendous love. While talking to you, I am also being reminded of so many people, when they come to me, sit with me, when they absorb me, with so much love. I would have never received their love had I rejected them as strangers, as not belonging to my own community.
I did my PhD on Abraham Lincoln. His humanity was so broad, it included everything and anything. He loved everybody and anybody. I was so fortunate to explore his life and work. Being a white himself, he fought and died for blacks. He just sacrificed himself for blacks because he was not identified. Although his sensitive eyes had to see the bloodshed of the American Civil War–he was President at that time. He went mad with grief when he heard the news of so many soldiers dying in the war. He felt deep empathy not only for the soldiers on his side, but also for the soldiers on the other side. The war was a necessity, it had been imposed on him, and he couldn’t help it. But his humanity always remained pure, all- embracing. Reading these stories sometimes my eyes would turn moist. I could feel what Lincoln could feel simply because I had myself dropped my identities. In this absence of identity, all of a sudden I got connected with Lincoln. I could feel his pathos, his grief, his pain. I never saw him, I never met him–he died around 115 years before my birth–yet I always felt and still do a bond of love with him. Love always goes beyond time and space. Lincoln’s essence is part of my being now.
A similar incident took place in my life, when I was reading Ghalib. There was a sher: “Hui muddat ke Ghalib mar gaya, par yaad aata hai/Vo har ek baat pe kahna ki ye hota to kya hota”(An age has passed since Ghalib’s death yet we recall/His saying, “what if this had happened.) Ghalib was dead, but tears welled up in my eyes remembering him. Those were beautiful tears because for me Ghalib was not a Muslim, Lincoln was not an American, they were all part of one being that beats in all of us.
Therefore, remember one thing: identification always causes misery, because it separates us from the rest. Only when we drop all our identities we feel a joyful oneness with the whole. And there is no experience, no joy more beautiful than to belong everywhere and to everyone.

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