Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Positive Buoyancy

"Effortless & choiceless awareness is our real nature. If we can attain that state and abide in it, that is all right. But one cannot reach it without effort, the effort of deliberate meditation. All the age old vasanas (inherent tendencies) turn the mind outward to external objects. All such thoughts have to be given up and the mind turned inwards and that, for most people, requires effort."
Ramana Maharshi - Teachings of Bhagavan pg 78

When I was a kid, my father and brother got into SCUBA diving, and so I did as well. This is where I learned about buoyancy, and that I had a very limited 'positive buoyancy'. Buoyancy, as you might guess, is how well you float. Most people have something like a 20% positive buoyancy, which means if you just do a dead-man's float, letting go and simply relaxing on the surface of the water, on your back, you'll pretty much do okay. Your face will remain above the surface and you'll be able to breathe. With me, however, if I do that. I'll basically sink just enough below the surface where I'll be taking in large amounts of water. I have like 5% positive buoyancy. If I try to remain on the surface with my head above water, I start to DROWN.

I don't know if this relates to the quest for Truth, but on some level, it seems like it does. Most people have a much stronger 'positive buoyancy'. In other words, they WANT to stay on the surface of life; they want to remain superficial and float on the surface of the ocean. However, this tendency doesn't do one much good if you are seeking the depths of Consciousness. As Sri Ramana states above, IF you can get down in abidance and stay there, GREAT. That is what most people want to do - just sort of let go and float. But they don't recognize, or don't want to recognize, that they're still on the surface. They are still fully identified with the vasanas, attachments, identifications, concepts, beliefs, and so forth. It is absolutely necessary to get below that.

Imagine taking a piece of Styrofoam below the surface of the water. The deeper you take it, the faster it tends to shoot back to the surface when you let it go. Some things will just bob up and down on the surface, and others will sink like a rock, for instance... a rock. Take a piece of wood and HOLD it under water long enough, and eventually it will become waterlogged and it, too, will sink like a stone. But, as you know, that takes quite a bit of effort for quite a bit of time.

When scuba diving, one wears lead weights to get to the bottom, to counteract the positive buoyancy that we have. I had to wear fewer. If you try to swim to the bottom of the ocean without them, the moment you stop swimming... zoom... up you go to the surface.

Spiritual practice is the constant swimming downwards. In most cases, the moment you stop swimming you begin to surface again. Unfortunately, our tendency is to stop swimming downward, to take too long of a break, to go into idle mode, or to just say, "This is good enough." So, not only does it take effort, it takes consistent and unending effort. That may seem harsh, but this is even what the scriptures will tell us - "constantly, without stopping, without turning away, without other-ness, consistently, every moment", and so on and so forth. They don't say, "give a little push, and off you go" with a little smiley icon beside it. They say cultivation of real spiritual knowledge and wisdom is the most difficult thing you will ever do, which is why so few people truly succeed. Going the other direction, for instance, (UP), out of the billions of people on the planet, how many have reached the summit of Mount Everest? Comparatively few.

The principle thing to keep in mind is that it seems positive buoyancy is built in. To try to reach Truth is in many ways contrary to our nature. Even the Bhagavad Gita says, "Daivi hi esa gunamayi, mama maya duratyaya - This Divine Illusion of mine, consisting of the material modes is VERY difficult to escape". However, he then continues, "Mameva ye prapadyante mayametam taranti te - Those who surrender to Me can cross beyond it." So, it takes our effort, but also recognizing that our effort alone is insufficient. Krishna says to surrender to Him. Ramana says it takes constant effort and (in other places) Grace. He also says surrender is grace. The bottom line, however, is that, from whatever level we appear to have choice, we must choose to relentlessly seek Truth, God, the Absolute, and at the same time, surrender ourselves to That Absolute.

Happy Diving!