The Question
Some esoteric questions can set us on a journey of discovery in the direction of ‘Know thyself’. One of them is related to this matter of freeing ourselves from the impact of society that corrupts our awareness. Can we fulfill our worldly responsibilities and yet not get threaded into the psychological fabric of society?

Reflective awareness can move us towards understanding the content of ‘Know thyself’. It is a matter of freeing ourselves from the influence of society on our thoughts. Can we remain untouched by the conditioning factors of social propaganda and psychological influence that inevitably and imperceptibly sustain the ego?

Psychoanalysis can help only marginally
Human beings try to solve psychological problems through analysis from within the content of the mind wrapped up in its own conditioning. This introduces serious limitations on the outcome. That is how the psychiatrists who try to solve the psychological problems of their patients fall prey to the very same problems of their own! This does not mean that psychiatry is useless but that it is limited; it cannot lead to progressive peace of mind through non-verbal insight into ourselves. The aphorism ‘Know thyself’ implies an inward awareness that goes beyond verbal analysis. Socrates is reported to have pointed out that the intended nature of the saying lay not in the words but in the self-reflection and self-referencing of the person thereof. Some esoteric questions can help us as catalysts to our taking the inward journey and bringing about the non-verbal clarity involved in ‘Know thyself’. That clarity is a matter of inner transformation through direct awareness and not a result of accumulating knowledge with its weight of verbiage. Being a quiet bystander to oneself brings about the direct awareness.

The Poison of Society
J. Krishnamurti asks this question: Can we be far away from this world and yet live in it? In short, it means that, while fulfilling our responsibilities, can we remain free of the society’s ways pushing us into mental turbulence. As we all know, there are our demands for name and fame, as also attachment to conclusions. There is the tendency to belong to a group, religious or otherwise, and be driven by the associated fanaticism. Getting involved in political and social controversies is one of the sure ways of letting the society in, allowing it to corrupt our awareness. The tendency to participate in social mud-slinging is yet another poison. Emotional attachment to people, things or ideas is at the base of most problems. ‘Know thyself’ is a matter of understanding how our minds get trapped into the psychological fabric of society by the above causes.

Imagine as follows: The left hand is put out with the palm facing the front and its fingers spread out. Let the right palm clasp the left palm from behind, by inserting its fingers. Now, in that situation, if the right palm tries to release itself from the left palm, it won’t be possible. We ask: Is this due to the left palm’s obstruction or the right palm’s clasping? The moment the right palm spreads its fingers, it can release itself even though the left palm remains unchanged. The meaning of this metaphor is clear when we see the left palm as the world condition (the society) and the right palm as our mental stance. We see then that the world may remain what it is but we can release ourselves from it by bringing about a transformation in our minds.

The above should not be taken to mean that we become insensitive to the world. We can fulfill our responsibilities to the society, to the family and to oneself while not letting in the poison of society. In fact, then we would discharge those responsibilities even better because of a calm and composed mind, unaffected by social turbulence. We would know what it is to have unconditional love towards all, irrespective of their nationality, religion etc. Learning how to do this arises out of the understanding as to how the self-importance and other aspects of habitual neurology cause the threading of ourselves into the mental fabric of society.

The Near death Experience
People who go through a near death experience are able to lead a life untouched by society’s corruptive ways. The following lines are taken from the last paragraph (The Postscript) of the article “I Died at 10.52 AM” published by the Reader’s Digest in October 1974. It gives us an inkling of what it means to live on this planet with abundant feeling for the world and for the immensity in time and space around it while not letting in the social poison.
“I have just returned from a pleasant, slow, mile and a half jog. I am sitting in our garden writing. Overhead a huge dogwood moves gently in a mild southerly breeze. Two small children holding hands walk down the street absorbed in their own world. I am glad I am here and now. But I know that this marvelous place of sun and wind, flowers, children and lovers, this murderous place of evil, ugliness and pain is only one of many realities through which I must travel to distant and unknown destinations. For the time being, I belong to the world and it belongs to me.”

The Natural Spirituality
A mind that has released itself from the corruptive influence of Society understands the essence of Natural Spirituality. There is a feeling of moving into a dimension untouched by social waves, religious or otherwise. One senses the purity of aloneness. Obviously, such a state of mind is needed to understand something that is sacred per se, uninfluenced by ego-based systems. From that mind emanates unconditional love, as it is unaffected by group psychology.

The Inner Freedom
Living on the earth with the inner freedom mentioned in the above paragraphs, we can appreciate Nature better as also the cosmological context in which we live. This means that we can live on this earth enjoying its beauty but far away from it in terms of freedom from the poison of society. A good analogy would be the lotus leaf in water. The leaf is in water and supports water droplets but does not allow them to get into the leaf (i.e. to wet the leaf). A reference to this metaphor is made in the spiritual texts of ancient India when talking about Enlightened Beings.

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Author's Bio: 

Gopalakrishnan T. Chandrasekaran was born in Madras (now Chennai), India. He received his doctoral degree in Coastal Engineering from the North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, USA in 1978; served on the research and teaching faculty of the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, India, the North Carolina State University and the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research, Kuwait.

Aside from his professional involvements, he was interested in the philosophic issues of life for the last forty years or so. This led him to the messages of Ramana Maharishi, Lao Tzu, J Krishnamurthy, UG Krishnamurthy, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Eckhart Tolle, Marcus Aurelius and similar Masters. His book entitled “In Quest of the Deeper Self” is the outcome of his reflections on those and his wish to share the outcome with others.

Gopalakrishnan is a member of the International Association for Near Death Studies, Durham, NC, USA. He lives in Kodaikanal, a hill town in the southern part of India, with his wife Banumathy. Blog: