Of our obsession with beginnings and endings

Our preoccupation with beginnings and endings, with the mysteries of birth and death, takes us away from the only reality—the present moment

Of our obsession with beginnings and endings

I was thinking, why are we humans so obsessed with beginnings and endings? Is it because our finite minds cannot conceive of something timeless?

We are always trying to find the limits of everything. We haven’t even spared the Universe, making all kinds of speculations about when and how it began as well as when and how it will end. Scientists have propounded theories such as the Big Bang phenomenon which is an attempt to explain how all that is came into existence in one grand instant, then began expanding in all directions, and continues to expand even as you read this. Then, we also wonder whether this Universe will continue to expand forever or will it stop at some point in the future.

These questions suggest that we are unable to accept the idea of timelessness. We cannot imagine something that has no beginning and no end. Our own physical existence is finite and time-bound. Death is an eventuality that reminds us repeatedly about our limited time here. Consequently, we run and chase and go after things and people and experiences. We try hard to accumulate and own as much as we can before our time runs out, never realising that when death comes, nothing will matter.

Empty preoccupations?

No one can be certain about what’s beyond our physical existence, which we call death. Likewise with our birth—we don’t know where we were before we were born. Did we even exist? No one knows for sure where do we come from and where do we go. Do we simply appear one day and disappear another day? Is there a soul that outlasts the body, that existed before birth and will continue after death? These questions are futile because there can’t be “answers” to them. Instead, what we do have are a whole lot of speculations and conjectures that pose as answers.

Of course, there are theories in many ancient scriptures that attempt to explain the cycle of birth and death—some of them seem plausible too. But, without actual direct subjective experience, these theories are nothing more than beliefs. Since experience can’t be objective, it can’t be observed in a lab or transferred as knowledge. Thus, the mystery of life, of sentience and consciousness, seems fool-proof. We can’t solve it until we get there—that is, if there is some place to go, and if there’s something to know.

And yet, our preoccupation with beginnings and endings, with the mysteries of birth and death, takes us away from the only reality there is—the present moment. Life is only available now. We think, we remember, we imagine, we plan—but all of that happens when we are absent to the now. We are lost in contemplations and concerns of the world, losing the most important treasure of life: our awareness, which is eternal.

Not endless time

But timelessness does not mean “forever”; it does not mean endless time. It means no time. And we can only access eternity when we are absolutely present, free from thinking, just being. Only when we are free from time and free from all mental abstractions, can we perceive reality as it is.

We have all had glimpses into such eternity or timelessness on occasions when we accidentally slip into the no-thought zone of pure awareness—a phenomenon that cannot be described by words or understood by thought. Indeed, even trying to explain it relies on thought and memory, which is why it is impossible.

The most that I can say about my visits to the timeless fields is that you feel fully awake, your senses are heightened and everything around you comes fully alive, as if for the first time. Life takes on a completely different texture—rich, vibrant, glorious.

This richness, which is not a feeling or a thought but simply an awareness, lasts for as long as one remains free from time, and from incessant thinking. Then, when time and thoughts return, so do the chaos and speculations.

But the glimpse does one really important thing—it dissolves the need for pointless preoccupations such as the origins and the fate of the Universe.


This is a modified version of a column that was first published in the June 2015 issue of Complete Wellbeing magazine

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Manoj Khatri
Manoj Khatri considers himself a student and teacher of the wisdom of love. He is also a writer-editor and has written on topics ranging from strategic marketing and business management to art, culture and even philosophy. His more than 1200 published stories—articles, interviews, full-length features—have appeared in some of the leading newspapers and magazines of India. A certified cognitive behavioural therapist, he works as a personal counsellor too. He is the author of What a thought!, a critically acclaimed book based on powerful ideas of some of the greatest thought leaders. Manoj runs Complete Wellbeing and believes that "peace begins with me".

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