Sage is a Middle English word based on an Old French word that translates as “be wise”. The Latin root is sapere. In Vedic times such wise people were called ŗśi`s, Ones Who See.
Wisdom is conjective. It is whole brain.
The ancient reptilian conjoins with the superior limbic, which conjoins with the mammalian neocortex, which is distinctly developed beyond its rudimentary functions within us humans. This highly developed frontal aspect of our brain is held back in its intelligent functioning by the emotions generated in the limbic configuration and further denied access to the proper functioning of the instinctual reptilian stem by the stressed out enteric nervous system of our guts. Our guts are societally held in a constant state of tension from our first childhood traumas into our adult age unconscious acting out of the “same old same old over and over again” syndrome.
Yes, we live in times of no relief for our hunter/survivor instincts hurtling towards ADD and the severe depletion of our hormonal rasa by the sucking energy of the adrenals swooshing in large gulps of all our nourishing hormones. Till we function on an autopilot immune haze to life, craving only numbness.
Until we conquer this incomplete cycle of fight, flight, freeze not relax and bring it to completion, there is little hope for us to “be wise”. For the instinct to function precisely, in its almost telepathic empathy with the signals always flying around us, connecting to the very subtle molecules of sound, movement, light, flavors, smells and even thought/idea/feeling/emotion, and then sifting through them to those that arrest our attention.
When these are subject to an interpretation based on fear or anger or grief then they turn reactive and we lose the ability to interact in a safe, creative, innocent and joyous manner.
As this trinity of imbalances pierces the veil of our intellect, it savagely imbalances our reasoning process just as a marauder breaks the defenses of a little, peaceful village that just wishes to live in harmony with itself and its surroundings. Fat chance, sniggers the marauder. And our pearls of wisdom lie scattered like broken necklaces across our lives and we struggle with making any nourishing decisions. Decisions that should support harmony, peaceful coexistence, love, understanding, compassion and companionship: the cornerstones that define: be wise, be sagacious.
To learn to be wise again we have to find a way to bring that safe feeling back into our lives. A way to complete the circuitry of fight, flight, escape and shuddering off that allows attacked animals to return to normal behavior after the danger passes. This instinct, when intact, allows us to see fear as a simple practical tool that when increased leads to irrational behavior. To see anger as something to be controlled and channeled into productive behavior that will take us back to a state of peace. And to see grief as a longing that feeds on a sense of lack, an inauthentic experience for the wise who know they are already everything. Where relationships are not build on need but sharing of the completeness within each one of us.
When we do not allow our individual dramas to commingle and create a collective trauma, it becomes easier to escape the suffocating noose of ghosts running amuck in our psyches.
To become wise again. Where the inner child grows up and merges with the interim adult we have built out of pretense, to forcing our pretend adult to chameleon into an authentic persona. One that is no longer trying to participate in recycled dramas that keep us spinning in our heads, not moving in an evolutionary pattern but spiraling down into this particularly dreaded time and place that can never be the now. Where even with the vast strides in technology, we face sundered societies, alienated segments of sufferers, complete destruction of common sense values and practices and perhaps worst of all, increasing chronic diseases residually destroying our planet, propelled by their causal demons of dead foods, polluted waters, chemically inspired rains and aluminum flecked air. The very epitome of the predictions of Kāli Yuga manifesting in full costume right before our stunned defeated and uncomprehending eyes.
Yet we have wisdom hidden deep in our bones. And no matter our trauma, its inherency can pull us out like an elephant with its power-trunk rescuing a quicksand-trapped monkey. This wisdom of the sages will allow us to postpone the premature grand finalé of Kāli Yuga that we seem to be in a rush to embrace. (For an alternate and slightly more modern understanding of the end of Kali Yuga, we are apparently quite close and it is not so bad)
A wisdom that belies the imbalanced psyche as being nothing other than rutted patterns of stagnant behavior that have as much relevance to our lives as phantom fears of goblins under the child’s bed. We have made our goblins come to life. First within us. And then projected out all around, partying like crazy with everyone else’s crazed goblins.
And it begins with our emotional body. That subtle body that when deeply imbalanced is composed of warped behavioral patterns based upon the six bearlike enemies of man, come to feast on our senses. Our lust, rage, delusion, arrogance, jealousy and above all, the coin of the times, our greed. Leading us directly into the nooses of shame, terror, doubt, hatred, and hypocrisy. Straight into the arms of fear, anger and grief. Expressed as environmental politics that doom our planet, its inhabitants and its beauty by becoming the cancer gnawing at its entrails, not caring if we are destroyed along with it in its death throes.
This is all we have to conquer. This madness that leaves us with a society that has a narcissist, sociopath or psychopath in every 25th person. At last count. Perhaps spiraling upwards at psychotic speeds.
And it is all because we have lost the ability to dial in our sage. Who sits imprisoned within our self imposed suffering. Quietly, patiently. Knowing that karma is simply that which has come into motion and cannot be avoided at any cost. There is no divine intervention. And yet the sage sits patiently because the karma does not attach to her. And she knows the day you return to her, you have automatically paid off your karma. The residue of taints is washed away in the redemption you experience as you pay off your dues. The joy of returning love for love, compassion for compassion, joy for joy overcomes the difficult task of returning love for hate, compassion for heartlessness, joy for cruelty. You bear all you gave in the time you had forgotten your sage with an equanimity that rivals the sages of yore.
About transformations and redemptions.
Angulimāla (wearer of the necklace of fingers) chases the strolling Buddha with his sword drawn. No matter how fast he chases, the stroller is uncatchable. In frustration he shouts: STOP! The strolling Buddha stops, turns, smiles and says: I stopped a long time ago. When will you stop, O wearer of a fingernecklace? Stunned, Angulimāla drops like a stone as he is awakened to the horror of his doings. With no judgment the Buddha invites him to become a Monk and learn the ways of peace.
Some time later, King Bimbisāra approaches the Buddha’s camp and warns him to be careful because they are in the region of the murderer Angulimāla. When the Buddha asks what the King would say to such a murderer who has converted to monkhood, the King says he would bow to him. Nobility acknowledges sages. And even later, as Angulimāla the Monk enters the village seeking alms and is severely beaten, the Buddha tells him to bear this with equanimity for the past slate of karma has appeared needing resolve. In time not only do the beatings stop but the Monk becomes the favorite playmate of the children of the village.
The second story is similar. The transformation of a thief into one of the greatest sages of the Vedic age. Ratnākara was a robber brigand. He had come to this to help support his family. The wandering minstrel sage, Nārada, came strumming his veena to visit him. When asked why he robbed, Ratnākara replied that it was the only way he could feed his family. The sage asked him if the family would share with him when it came time to pay off this karma. Of course, he replied. Nārada requested that he confirm that with the family. And the answer the brigand’s wife and children gave him, shook him to the core. It was his job to provide. How he did so was not their concern. If he did it by thievery, the sins were solely his. They had never asked nor condoned it. It was not their problem. Shaken, he sought advice from Nārada. Nārada asked him to chant the holy mantra: Rāma but the brigand said he was not worthy of such a powerful mantra. So Nārada asked him to chant its opposite: Māra. Believing this to be appropriate, the brigand sat motionless chanting the mantra till the local red ants had completely covered him in their anthill and as he kept chanting the Māra obviated naturally into Rāma. He became Vālmiki (sage in an anthill) and went on to write the Rāmāyana.
Coming back to the sage within us is always possible. There are only three tools you have to find. They are internal. Lying dormant yet they never rust. They are resolve, patience and faith. With these three, you can destroy the six enemies that confront you only when the tools are not being used. You can destroy lust, rage, delusion, arrogance, jealousy and above all, greed. And as do so you can watch the resulting shame, terror, doubt, hatred, and hypocrisy wither away.
Yet, how do they work? Resolve allows us to cultivate purity of body, mind and speech. Patience allows us to move forward no matter how many times the seductive past patterns pull us back down into the quagmire. And faith allows us to believe that non-violence will yield the precious gem of friendships, that truthfulness will yield complete trust even by past enemies, that lack of lust will lead to immense strength of character and body, that non-stealing will lead to wealth beyond your now simplified needs, that lack of possessiveness opens up the chamber house of the past in such a way that it’s residents can no longer follow you like eerie shadows into your future.
And how do you learn to use these long buried tools? One way, actually the only way that I know and so there may be others, is this. Day by day practicing age-old wisdom lessons from both yoga and Ayurveda. When we embrace nurturing daily rituals, when we open the body with our asana practice and begin to communicate with our bodies masterfully, when we embrace foods with plenty of life-force, when we learn to breathe consciously, when we learn not to let our sense organs chase after every tempting desire created by the sights, sounds, smells swirling around us like seductive sirens, when we learn to be content with what we have and make sure no one around is impoverished, when we engage in the study of ancient texts of wisdom, when we sit quietly…the list can go on and on, a virtual carpenters fantasy toolbox, each tool complete and yet even more complete like a forest of trees when used together in pairs, in triplets, in multitudes. A forest that will not succumb to the howling wind yet will let the soothing breeze caress it gently like a lover.
There is amazing power in these tools, such that, day by day, our technological sciences are ticking them off one by one as check: yes, check: yes, check: yes. Indeed,this science that is doubly blind, random and experimental can never tell the full story, if only because the experiments are rarely experiential. The scientist removes herself from the experiment and then applies the results to herself. Even if what was experimented on was a rat!
We are humans. That means we suffer consciously. It becomes a choice. A choice we make every time we disregard the sage within us. The sage that understands that suffering begins with the illusion of permanency in a life bookended by birth and death. And a great foolish desire for anything we like and get attached to, to not end; a simple lunacy in the changing tides of a life of existence rather than the life eternal.
The psychology of the sage is such that it is known by its powerful magic. A magic we associate with shaman’s, druids, wizards and ŗśi`s. This is the magic of an awakened person. One who knows that all they are made of is a cosmology they have seen clearly, and the thread that holds the water, fire, air and space together within the earth is duplicated within each and every one of us along with these elements. And when this thread leaves us we return to the elements. This thread, the Prāńa, the life force of the Conscious Being, is given freely to us with every breath we take and this Prāńa can also give us the wisdom of the Conscious Being when we accept it as never being something separate from us. It completes us. And the lack is gone, the separation ends. We become wise as a sage.
This is an opinion piece and as such I have not included citations although I have included a few links to interesting sources for particular statements. If you are looking for more sources for my fanciful conjectures, you may wish to try the following texts:
Vyasa’s Bhagavad Gita
Patanjala Yoga Darshana
Hatha Yoga Pradipika
(Any versions of above)
Psychotherapy in Ayurveda by Prof Ajay Kumar Sharma: Chaukambha Bharati Academy, Varanasi.
Unified Dimensions of Ayurvedic Medicine by Dr. J.S. Tripathi: Chaukambha Sanskrit Pratistha, Delhi.
What The Buddha Taught by Walpola Rahula