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My Hairy Man-Beads

          I usually refer to this as my mandala.

          Mandalas are traditional Indian religious symbols that generally serve as ritualistic representations of the universe, in some way.
          Some purists would probably refer to it as "prayer beads", but I suppose it's really closer to a hybrid between the two...
          It's a physical representation of my personal life philosophy on the self and its place in the universe. I put the ring on my forefinger (it only fits about halfway down) and use my thumb to focus on the parts as I consider the meanings of what they represent to me. My aim is to have it on my finger throughout as much of the day as I can, and only remove it only when it gets in the way. Used in this manner, it aids in fostering mindfulness, and serves as a meditation aid. I suppose, that makes it similar to the Christian practice of wearing a cilice (or “hairshirt”) as well.
          So, maybe it’s my hairy man-beads – no, wait…

          Anyway, what it represents to me…
          The moonstone represents the Self. The twisting facets opposite each other are Past & Future and Influence & Intention. I see the Self as a fleeting, ineffable state that exists in the ethereal space at the intersection of those facets.
          Placing the religious dogma and other cultural baggage aside, the Sanskrit word “karma” (or kamma in Pali) means simply “action” and implies the consequences of that action. If Bill kicks a stone with his bare feet and injures his toe, that is karma in its simplest, most straight-forward form.
          There is no system of checks and balances – no old man in the sky doling out justice – no mysterious, masked avenger…

          As a sentient being, everything I experience changes me in some way. Every last thing I see… hear… touch… read… think… decide… do... all of it shapes who I am.
          Every action I take affects the lives and decisions of countless people around me and each one of those actions that were affected by my action affects many more.

          It is certainly truthful to say “I am the result of my experiences.” In other words, I am product the countless influences on me throughout my life. While the line between nature and nurture (if there is a discrete line) may never be quantified, nurture certainly plays a significant role in shaping the person I have become. Karma is real, undeniable and wholly unavoidable.

          The difficulty of this for me had always been reconciliation of external influences and personal responsibility. How much blame can be placed on the abused, abuser – especially if the line between nature and nurture cannot be objectively defined? If I am who I have been influenced to be, how much responsibility can I truly have for my actions? At the same time, if free will does exist, how can I not be held responsible for my actions?

          After many years of struggling, I was finally able to reconcile this when I began viewing my “self” as the intersection of what has come and what is to come – the intersection of past and future forming the present at “I Am.” – the intersection of influence and intention forming the self – the intersection of instinct and free will.

          Am I defined by the results of the influences upon me leading up until now or am I defined by the results of my actions going forward?

          The person I have become up until now is wholly defined by my past experiences (which includes, part and parcel, the decisions I have made by my own self-determination). In other words, who I was a moment ago, is defined by karma’s influence on me.

          The decisions I make in this moment are shaping who I am to become a moment from now, as well as shaping the influence I have on the world around me. In other words, the influence I have on karma is wholly defined by the decisions I make in this moment.

          The self is only existent in this moment between influence and potential and is defined by action. The answer is not, as I had always assumed, striking balance between the influence karma has on me and the influence I have on karma – the answer is to exist in that space between karma’s influence on me and my influence on karma.

          Life, as I see it, is being mindfully present and actively engaged in the practice of turning influence into potential through action.

          The rings above the moonstone serve as a reminder that there are greater things than the self.
          The silver ring that everything is tied to is the immutable anchor of Compassion, in a karmic cycle without beginning or end that connects all things.
          The copper ring is Integrity.
          Integrity is one of the precious few things I own – truly and completely.
          No one can compromise it, but me.
          No one can steal it or buy it – I have to relinquish it by my own will.
          There is none responsible or accountable for the shape and condition of my integrity, but me.
          Because of this, I am defined by my integrity and how I care for it.
          I guard it with my life – because if I give it away, I’m already dead.
          My integrity is inextricably bound to my compassion, but as an unattached, freely moving ideal that requires constant vigilant focus and continual adjustments to navigate a virtuous path.

          The six other beads represent the yin & yang of the traits that require mindful attention to maintain the ever-shifting balance across the three aspects of the Self: Mind, Body and Atman (essence/spirit/soul/... whatever you prefer to call that thing which forms the nature at the core of your being): Passion & Restraint… Strength & Flexibility… Knowledge & Wisdom.

          The first four knots beneath the beads are the fetters that must be undone to break loose of the last fetter of Self-Identification, before attaining self-realization: Regret, Fear, Shame and Insecurity.

          By the time I can say "Now", it's already gone.
          By the time I can say "I am", I no longer am. The best I can say is "I was".
          Building a sense of self-identity on who I used to be is a fetter that binds me to the past.
          Building a sense of self-identity on who I would like to be binds me to a lie that clouds my discernment.
          My path to self-realization must necessarily pass through my unbinding.
          Self-identification is the enemy of my self-realization.

          That's the short story, anyway. My philosophy on self is also reflected in my philosophy on reality and existence – but that’s a much longer story…

May 11, 2017, 11:21:25 am

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