I Don't Care What Happens Next
on the spiritual state of the world, the implications and utility of love, the definition and methodology of enlightenment
According to Essence of the Upanishads, when we follow the lead of our sense organs, instead of using our righteous intentions to control them, they lead with abandon. They’ll let just about anything into our bodies and minds, our City of Eleven Gates, as long as it is not immediately (painful or obviously) unpleasant. When they open those eleven gates, ephemeral pleasure rushes in and vitality, in the form of prana, rushes out. When all the prana has escaped, we are left with a vacuum, a total dearth of vigor. We have fallen into a depression.
When we are depressed, we sometimes stay that way for a while. The world outside is full of transient pleasures but the emptiness is too strong; without prana, we cannot open our gates. We falter, unable to allow entry to anything enjoyable, feeling trapped. We may turn to drugs that force open our gates, allowing an indiscriminate influx of fleeting indulgences. But we still have no prana, still we do not feel fully alive.
The only way to restore our empty prana: slowly, arduously leading ourselves through the motions of empathy. We smile, we listen, we engage with those around us; we focus not on our experiences but on those of others. We do not enjoy these moments, unable to open our gates to whatever immediate satisfaction they may otherwise bring, but we slowly find that our prana is returning. Eventually, the void disappears and we are able to open our gates once more!
But there’s a reason your doctor touts the benefits of preventative medicine; it saves so much time and pain (and money)! Why get to the point of refilling this prana vacancy when we could instead simply keep our prana levels up? Well, the way is simple—simple, but not easy. If we only monitor our indulging, avoiding the prana-sucking traps that boast instant gratification at the expense of future depression, we can remain joyful indefinitely. We need only close the gates of our own accord before the prana runs dry. If we are deliberate in making well-intentioned choices—acts of service, wholesome thoughts, selfless actions, meditation—we can continue to bask in the joys these choices bring, and all the while experience them with a full tank of prana.