When I am not the eye, I am I

When I am not the eye, I am I

Rameshwar Bhatt

Rameshwar Bhatt

Second-Year Student of the Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Degree

History image
An Illustration by Somnath Bhatt
Jaina ontology admits the eternal and independent existence of spirit and matter, or more correctly, the animate and the inanimate termed respectively as j?va and aj?va. Jaina epistemology maintains this distinction arguing that sentience is the very essence of the j?va and all empirical knowledge of our mundane lives is a limited manifestation of such sentience—with these limitations caused by the aj?va principle. Thus, the j?va is capable of seeing and comprehending much more but is limited in doing so by the aj?va.  The following is a short story based on this Jaina doctrine whereby your eyes limit what you see.

In a place which is far more remote than the remotest, where ideas of attachment and dependency are unknown, where the only sight is of horizons of everything, where the idea of a life is an illusion—there lives a man who has always wanted to know what is in and beyond the horizon. He is the only one. He manifests himself in a physical world, where there are physical boundaries, where there are physical limits, where the idea of existence is physical, where there are physical ways of gaining knowledge, and where even the divinity is turned physical. The belief is such that the world can be sensed only through physical senses.   

The man wakes up, opens the door. All that he can see are horizons that are colliding, collaborating, conflicting and transforming. Smiles. Looks down and finds a partially wet, rectangular, thick, white, printed, well-travelled, stamped, addressed, envelope. He picks it up. Opens it. Addressed to him by Nayana. The letter says, “The place is for you! Remarkably designed, pigments of art, colours of nature, designs that please, elements for a meaning…” and it goes on describing a place. “Do I need to relate to this?” the man asks himself. He closes the door and puts the letter aside. The next day he receives another letter from ?rava?a which says, “The place is for you! A place of peace, sounds that heal, breeze that sings, voiceless changes, speechless sights…” it went on describing a place. The description was different which confirmed that this is not an accidental repetition. He feels he is being led somewhere. Is he? - asks himself. He receives similar kinds of letters from Spar?a, Sv?da, and Ghr??a, one after the other. Five different descriptions of a reality.  The man starts collecting these letters. He starts visualising based on five different descriptions, each describing specific sensations of and about the reality. Those descriptions become the means of his sensations. He feels in those terms, he senses in those terms, he starts to comprehend in those terms, he starts reasoning in those terms. Not to forget that each description of the five is described to him in the finest manner with the most able descriptions for him to comprehend. Slowly that reality becomes the reality for him. 

His life becomes what those five descriptions describe. The descriptions of the five sorts is what he is living. He starts inferring about the reality, he starts building analogies, he starts to feel that the reality has to offer much more than what is being described. He has reached a point where those five descriptions are not the only description needed to comprehend the reality. He has reached a point where those five descriptions no longer provide any novelty to him. He questions his cognitions, he questions his notions, he questions his comprehensions, he questions his sensations. He questions himself that is this all that he can sense, comprehend, cognize? Is this all that he was supposed to? This gave rise to many questions that he had not even sensed, comprehended, cognized. This rather challenged him. Everything becomes slow. The pace decreases. He suddenly decides to build distance between him and those descriptions. He doesn't want to be informed anymore. He wants to be where the information is. The distance gets significant. Where is the reality? Is the reality him? Is the reality what those five descriptions describe?  Is this all that there is? He isn't moving. He isn't sensing. He isn't comprehending. He is in a moment where he is living nothing. 

He hears a knock on the door. He opens the door. He sees a person with a sharp nose, brown hair, brown eyes, red lips, sharp jaw line, fair skin with a stubble, wearing a white shirt with a pocket on the left side which has a blue pen, with blue trousers, black shoes with grey socks. He smiles at him. He smiles back. The person introduces himself. “My name is Svadar?ana. I am here for the final survey if you are interested in the scheme.” The man asks “What are you talking about?” Svadar?ana said “The expansion of the city has included this town as well and we have been sending a few urban development schemes over a period of time of various new townships that we are offering under a resettlement package. We will not be charging the local residents.” The man looks really puzzled.

Svadar?ana gave him a brochure, took his signature and left. The man looked at the brochure. A city is being expanded under an urban regional development plan and his house with windows opening to the horizon is going to be subsumed. 

He looks at the horizon after a long time. The sight was different. The sounds were different. The smell was different. It felt different. He saw things not just to see. He touched things not just to touch. He smelled things not just to smell. He heard things not just to hear. He realised for the first time that he sensed not just to sense. He stands still for a while with his hands on his waist and looks at what he had been looking at all this while. He brings out those letters with descriptions and starts walking. While on a stroll, the letters start to slide away from his hands. He doesn't turn and doesn't bother to gather them. 

He tells himself, “I am I, and therefore not the eye. When I am not the eye, I am I.”

 

Author's Profile

Rameshwar Bhatt

Second-Year Student of the Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Degree

Rameshwar Bhatt is currently a second-year student of the Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree at Ahmedabad University, and he intends to major in Philosophy, History and Languages. He has also been making films since the age of thirteen to understand the rustic and transforming realities of humanity as it relates with nature

Tags

Philosophy, Philosophical Traditions of India, Jain Epistemology, Jain Ontology, Jeeva, Ajeeva, The idea of self


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