“As I was sitting on the chair, I felt a strong current of consciousness rising upwards in my body. It was a physiological sensation; a profound wave was rising up my body. As it rose up towards my skull, I felt immense peace and unbelievable lightness. My body was ‘dissolved’. It was so light as if it didn’t exist at all. It was the first time I had experienced something of this sort. Initially I tried to prevent it from happening but I was myself ‘dissolved’. As I sat there, I lost all sense of distinction between myself and the surroundings. The consciousness which separates the individual from the surroundings was ‘dissolved.’ To make myself clear, awareness was there and profound but there was nobody who was aware. Consciousness existed but there was nobody who was conscious.”
This happened in December 2005, in my second term at MICA. It was the culmination of a long-drawn internal quest for the essence of life. During ragging, I had felt the need for something to grasp and had tried to imagine a divine friend like Buddha or Krishna who is internally present and constantly guides me. It was a method used in Bhakti (Indian devotional religion) and also a psychological exercise for coping with stress. However it had no lasting effect on me as it seemed too fabricated.
On the night of the freshers’ party, I got drunk for the first time in my life. I had touched liquor 6-7 times earlier but had never really got drunk. On that day, I drunk till I lost all shame and sense of physical balance. When inebriated, I started wandering seemingly aimlessly. But there was a method in my madness. I picked up all the seniors who had ragged me and pushed them around or in general got on their nerves. I asked Asad to recite Ghalib when he was dancing with his girl and pushed Jai around. Soon I started talking about God. As I recounted and Anshul told me later, I was talking about God being everywhere and being of the nature of pure, unconditional love. I was saying that God is in the glass, in whisky, in the bricks and everywhere else. The other thing I did was to sms Priyanka that I loved her and her alone and would marry her. She had told me about her boyfriend a few days back and had rejected my love. I had intended never to call her again though I had professed my love to her regardless of her lack of any emotion for me. That day, liquor broke my resolve and I messaged her about my love. Due to some fault in my cell, it was SMSed more than twenty times. I have recounted this incident only to highlight my deep-rooted desires. As it was the first time I had got drunk, the natural result was loss of all inhibitions and uncovering of my unconscious impulses. Three desires had manifested when I was drunk- the desire to retaliate against the seniors who had ragged me, which was time-specific, the desire to profess my love to Priyanka which was an unresolved knot and the desire to feel the immanent presence of God.
Soon I started falling into an ‘existential depression.’ Rather than thinking about my studies (which nobody thought about at MICA anyways except a few weird nuts!), I embarked upon a deep search for the essence of life, for something that gave life meaning and could never be violated by the caprice of time. Unfortunately the means I adopted for such a profound search were less than insufficient. They were absolutely useless and misplaced. I tried to ask my parents and teachers besides surfing the internet endlessly. I was already well-read on Indian mysticism and western psychology. Now I read whatever I could on practical forms of mysticism as taught my modern Gurus besides alternative views like communism, nihilism, drug-induced hedonism and even occult theories- usually western. They all filled me with disgust. Nobody seemed to know anything about the most important of all entities- human life and the best way to live it. All Gurus of past and present seemed either posers or deluded. Nothing satisfied me. Nothing could have because I was reading them while everything mystic is experienced. However since I had a solid empirical approach at that time, I thought all mystical experiences were within the ambit of psychology and had neurological causes. The internet had much against mysticism in the form of rationalist criticism and whatever was in its favor looked fanciful and the product of hallucinations. In a few weeks, I had exhausted my brain by stuffing it with theoretical philosophy, religions-western and eastern, mystics- traditional and maverick, psychologists- neurological and psychodynamic and lunatics- morose and insightful. I was absolutely fed up and dead-tired. I stopped searching on the intellectual plane.
My existential melancholy was not however casual. I was genuinely and deeply in search of meaning in human existence because life as I was living it seemed futile and worse, a curse that was imposed upon me. I thought it was my individual viewpoint but as I read about gifted thinkers ranging from Buddha to Tolstoy, they all agreed that human life, as ordinarily lived, is a vale of absurd sorrow.