I am not religious and hence, don’t know very much about it. Having been raised a Hindu, I have been exposed to some of the popular beliefs and philosophies. And much like other religions, Hinduism also encourages good behaviour through incentives of freedom from re-birth. As a kid, I always wondered why not being born again was a good thing because pretty much after every unit test, I wanted to die and be re-born to do better in the previous test. Then, my grandparents would explain that life is full of ups and downs and the downs drain you so much that you wish you didn’t have to deal with it and these are times when you feel the ups are worth sacrificing. Still, I never understood because for a regular kid my age, how bad could the downs be? Terrible marks in a unit test followed by a couple of days of lectures by parents and that’s it. Thanks to our pathetic short term memories as kids that one PT period (physical training) would wipe out any worries we may have had!
But something about growing up makes your downs seem downer and ups seem non-existent that we start to wonder if the ups are worth sacrificing. When I was 15 or 16, I remember being very attached to a couple of friends in school who I had a fall out with and I remember being so hurt by the whole ordeal that I’d vowed to myself to never get that attached to any friend ever again. I proudly called it my detached attachment move (Lol!) and so, I give myself credit for having peaked quite early emotionally and maybe even spiritually. And also, recently, I was talking to a friend who is visiting her grandparents and she told me about how her grandmother is having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that her husband has started to become senile and his signature, which is a huge part of one’s identity, has changed beyond recognition. While my friend’s grandmother’s sentiment is perfectly understandable, it makes me wonder why we have such a hard time letting go.
We end up becoming so addicted and intertwined with partners (and naturally so!), that we begin to alienate the rest of our world including ourselves which existed even before this partner came into our lives. Its the downs of losing any part of such comforting partnership that makes the ups of having it worth sacrificing. This is probably why so many people are afraid to commit to long term relationships..be it with a lover or a child. Not that people who have committed are any less afraid, but they keep pretending to themselves that the ups overcompensate for the downs and make it worth it. This is because we know that no matter what happens, life goes on irrespective of if we can be happy or not.
This is not very different from our attachment to materialistic things. We know what penury does to us, but this doesn’t stop us from binge drinking, eating or shopping away to glory like there’s no tomorrow while some of us are so afraid of the downs, that we sacrificing our ups (basic needs included), just to be sure that we have the strength to cope with the downs. So, extrapolating this, ups such as “birth” or gift of life suddenly starts seeming a bit daunting as one grows older enduring what seems like more than a fair share of downs. I don’t mean that one should end their lives when the downs get downer, but all I’m saying is that striving for freedom from re-birth or what’s popularly called Moksha or Nirvana, isn’t such a bad thing because most of us really suck at pulling off the detached attachment move lifelong!