“Saiyyon assi nainaa de aakhe lagge
Paak jinhaan diyaan hovan nigaahaan
Kadi naa jaande thagge” – Shah Hussain
[(Girl) friends, listen, I am beguiled by my eyes
Only those that have unsullied vision are never cheated]
I step out into a crisp spring morning with just a hint that the sun is also shaking off its slumber and starting to rise and shine. The skyline is tinged with hues of lilac, peach, pink and other changing shades of colors that I cannot even begin to describe. My five years old granddaughter frequently chides me, “Nana, it is fuschia, not purple!”
This morning my eyes are observing the magic unfolding before me – a resplendent sun starting to light up the clear blue sky, budding foliage shyly starting to emerge from winter hibernation, emerald green grass blades drooping under their proud burden of silver dewdrops, blackbirds swooping across joyfully in celebration of another glorious day, a rambunctious pup eagerly leading his octogenarian friend by the leash, little brown squirrels chasing fat brown siblings, a young cottontail’s twitching ears as it prepares to explore the environment, hardening brown dog poop that an uncaring neighbor has omitted to scoop, a snail trying to avoid this hurdle as it journeys across the sidewalk. All is well in my world in this moment and that is how my eyes are opening up a vista of nature’s glories before me.
Several years ago I recall attending a motivational talk by Deepak Chopra at Massey Hall. The auditorium was packed as he walked on to the stage. There was a huge bouquet of beautiful flowers exquisitely arranged at either end of the stage. Deepak walked to the arrangement to his right and picking out a long stemmed flower asked the audience if they could tell him what it represented. A voice at the end of the balcony dress circle shouted it was a flower, another person in the middle of the auditorium suggested it was a rose and a demure lady in the front aisle said clearly it was a red rose. Deepak Chopra said each person was right. They were reacting to what they could see. “To a bee,” he added, “This just represents a food source”. It does not see the flower, as do each of us. Do our perceptions create our individual reality?
The Observer Effect – an interesting aspect of quantum physics, which fascinated philosophers and physicists alike – states that by the very act of watching, the observer affects the observed reality. In late 1990s an experiment conducted by researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science revealed that the greater the amount of “watching,” the greater the observer’s influence on what actually takes place.
I have to remind myself to not allow my prior experiences – prejudices – to shape my perceptions when dealing with everyday situations or interacting with people. My wife constantly reminds me that if I experience bad behaviour from certain kinds of people it is only because I expect nothing better. It is, as Shah Hussain suggests, that my eyes show me what I would like to see. My reality could change if I approach my perceptions differently. Buddhist masters remind us that just like the Buddha, every individual has the potential to become an enlightened soul. We inhibit others and ourselves by attaching labels and then expect behaviour conforming to such characterization. Another’s child may be a brat, but we see similar characteristics of our own kids as endearing and playful.
Jigar Moradabadi’s ghazal below beautifully expresses the limits of our vision:
“Jalwa baqadr-e-zarf-e-nazar dekhte rahe,
Kya dekhte hum unko magar dekhte rahe
Apna hi aks pesh-e-nazar dekhte rahe
Aaina ru-ba-ru tha jidhar dekhte rahe
Unki hareem-e-naaz kahaan aur hum kahaan
Naqsh-o-nigaar-e-parda-e-dar dekhte rahe
Aisi bhi kuch firaaq ki raatein guzar gayeen
Jaise unhi ko pesh-e-nazar dekhte rahe
Har lehza shaan-e-husn badalti rahi Jigar
Har aan hum jahaan-e-digar dekhte rahe” – Jigar Moradabadi
[My sight lingered on (Her) splendour to the extent of its capability
What power did I have for observation, yet I continued to gaze
My own reflection continued to appear in my view
As if the mirror was present wherever I looked (implying that in this world I only saw the reflection of my inner self in people)
Where is the abode of the beloved (also the boundary walls of K’aba, or a sanctuary), and where stand I
I could only stare at the embellishments (of the veil) on the screen at the entrance
Such nights of separation have also gone by (died) as if
It were her, in front of my eyes as I gazed
With every glance, the grandeur of beauty changed, O Jigar
Each moment I could see the altering glory of this world]