Yesterday I learned the secret of success. I was taking a workshop from the brilliant Tantric teacher Douglas Brooks. He was talking about some concepts I’d heard him speak of several times before, but this time the pieces fell into place differently. He did not label it the secret of success, but that’s what it was.
Douglas was talking about how life has two aspects, which I list below:
Karma (cause & effect) Lila
The Dharmic way of seeing life is to see the relationship between cause and effect. How the results we receive are the effect of the efforts we make and the understanding we apply. It sees life as deterministic. In the late 1800s, science thought that the universe was like a big machine: In theory, if you knew all of the inputs, the current state of everything, then you could predict every future event given sufficient computing power.
Modern science has now shown that the universe is inherently unpredictable, with such things as the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, particle/wave duality, and Schrodinger’s equation about probabilities. We cannot completely know the current state of the universe, and even if we could, we can only determine probable outcomes; nothing is certain. This leads us to the concept of Lila, that anything can happen at any time for no reason.
According to Tantric thought, life flows forward according to both karma and lila. When I first heart this concept, I imagined a karmic universe with a little bit of lila sprinkled in. I now know that it’s actually the other way around: we live in a lila universe with a little bit of karma sprinkled in. And if you ever look really closely at those bits of karmic truth, you’d find that they are really just a condensation of lila, where the probability of cause and effect working the way we expect are very high.
Dharma is a word that means a formula for success. Douglas will tell you that Dharma is the social duties and obligations that we inherit from society. In the US, it might be something like “Study hard in school, go to college, get a good job, marry and have children”. In the US our Dharmic duties are loose and malleable, while in a country like India, Dharma is more rigid. Those who are more new age in their thinking will tell you that your Dharma is your path, your mission in life; follow your Dharma, your true hearts desire, and you will find success in life. With Douglas being a great Sanskrit scholar, I suspect his definition is the more accurate, but it doesn’t matter. Dharma is a formula for success whether it comes from the outside (from society), or whether it comes from one’s heart. Following a formula for success presumes that the world is karmic and will proceed according to the laws of cause and effect. Although it often does, it sometimes does not, and we depend on huge chains of cause and effect to live a successful life.
If we only embrace the karmic view of life, we won’t know what to do when things don’t go according to plan. The ripeness and possibilities exists over on the other side, in the lila. We humans like certainty, and this certainty is provided in the karmic view of life. The truth is, uncertainty terrifies us, and we cling to our certainty for dear life. When we are too certain, we close ourselves off from learning.
In it’s most extreme form, certainty is zealotry. This zealotry can exist in areas other than just religion. Have you ever met a food zealot that has found the one true way to eat? Or a political zealot has supports to the one true party? Or maybe even a yoga zealot, that has found the one true way to practice? Underneath their fanatical certainty, you will see fear of the unknown. They are so desperately attached to their world view that they need to convert you to their way so that they can feel comfortable.
Most of us make our home in the karmic side of life, in an uncomfortable truce with certainty; it’s failed us before, but we are terrified of falling into the void of uncertainty, so we muddle along. The more spiritual among us may take vacations into uncertainty, finding new possibilities and bringing them back into our certain world.
Are you ready for the secret to success? It really quite simple, although not at all easy to practice. The secret to success is to make your home in UNCERTAINTY. Become comfortable with uncertainty, relax, enjoy it, revel in it; make love to uncertainty. Make uncertainty a friend instead of an enemy. Uncertainty is the ground of possibility, and the place of power. Don’t just visit, make your home there. Anyone can do this; we all have full access to the lila. It doesn’t depend on education, income level, age, sex, relationship status, or any other socio-economic parameter. To access the uncertainty of lila, let go of the need to control; Let go of being anxious; Become quiet inside.
We can’t throw away the karmic world, we need to embrace that too. To study and learn cause and effect. Put in your time learning the rules and following the prescriptions so that when the time is right, you can step outside the rules and create new possibilities. Bill Gates did it this way in creating Microsoft. He was in college, learning cause and effect and following the Dharmic prescription of American society. But when the time was right, he stepped into new possibilities and created one of the most successful companies on the planet.
Following the Dharmic path may sometimes lead to success, but never leads to greatness. Choose wisely where you make your home.