In my early childhood, I lived with my elder sister for some time. She had been then recently married and her husband was posted in a small town of Gorakhpur district in U.P. There a tutor was arranged for me. He was quite elderly and was known as Maulvi Sahab. Though not very soothing by looks, he was very affectionate and concerned about my studies. However, l did not feel very comfortable in his company. One of the pet exercises he used to give me was to do reverse counting. Somehow I did not like it as I could never understand its logic. However, in due course his sincerity won me and we developed a congenial relationship.
The same exercise of reverse counting was subsequently given to my son by a famous ayurvedic doctor of Calcutta. I had taken my son to him because of his lack of concentration in his studies. When asked, the doctor told me that reverse counting was one of the methods of developing concentration. I saw logic in it and naturally my memory took me to my childhood, reminding me of the exercise given by the Maulvi Sahab. It also reminded me of our visit to ISRO, Trivandrum many years ago. There we saw the launching of a rocket and carefully noted the countdown before it took off. Somehow the word ‘Countdown’ stuck in my mind and I thought over it philosophically. This is what I am going to share in this write-up.
First of all we must understand that a rocket is a device which is used for sending a satellite or any other object in the space. For this purpose it should be able to provide enough power so as to impart escape velocity to the object. Once this object achieves escape velocity, it reaches the space provided the direction of the launching is correct. Thus we need to have two factors, namely, power and direction for putting an object into a space orbit. When the object reaches the right orbit, no more power is required and it remains in motion due to gravitational forces. As the object goes higher and higher, the fuel chambers of the rocket are released one by one till the object is put into the orbit when no more fuel is required.
Let us compare this situation with the process of self-realisation. Here the objective is the merger of our little self with the cosmic power which may be called ‘God’. For this also a similar strategy has to be adopted. The ‘self’ here would be the object to be launched in the space and the mind would be the rocket. The first step in the launching of the rocket is the countdown. What does it mean in the case of mind ? It means that it has to be emptied from worldly thoughts, if we want it to rise above the world. That is to say, it has to reach the stage of ‘zero’ before taking off. For most of us the problem lies here. We fill up our minds with so many worldly thoughts that it is not able to rise above the world permanently. Occasionally we may develop detachment but the attractions of the world pull us back. Only a fortunate few are able to reach the stage of ‘zero’ which is necessary for the take-off. It is like committing mistakes in reverse counting and very few reach the zero level without making any errors. Somewhere or the other we get strangled.
Having reached the stage of ‘zero’, the mind has to develop enough power to impart 'escape velocity' to the 'self'. If this is not done, it will never be able to rise above the body which may be compared to the earth in the case of a satellite. Not only this, the direction of the motion should also be correct. That is why the power of the mind, when applied in the wrong direction, not only fails to achieve the objective but also does great harm. For this, one may also seek the help of a spiritual master, whose instructions may not be liked in the beginning but his sincerity is bound to prevail, if the seeker is serious. Once the process of self-realisation is complete, it hardly needs any effort to stay there. The only requirement is that the components of the object/ satellite should function well and they should be maintained properly. In case of a self-realised person it may be said that his body and mind should function well and they should be given due care. Of course, nothing can be done beyond natural limitations.
Thus we find that ‘Countdown’ is the first necessary step for launching. This is true of all spheres of life, be they spiritual or mundane. Even for worldly achievements, one has to empty oneself of other thoughts and impart full energy in the correct direction. That is why the famous philosopher, J. Krishnamurti, used to say: ‘Unlearning is the beginning of learning’. We may also say that "Countdown is the beginning of Launching".