Deprivation and a way out?

Deprivation means different things to different people. For millions, it is a lack of basic amenities like food, water and shelter. Perhaps even pervasive is a sense of being unfinished, fragmented, deficient. This pervasiveness likely transcends the material conveniences we are bestowed with. We see deprivation as a lack of money or education, poor health or capacity, unfulfilled relationships or a paucity of luxuries. We suffer from a ‘reality gap’ which is a gap in how things are and how we want them to be. And a reality gap can be immensely subtle too, taking the form of strongly held opinions, views and convictions. With such subtle forms of deprivation, what we perceive as the qualities of phenomena in the external or internal world can trap us into ascribing characteristics and value to these phenomena where there are essentially none. This often leads to frustration and a desire to change things to suit our preferences and viewpoints. This often leads to a covert perpetuation of the reality gap and an increasing sense of a dichotomy within the self that creates strife.


We harbor a sense of distinction between lack and plenty even when most of our needs are met. This is a function perhaps of inadequate attention. Attention to phenomena and events, whether external or internal reveals that they lack any ground for the ascription of quality. Deciphering good or bad, little or enough is often a ramification of our appraising matter and mind as anything other than insubstantial and evanescent. For instance, it is usual to confer substance to our body. We assume our bodies are solid, with an arising, dwelling and ceasing. Proper attention and focus might bring to light that the very organic and inorganic elements that constitute our body, its final causes are without arising or ceasing! Simply put, say sodium, which is an inorganic element and an essential constituent of our body. Can we conclusively state that this moiety arises from a certain source or abides in a certain place or goes away somewhere to cease? In that manner the constituents of our corporeal form are veritably without ground. What we perceive as substance and form is a construct, a function of our perceptions, that ultimately has no base as described above. Not only can we apply this principle to something as vital and immediate as our body, we can apply it to just about anything, including, mind states, emotions, feelings and sensations.

Irrespective of whether there is an ultimate ground for phenomena, due attention to the insubstantiality of any formative cause for matter and mind can to a significant extent, do away with any sense of deprivation we nurse. The perception of form and substance is real perhaps, but underlying what appears is a groundlessness that is without properties. If we search for a ground for any phenomena, like for sodium in our body, we find none. The constituents of matter and even mind are thus unfindable. So for who or what do we nurse a sense of lack or plenty? Polarization into abundance or deprivation begins with apprehending an enduring, abiding and ceasing base for things that appear to us. There is likely no such base! Awareness of all this does not preclude action. We act to keep ourselves and others as comfortable as possible, but with the awareness of the emptiness of any phenomena. An occasional reminder to ourselves of the groundlessness of the objects that we choose to appraise, judge and qualify can do away with the fragmentation that ordinary perception causes and perpetuates.

Abject hunger is deprivation too. We cannot obviously do away with that. Despite ultimate unfindability, we do need to sustain the means (in this case, our body) to grow into freedom. The point is perhaps not to quench thirst or satisfy hunger or acquire material goods but to create the causes that lead to the inhabiting of awareness that can see beyond mere appearance and into ultimate cause and being. As our emphasis evolves in this direction, we might find that much of that which causes a sense of incompletion and fragmentation or deprivation dissipates into the groundlessness from whence it came!

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