The Hamster Wheel is not Motorized
Benjamin Ramakrishna is the author of The Hamster Wheel is not Motorized. We had a chance to speak with him in on a deserted island in Thailand.
ekabhava publishing: I had to smile when I heard about the book title “The Hamster Wheel is not Motorized”.
Ramakrishna: I am told that many people smile or laugh when reading or hearing about the book title. At the same time, it is interesting that people mostly limit this Hamster Wheel analogy to being stuck in a job, not doing what we want and so on, that is, they keep the meaning on a rather superficial level, while the book goes much deeper than that. We only see in the outside what we are aware of in the inside.
ekabhava publishing: For many people this may already be one of the rather deeper thoughts that come to their mind being very busy running in the hamster wheel (laughs). So, what does the Hamster Wheel represent for you in this analogy then?
Ramakrishna: Well, it can mean what most readers first understand from it, i.e. being stuck in a job or relationship, for instance, which is also covered. But the meaning of the Hamster Wheel is mainly related to our very identity or what we assume or take ourselves to be in our very essence in everyday situations, which most of the times we just pre-assume without ever challenging it. When we live our life being identified with what we are not, for instance, our reputation, how much money we have, our profession, thoughts, fear, feelings, the image we have of ourselves, the image others have of us, it seems as if we were a victim of outside circumstances or people, always being on the run, having no time for the essential things in life. On the other hand, when being aware of who we are and clearly seeing its mechanics, we come to realize that the Hamster Wheel stops as soon as we stop running. At the same time, however, we are usually too afraid to stop running because we think once the wheel stops, our exciting life as we know it and everything we hold on to, will come to an end, not being aware that life within the Hamster Wheel feels as if we were dead already. Only once we stop running, the joy of life gracefully reveals itself to us. And for the first time since our childhood, we are able to feel fully alive again!
ekabhava publishing: You make some very provocative statements that are not in line with what we call “common sense”. What knowledge or evidence is the wisdom in your book based on?
Ramakrishna: It is neither based on common sense, nor science, nor spiritual nor on any other kind of second-hand information or shortsighted ambiguity. It is solely based on what all of us are able to directly experience, and therefore it cannot be used to manipulate us. This wisdom is already there and is not my wisdom or some guru’s wisdom. It is within each of us, or put in other words, we are made of this. As opposed to acquired knowledge, people do not have to believe anything in this realm. It’s rather the opposite: I encourage people not to believe anything they hear or what is written in the book.
“Certain people and institutions act as if they have monopolized the truth.”
ekabhava publishing: So you wrote a book and invite people not to believe it? Why then did you write the book in the first place?
Ramakrishna: Our society is all about opinions, being right and wrong and believing what others, especially so-called experts say. This is how we are trained and conditioned from a very young age on, which is what we learn in school and what our parents teach us. It seems as if there were a competition out there about whom we should believe and trust the most. Unless we see what is actually going on, we fall for this reputation game. The more titles, experience, money and fame someone has acquired, usually through immense effort, the more we are informally told we should trust and believe such a person. Or we believe scientists because we consider that whatever carries the name science is defined as a fact, without seeing that science is also about assumptions and beliefs, especially when it comes to the question Who am I? Sometimes we get the impression as if there were people and institutions out there claiming to have monopolized the truth. And if we do not agree with those seeming facts, we are considered to be crazy, a rebel or an outsider. So, in order to still be accepted by society or a certain group of people we admire, we prefer to shut up being afraid we, or at least what we take ourselves to be, are no longer accepted and loved by the people around us. I know many quantum physicists who had studied the subject for decades and became frustrated because they come to understand that they cannot explain anything in this world. Nobody even closely understands the law of gravity, for instance. Gravity is more than a formula; just in the same way as life is more than any thought or feeling would ever be able to capture. We have forgotten to listen to our own intuition. Instead, we run to so-called experts, doctors, priests, psychologists, listen to millionaires for advice on how to become rich, and bow to politicians and celebrities, not seeing that all knowledge and everything we ever desired is already in us – right now.
ekabhava publishing: In your book, you cover topics such as happiness, our education system, money, self-worth, fear, death, love, professional sports, relationships, the nature of who we are and many other topics. You do so using very tangible and strong analogies and images that everyone can follow. Are you an expert in all of these fields or how do you manage to cover so many topics from different areas in such depth?
Ramakrishna: When we have a go at the essence of anything, whether it is an elephant, a spoon, a relationship or a politician, we come to realize that everyone and everything shares the very same essence. So, once we understand more about our own essence for instance, we come to understand the essence of relationships, other people, nature, the pope and happiness. But this requires challenging all of our identifications and not just those that may make us feel more comfortable as something that we are not. It is about questioning what we take ourselves to be. If you manage to do that, you will be surprised what joyful gift is waiting right in front of your eyes.
ekabhava publishing: So what is this essence? How can each one of us experience this?
Ramakrishna: It is our nature. It is the “stuff” all of us are made of. Hence, we do not experience it as we would experience a table, a thought or a feeling. What we are cannot be found in the world of form because we are the formless. We can only be aware of things because we are no-thing. Imagine your tongue was made of salt and I put salt on your tongue. You would not be able to taste it. So, from the perspective of the form, what we are is “no-thing”. And from the perspective of no-thing, we are everything!
ekabhava publishing: What do people get out of the book?
Ramakrishna: I hope no-thing (laughs). Becoming aware of what is going on. The book is about getting back our autonomy and being fully ourselves, which we have never lost in the first place, but we act as if we did. The biggest hurdle for most people is to become aware of certain things that they are not aware of, which most of us are not used to because we are trained to just believe or not believe others without questioning the status quo of what we do and especially of who we are! At its core, the book is uplifting and it helps us to recognize what keeps us from being fully alive in everyday situations, such as in our relationships, in our job, and so on.
ekabhava publishing: Several readers I have spoken to state that reading the book takes them beyond the realm of thoughts and words.
Ramakrishna: As long as the reader has a certain degree of openness, he or she will be taken to the realm from which the book was written and where it points to. The book is not about a philosophical discussion, intellectual concepts or knowledge in its conventional sense. It is not even about words – the latter is only used as pointers to something that we are not able to put into words. They basically serve as signposts. Truth cannot be put into words. The same way as Zürich can never appear in Geneva. When being in Geneva, I can only point towards the direction of Zurich via a signpost.
ekabhava publishing: Why do we not hear about all of this this in mass media?
Ramakrishna: Because the truth does not sell very well (is laughing) and it does not try to manipulate people with fear. Also, the truth is not very exciting to the one that we take ourselves to be. The truth is not exciting when we hear about it. However, once we are aware of and live by the truth, everything else loses its significance, including all the stories we hear about in mass media. Living in truth means being fully alive in everyday situations, whether you are at the market, working, being around your family or relaxing on a beautiful beach.
Book video trailer: