9 of 31 Questions for Reflection. Today’s question is inspired by reading Dṛg Dṛsya Viveka: An Inquiry Into the Seer and the Seen alongside reading a short story called The Hunger Artist by Franz Kafka.
What questions arise when I focus on “the hunger artist” as an object of Vedanta meditation?
A man in a cage makes a spectacle of his ability to go 40 days without food. Crowds of onlookers respond in various ways from admiration to scorn. Some suspect he may be sneaking food. Women wish to be the ones to help him out of the cage to walk to his first meal to break the fast. The impresario advertises and dramatizes the spectacle. Inevitably, over time, crowds lose interest. As the hunger art goes out of style, the artist can find no other way to be. He joins a circus where the supervisor places his cage near the menagerie. Crowds pass by with little or no interest. The hunger artist eventually achieves his glory of fasting ceaselessly, but by that time, no one cares. He’s forgotten and casually replaced by a beautiful – and hungry – panther.
Meditating on the hunger artist, a Jnana yogi might ask, “Whose gaze do you perceive to be most real: is it the eyes of others looking at you and reacting to you? Is it the inner eyes of your own mind judging your performances? Or, is it the gaze of the Witness that remains unimpacted by life, remains in continuing Existence, Consciousness, Bliss?”