Remembering T S Eliot IV

Excerpts from “Family Room”

Family room is a play in poetry by T S Eliot intriguing, deep, full of secrets, behind the scenes dialogues, philosophical and mystical. Typical T S Eliot. It has lot to teach and has many quotable quotes, that i will blog separately. But the ultimate short story on life – the piece de resistance is here below. Do read the original play when you get a chance.

Life in a verse

We do not like to look out of the same window, and

see quite a different landscape.

We do not like to climb a stair, and

find that it takes us down.

We do not like to walk out of a door, and

find ourselves back in the same room.

We do not like the maze in the garden,

because it too closely resembles the maze in the brain.

We do not like what happens when we are awake, be- cause

it too closely resembles what happens when we are asleep.


We understand the ordinary business of living,

We know how to work the machine,

We can usually avoid accidents,

We are insured against fire, Against larceny and illness,

Against defective plumbing,

But not against the act of God.


We know various spells and enchantments,

And minor forms of sorcery, Divination and chiromancy,

Specifics against insomnia, Lumbago, and the loss of money.

But the circle of our understanding Is a very restricted area.

Except for a limited number Of strictly practical purposes

We do not know what we are doing; And even,

When you think of it,

We do not know much about thinking.


What is happening outside of the circle?

And what is the meaning of happening?

What ambush lies beyond the heather

And behind the Standing Stones?

Beyond the Heaviside Layer

And behind the smiling moon?

And what is being done to us?

And what are we, and what are we doing?

To each and all of these questions

There is no conceivable answer.

We have suffered far more than a personal loss—

We have lost our way in the dark.

Excerpt from – “Family Reunion” – T S Eliot


Reflections on “Small Boat, Great Mountain” , Amaro Bhikku – Part II

This part II discusses the whole issue of living and managing it effectively as per Theravada Buddhism.

“Ultimate and conventional reality – I was completely bewildered.  No matter how much I tried to be free and unhindered by conventions, forms and structures mostly by defining these things there always seemed to be another layer, another layer and another layer. I kept meeting up with limits and as a result I was constantly feeling frustrated. I was suffering and had no idea why. Not to be inhibited by the rules of society, dictates of my personality, conditions of the body, appeared free on the outside but on the inside I was a prisoner of my beliefs and behavior.”



Life is habitually experienced as ignorance. We don’t feel unremitting bliss all the time. But ultimate reality is pure, perfect and blissful. Perfection and purity is our nature and we do not experience it all the time due to ignorance, laziness and wavering.

Exit point from the cycle

Day in and day out every moment we get caught in things we love, we hate, we have opinions about in feeling about ourselves, about others, liking, disliking, hoping, fearing. It goes on and on. The good news is there are several places where we can catch this cycle and ultimately free the heart.

Dependent origination cycle

When something painful has happened, worst has happened, we experience anguish, sorrow. How did we get ourselves in this mess. This is life but we do not need to feel like a victim or fly into why me tantrum. Experience of suffering can go into two directions. One it can compound misery and confusion. To it can ripen in search. When everything has gone wrong, we have a choice. Do we just wallow or do we say why is it like this. What am I doing to make this a problem? The search kicks in to find where we are clinging and why we are looking for happiness where it cannot be found.

Even at the birth, aging, sickness, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair end of the cycle we can use that pain as the cause to help us wake up. Feeling is a world of innocence. We can have an intensely blissful existence and pleasant feeling. We can have a fuzzy neutral feeling through the body or mind. Feeling by itself is utterly innocent. There is no intrinsic posture or negative quality to it. If there is awareness then all mental and sense phenomena and the pleasant, painful or neutral feelings associated with them can be known without clinging as appearance. When ignorance enters opinions gets formed. When we are open we can cut the cycle.

In the beginning – ignorance, conditions, formations

Ignorance complicates everything. What does this mean. In broad term, that which is compounded is karmic formations, concoctions, fabrications, volitional formations, subject-object duality. When there is ignorance duality gets started, form and sprout. This and that, here and there. Me and the world.

Conscious conditions the mind. Mind and body conditions the six senses. The six senses conditions feeling, craving and so on. By the time we get down to six senses there is the body here and there is the world out there and we experience them as apparently solid realities.

As soon as there is a slippage of mindfulness or the faintest coloration or distortion that awareness duality kicks in. that is the seed of the whole thing. If it is seen at that point and not followed, then that seen primal movement will not grow further. It will cease right there. If it is not seen the vortex will build and build at until there is me in here and the world out there. And then I want it. I can’t stand it. I have got to have it. How marvelous. How wonderful. I am going places. Sorrow lamentations, pain, grief and despair and so on kicks in.

Later end of the cycle – endless hunger leading to addiction

What happens at the end of the cycle? When sorrow has not ripened in search for truth and we have let our missing get compounded we feel incomplete. There is me feeling unhappy, miserable, insecure, incomplete, alienated. Then as soon as there an idea or feeling or an emotion or a sense object that might possible make us complete again we jump on it. Well that looks interesting. Perhaps this will do the trick. There is a feeling of hunger, a lack or a longing that comes from the experience of suffering. If we are not awake to what is going on, we think that what we lack is something. The new job, new car, new partner, or we lack perfect health etc. we go after any kind of external object or internal program to find the missing piece. This is the cycle of addiction.

To encourage this familiarization and relinquishment it is important to experience and acknowledge the disadvantages of cyclical existence. Above all it hurts. Just as thrill is real so is the pain. We don’t get thrill without pain. Where the pain comes we see that it is empty. When the thrill comes we experiences it as absolutely real. As the pleasure is raising we feel really, really happy. As the pleasant feelings diminish we try to see the pain and disappointment it is all empty. Empty. Empty.

The fact is, things in life don’t match. You can’t align all the loose ends. But you can go to the place where they come from.

  • Excerpts from – “Small Boat, Great Mountain” – Theravadan Reflections on The Natural Great Perfection, “Amaro Bhikku”

Leon Denis On Sorrow and Suffering – Part V

On Facing Sorrow

Learn how to suffer. I do not say seek sorrow! but when it comes, and stands in evitable in your path, receive it like a friend. Learn to appreciate its austere beauty, to seize its secret knowledge: study its hidden works, and in place of revolting against it, or resting inert and stunned under its action, associate your will with the aim fixed by sorrow, and seek to draw from it all the profit it can offer to a spirit or a heart. Force yourself to be an example for others, and by your acceptation of it, your courage, and your confidence in the future, render it more acceptable to other eyes. In a word, make sorrow beautiful! Harmony and beauty are universal laws, and in this ensemble sorrow has its aesthetic role.

Elevate yourself by higher views and hopes : see in it the supreme remedy for all the woes of earth. You who bend under the burdens of your trials, you who walk in the silence, no matter what comes, do not despair. Remember that nothing comes in vain, or without cause. Almost all our sorrows come from ourselves in the past, and they open the paths to heaven for us. Suffering is an initiation. It reveals the serious inspiring side of life. Life is not a frivolous comedy, but often a poignant tragedy. It is the struggle for the conquest of spiritual life, and in this struggle we must employ all that is great within us—patience firmness—heroism—resignation. Those old allegories of Prometheus and the Argonauts, and the sacred mysteries of the Orient, had no other meaning. A profound instinct makes us admire those whose existence is a perpetual combat with sorrow, a constant effort to climb the abrupt heights which lead to virgin summits and unviolated treasures. We do not admire only the heroism which brings forth the enthusiasm of crowds, but also that which strives in obscurity against privations, maladies, and miseries, all that detaches souls from material ties and transitory things. They strengthen the character for the combat of life—develop force and resistance—take from the soul all that weakens it—elevate the ideal to the pinnacle of force and grandeur. This is what education should adopt for the essential objective.

Let us open our souls to the breath of space, and lift ourselves to the limitless future. This future belongs to us! our task is to conquer it

  • This concludes the five part series (Notes) on “sorrow and suffering” by Leon Denis

Excerpt from “Life and Destiny”, Leon Denis (1846 – 1927), Translated by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Leon Denis On Sorrow and Suffering – Part IV

On Sorrow as an evolutionary tool

Suffering is a rudimentary method of animal evolution. Through it they acquire the first dawning of consciousness. It is the same with human beings in successive incarnations. If, one were exempt from suffering, man would remain inert—passive, and ignorant of profound moral truths. Our aim is onward ! our destiny is to march toward the goal without stopping by the way. The joys of this world immobilise us, they retard us; then sorrow comes and pushes us forward. As soon as there opens for us a source of pleasure, for instance in our youth, love and marriage—and we lose ourselves in the enchantment of these blessings, almost always soon afterward an unforeseen circumstance arises, and the blade of sorrow is felt.

In the measure that we advance in life, joys diminish and sorrows increase. The body becomes heavier —the weight of years more burdensome. With most lives, existence commences in happiness and ends in sadness. With age, the light grows dim, dreams vanish—sympathies and consolations lessen. Graves thicken about us; then come the long hours of inaction and suffering. They oblige us to enter into ourselves, and to review our lives. This is a necessary trial for the soul, in order that before it quits the body it may acquire a clear-seeing judgment of the events of its terrestrial careers. So when we curse the hours of age, which are in appearance desolate and sterile, we ignore one of the greatest benefits which nature has offered us. We forget that sorrowful old age is the crucible wherein the soul completes its purification. At this moment of existence the forces which during the years of virility we dispense in every direction in our exuberance, concentrate and converge toward the profound depths of being, awakening the consciousness and procuring wisdom for the man of maturity. Little by little harmony is established between our thoughts and the exterior radiations, and the inner melody chords with the melody divine.

On ending of suffering

Suffering will be necessary as long as man does not think and act in harmony with eternal law. It  will cease as soon as the accord is established. All our evils come from what we do in opposition to the currents of divine life For a long time to come, earthly humanity, ignorant of these superior laws, unconscious of duty, will have need of sorrow to stimulate it on its way and to transform its primitive and gross instincts into pure and generous sentiments. For a long time man must pass through the bitter initiative before arriving at knowledge of himself and his goal. At present he thinks only of using his faculties to combat physical suffering—to augment riches and well-being on the material plane, and to render earthly conditions of life agreeable.

Leon Denis On Sorrow and Suffering – Part III

On Nobody escapes sorrow

Sorrow does not strike only the culpable. In our world, honest men suffer as much as the wicked. The virtuous soul, being more evolved, is more sensitive.

To gross souls come violent physical suffering; to the selfish and mercenary, loss of fortune; to the pessimist, torment of mind; for delicate souls, hidden sorrows and heart wounds; and to great thinkers, subtle and profound griefs which send forth sublime cries from the source of genius. Astonishing as it may seem at first, sorrow is but a means of infinite power to attract us to it, and at the same time to bring us more rapidly to spiritual happiness, which alone is durable.

On Why physical suffering

Physical suffering is often an effort of nature which seeks to save us from excess. Without it we would abuse our organs to the point of untimely destruction. When a serious malady attacks us, it often becomes a benefit by causing us to realise and to detest the vices which have caused it. Sometimes we must suffer to understand the laws of health. To weak souls, sickness comes to teach patience, wisdom, and self-control.

To strong souls it offers ideal compensations, in leaving the mind free for flights of aspiration, to the point of forgetting physical suffering. Suffering is no less efficacious for society collective than for the individual. Through it were formed the first human groups. Through the menace of wild beasts, of hunger and floods, men were constrained to band themselves together, and through their common lives, their common sufferings, through their intelligence and labour, came forth civilisation, the arts, sciences, and industries. Again, we can say that physical suffering results often from the disproportion between our corporeal weakness and the colossal forces which surround us. We can only assimilate for ourselves an infinitesimal portion of these forces, but they act upon us constantly, striving to enlarge the sphere of our activity and the power of our sensations

Leon Denis On Sorrow and Suffering – Part II

On Inevitability of suffering:

Suffering is not expiation. All nature suffers: all which lives—the plant, the animal, the man, are submitted to pain. Suffering is a means of evolution, of education.

Physical suffering and moral anguish refine the spirit, and only the benefactions acquired by ourselves, slowly and painfully, are appreciated. Sorrow, suffering, are obligatory roles of earth life. They are the whip—the spur urging us on, and so the evils of life have only a relative and passing character.The soul never sings better than when in sorrow. When pain touches the depths of being, it brings forth eloquent and powerful appeals which move the world.

On Sorrow –  is it a reparation for the past—a ransom for faults committed?

At the foundation, sorrow is only a law of education and equilibrium. Without doubt the faults of the past fall upon us with all their burdens, and determine the conditions of our destiny. Suffering is often only the counterstroke of violations of eternal order: but shared by all, it should be considered as an agent of development—a condition of progress. All beings must submit to it in their turn; its action is beneficial to those who understand it, but only those can understand it who have felt its powerful effects.

On sorrow being a tool for elevation

The history of the world is but the story of the coronation of the soul by sorrow. Without it, virtue could not be complete, or glory imperishable. We must suffer, to grow and to conquer; acts of sacrifice increase spiritual radiations. There is a luminous train which follows spirits of heroes and martyrs in space. Those who have not suffered cannot comprehend these things, for they see only the surface of life; their feelings have not been amplified, and their thoughts embrace only narrow horizons. So, by the will, we can vanquish sorrow, or at least turn it to our profit, and make it an instrument of elevation. The idea that we make for ourselves of joy and pain varies infinitely with the evolution of the individual. The good, wise, and pure soul cannot find happiness in the same manner as the vulgarian.

virtues, sorrow is necessary. Misfortunes and trials stir in us the sources of an unknown life—a more profound life. Sadness and suffering cause us to see, hear, and feel a thousand delicate and powerful things that the happy or the vulgar man never perceives. The material world begins to seem obscure—another is vaguely designed but grows more and more distinct,

Misfortune and anguish are needed to give the soul its richness, its moral beauty, and to awaken its sleeping senses. The sorrowful life is an alembic from which are distilled souls for better worlds. The form, like the soul, is embellished by suffering. There is a charm, at once tender and serious, in the faces which have been often bathed in tears. They take on an austere beauty—a sort of majesty—impressive, yet seductive.