Why Suffer

The Fault is of the Sufferer

Suffering is inevitable aspect of life. All of us suffer. When we suffer the first questions that crosses our mind is why, why me, why now, what did I do wrong, is there a reason for it, will I recover and where do I go from here.  And many a times that answers we get, if at all we get, would be more complex and confusing. And rarely we get answers that are simple, profound and to our liking.

When we suffer, due to some reason after the first set of questions, we want to know who is at fault. And when a problem resulting in suffering occurs, be it in home, school, college, office, public space, it happened because of so and so, or an incident, or accident or a natural cause.  If one were to go by psychiatrist, after analyzing our life, one identifies that our parents, siblings, teachers, Government etc. are the reason one is suffering.

In his book “The fault is of the sufferer”, Ambalal Patel, A Jain Guru gives an interesting says that, Sufferings happen because of three cause – one’s Karma (Action) which is Law of the Nature, mistakes committed by us in the past, and ignorance of the ways of the world.

Karma and Nature’s Law

“Nature’s law governs this world at all times. The simple rule being -Those who deserve merit receive their merit and those who deserve punishment are punished. Nothing operates outside the law of nature. The law of nature is completely just, but because one does not understand it, he does not accept it. When one’s understanding becomes pure, he will be able to accept nature’s justice. “This law is exact and no one can ever change it. There is no law in this world that can inflict suffering upon anyone, not even the law of the government”.

Past Mistakes

One is free of sufferings, but we suffer because of our past mistake, be it of this life or past life, and are bound by it. Because of our mistakes, be it of understanding, thinking, action in any area of the field we work, mistakes happen resulting in failure, accidents, loss, gain and so on. And once we identify the mistake and eliminate it we can be free of resultant suffering.

Ignorance

Majority of the People do not have the knowledge of the Reality of this world and how it functions. They only have the knowledge of ignorance, the relative world, which causes them to wander endlessly, life after life. To give an example, if someone steals your wallet, need to identify whose fault is it and why is that only your wallet was stolen and not anyone else’s?

Karma is Relentless

We read newspapers or watch TV, we get to know about lots of untoward incidents like, theft, accidental death and atrocities happening. This leads to worry, anxiety, negative thinking, unwanted imagination causing us suffering. One needs to know that You will only be robbed if it is in your karmic account. If it is not in your karma, then no one in this world can touch you, so be fearless  and not afraid of what is happening around us. No one has any control over you. If you happen to get robbed, all you need to do is ask yourself who is really suffering and then move on. The world is not meant for suffering, it is meant for enjoying. People receive that which is due to them according to their karmic account. Some people are happy and some are suffering all because of our legacy. Most importantly, if you are suffering, it is your own fault. Therefore, do not see anyone else’s fault, otherwise you will create new karmic accounts for your next life.

Learn to Live

One must learn how to live life. Suppose you fight at home, say between father and son, or husband and wife, and one of them is suffering and not able to sleep while the other has no concern whatsoever and is able to go about himself/herself, and sleeps soundly, know that the one who is suffering is at fault. The fault is of the sufferer.

There is no one in this world that can inflict the slightest bit of suffering upon you, and if someone does, he is merely an instrument in it. And do not blame the instrument, but know that the fault is of the sufferer. Once this fact is understood all problems and quarrels at home will cease and then one can use the energy to do other things.

If you just understand that the fault is of the sufferer, the burden of this worldly life will be lifted significantly. God’s law says that at any given time, at any given place, the person who suffers is at fault. A pickpocket is happy when he steals a person’s wallet. He will enjoy himself with the money he stole, whereas his victim will be suffering. He must have stolen in his past life and so today nature has caught him and therefore he is paying for his mistakes. Therefore, the sufferer is at fault.

Freedom from Suffering

No one is at fault. The fault is of the person who blames others. There is nobody at fault in this world. Everyone gets what he or she deserves according to his or her karma. They are not creating new faults today. Today’s situation is the result of past karma. Today one may repent but since he has already made a contract in his previous life, he has no choice but to fulfill it. If you want to know who is at fault in this world, find the one who suffers. He is at fault.

Problems between people are escalated and exacerbated by each placing the blame on the other. If they continue to blame each other, they will create new accounts and they must suffer them all over again. Their accounts can only be settled through awareness and intelligence that the fault is of the sufferer. Therefore, if you want to be liberated from this world, accept whatever comes your way, whether it is good or bad. This way, your accounts will be settled.

World as Machine

If your finger gets stuck in the gears of a machine, the machine is not at fault. Similarly think everyone around you is like a machine. All these parents, children, husbands, wives, colleagues, partners, society, Government are nothing but machinery. They are not responsible for your suffering. By thinking like this shift the blame to self and thereby reducing the suffering gain control. If you do not let yourself be affected by the actions of others, then you do not suffer. So, understand that fault is yours and that is why you suffer. Comprehend this one will be at peace.

The Action Reaction Cycle

There is nobody at fault in this world. Everyone gets what he or she deserves according to his or her karma (Actions). They are not creating new faults today. Today’s situation is the result of past karma. Today one may repent but since he has already made a contract in his previous life, he has no choice but to fulfill it. If they continue to blame each other, they will create new accounts and they will have to suffer them all over again. Therefore, if you want to be liberated from this world, you have to accept whatever comes your way, whether it is good or bad. This way, your accounts will be settled. Whatever you have given to others, you will receive in return. If you accept it gladly, you will be settling your account. If you do not accept it, you will have to suffer. Know that the fault is of the sufferer.

Your inner enemies of anger, pride, attachment and greed (krodh, maan, maya, lobh), makes you see faults in others. The vision of the Self, does not see any faults in others.

Our sufferings are either physical, mental or intellectual. Sometimes it is the ego that suffers and so the ego is at fault. Sometimes the mind suffers and so the fault is of the mind. Sometimes the chit (the subtle component of the mind that is composed of both knowledge and vision) suffers so the chit is at fault. The Real Self is detached from the mistakes of the relative self. In situations at home, in the business, at work, everywhere, just look to see who is suffering; the one who suffers is the one who is at fault and exists as long as there is ault. Once the faults are gone, no one in this world, no event in this world, will have the power to give any suffering to you.

***

Excerpts fromThe fault is of the Sufferer”, by Ambalal B Patel, A Jain Guru.

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Life, Struggle, Evolution and Liberation in the words of Vivekananda

What is Life

Life is the unfoldment and development of a being under circumstance tending to press it down, and the environment not allowing it to express itself. Life is a tremendous potential power that is trying to express itself against the circumstance and environment that is thwarting it from expressing it fully. So in order to succeed in this fight against environment and circumstances the power is shedding itself, dying now and taking new bodies again and again and evolving with each birth. Like waves on ocean, what differentiates one wave from the other being, nothing but its form that in turn is differentiated by time, space, causation which is dependent upon the waves themselves so is the life of every one of us.

Struggle leading to Evolution

The awakening of the soul to its bondage and its effect to stand up and assert itself is called life. Success in this struggle is called evolution. The eventual triumph when all slavery is blown away is called liberation, freedom or salvation. Everything in this life is struggling for freedom for one in bound by nature, name, form, time, space, and causality and one does not realized one’s true self. One strains against these bonds one by one, becomes conscious of the self becomes aware of the innate grandeur which leads to liberation.

In physical level this fight is characterized by the continuous struggle of whole humanity against the so called laws of nature with the man succeeding in the end. In the mental level the struggle continues in the form of fight between the animal man and spiritual man, between light and darkness, and all types of dualities from which man needs to overcome to become victorious.

Evolution

A man is great among his fellows in proportion as he can sacrifice for others. Mans’ struggle  is in mental sphere. A man is greater in proportion as he can control his mind. When the mind and its activities are perfectly at rest then the consciousness manifests itself. The struggle which is observed in the animal kingdom for the preservation of the gross body obtains in the human place of existence for gaining mastery over the mind or for attaining the state of balance. Physical improvement is necessary for how will one struggle with mind as unless the physique is strong.

Without a knowledge of the truth there will be no life worth living. Life will be a desert and will be vain if we cannot know beyond. So if man rests content with the present and gives up all search into beyond, mankind will have to go back to animal plane again. It is this enquiry into the beyond that makes the different between man and animal.

The looking upward and seeking perfection are what is called salvation and sooner a man begins to go higher the sooner he raises himself towards this idea of truth as salvation. It does not consist in the amount of money one has, nor the dress one wears or of the house you live but the wealth of one’s mind, intellect and spiritual power that decides the man’s evolution. This is what makes human progress, that is the source of all material and intellectual progress, the motive power behind the enthusiasm that pushes mankind forward. It is not sensual pleasure but knowledge that is the goal of life.

All world is a play

The world is a playground. A drama theatre. The creator is playing, he is the producer and director and all of us are his crew. Each one of us is assigned a different role, put in different garb and led into the world. A beggar now, king in the next and saint in the succeeding play. Thus we are putting on different garb to let the creator spin his plan.

When the baby is at play, she will ignore that calls of her mother and once she finishes she rushes back to her mother. Similarly, when our play in this world is over and done with we want to move from here to here after. Then all our toil will be of no value. Our family, name, fame, wealth, joys and sorrows, success and failures will be no more and the whole life will seem like a show. We shall see only the infinite rhyme joining an endless and purpose less going not knowing where to.  Only this much shall we say our play is done.

Path to the freedom

Liberation is not attained by the weak. It needs setting aside all theories and dogmas. It needs one to be conscious of our dignity, reflect calmly every day, by oneself, the acts and dealing of us with others and find out that one is not just being an intermediate specie between an animal and man, which we are when all our energies are spent in eating, sleeping, procreating and struggling to live and die and trouble by the desires, hatred and jealousy.  The path to freedom requires one to shed weakness and control our mind, thought, and intellect which is acquired by cultivating the right attitude.

  1. I am here to play

We are here to play. What was started with hope became a task amidst play and terrifying somewhere along the way. How do we avert it? Like we see a painting a terrible one, but not affected by it. We may even enjoy it, comment upon its techniques, wonder about it, all despite the picture being a horrible scene. That is because of not internalizing it, not being part of it, merely of being a witness and not being attached to it. That is the secret to living – The feeling “I am the spirit”, “I am the witness” and when something sad or evil thought occurs saying “I am the spirit. Nothing external can touch me. I am ever blessed and has no reason to suffer”. “This universe is my museum and I am looking at successive paintings. They are of all shades, good and evil but yet are outside of me and these event have no impact on me”.

  1. Balanced Mind

The balanced mind does more work. The less passion there is better the work. The calmer the one better it is for one to deliver more work. When feelings are let loose more energy is wasted, nerves become weak, mind is disturbed and because of this wasted of energy in many fronts one is able to deliver only less work. The energy that ought to have gone out as work is spent as more feeling which counts for nothing. The man for whom nothing can make angry accomplishes much more than one who gives way to anger, hatred or any other passion.  It is the calm, forgiving equable, well balanced mind that does greatest amount of world.

  1. Control Your Thoughts

By renunciation and practice is the mind brought under control. Like waves in a lake, thoughts and sense impression keep rising and continue in mind. From these waves raise desire. From these desires comes will and that will then get translated into various action through body. Like waves are endless so also desires, thoughts and actions. Hence mind is always being tossed by countless impressions of wants. The mind has to be divested of all disturbances or modifications, taken back to the earlies state of calmness such that there is no trace of various modification and desires. Then will consciousness manifest.

  1. Meditate on this

“I am neither the body, nor the mind, nor the intellect then who am I”. Then only one will be established in the real nature of the soul/atman. The atman is everything. You are none other than the relative consciousness born in this world to experience, work and enjoy. You are the only reality, the all-pervading atman. If and when you realize this, then only you will attain peace.

Liberation

Everyone from creator down to blade of gross is advancing towards the realization of his real nature. And none can escape the rounds of birth and death until he realizes his identity with Brahman. Getting the human birth, when the desire for freedom becomes very strong, along with it comes the grace of a person of realization and then man’s desire for self. Knowledge becomes intensified

Each soul is potentially divine, the goal is to manifest divinity within by controlling nature, both external and internal. We do this either by work, or worship, by mind or intellect, by one or all of these and be free.

Break your chain and be free. The strong shall inherit the world.

***

Notes from – I am a voice without a form – Thoughts of Swami Vivekananda” – Published by Ramakrishna Math, Hyderabad, India

Role of Action and Destiny in Success

All men are subjected to and governed by destiny and action. Our actions do not become successful either by action or destiny alone and need both for success. Action when destiny is not auspicious and absence of action when time is right, is not likely to be successful. Thus for human success action and destiny has to go hand in hand like timely rain in well prepared soil.

Sometimes, destiny acts on its own without waiting for action. It is also impelled by destiny that one takes up certain work at times, exerts and that leads to success. However, it is seen that the work of competent man, even when well directed, is without the concurrence of destiny does not produce the expected results at times. This makes some respond that action and intelligence are of no use and tend to be idle, and work without intelligence.

Normally, any act done produces a result depending upon the effort. It is also seen that no action leads to misery. A person obtaining something without effort and person who exerts not obtaining something is an exception. Action is needed to support life. Action is needed for happiness. Action is needed for experiencing the world. Action is always carried out aiming for some good and if it succeeds or fails in producing the expected results it is still accepted as no action or idleness is detrimental. However, world denounces one who seems to enjoy luxuries of life without obtaining it by sustained effort and is derided by society. Thus intelligent people do not subscribe to any benefit that is not result of once action rather they believe that it is injurious to one.

Efforts become unproductive only under two conditions.  One when destiny supports but no action and the other when action take place but without destiny. Without exertion no act in this world will become successful. When an action is undertaken with dedication, combined with knowledge and skill, blessed by gods and destiny it is sure to result in success. Also those actions undertaken with the advice of counsels, elders, knowledgeable people and well-wishers is likely to produce result. On the contrary, when a person undertakes any work without the advice from counsels, moved by passion, anger, fear and avarice it is likely to fail. Taking the counsel of wicked, foolish, cunning and those not wishing us well, acting without foresight, ignoring the advice of well-wishers is also likely to lead to failure.

Thus a man guided by expert counsel, well-wishers, elders should undertake action that is well thought, skillful and exert for it to becomes successful. If those men whose acts do not succeed even after the application of exertion, should without doubt be regarded as afflicted by destiny.  Thus having put the best efforts possible such man has nothing to ponder upon and is happy for his effort.

 

Adopted fromMahabharata”, Book 10, Sauptika Parva, Kisari Mohan Ganguli Translation from Sanskrit

Series in Living IV – J Krishnamurthi on Living

J Krishnamurthi on Life

Life demands that you listen to every movement of it.

Life is yourself, your thoughts, your feelings, your activities, your ways of life. How you react to all that is the movement of life. And you have to listen to it passionately, completely, totally with all your being. Then only does one understand the actual fact of life and the movement of life in which thought and mind can flow

Because our life is very short, we have to live so completely in the now. So we have to understand this movement of life with its tradition, with its brutality, with its agony, with its violence, disorder; and in understanding this movement of confusion, conflict, out of such understanding comes order. So, order has to come naturally not by your act of will as then it would create conflict.

All the characteristics of man, most of the characteristics of the human being are shown in the animal. Unless there is a transformation in each one of us as a human being – that is, freeing ourselves from the animal – we shall live everlastingly in conflict.

What brings about unity is the understanding of disunity? Nationalism, religious organizations, beliefs, dogmas, conceptual attitudes towards life – all these bring about disunity. You and I notice this; any intelligent man reading history, observing daily facts, knows all this; and yet we keep on repeating this pattern over and over again. So we do not learn through suffering, we do not learn through experience, we do not learn through history. But apparently we just want to live for the moment, suffer and die and not re-create a new world, a new sense of being.

As long as you are satisfied, as long as you are left undisturbed in your little backyard, as long as nothing threatens you, you live peacefully. But the moment there is any kind of threat, any kind of uncertainty – uncertainty about your relationship with your wife – you become violent; when there is uncertainty about your position, when you are not capable of fulfilling yourself, being somebody, having a position, prestige, when all those are threatened, you become violent.

So what you really want is not the ending of violence; what you really want is to be completely secure, both inwardly and outwardly. You want to be secure inwardly with your ideas, secure in your relationships, secure in your concepts. But unfortunately you can never be secure. That is one of the first things you realize: that life is not for the secure – which does not mean that you must be insecure or that you must seek insecurity. That is, each one of us, as a human being, wants to be secure within the pattern which we have created for ourselves as being secure, and that pattern will invariably contradict the pattern of another, and so there is a battle between us. And if you observe, not idealistically but factually, life is never secure. There is disease; there is death; nothing is secure. As a human being, can you understand for yourself – observing life, the every day incidents – that there is no such thing as security, that life is a movement, an endless movement? And a man who can move with it and go beyond this movement – he will find that peace, that joy, that eternity.

And seriousness leads to efficiency, clarity. It is only the serious, earnest man that lives, and the rest become merely either cannon fodder or useless human beings.

Revolution must begin within oneself. And then you will have peace, a state of non-violence, a state of freedom from violence and order. Without these we are not human beings; we are violent, destructive, incapable of order, and therefore we have no love thinking one thing and doing another; thinking marvellous thoughts, how you should be this and that and the other, and living contrary to them. So there is this contradiction. The more intellectual, verbal, theoretical, political you are, the greater is the contradiction: because you are living in theories, but not in facts. So this contradiction breeds conflict.

We are concerned with the life of each one of us, because each one of us has to live in relationship, and relationship is life. And when there is conflict in that relationship, then it is destruction, it is disorder. A man who is not in conflict with himself or with society – he has no conflict and therefore he is essentially peaceful.

So, we see all this – effort, contradiction, imitation, conformity to a pattern, this everlasting thinking, thinking which has very little meaning; that is our daily life, our daily problem of anxiety, of fear, of greed, of envy. Seeing all this how is a human mind which is the result of time, which is the result of violence – how is such a mind to bring about a mutation within itself.

The fragmentation of our lives in various roles that we carry- they are all contradictions, there we live in departments and each department is in contradiction with the other. And so our life is a series of contradictions and therefore conflicts, therefore misery and confusion. And unless we solve this problem of fragmentation for ourselves, as human being, we shall always be in a contradiction and conflict and therefore in sorrow.

Life has no significance. Life is meant to be lived, and in that very living one begins to discover the reality, the truth, the beauty of life. To discover the truth, the beauty of life, you must understand the total movement of it. And to understand the total movement of it, you have to end all this fragmentary thinking and ways of life; you have to cease to be a Hindu, not only in name, but inwardly; you have to cease to be a Muslim, or a Buddhist, or a Catholic with all the dogmas, because these things are dividing people, dividing your own minds, your own hearts.

Because life is not something outside, something that is flowing by, which we look at. Life is this movement in ourselves, of which we are a part; it is that which we have to understand, which we have to unravel, comprehend, love, pursue; and we have to imbibe deeply the full significance of it all. Life is action from the beginning to the end; the whole movement is action. But, unfortunately, we have divided action into fragments: noble action, ignoble action, political action, religious action, scientific action, the action of the reformer, the action of the socialist, the action of the communist and so on and on. We have broken it up, and therefore there is a contradiction between each action, and there is no understanding of the total movement of action.

All life is relationship; and till we understand clearly the problem of relationship in our life, at whatever level we may try to live, fully or fragmentarily, we will always be in a state of conflict, confusion and misery.

if you will make life a significant thing in itself, a life that has a meaning, a life that is rich, full, complete – is that you understand this question of fear and death. Without love, without this feeling of beauty, life naturally becomes utterly empty. And being empty we seek the gods which are man-made; being empty, beliefs, dogmas, rituals become very important; and we fill that emptiness with these tawdry affairs of things, tawdry affairs which have been put together by man. So if you would know what love is, there must be freedom from jealousy, from conflict, from the desire to dominate, the desire to be powerful – which means you must live peacefully to know what love is, not outside of life, but each of us, as a human being, is both society and the individual. The individual is not separate from society; the individual has created the psychological structure of society, and in that psychological structure he is caught. And therefore he tries to break away from that psychological structure, which is a mere revolt and therefore does not resolve any problem.

I see that violence, in itself, is destructive; in itself, it destroys the human mind because, if I am competing, fulfilling, struggling, battling with you and with everything, the brain wears itself out. There is no affection, there is no tenderness, no grace, no beauty. I see that, but I do not know how to change this thing called violence.

So we need to bring about a radical mutation in our relationship, economically, socially, politically and all the rest of it, and also in our relationship with ourselves, in the relationships which we have created as an image according to which we function. Unless there is a change in the image that each one of us has about oneself, about the society, about the various values that we have given to life, unless we look at all these problems with clarity, mere outward change brought about by communism, by socialism, by war, or by great inventions will have very little meaning. Because in ourselves the image of ourselves will project, and according to that image we live. Unless in that image there is a mutation, unless that image is completely shattered, we cannot possibly have right relationship and therefore a way of life totally different from that which we are living now.

We said that there must be in ourselves and in our relationships a great change, because we cannot as human beings lead the lives that we are doing: in battle with ourselves. The society is you, and you are the society. The psychological structure of society has been created by each human being, and in that psychological frame each human being is caught. And until the human being breaks that psychological structure within himself, completely and totally, he is incapable of living peacefully with a great sense of reality.

And nothing can function or blossom in hate, in confusion, in conflict. And as human beings we have to find a different way of living: to live in this world without inward conflict. Then that inward sense of peace expresses itself in action in society. Life has no significance. Life is meant to be lived, and in that very living one begins to discover the reality, the truth, the beauty of life. To discover the truth, the beauty of life, you must understand the total movement of it. And to understand the total movement of it, you have to end all this fragmentary thinking and ways of life; you have to cease to be a Hindu, not only in name, but inwardly; you have to cease to be a Muslim, or a Buddhist, or a Catholic with all the dogmas, because these things are dividing people, dividing your own minds, your own hearts.

And so you have to examine your own life voluntarily, you will find that you look with eyes which are full of affection – not with condemnation, not with judgment, but with care. You look at yourself with care and therefore you look at yourself with immense affection. And it is only when there is great affection and love, that you see the total existence of life.

  • Excerpts from J Krishnamurthy’s talks on Life and Death

Concept of Time

Concept of Time – As enquired by Rama –  In Yoga Vasishta

 

Prince Rama, when in a philosophical mind frame, more leaning towards depressive thoughts questions the travails of human life with its childhood, youth, old age, disease and death, the vagaries of time, destiny, effervescence and mutability of the world and in general all that hails the world. He questions the futility of life. These questions are raised towards Sage Vasistha amidst his kingly counsel. These questions were praised by everyone present for they bring out what is there in every one’s mind but that many of us cannot express. Read on.

Time and tide does not wait for none. It does not spare anybody and consumes everything in its own time.  It is the overlord of all things and everything in this world. He abstracts, produces and destroys everything. Mountains, rivers, lakes, land mass are created and destroyed in the course of time altering the visible world. Time has devoured everyone, the kind and cruel, generous and miserly, young and old, the king and the pauper. It uproots all proud living beings in the world.

Time is the subtlest of all things. It is unseen and yet the ravages of it is known throughout. Time like mind is strong enough to create and demolish anything and everything.

At periodic interval time assumes the terrific form of fire to dissolve the world into empty space, whatever and who ever, gods, god heads and humanity ceases to exist only to be created anew. Like waves after waves in a sea, time creates, nurtures and destroys. Time accompanied by action, entertains himself in this world.

As the high and huge rock supports its body upon the earth so does time rest itself in endless and interminable eternity. It assumes multi colors of black, white, red – that of night, day, sunrise and sunset – as its vest. It supports all the constituents of the world. Billions of years may pass, eternity may rollout, yet time keeps continued to do without pity, compassion or feeling of anything or for anybody.  Time is the one who with the least sense of pain or effort brings this world into play and makes it exist. Time is said to be the clock work of the actions of sun and moon to light up.

After playing for eternity, the play of killing and crushing of all living beings time comes to lose its own existence and becomes extinct in the spirit. After a brief period of rest time start again its actions of creator, preserver and destroyer of all. He shows the shapes of all things whether good or bad, keeping his own nature beyond the knowledge of all. Thus does time expand and preserve and finally dissolves all things by way of sport.

This world is like a sporting ground and a forest of times where the living beings are lost. The transcendent time announces the death of us in this sporting arena called world.  This world is like a forest in which sorrows are everywhere and like a sportive prince one wanders, walks, plays and wins game.

Time is the most deceitful player in this world. Time has the double parts of creation and destruction and of action and fate. The existence of time is known to us only through action and movement that binds all beings by way of thought and action. Time creates the worlds, oceans, the mountains, the localities and living places alive with people. The forms the movable and immovable substances, establishes customs only to dissolve them

  • Ref – Yoga Vashista by Valmiki, Translation of Vihari Lal Mitra

 

 

 

 

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

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”

Series in Living II – Saying Yes to Life – Philosophy of Viktor E Frankl

Saying Yes to Life

Viktor Frankl (1905 to 1997) is one of the greatest psychologist of 20th century from Europe. His philosophy of life has developed out of his experience in the concentration camp. Despite being no stranger to suffering, war, all round apathy and tough circumstances, his zeal to live and living and face life boldly are commendable. His philosophy towards life and living is simple – Life has meaning in all conditions. Saying yes to life in spite of all sufferings and facing it boldly, believing in future is the key to success and achievement in life.……

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The human being is an entity consisting of body, mind and spirit and each individual is unique. He has choice and has to be responsible for making something of himself. He has a finite freedom in the sense he cannot be free from biological, social or psychological conditioning but has ultimate freedom to take stand to react despite the conditions. One cannot change the situation but can change one’s attitude towards it. Suffering without meaning leads one to despair but if we can find a meaning under suffering and then he can translate it into success and achievement. “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how,” could be the guiding motto for all. The man who could not see any sense in his life, no aim, no purpose, and therefore no point in carrying on is soon lost.

We had to learn ourselves and teach to the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life – daily and hourly. Our answer is not talk or meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.

Therefore the meaning of life, differ from man to man, and from moment to moment. Hence it is impossible to define the meaning of life in a general way. Questions about the meaning of life can never be answered by sweeping statements. Life is man’s destiny, which is different and unique for each individual. No man and no destiny can be compared with any other man or any other destiny. No situation repeats itself, and each situation calls for a different response. Sometimes the situation in which a man finds himself may require him to shape his own fate by action. At other times it is more advantageous for him to make use of an opportunity for contemplation and to realize assets in this way. Sometimes man may be required simply to accept fate, to bear his cross. Every situation is distinguished by its uniqueness, and there is always only one right answer to the problem posed by the situation at hand.

When a man finds that it is his destiny to suffer, he will have to accept his suffering as his task. No one can relieve him of his suffering or suffer in his place. His unique opportunity lies in the way in which he bears his. Once the meaning of suffering had been revealed to us, we refused to minimize or alleviate the suffering by ignoring them or harboring false illusions and entertaining artificial optimism. Suffering in it has hidden opportunities for achievement. It was necessary to face up to the full amount of suffering, trying to keep moments of weakness and furtive tears to a minimum. But there was no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer.

This uniqueness which distinguishes each individual and gives a meaning to his existence has a bearing on creative work as much as it does on human love. When the impossibility of replacing a person is realized, it allows the responsibility which a man has for his existence and its continuance to appear in all its magnitude. A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. Health, family, happiness, professional abilities, fortune, position in society – all these were things that could be achieved. Whatever we had gone through could still be an asset to us in the future.

Human life, under any circumstances, never ceases to have a meaning, and that this infinite meaning of life includes suffering and dying, privation and death. One has to face up to the seriousness of one’s position. They must not lose hope but should keep their courage in the certainty that the hopelessness of our struggle did not detract from its dignity and its meaning.

Man needs “something” for the sake of which to live. First goal was “finding a purpose and meaning to my life.”

Man as he developed has lost his animal instinct and established tradition. No instinct tells him what he has to do, and no tradition tells him what he ought to do; sometimes he does not even know what he wishes to do. Instead, he either wishes to do what other people do (conformism) or he does what other people wish him to do (totalitarianism).

The existential vacuum thus created manifests itself mainly in a state of boredom. This is in line with Schopenhauer when he said that mankind was apparently doomed to vacillate eternally between the two extremes of distress and boredom. In actual fact, boredom is now causing, and certainly bringing to psychiatrists, more problems to solve than distress. And these problems are growing increasingly crucial, for progressive automation will probably lead to an enormous increase in the leisure hours available to the average worker. The pity of it is that many of these will not know what to do with all their newly acquired free time.

Man has to be fully aware of his own responsibility; and has to decide therefore, for what, to what, or to whom he is to be responsible. Once an individual’s search for a meaning is successful, it not only renders him happy but also gives him the capability to cope with suffering. And what happens if one’s groping for a meaning has been in vain? This may well result in a fatal condition. Meaning orientation had subsided, and consequently the seeking of immediate pleasure had taken over

As logotherapy teaches, there are three main avenues on which one arrives at meaning in life. The first is by creating a work or by doing a deed. The second is by experiencing something or encountering someone; in other words, meaning can be found not only in work but also in love. The third avenue to meaning in life: even the helpless victim of a hopeless situation, facing a fate he cannot change, may rise above himself, may grow beyond himself, and by so doing change himself. He may turn a personal tragedy into a triumph.

Life is potentially meaningful under any conditions, even those which are most miserable. And this in turn presupposes the human capacity to creatively turn life’s negative aspects into something positive or constructive. In other words, what matters is to make the best of any given situation. An optimism in the face of tragedy and in view of the human potential which at its best always allows for: (1) turning suffering into a human achievement and accomplishment; (2) deriving from guilt the opportunity to change oneself for the better; and (3) deriving from life’s transitoriness an incentive to take responsible action. Third aspect of the tragic triad concerns death. But it concerns life as well, for at any time each of the moments of which life consists is dying, and that moment will never recur. And yet is not this transitoriness a reminder that challenges us to make the best possible use of each moment of our lives? It certainly is, and hence Live as if you were living for the second time and had acted as wrongly the first time as you are about to act now.

Man is not fully conditioned and determined but rather determines himself whether he gives in to conditions or stands up to them. In other words, man is ultimately self-determining. Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become in the next moment

By the same token, every human being has the freedom to change at any instant. Therefore, we can predict his future only within the large framework of a statistical survey referring to a whole group; the individual personality, however, remains essentially unpredictable. Yet one of the main features of human existence is the capacity to rise above such conditions, to grow beyond them. Man is capable of changing the world for the better if possible, and of changing himself for the better if necessary. Things determine each other, but man is ultimately self-determining. What he becomes – within the limits of endowment and environment – he has made out of himself.

Saying yes to life in spite of everything  and Man’s search for meaning have the power to transform his Lives.

  • “Man’s Search for Meaning”, Viktor E. Frankl

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