The Sage


The Daila Lama

The Buddha has given a simple definition of enlightenment or awakening as 'the end of suffering'. Indeed, this definition is complete in itself because the end of all seeking, desiring, willing is to end stress and suffering and be in peace. So let us find out what is the meaning of suffering? The direct and honest answer to this question is that we can only know what suffering is and how it stops through our own experiences, which is that it is the end of wanting, of desiring , of longing, of craving, etc… so, what happens after these emotional and thought patterns of personal needs evaporate and disappear? The simple answer to this is that when these mental and emotional patterns stops, our mental and emotional suffering stop and vanish as well… To ask what is left when there is no more suffering is to miss the point altogether. What is left is that there is no more of what was considered 'suffering', which had completely cancelled all the other advantages that life might have bestowed on us: Such as: good health, good looks, money, fame, etc. The real point to consider, therefore, is what could the Buddha have meant by the word 'suffering'? Obviously he didn’t mean just how to be in good physical health, or how to be handsome and beautiful, and have a lot of money to be happy… because we can have all these ‘things’ - be good looking - be very rich and successful in life, even famous and be in very good health, and yet feel compelled to SEEK something… that we feel is still missing in our lives… something that makes us feel incomplete and unfulfilled.

In other words, what the Buddha meant was not about physical suffering… he knew that it was ridiculous to expect that anything could possibly remove the very basis of life and living, that is to say, to change the natural law which is that duality exists in everything, meaning that there is always two opposite poles, two extremes such as the poles of pain and pleasure, the poles of hot and cold, black and white, night and day… feminine and masculine, negative and positive, etc… all the poles of nature have their opposite and complementary counterpart at the same time… they are the two complementary ingredients that makes life as we know it possible. Hence, everything created comes under the rule of polarities, and polarities can function solely in duality… Therefore, the Buddha had obviously known that the law of polarity was the basis of life and that the present moment would bring sometimes different kinds of pleasure or sometimes different kinds of pain. This is based on Cosmic Law and is the very foundation of life. Therefore, the sage accepts that pain, fear and suffering are the counterparts of joy, contentment and peace. So, what happens when a mystic or sage accepts that there will always be some kind of suffering in his life, since it is a matter of polarity? He will observe this fact in his own personal experiences and by embracing this law of polarity as the ingredients of life …he will be satisfied with whatever happens to him or others as his or their destiny… This is the secret of his happiness, peace and contentment… He knows also how to love someone and not expect to be loved in return… this is called unconditional love… hence, the sage has no fear of being judged,, criticised or rejected… he accepts and trusts God’s Will in his life and accepts his destiny… So why is it that humans usually have a fear of losing someone or something that they desire, love, or want to keep? Why is there fear of loosing what they have? Why are they afraid of the future? How can they remove the fear of the unknown…isn’t all these fears and frustrations mental and emotional suffering? And does this not show that one can be rich and in good health and yet have these inner stresses and uncontrollable fears?

Let us examine what the specific goal of a sincere seeker is in itself…and if it is a feasible goal or is it an imaginary one? Can he be satisfied with his life and accept what is without stress and anxiety? The sage certainly knows the answer: He knows that most people experience this absence of 'suffering' at odd moments in their lives, but the experience doesn’t last beyond a certain time… We all have as children experienced such wonderful moments… moments of sheer joy and happiness… Therefore, the sage tells the seeker that 'the end of suffering' is a possibility for everyone, since as children; we too had such magical moments…So the sage continues to encourage us by saying that the secret of getting rid of the obstacles which prevents the 'absence of suffering' from being established and anchored for ever in our hearts can be found only within! He goes on by telling us that this is what real spiritual seeking is all about: To discover how to get rid of fear and suffering… so that we can be in peace with our own destiny…The sage continues and says that suffering and fear are gone for ever only when Consciousness awakens…and he continues by explaining that when Consciousness is awakened “suffering stops being a mental and emotional suffering”, it is a suffering of a different kind. And the sage goes deeper in his explanation by stating that the goal of the quest is not something imaginary, it isn’t something that cannot exist in daily living… the goal of spiritual seeking is in fact part of the seeker’s daily ordinary life and cannot be something imaginary or romantic or out of this world, like being able to fly out of a window, or walk on water, or make other kinds of miracles.

Now that we know what it is that is being sought - the end of suffering - and what the suffering referred to is NOT, we have to find out what it is that obstructs the happening of that experience which most of us have experienced at some time or other - some more than others – but these experiences were fleeting and did not allow the experiences to remain anchored in our hearts whenever they happened. Any personal investigation would quickly reveal that what disturbs these wonderful experiences is usually a THOUGHT. And, of course, it is generally well accepted that the arising of any thought in anyone is absolutely not in anyone's control. Thought comes and thoughts disappear… We get trapped by them, or we just observe them and let them pass… I have read some place that the physicist explains that any thought happening anywhere is the actualizing of a particular probability among thousands of probabilities, and, therefore, not in the control of the individual concerned.

Now the question really is: WHAT KIND OF THOUGHT MERELY STIRS THE ABSENCE OF SUFFERING that is being experienced, and what is the opposite kind of THOUGHT that absolutely SHATTERS the very foundation of the experience of peace? Any thought that concerns life as it is happening will be countered by another thought suggesting the solution for the problem created by the earlier thought: again we have the law of polarity in action here… the experience is only stirred but not shaken or shattered.
What then is the kind of thought that cannot be controlled and could shatter the very foundation of those rare, wonderful experiences? I think everyone's experience would confirm that this is the kind of thought that arises from the subconscious and MEMORY – again both are BEYOND ANYONE’S CONTROL – it comes from one’s CONSCIENCE – ETHICS – SCRUPLES – these are ideas, feelings hidden in the subconscious that refers to something that we are not proud of, something negative that we did or say to someone, or something we could have done for a friend, a parent which the friend or parent expected from us, but which we did not do, for some reason, with the result that the friend or parent suffered because of us. It is this thought of something one did to someone or something one did not do for someone - and these feelings of regrets and guilt could have happened many, many years ago! And they suddenly surface in consciousness – these sudden burst of hidden ideas and emotions truly shatter the very foundation of those great moments and experiences of joy, peace and contentment. There is of course, other stronger feelings; enormous loads of hatred and malice, jealousy towards 'the other' who, did some harm or injustice towards us and as a result we can’t forget what they did to us and won’t let go of these past memories. Therefore, what really totally shatters the experiences of peace and harmony are either the load of guilt or shame for something one did or did not do or the load of hatred and malice for what the 'other' did or did not do to us. In other words, what shatters the very foundation of inner peace is the SENSE OF PERSONAL DOERSHIP, which means that the ego in most people ‘thinks’ that it is the sole responsible subject… doing things as it chooses and has the power and will to judge and condemn… and by these mental and emotional attitudes, these negative patterns suddenly emerge from the depth of the subconscious bringing along the way suffering and painful memories that block the harmony that was about to unfold in Consciousness.

So what we have arrived at, from almost everyone's experience, is the fact that all human beings at one time or another has had the actual experience of 'the end of suffering' in their daily living, but that it does not last because it is shattered by the PERSONAL WILL or the sense of personal doership in the life of the human being.

So now the question is: is it at all possible to give up the sense of personal doership so that one can be anchored in the experience of 'the end of suffering' while facing life from moment to moment? The answer, of course, is YES! It can be done because there have been people who have been accepted by the world as 'sages' and who have indeed been actual examples of individuals for whom 'the end of suffering' has happened. What this 'end of suffering' means positively can be clearly seen in the way these sages get on and live their own lives. What we see is that these sages seem to live from moment to moment, enjoying the same kinds of pleasures and suffering as most of us, the same kind of pains that we are all subjected to, but the difference is that the life of a sage is anchored in peace and harmony.

The question arises at this stage then, what precisely is meant by 'the end of suffering' in the Buddha's terms? What it obviously means can clearly be seen in the daily living of the sage: the sage lives his life, doing his daily tasks, and takes his responsibilities seriously and nothing changes in his regular daily work in order to earn a living, and he also enjoys the usual pleasures and suffers the usual pains from moment to moment like anyone else. Yet it can be clearly seen that his face is usually without anxiety, his body usually relaxed, and he has an acute sense of humour that is very pleasing and appealing to others. (I know such a person…) People seem to seek his company because of his presence, or to listen to his melodious voice, or seek his advice in difficult situations; they see him offering his advice, only when it is sought, and the sage does that with an astonishing sense of humility combined with compassion, and affection. Seekers see the sage as someone transparently open, without any cleverness at all and, yet, the seeker knows that the sage is obviously no one's fool! This is perhaps what is meant by the words: <The sage is anchored in peace and harmony>. But what the seeker actually sees is that while the sage is not particularly keen to offer any advice, he does so when asked, with a great deal of simplicity, confidence, and utter humility.

One is so impressed by the personality of the sage, by his total simplicity and naturalness that one finds himself to want to be in his company more frequently than one would imagine, even when there is no particular situation to be discussed with him, he simply enjoys his company. On such an encounter, one might have the time to sit with him and ask the sage what made him what he is - so likeable. The sage would perhaps smile and say, again with utterly simple humility, "nothing”, but it is GOD’S ‘GRACE’ and you would know that he really genuinely meant it. If you were to gently pursue the matter, the response you would get is quite likely to be that the sage has a deep conviction in GOD’S WILL BEING PRESENT ALL THE TIME, AT ALL PLACES and that is the reason for his total simplicity and trust. Indeed, he goes on explaining to you that he has accepted with total conviction that, whatever one may think one is doing, whatever is actually happening, could not be happening unless it was God's Will, according to a Cosmic Law. At this point, you find yourself asking whether the sage truly believes that all action is not anyone's doing… that what he does and says are not his actions but a happening that simply had to happen? The sage may seem to hesitate a little, but the answer will come with great confidence, "without any exception!” Whatever I do and say is a happening and I am not as an ego the doer of anything… You are, frankly, not quite ready to accept this unequivocal assertion. So you persist: and say to the sage: “Doesn’t that mean withdrawing your responsibility for your actions?

The sage would probably look at you a little piercingly but when he finds total sincerity in your questioning, he would open up completely. He is likely to explain to you:

-- "There is really no question of any responsibility because I do believe totally, without any reservation, that nothing can happen unless it is God's Will, I certainly don’t mean that in a fatalistic manner. What it means is simply that if there is something for me to do in my daily living, I shall, of course, make a decision on what to do and how to do it. Having made the decision, I shall put in my best effort to make that decision fructify. However, having done that, I know with total certainty that whatever happens, thereafter, will be put OFF MY CONTROL and will depend entirely on the Will of God. I shall be waiting comfortably without any stress and strain for the result of 'my action'. The result could be successful or not successful and, therefore, the consequences of that result would again depend entirely upon God's Will. This is what I call A HAPPENING … a result of my efforts IS in GOD’S HANDS and is HIS WILL that prevails… I am at rest …my mind is tranquil and I TRUST completely in the outcome of my actions as the consequences - good, bad or indifferent – as being God's Will and my DESTINY. There's truly no problem, no avoiding responsibility." I am in peace with myself because I tried my best and the outcome is not in my hands… as I have explained.

By this time you are ready to accept the concept that there is truly no individual doer as such. But you know that this readiness to accept has not brought you the quiet confidence of the sage; your ego is still refusing to accept and understand this new “conditioning” of the mind… and even if you are fascinated by what you have just heard, you still know that the reason for this is that you are by no means ready to analyze yourself about your conviction. Therefore, your confidence of what the sage told you are not total - indeed, you are not really even willing to want to believe in what the sage is suggesting because of the conditioning of thousands of years:

- "If I am truly convinced that I am not the doer and, more important, no one else is a doer either, how can I live my life from now on in a society which simply will not accept this fatalistic attitude of everything happening because of God's Will?"

You put this difficulty before the sage, and you are surprised that the sage agrees that this is a valid difficulty. He strengthens your argument by adding that if you thought that you are not the doer of anything, and yet continued to live as if you were the “doer” and the sole subject responsible for all your actions, you would have the most inconvenient feeling of being a fake and a hypocrite, and you would say to yourself: “How can I truly accept that no one is a doer, and yet proceed to do actions and to live my life as if nothing has changed?”

Then he proceeds to give you the answer:

- "I assure you that all you have to do is to live your life as if you are the doer."

You look surprised and puzzled by this answer, so the sage anticipating your problem and say:

- When you realize that you are not the “doer” you will not feel like a hypocrite nor a fake because that is what you have been doing all your life. I’ll give you an example: You know that the sun does not move and that all the planets revolve around the sun; yet, you have no hesitation in using the words, 'sunrise' and 'sunset' as if it is the sun that is moving. Similarly, you don’t need to change anything…go ahead and continue doing your actions AS IF you are the doer, just like anyone else. In other words, in any given situation, go ahead and consider all the facts and the information very carefully and then decide between the various alternatives available, use your intellect and your intuition; and when you feel ready take the decision, go ahead and put in your best effort to bear fruit to your decision.

So far, nothing has changed; you have set a goal based on what you want to achieve, you had a strong desire, an insight and there has been a proper 'motivation' - you have made an effective plan and put in your best effort; no one, not even you, can accuse yourself of being a hypocrite or a fake, you tried your best. So far, your conscience is clear and what has happened is precisely what has always happened in your life meaning that you go on in being in charge of your actions and nothing has changed. What happens after your ego accepts that it is not the “doer” of anything will be remain the same as it has always been before...just a “happening” in your life : in other words, the result of your efforts, before the ego’s acceptance and afterwards is the same… nothing has changed… you had no control  before when you thought that you as an ego was the "doer" and  now, after understanding that you as the ego are not the "doer"  - you will still have NO CONTROL OVER WHAT HAPPENS AFTER putting all your effort and energy in a project.  And from experience, you will know that any one of three things can happen as the result of your action… 1) It will be successful, or 2) It will not be successful, or 3) There will be no result. The point that the sage is trying to make is that nothing changes in your life… thinking that you are the “doer” of your actions or not… the result is the same. He tells you that all you can do is to set a goal, make a plan and put in your best effort; (just like before) what happens thereafter has never been in your control. Life continues to be what it was."

- Then you ask him - "where is the big change?"

The sage answers you back: "There is a very big change - it is not what happens in your life, which is precisely the same as before - the big change is not in what happens in life  outwardly... but in your OWN PERSONAL ATTITUDE TO LIFE, which truly decides whether you are comfortable with yourself and comfortable with others, whatever happens in life."

You confess you are still puzzled. The sage continues:

- "Even previously having done what you felt you had to do, it was your life's experience - and everyone else's too – that after trying your best as the “doer” you knew that you had no more control over the result of your actions. Now, with your new understanding, there is really no change in what happens. You know that… But there is from now on, A BIG CHANGE IN WHAT HAPPENS TO YOU. Previously, accepting that it was your doing, success meant pride and arrogance, failure meant guilt, shame, resentment. Now, with the understanding that your doing was not really your doing but only a happening, success means only pleasure but not pride and arrogance; failure may mean a sense of regret but not frustration, guilt or shame - was never your doing, but a happening over which you truly had no control. THIS IS THE BIG DIFFERENCE: INSTEAD OF FIGHTING WITH THE FLOW OF LIFE, NOW YOU GO WITH THE FLOW WITHOUT ANY STRESS."

You remain for a while with your eyes closed, enjoying the sense of living your life without stress. It is an unusually fulfilling feeling, brought about by the absence of volition, the sense of personal doership.

The Ultimate Understanding works very simply in daily living; daily living becomes the going with the flow, witnessing impersonally whatever happens not as anyone's doing but a series of happenings according to a Cosmic Law - total freedom from personal doership, total freedom from pride and arrogance, from guilt and shame, total freedom from hatred and malice towards anyone. That is living one's life as a sage.

One point needs to be very clearly understood. The Ultimate Understanding of non-doership - Self-realization - does not mean the total annihilation of the ego. This cannot happen for the simple reason that the ego is necessary for the sage to live the rest of his allotted span of life. The sage responds to his name being called and functions as an individual entity in his chosen role in life. But the ego of the sage is without any sting because the sense of personal doership has been annihilated. In the words of Ramana Maharshi, the ego of the sage is like the "remnants of a burnt rope" - absolutely helpless and harmless.

To print : THE SAGE

List of Excerpts taken from Eastern Philosophical Books 

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