HERMETIC - ESOTERIC - MYSTICAL PHILOSOPHIES
HERMETIC - ESOTERIC - MYSTICAL PHILOSOPHIES
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.
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.
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.
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.
-- "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.