Thursday, December 16, 2010
The Secret an illusion?
2. So news gets around that this guy (whom some are already calling the Buddha) has worked out what life is all about. He's going to hold a public meeting, so lots of people turn up.
He starts off "All creatures desire kindness and compassion. The deer cares for her fawns, and feeds them with the milk of her body so that they may grow strong and become mothers in their turn. The tigress cares for her cubs, feeding them with the milk of her body so that they may grow strong and become mothers in their turn. The trees of the forest shelter the deer and the tigress from storms, the trees of the forest shelter the small burrowing creatures and the flowers on which the butterflies feed. The animals show compassion and kindness to their young, and the trees show compassion to all living things."
Then: "But the tigress kills the deer and her fawn to feed herself and her cubs. The flowers die and the butterflies starve. The trees fall and the animals have no refuge, the delicate plants and burrowing creatures of the forest floor wither, they die from the heat of the sun as the rains fail."
"To live is to suffer. All creatures desire kindness and compassion, but all suffer. This is the truth."
At this point, nearly everyone is saying "Well, I knew *that*. Five children born, two living. Drought last year, half my cattle died. neighbour's house burned down and his family are living with us while we help him build again. I've heard enough. I'm going back to make offerings to the Gods and pray for a good season next year, and for my wife to deliver a healthy child at last."
And maybe 99 out of a hundred get up and leave.
What they didn't notice was the the Buddha had just been pausing to let the truth sink in, to let people realise that, like all of nature, we suffer as we live.
The few who are courageous, curious, entranced by the possibility that someone at last can free them from the twin burdens of life's tragedies and endless rituals and costly, wasteful sacrifices, hear these words.
"But I will show you the end of suffering."
3. So suffering is real and inevitable. It may be headline-grabbing and catastrophic, such as earthquakes, tsunamis, war, suicide bombings. It may be low-scale, grinding, everyday, such as depression or bipolar disorder. It may be poverty, or being passed over for promotion because of "attitude". It may be the pain of seeing your kids struggle simply because the government is too lazy to spend money on making every school a good school.
Wisdom and inner peace begin by accepting the Noble Truth that suffering is inevitable - in modern terms, shit happens.
4. Reaching for the happy pills is not acceptance. Taking up "manifestation" (I create the world by my thoughts) is not acceptance. Hopelessness and passivity are not acceptance. Rage and revolution are not acceptance.
The Buddha's answer is to become detached from the *need* to remove suffering.
It's natural to *not* want to suffer.
But in that natural desire lies the trap that keeps us mired in the pain of suffering, the trap that prevents us from perceiving the world as it is. We endlessly strive to avoid suffering, we create ideologies and religions
that offer salvation and tell us that we can live forever and need not fear death. We busy ourselves with ever larger and larger houses, filled with possessions, we gorge ourselves on more food than we can digest to stave off the fear of hunger.
"The greatest laziness is being so busy that you do not perceive the wonder of this life that you will never live again."
So the answer is simple - though its actual practice is difficult. Be still, accept the world as it is, understand that the world is kind and compassionate, but that it also is beset by suffering.
The idea of the still mind is contained in Patanjali's first Yoga Sutra "The aim of Yoga is to remove modifications of the mind" - to bring us to a point of calm observation that allows us to preceive the world as nearly as possible for what it is.
To finish, a George Bernard Shaw quote given by Malcolm Fraser (former Australian Prime Minister), for which he's often criticised - you need to read the *whole* quote
Life is not meant to be easy, my child but take courage: it can be delightful.