13 December 2009
Transcribed from discourse given by Ven. Jian-Hu, Zen Buddhism I class, Dec. 29, 2000, Buddha Gate Monastery
Good evening cultivators! We are learning to observe the breath. That is the first step in meditation. We are learning to observe, observe things as they are.
Now this is what awakening is all about. The Buddha was a fully awakened person. Awakened or enlightenment means to see, to understand things as they really are. Understand everything: the world, the universe, your mind, people, and all other beings. Understand them and the self for what they are--not for what you think they are.
Impermanence Is A Fact of Life
We are not called Buddhas, we are not enlightened because we do not see the reality of things. We do not see impermanence as a fact of life. Observe how impermanence is a fundamental element in life. Think about how everything changes throughout your life, how everything comes to pass. New things come and go. Impermanence is all around us.
Suffering is the first of the fundamental truths that the Buddha taught in the Four Noble Truths. This first truth, suffering, is closely associated with impermanence. “Oh, our loved ones have departed, “ we would lament. “Such sorrow, such pain. Why did this happen?” We put the blame on life’s impermanence.
But if you take a closer look, impermanence by itself does not cause suffering. If a stranger died, you would probably not feel any pain. Instead you may think, “People die all the time. That’s life. All people must die one day.”
What is the difference? The difference is that when we come to know a person, we become attached to that person, and that is what creates the pain. When we care about someone, often we also simultaneously create an illusion, an illusion of permanence. We think that the person will stay the same, will always be there. We do not recognize, we ignore, or we choose to ignore the reality that all things change. That is the problem. Now this does not mean that we should not form close relationships nor that we should not care about others. What is important is to accept reality when impermanence hits. Do not delude ourselves or escape from facts. Delusion is what prevents us from becoming enlightened. We create a lot of delusions about people, about the world.
It is very important to recognize this. Whatever relationships that we encounter--with parents and children, husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends, friends and classmates—do we not always have this inherent belief that “things will stay the way it is; we will always be
good friends; I will always have this good job” ? But this thinking goes against reality, we are not observing reality as it is. When we live in this delusion, we ignore things, we choose not to see things, we lie to ourselves. Then when something happens we are shocked by it. In truth, the world changes continuously. A lot of different conditions come into being. A lot of different factors come into play—things are always changing.
So impermanence is a fact of life. That in itself is not painful; it is not the source of our problems. Not recognizing impermanence, instead creating an illusion that things will stay the way they are for a long time--that is the source of suffering. The more we get attached to things, the less we can accept it when they come to pass, and the more pain we feel. To see life for what it is, to accept things as they occur, is an important lesson for us all. You need not believe in what I have just said. In his teachings, the Buddha always encouraged people to examine things for themselves.
When we live in illusion of permanence, when we cling to the past, then we will not be ready for the present. When things happen we are surprised, displeased, thinking it is unfair. And we wonder about the future. At some time or another, we have probably all asked questions like, “Why do these things happen? Why was I born? Why do these good/ bad things happen to me instead of others? Why are some people born so rich? Why are some people so poor? “ There are reasons. They are not accidents. There are reasons for everything.
Can The Future Be Foretold?
Many Chinese people in the olden times, and even nowadays, are very interested in fortune telling. “What’s my future?” They want to go find out, and so there are many fortunetellers around. Few of them even seem to be somewhat accurate. But nobody is a hundred percent accurate all the time. Now in the western world, in these modern times, how do we view this? Is it a superstition? Can future really be foretold? We shall soon understand.
In the Ming Dynasty there was a well-known man named Yuan, Liao Fan. When he was about five or six years old, he met a fortuneteller, who foretold his life. He said, “You will take a government examination when you are eighteen. You will get this grade and pass. You will then obtain a certain position in the government.” He even knew how much salary Liao Fan would get. “But,” he continued, “you will only go this far. You will not be able to get very high in the government. You will get married at this age. You will have no children. And then, you will die at the age of fifty-three.”
This is a true story. As Liao Fan grew up, everything that was foretold came true. When he took his government examinations, he got exactly the same grades, position, and salary that the fortuneteller predicted. He was amazed. “So life is predestined,” he thought to himself. “What’s the point in making an effort then?” So he came to believe that life and the future were all predetermined. How else was it possible for someone to foretell your future? “Things will just turn out the way it is supposed to. What would be the point of trying?” He stopped striving and took an easy life. He started traveling and sightseeing all over China.
One day he came upon a mountain. In that mountain was a monastery where a renowned Chan (Zen) master lived. He went in and saw the Chan master sitting in meditation. So Liao Fan sat down in meditation also. They sat that way for three days and three nights without moving.
The Chan master was quite surprised. “This is no ordinary person,” he thought. As we all know, having just sat through a half-an-hour session, that this was no easy feat!
The Chan master asked Liao Fan, “What experiences have you had in your life? How can you sit there without raising a single thought? You are very calm.”
Liao Fan told the master about the fortune-teller and his predictions, and then added, “I came to the realization that everything in life is predetermined. What is the point of doing anything? What is the point in raising any thought? I just take life as it comes. Things will run their own course.”
Upon hearing this, the Chan master laughed at him. “And here I thought you were someone extraordinary. Actually, you are only an ordinary man. Quite ordinary.”
Liao Fan was a bit upset. He was bright. At the age of eighteen, he passed his official exams, and received a fairly decent governmental post. Back in those days, this also was not an easy task! He did quite well for himself and was proud of the fact too.
He asked, “Why do you say that I am an ordinary person?”
“When you were six, someone predicted your life. It’s been twenty years since, and what he predicted is still true. This means that you are common like the rest,” the Chan master’s replied. “Ordinary people’s lives can be foretold while exceptional ones cannot be. For the very virtuous and very immoral people, their lives cannot be foretold.”
Liao Fan became curious.
Weaving The Future Pattern
The Chan master explained, “Why is it that your whole life can be prophesied? As you react to things the same way, a pattern forms. You don’t really learn, you don’t really change yourself. When someone gets angry with you, you get angry in return. When someone praises you, you are flattered, and then your pride becomes inflated. In the past you were like this, now you are like this, in the future you would still be like this. So the pattern continues.”
Whenever we think or do something, something called karma is created. Karma is action, and actions have effects on the universe, the cosmos; karma has an effect in Dharma realm. Whatever you do, the retribution will come back to affect you. This concept is actually very scientific. Newton discovered that, when you apply a force, a same and equal force from the opposite direction will return; for every action there is a reaction. This is just one of the special cases of karmic law. When we perform good deeds, good things will happen to you. When you perform bad deeds, negative things will come back to you. Anything that you do, performing an action or deed, you create karma. A corresponding outcome will thus be created. Its effect will show in due time.
Now there are people in this world who can tell the future, see the future “patterns.” Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, great cultivators, people with samadhi (people who have attained deep concentration states), they can see that. And then we have the fortunetellers who may also predict that. He may not be a Buddha or a cultivator. He may not even know how to meditate. But yet he can tell something about the future. Why? Simply put, fortune telling is based on statistics, a set of rules devised by observing many people and averaging out a common pattern.
There are signs that one can learn to observe. Some people can look at your face and tell something about you. It is a matter of acute observations and following some rules.
What we have done throughout our lives leaves imprints in the mind. Your gestures and physical characteristics become extensions of these imprints. The Buddha sees that the body and the mind are not separate entities, they are one of the same. Your face, your body reflects your mind. If you can learn to perceive this, you would have the ability to know more about a person. But nobody can be a hundred percent accurate.
Your future is the accumulation of all your actions done up to the present moment. Everything done from the past up to now weaves a future pattern. This is just causality. If we never improve or change ourselves and we react to situations in the same manner, then basically everything will run accordingly. For example, if I slapped you, I would be able to tell your future. You would probably get angry or slap me right back. That is predicting the future. I took a probable guess and predicted your future reaction.
Then why is it that the lives of virtuous people cannot be determined? They do not fall into the norm. Very virtuous people examine their own actions closely; they are constantly improving themselves, and so change their future constantly. Thus their future becomes difficult to determine. The same holds true for very immoral people. Their minds are constantly going on the wrong track. They always create evil karma and thereby alter their lives for the worse. In both these cases, the actions have fallen out of the norm, out of the range of predictability for that of an average person.
So the Chan master told Liao Fan, “Why do I say that you are ordinary? Because the predictions still hold true. You are of the average lot.”
“Are you saying then that I can change my future, that it doesn’t always have to be this way?” asked Liao Fan.
”Yes, certainly. And I will teach you.”
Now we come to a very profound concept: the causal relationship of all things. It is a fundamental Buddhist realization. If you wish to obtain a certain result, you need to do certain things. We need to examine, to recognize the right causal relationship of situations. You need to find the right cause and conditions that will create the right results. That is science. In fact, that is exactly what science and scientists do. They try to find the right causal relationships of things in the world.
If you do not want awful things to happen in the future, you can try to change it. As we have said, the future is determined by everything previous to it. Why did the fortuneteller predict that Liao Fan would die at the age of fifty-three? He must have preformed some action, some karma, to get this result. How does one change this? How do we live a longer life? We need to understand the causal relationships between long lives and short lives. If we do a lot of killing, we take away the lives of other beings. As a karmic result, we will have poorer health, or live shorter lives. And if in a single lifetime we kill excessively, we will live shorter lives or be killed for many lifetimes to come. This is causality.
Once we have understood causal relationships, we must not forget another important element: acceptance. Everything that happens to us, good or bad, is due to things that we have done previously. When we get into an “accident”, when we earn a good living, when someone dies, etc., if these things have already happened, then they are in the past. There is nothing else to do but to accept. We often say, “time can heal everything.” Does time heal anything? No. What happens is that as time goes by, we gradually accept reality. Acceptance, that is what heals. So why not accept things now, as they happen?
However, this is not the same as believing in a predetermined future. The point stressed here is to learn how to let go now instead of ten years later, then we will not suffer as much. Sooner or later you will have to accept. Wise people perceive things as they are, accept events as they come. This is not being pessimistic. This is being realistic. We can still try to change the world and change ourselves, because things can still be changed before they happen, not after.
The Chan master continued, “If you want to change the future, if you want to live a longer life, then you need to understand what are the causes for a long life. You need to stop acts of killing, and even more importantly, protect and save lives. Do things that can save people and animals. For example, donate medicine. Save animals from being slaughtered. When you perform these acts, you change your future.”
He then added, “Promise yourself to do a thousand good deeds. Perform a thousand virtuous actions to help others. Whenever you complete an act of goodness, mark it down in a book. Keep a track of these. Try to finish in three years.”
And so he did. One, two, three years finally passed and Liao Fan finished. He felt very happy. His life was more meaningful. He decided to make a new vow, a new resolve. “I will do ten thousand more over this many years,” he promised himself.
Gradually things began to change. The predictions were no longer accurate. He was not supposed to get any higher positions in the government but he got promoted. He was to have no children but he had two excellent sons. And then when he was fifty-three, he did not die. Liao Fan actually changed his future. When he was sixty-nine, he wrote a book about his realizations called, “The Four Lessons of Liao Fan.” (了凡四訓) It is still in circulation now and is even translated into English.
As we see, a large degree of the future is in our hands. I say to a large degree because there are still some things that are very difficult to alter. But our current actions can definitely change what is yet to come.
The Key to a New Future
The Buddha once said, “If you want to know what you have done in your past (including past lives), just look at what has happened in this life. If you want to know what will happen to your future, just look at what is being done in this life.” (欲知過去因，今生受者是。欲知未來果，今生作者是。) There is no need to go to a fortuneteller. All we need to do is to look at this life’s experiences. Has it been good? Has it been bad? Has it been mixed? If it has been mostly good and happy, then that means that in the past you have done many good deeds. You made others happy, you created good karma between you and other people. If most of your life has been unhappy and unfortunate, then that means that we have not planted good seeds previously.
We created a lot of bad karma. Just by understanding this Principle of Causality, you can tell about your own past. We do not need a fortuneteller or go to get hypnotized. The details, who you were, what you did, are not all that important. Why? It is already in the past. What would be the point? Take a deep look at this life and you will have a good general idea of the past.
As for our future, “If you want to know what will happen to your future, just look at what is being done in this life.” This is the key. There is an important difference between “what has happened” and “what is being done.” For example, if somebody treats you badly, that is a result of karma from the past. This is something that you are experiencing now, something that “has happened.” How you react to this situation though is “what is being done” and this will determine the events in the future. Do you understand? You cannot change what has already occurred. However, when you change your reactions, you change the future outcomes. If someone treats you badly that means that somewhere along the way, bad karma was created between the two of you. If you react to things in the same negative way and think, “He treated me badly, I will get him back, fair is fair,” then you have created the same cycle over again. This is samsara. It like playing ping-pong, hitting back and forth. The same situation happens over and over again. A predictable pattern forms.
If we understand this, we should be determined to change our reactions. Instead we say, “He treats me badly, I will forgive and forget. I will be like the vast empty space and let go.” Immediately the karma between the two of you changes for the better. Bad karma turns into good karma.
The future depends on what you have done, and what you do now. And what you do now comes from the mind and the thoughts that you have at this moment. That is why we need to meditate in order to become more mindful. Everything begins from the mind. Everything you do, everything you say. You need to be aware of the type of your thoughts that you are having. What are you thinking? How do you react to things? The change starts from there, the future changes from there.
Through awareness you can detect your thoughts, catch them before they turn into an action. It is like catching a thief before it commits a crime, and transforming the thief into a sage. Transform your thoughts into actions that will bring you happiness. Have thoughts of equality, of tolerance, of compassion. Then turn these thoughts into actions. Generosity and charity will bring you prosperity; giving comfort, solace and compassion will bring peace and blessings. Protecting life will give you good health and a long life. This is the Buddhist principle of causality. When you understand it, you take life into your control. Life then becomes very positive. You can always change things for the better, beginning at this very moment. Detect your thoughts, become aware. What are you thinking? Exam them closely. Catch yourself and ask, “am I falling back to my old ways, the old habitual ways of reacting? That is not being very mindful is it?” Become mindful, live a mindful life, that is cultivation.
11 December 2009
- Ramana Maharshi
Are you breathing?
Are sounds appearing?
Are thoughts coming and going?
Are feelings in the body happening?
Could it be that you are already awake?
Could it be that you were never actually asleep?
This is all there is.
What's happening is all that's happening.
Pretty damn obvious right?
And yet you believe that you are an individual who experiences life. An individual who is somehow separate from life. But is there really anyone here experiencing life, or is there just life happening, to and for no-one? Just life seeing itself, hearing itself, tasting and touching itself? Just this spontaneous present appearance? Just the dance of life, in love with itself?
Notice: Everything that happens happens right here.
Notice: Sounds come and go, effortlessly. There's nothing you need to do, or give up doing, for this to be. Sounds simply happen. They arise spontaneously in this aliveness. They appear here.
Feelings in the body happen. Perhaps a tightness in the chest. Perhaps a rumbling in the stomach. Sensations appear and disappear. They arise and fall away.
And there is something here that gently notices all of that.
Is there a sense of a presence that sits 'behind' everything, watching everything?
Has it always been there?
Is there the sense of something here that is already aware of sounds coming and going?
Something that is not really a 'something' at all, because it is not part of that which comes and goes?
Could that 'something' be the no-thing that allows every-thing to be?
Notice: feelings in the body simply appear in presence. Simply, effortlessly, ordinarily, they appear.
And thoughts too. Thoughts come and go. See how they arise, linger a while, and pass. And there is something here that watches silently as all thoughts come and go. All the thoughts in the world come and go in this presence.
Something here is already free from all thoughts. Something here is already liberated from the entire story that thought has constructed about "me and my life". Something here is already free from "me and my problems", "me and my spiritual seeking", "me and my difficulties", "me and my successes and failures". There is something here that is already free from past and future. Something that is already free from "you".
"You" are just a bundle of stories, arising presently. What you are cannot be touched by any of those stories.
Notice: sounds come and go. Clouds in the sky come and go. Cars and trees and people come and go. Smells and tastes come and go. Feelings in the body come and go. Thoughts come and go. An entire world comes and goes. And there is something here that is not touched by any of that coming and going. There is something here that never enters into the stream of coming and going, cause and effect, time and space. There is something here that is already totally, radically free.
There is a freedom here that does not come and go.
Could this freedom be identical with what you are?
Is there really an inside and an outside? Or is that just another thought, another concept that comes and goes?
Notice: sounds in the room come and go. Bodily feelings come and go. Thoughts come and go. None of these are 'inside' or 'outside'. They are just happenings. 'Inside' and 'outside' are just more labels that appear. 'Inside and outside' is just another story that comes and goes in this awareness.
Prior to the story of 'inside and outside' can anything really be inside or outside?
That bird singing. Is it happening inside of you, or outside of you? Is there really any division there, or is that just another creation of thought? Come back to the bird singing. Is there really an inside and outside, or is there just the bird singing? Is there even a 'bird' that's outside of you, or is there just the singing?
Everything seems to arise within presence, within awareness, within consciousness, within being; you can give it a million different names. But should we really call it 'awareness' or 'consciousness' at all? Doesn't that suggest that there is something there that is separate from everything else? How can we speak about it when it's not an 'it' at all?
Should we even speak about it?
Notice: you have no way of separating yourself from what you are seeing, touching, hearing. Awareness-presence-consciousness-being seems to mingle with everything that you see, hear, touch, taste. So much so that it seems to be identical with everything that arises.
Presence is not separate from the sounds in the room, from the feelings in the body, from the thoughts that arise and fall away. In fact, presence is the sounds, presence is the feelings, presence is the thoughts that arise. It is all a play of presence, a play of consciousness, a play of being, the play of the divine.
Can you find anything - anything at all - that separates you from the sound of that bird singing? From that feeling in the stomach? From these presently-arising thoughts?
You have no way of separating yourself from life.
So, who are you? Are you the sounds in the room? Well no, you might say; you are aware of sounds, so you are not those sounds. Are you feelings in the body? No, they arise and fall away, and there is something here that does not fall away when they fall away. Are you any of the thoughts that arise? No, you are aware of them, so you are not them. They come and go. Everything does.
There seems to be something here that is already free from the world of passing forms. There seems to be something here that remains when everything else has come and gone. A 'peace that passes all understanding'. An openness that is already open and never closed up. A gentle seeing that welcomes everything as it is born and dies.
You are not sounds, smells, thoughts, feelings. But it would be equally true to say that you are those sounds, smells, thoughts and feelings.
Non-duality does just not mean "not duality". It also includes apparent duality. It is not duality, but it is also duality, because it is everything.
You are everything that arises. And, at the same time, you are nothing, because you are also the wide open space that holds everything. You are everything, but because you are aware of everything, you cannot be any of the things of which you are aware. Nothing, everything. Everything, nothing.
And so that bird singing over there. You are not that, because you are aware of that. But at the same time, you have no way of separating yourself from that. At the same time, you are that.
The bird sings, and you are the bird singing. The bird sings, and that is you. How intimate this is!
And notice, even these are just more thoughts that arise. I am nothing, I am everything. I am nobody. I am somebody. Self, no self. Me, no me. Just thoughts. What are those thoughts trying to capture?
Forget the words. Going on present evidence, what is clear? Is it clear that you are no-thing, you are the empty space, the vast openness in which an entire cosmos arises? And yet, because that spaciousness can in no way be separated from everything that arises, you are everything too? Don't believe me. I don't want you to believe me. Come back to what's actually happening, right now. And there is no other time!
A bird sings. Aliveness dresses up as a bird singing, and as the one who hears the bird singing.
Upon hearing the bell ringing, the Zen master said "there is no bell, and no I, just the ringing."
No bird, no I, just the singing.
Notice that what we are pointing to is very ordinary and everyday. Nothing special. Just sounds, thoughts, feelings happening. Just life happening, as it is happening. What is, as it is. A bird sings, a dog barks. Just that, and nothing more.
Do you believe that there is an event called 'awakening' that will suddenly transform everything? An experience called 'enlightenment that will come along and solve all of your problems? An 'energetic shift' or 'transformation of consciousness' that will strike you if you're lucky enough or dedicated enough? A 'falling away of the I' that will happen one day, if you just wait long enough?
Who told you that? Why did you believe them? Didn't that just lead to feelings of inferiority? To the sense that you weren't good enough? To more seeking?
Notice, that all of these stories are just thoughts arising in this ever-present awakeness. All beliefs are just that: present thoughts. The beliefs and concepts about awakening, about spirituality, nonduality, Advaita, enlightenment – all of these arise and fall away in what you are, which cannot be touched by any belief.
You see, there is something here that is already awake, and has no need for any 'future event' to be so. This awakeness, this aliveness is what you already are. You are not asleep, you are awake! And this aliveness is not separate from everything. It is not separate from the world. You could so far as to say that this awakeness is the world in its entirety. You are the world, and the world is you, something which Krishnamurti often repeated.
There is only now (and of course even 'now' is just another idea.) So who cares if you were 'awakened' yesterday? Who cares if you'll be 'awakened' tomorrow? There is only now. And this is the only awakeness there is.
If there is any awakening, it is here and now. If there is any awakening, it is this.
This is life, awake to itself.
You are the awakening. You are life seeing itself. Meeting itself in a million different forms, and delighting in that.
Notice, there is nothing to awaken from. And nobody there who could do that awakening. The person who would awaken, or not, is just a thought-story, arising here. The person and all their seeking, all their suffering, all their problems, is just a huge bundle of thoughts arising in this ever-present awakeness. "You" are just a story.
That is why, ultimately, nobody "notices" this. There is nobody there who "sees" this. Nobody who is awakened, nobody who is enlightened. Nobody there who thinks, breathes, hears, smells. Everything just happens but there is nobody there doing any of it. Ultimately, this life has no centre. There is only life happening, but to no-one.
The thought "I see" cannot itself see. The thought "I hear" cannot hear a thing. The individual is only an apparent individual.
And yet this is not about rejecting those stories. This is not about rejecting the apparent individual. Notice that nothing could ever be rejected in this awakeness, because this awakeness is everything that arises. Notice that any rejection would just be something else happening in this awakeness.
Even the appearance of the individual is welcome here. This intimacy rejects nothing.
This is already awake. This is already enlightened. Can you see how enlightenment has nothing to do with a separate person becoming something?
Enlightenment does not exist outside of a thought story about it.
Enlightenment. Literally: to en-lighten. To shine light upon. Notice that everything is already enlightened. The light of awareness is already shining upon everything, allowing everything to be. Allowing everything to arise and dissolve exactly when it does, and not a moment before.
Breathing happening. Heart beating. Hunger in the belly. Cars beeping their horns.
Notice: there is a perfection here that could never be reached by a seeking mind. Perfection because it couldn't be any other way. A perfection that includes all apparent imperfection. Only thought would say "this should or could be otherwise". Beyond that story, this is as it is. And it is enough.
I am describing the state you are already in. And there is no other state. (Or if there is, it is something that comes and goes in this. All 'experiences', all 'states', all 'events' arise and dissolve in this. This is the stateless state, if you will. The event-less event. The eternal experience.)
I am describing what you already are.
I am describing what is already the case.
You have always been this.
The world is illusory – everything, literally, every 'thing' is a passing form. Everything is a form passing through awareness. Nothing has any existence outside of a thought story. Everything is empty of self-nature. Everything is impermanent, as the Buddhists have always known. (The word 'existence' literally means 'to stand out of Being'. In other words, to be separate from Being. And of course, that is the illusion - that there is anything separate from anything else. Anything that 'exists' in an illusion.)
Brahman alone is real – behind all the passing forms of the world, behind any 'thing' that 'exists' there is awareness. There is this. Not the thought of it, but the undeniable actuality. Can you deny that you are present and aware, right now? The world comes and goes in this. The "I" comes and goes in this. 'I' and 'world' arise and dissolve together, and only this remains. And even the thought that "only this remains" is something that arises in this. You cannot escape this. Trying to escape from this is just this trying to escape from itself.
Brahman is the world – awareness and the passing contents of awareness are not-two. And this is about as far as we can go with words.
This is not about an intellectual understanding, because all the intellectual understanding in the world is just something else that comes and goes in this. The truth cannot be told, but whether or not it can be told, this is.
All words can do is suggest that everything that arises in the vastness is not separate from the vastness. Everything that arises – the 'world'- is not separate from Brahman. Brahman is the world. And so there is no Brahman and no world.
In other words, this awakeness was never born and will never die. And it is what you are. You are already free.
And so what does all of that mean? To where is it all pointing? Where does it leave us?
Here, right here. Radically so. Breathing happening. The heart beating. A bird singing. Feelings in the body happening. The refrigerator buzzing. Right here, right now, the miracle shines.
This is the only miracle: that anything is happening at all.
This is the awakening: here and now.
This is the grace: drinking a cup of tea. Watching the sunset. Chatting with a friend. Ordinary life, as it is. Ordinary awareness, as it is. Aliveness dances in and as everything. It is aliveness drinking a cup of tea, or watching a sunset. And the tea is aliveness playing at being tea, and the sunset is aliveness playing at being a sunset. In everything, as everything, life dances.
Home was always here: where you are.
You spent a lifetime looking for what was always right under your nose.
No matter. That 'lifetime' is just a thought arising now.
Good to notice.
By Jeff Foster
Why do we try to blame others for weaknesses in our own nature?
Why do we make ourselves unhappy by cherishing negative thoughts?
Why do we always want to have the last word?
Why do we place so much emphasis on the misinformed criticisms of others?
Why do we struggle to find time to spend even 10 minutes a day on the cultivation of our own inner peace.
Why do we give so much importance to the fleeting prospects of name and fame?
Why do we struggle to see the beautiful and simple in every day life?
Why are we instinctively drawn to the faults of others and remain blind to their good qualities?
Why do we continue to pursue habits we know are bad for us?
Why do we so often live in the past, reliving old problems?
Why do we get malicious pleasure from speaking ill of other people?
Why do we feel responsible for the progress of the world?
Why do we doubt our own capacities?
Why do we give so much importance to the accumulation of material wealth?
By Sri Chinmoy
Because it is easier to blame than it is to change.
Because it is easier to dwell than it is to act.
Because it is easier to seem right than it is to seem wrong.
Because it ease easier to busy and run away from our inner weaknesses than it is to be still and face them.
Because it is easier to convince with reputation than it is to convince with passion.
Because in complexity we find excuses to hide our unproductive actions.
Because it is easier to practice ignorance than it is to practice empathy.
Because it is easier to speak than it is to be still.
Because we take much and give little.
Because we are afraid to fail.
Because it is easier to follow the norm than it is to follow your dreams.
A Guided Meditation by Peter Aronson
The is the text Peter prepared when he led a meditation on impermanence and death at a retreat given by Ven. Chodron. The purpose of the meditation is to help us see what is important in life, what we need to take care and place as priorities in our lives.
One day, your life is definitely going to be over, and since you have no way of knowing when you're going to die, it's a good idea to be prepared. So now we're going to do a meditation where you will imagine your own death.
Imagine you're on an airplane leaving after this retreat. This is not some abstract airplane... a specific one. Look around you and note what airline you're flying on. Notice what seat you're in, and whether it's an aisle or window seat. Smell that airplane smell in the air. See the tray table in front of you, and feel the seat belt.
You've already had a cold drink, and a tiny bit of airplane snack food. You're relaxed, you're feeling good. Maybe you're reading, or napping, or you've just come back from the lavatory. A typical flight. Take a few moments to get a clear image of the scene in your mind.
All of a sudden, you see three men jump to their feet, shout something in a foreign language and run toward the cockpit. There's a commotion at the front of the plane, and you see blood spray on the ceiling. People are screaming now. Your heart is pounding. Your blood feels cold. There's an explosion. A flash and a boom at the front of the plane. After a few minutes, you learn that the terrorists were killed in the blast, but the pilot and co-pilot are also dead. The plane's controls have been damaged beyond repair. It's still flying, but there's no way to land the plane. It will just keep going and going and going for a few more hours until it runs out of fuel, and then it will drop out of the sky and plummet to the earth.
You know that you're going to die. All the people around you are going to die. There's nothing you can do about it. No one can save you. People around you are crying.
How do you feel? What are you going to do? Among your belongings, you have a cellphone with you. Who do you want to talk to, if anyone, and what will you say? Who don't you want to talk to?
Take some time to think about this.
Some time goes by. The plane enters some dark clouds, and you begin to feel turbulence. All the lights are off, and there's no pilot left to comfort you, just the noise of the wind and the engine and the crying and screams. You're thrown around wildly in your seat. After a time, it smooths out again, but the plane is flying much lower now. You think about all your friends and family on the ground, and how safe they are, while your own life is going to end so soon, even though you're so healthy, and so full of a desire to live.
Think about this.
More time passes. You hear one engine go quiet, and the plane begins to turn. You're flying in circles now. Automatically you begin to think about your life, your whole life. From the time you were a child until now. So as you look back on your life, what has been worthwhile? What do you feel good about having done? What has created positive imprints that will help you have a good future rebirth? Consider this for a while.
And as you look back over your life, what do you have regrets about? What weighs on your mind? What mistakes have you made in your life? Before the plane hits the ground, who do you need to forgive? How can you let go of that anger?
Now bring your awareness back to the meditation cushion. You're sitting here again, back in the relative safety of this room. Temporarily, you're still alive. But one day in the future, everyone in this room will be dead, without exception. Knowing that one day you WILL die, what is important to you? What are your priorities? What is unimportant to do? What is useless? How do you want to live the rest of your life, whatever time you have left?
Feel deeply, in your guts, how important it is to make life meaningful while you still have a chance. And with that feeling, come to some definite conclusions about how you want to live from this moment until your last.
28 October 2009
Ask a fifth grader who has secured a second position in his class if he is happy? He is not, because the kid who is first has reaped more applause, prizes, and praise than him. He returns home with less excitement than the other kid. His parents try to cheer him up by saying, “Don’t worry, you did a great job. You came in second in the class. You have left many others way behind. You only lost to one. And, remember there is always next time. You will beat him and be the number one.” Instantly the kid’s face beams with the light of satisfaction. He feels relieved as he has still managed to do very well in comparison to the other kids. On the other hand, the kid who secured first position in the class returns home like an emperor. His parents can’t stop showering praise on him. They keep on telling him, “See, you are the best. Nobody can beat you. You did an awesome job. There is nobody better than you. You are the superior of all.” The kid who came in second was obviously jealous of the kid who came in first. But -- why? Despite having done so well in the class, why is he jealous? What are the reasons behind his jealousy?
This has made me tap into some other significant questions such as:
-Why do we get jealous in the first place?
-What is jealousy?
-What are its roots and origin?
-Who feeds us the idea of jealousy?
-Is it our natural, innate behavior to be jealous?
All of these questions have led me to write this article where I will be exploring the psychology behind jealousy and delve deeper to the roots from where it sprouts and spreads its branches of misery in our lives.
What is Jealousy?
In one of his talks, Osho Rajneesh speaks that: "Jealousy means to live in comparison, and it is one of the powerful, clever and undetectable devices created by the priests to exploit the individual, to destroy his integrity -- so that he can never be himself – because that is the only thing all the old religions are afraid of. And the device is to instill the idea of comparison from the very childhood."
Certainly, jealousy is nothing but the outcome of comparison. It is indeed a cunning strategy devised by every society to control and divide individuals. And yes, the strategy is so clever and subtle that it does not arouse any doubts in us as to how much of an impact jealousy really has on our lives. It is true that from the very beginning of our lives we are taught or somehow influenced to compare. Society, culture, and upbringing all has been drawing us into this game of comparison, prohibiting us from discovering our own individuality, and ultimately giving birth to a disease called jealousy. Cure -- simply stop comparing, and there will be no jealousy. It will disappear into thin air. But, the strategy is so effective that it would be difficult for us to give up comparing. Its roots have already burrowed and settled so deep in us that it would take quite a toll to free ourselves from its grip.
However, the society has managed quite well to keep us from exploring our own inner possibilities and immense dimensions. Why? Because society wants us to be totally ignorant, so that they can feed us their ideas, moralities, dogmas, philosophies, religious beliefs and doctrines, and manipulate us in whichever way they want. Let’s see: A child’s mind is empty like a sheet of paper, or soft clay filled with innocence and playfulness. You could write anything on it, or mold it into any shape you wish. This is exactly what is happening to a child from his early life. The unconscious society, the unaware parents, the teachers, the culture and the religious institutions have been influencing the child under their domain of beliefs and ideologies, and the child who has so much potential and dimension to explore life and his own inner being, will be forced to believe whatever has been fed to him. Now, what would a small, helpless child do? Neither can he fight or resist. He gets poisoned from an early age. He is being conditioned and manipulated by the same people who seem to love him. This has been going on for many generations as your parents were also conditioned by their loved ones, and all out of unawareness and due to the lack of understanding. And since the child is not allowed to blossom in his own individuality and taught to compare; he will remain miserable, and destined to be jealous from the very beginning. The example in the opening paragraph proves all that.
Pay close attention to today’s world. It has become absolutely neurotic. In every society, every culture, people have been living a life of comparison. Everybody is comparing. Somebody is better looking, somebody has a bigger house, somebody has a nicer car, and somebody has a more charming personality than you… Everybody is so involved in comparing that they have forgotten about themselves. People have completely forgotten their inner treasures. Instead, they go on comparing. They have become so caught up in this game of comparing that their lives have turned into hell. People become mean, angry, and selfish out of jealousy. Nobody wants the other to succeed. But, what can you do? There is always somebody who is in a better position than you. There is always one who is higher than you and there is also somebody who is inferior to you. You are so caught up in the middle that you don’t know what to do. You look above, somebody is there and enjoying all that you have desired. He is more successful, more respectable, and richer than you. It hurts. It really hurts. Not only does it hurt, it burns. It stings. And it’s immensely painful to see that someone is already ahead in the race and that you have been left behind. Somebody has already climbed the ladder of success before you. And if the person is your crooked neighbor who has taken all the immoral paths, then the pain would be deeper and intolerable. Then you can go on blaming your fate, destiny, past karma, chakras, whatever, it won’t help. The jealousy is already there, and has stolen your inner peace making your life miserable. No wonder why people have a hard time sleeping these days.
But, look at the cunningness of society. Just like they have sowed the seeds of jealousy in us; similarly they also have an antidote for all the pain that we have to endure from its sting. Now, we are taught to look down on those people who are lower than us. We are taught to develop an attitude of positivity and look on the brighter side. A chill wind of happiness runs all through your soul and pervades your jealous mind with a tremendous sense of satisfaction. You seem to take a deep breath of relief. A hint of a smile will break from your tattered lips. You will feel so much better. But, have you ever meditated on this before? No, because you have been conditioned and taught that way; to compare, and to keep on comparing. Even though society, priests, politicians and so-called gurus can adorn it with sugary words, saying that you are simply being positive, and you are simply dwelling on the bright side. Looking down on the people who have succeeded less than you or who are less privileged than you -- isn’t it a selfish act of comparison. If not then why were you so happy? Why a sense of satisfaction pervaded your entire being?
See, you have missed again – the web of deception and cunningness that has been woven around us. Whenever we see people who are better than we are, then we get jealous. A cloud of misery, suffering, and feeling of humiliation, hopelessness, and worthlessness hover around us. We feel like we have failed and life is completely meaningless and empty. Our motivation and zeal seem to desert us and we tend to look upon ourselves as a burden and a complete failure. But then the moment you look down to those who are below you, you are immensely satisfied.
The Burden of Jealousy and Be Positive Attitude
Furthermore, the burden of jealousy that you have been carrying is so heavy, that it makes you feel completely worthless and miserable. You feel stuck in the middle. On one hand there are people above you who make you feel inferior, while below there are people who make you feel superior. You get so torn in between these two that you find yourself muddled in a strange dilemma. What to do? Should I give up? But you cannot give up. You cannot jump out from your stance. Either you strive to be better, or you will be left behind. You become helpless as you have no courage to make the jump. You have already trod the path of enormous upheavals. Thus, you keep on hanging to the edge, and this persists all of your life. And there will be people telling you constantly, “Keep hanging on. Don’t give up. Be optimistic. Be positive. You are doing great -- just a little push. You have worked really hard, just a little more effort. Every cloud has a silver lining. The night is darkest before the dawn. Hang on. Keep on biting the bullet. Every dog has its day and so on….” I can list thousands of those uplifting examples which prove nothing but a simple array of fake consolation and hopeless hopes. It is nothing more than a hopeless, positivistic attitude of life. They neither bring growth nor any transformation in you. Instead they will push you deeper into the abyss of misery because then you will keep on hoping, waiting and wanting. But, how long can you wait? How long can you hope? And what good does being positive or optimistic do, when your whole life has sunk into a dark well of misery and unrealistic hopes? It is simply a cover up. It is nothing but make-believe that there is no negativity. It does not help you stop comparing. In fact, it is comparing.
Let me give you an example:
A man had lost one leg during the war. When he came back home depressed, he was told: “Look at things positively. Look at others, some have lost both eyes, both legs, and some have lost their lives. You are fortunate that you lost only one leg.” That’s the attitude of being positive. But, he is being forced to compare to those who were beneath or in more miserable condition than he. But what would happen when he sees the ones who have both legs. Won’t it make him feel inferior and depressed again? Won’t he be jealous? It is not a good approach to force somebody to choose only one, when both negative and positive are ends of the same pole. How can we simply choose day over night? We cannot. How can we simply ignore the other side of the same coin? Negative and positive should be complementing each other. Will there be any beauty in roses if there aren’t any thorns?
Caught in The Net of Jealousy
However, the game of comparison is cunning. You have become addicted to it now. You simply can’t give it up. Why should you? If everybody is continuously comparing, then why shouldn’t you. If the others are playing this game, why shouldn’t you too? This is such a foolish attitude though. But, everybody is walking around, carrying this attitude. And look what’s happening. You are comparing and others are also doing the same. And yes, the grass in the neighbor’s lawn always appears greener than yours, and your neighbor’s wife seems prettier than yours. Now, you are jealous. The neighbor seems happier. But you don’t know, perhaps the neighbor is also thinking the same way. He may think your wife is more beautiful and is jealous of you. You are jealous of him and he is jealous of you. Everybody seems to be caught up in a net of jealousy. Have you ever looked at the harsh consequences that jealousy can bring to our lives? Out of this jealousy, people have cultivated the “dog eats dog” mentality where everybody is bent on bettering themselves in comparison to others. Everybody is deeply involved in cut-throat competition and has created a hell, out of their jealous behaviors. People have become rude and lost respect for others, as well as for themselves. People’s jealousy has gone too far now. Everyone is competing to take over the place of a person ahead of them. Everybody is sweating, running, struggling and have gone completely insane. The jealousy is so out of control that people have sunk lower than the animals. The person below you is pulling on your legs just as you are pulling on the legs of the person above. It is simply unbelievable!
Yes, I repeat again, out of jealousy we have created such a hell. And priests in all cultures have been talking about hell after death. I say, it’s right here. Just open your eyes and look around. Where are this meanness, selfishness, and deception springing from in people’s behaviors? We didn’t have these vices when we first came into this world. As a child we were innocent and playful. But, we have been poisoned, taught, conditioned, forced, molded, and manipulated so early that now innocence is being replaced with rudeness, and playfulness has turned into wiliness.
Comparing has gone so awry that now we have even started comparing our happiness, joys, and sufferings to others’. If others are suffering and in pain, then it feels good to us. You feel relieved. You feel that you are not the only one. And when others seem happy, then great jealousy descends on you – and you become miserable. Why it has become so intolerable for us to endure even other’s happiness? Why do we presume that we are the only one who is suffering, and our suffering is larger than the others?
Here, I am reminded of a beautiful story:
Halku had been having a tough time sleeping for several days. Not only has he recently lost a job, but also his wife of five years has left him for some other man. Though there were many who had been with him in his time of pain and suffering including his relatives, family, his Priest, as well as the whole village, yet he was inconsolable. He was so weakened and burdened with his pain and suffering that he used to pray to God everyday saying: “God, why me? Why you have chosen me? What have I done wrong that I am being punished so harshly? Everybody in the village seems so happy, and I am suffering day by day. I am so tired, God. I am willing to take anybody else’s pain, but please take mine. It is unbearable.”
May be, God, was really listening to his plea or perhaps the plea of the whole village. That night, the man fell asleep like a baby, and had a beautiful dream. In a dream, he saw that God had appeared and asked everyone in the village to bring their sufferings into the village courtyard. All the villagers started packing their sufferings in a bag tightly so that no misery escapes, and started gathering on the courtyard. He also hurried towards the courtyard where people have already assembled. Now, the God said: “Drop your bags near the walls.” Everybody dropped their bags. God then said: “Now, anybody can choose any bag they want. You all wanted to exchange suffering. Feel free. Go ahead”
As soon as God had finished uttering his words, an interesting thing happened. Halku was quite astounded to see that everybody was rushing towards their own bag, and quite happy to get it back before everybody else could choose it. Halku, who thought that his suffering was the biggest, and had been praying that God would take away his misery, somehow managed to get his bag back. The scene on the courtyard was incredible. What happened – despite the fact that everybody had a chance to choose another’s sufferings after having seen the size of the bags, some were as big as their own; some were even bigger. The villagers were happy to choose their own bag. Why – because everybody had become so accustomed to their own suffering, and to choose the others’ bag would be a big folly. God knows what’s in their bag and why would somebody want to take a chance? At least, one already knows about his suffering, and has found ways to deal and live with it. Why bother, by taking somebody else’s sufferings?
Everybody returned home, happy and pleased with the same old bag of suffering that they had taken, but they were proud of themselves as they managed to get their own bag back.
Halku woke up from his dream. The morning sunlight was dancing inside his room. Birds were chirping. The morning was simply beautiful. He then thanked God for the dream. The dream had made him understand many things. Now he was not whining and comparing about his suffering. He knew that the God had given an opportunity to the people to exchange the sufferings, but people wouldn’t part from the sufferings to which they have become so accustomed. He said to God: “I am happy in whatsoever you have given to me and whatsoever I have. I will never compare and ask you for more. Thank you for opening my eyes.”
We can also learn many lessons from this story. We only know what’s inside us and what’s outside others. Likewise, the others know their interior and our exterior. This gives rise to jealousy. From faraway everything looks different. The other may be smiling and happy outside, but how do we know if he is happy inside. The other may be generous, kind, and compassionate outside, but he may be something else inside. The person may be phony and deceptive, but you don’t know his inside. Appearance can be deceptive and looks different than the reality.
Jealousy has indeed made everybody miserable. Out of jealousy, people act differently. They start losing their inner charm and become more unnatural. They lose their individuality and adopt many fake personality. People lose their aliveness and become more like plastic and unreal. Forms of mass media such as films and television have, as well, done quite well in instilling the idea of “others” and the influence is visible on all of us. Everybody is imitating, pretending, comparing, and competing. Everybody wants to be like somebody else. Nobody is happy with themselves. What has happened to us?
What to do then? What can be done?
I won’t be giving you any trade away secrets on how to overcome, fight, or control jealousy. The internet is probably flooded with such tips, and I am not interested in them. My whole effort in this article is to help you see the very root of the problem, and leave you with a clear understanding about jealousy and its source. Here are my suggestions:
1. Understanding, Responsibility, and Awareness: Jealousy is nothing but being oblivious of a simple fact – that the idea of comparing with others and the feeling of superior and inferior has been taught and instilled in our minds since childhood by an unconscious society, greedy priests and politicians, and unaware parents. First let this understanding penetrate you. Secondly, be responsible for your jealousy. Yes, a great damage has already been done. Yes, we have been conditioned, but that does not mean we should keep on playing the blame game, and simply do nothing. Jealousy also results out of the unconsciousness, ego, and your inability to accept responsibility. For example: There are plenty of husbands who tend to be extremely jealous and angry when it comes to their wife, especially if somebody gazes at her or she looks at somebody. It goes the same way for wives as well. This jealousy erupts into a big squabble which can ultimately lead to some serious consequences. The real problem is neither the husband nor the wife, it’s inside them. Jealousy is simply stemming from their own feelings of insecurity, ego, unconsciousness, and the inability to trust each other. Hence, be responsible. Look deeper and deeper inside you. Things will start changing by themselves. Don’t go on blaming your problems on others. Gradually you will start becoming aware. You have been living a life of unawareness. Ego sustains only in the dark valley of your unconscious mind. Be a little alert. Meditate, peek inside, and ignite the light of awareness, and jealousy will disappear with no trace.
2. Stop Judging, Comparing and Competing–Just Be Yourself: Everybody is unique and different. Everybody is different than the others. This is why out of so many people nobody looks alike. But, since we have been molded and conditioned so subtly and cleverly that now we are constantly comparing and judging, who is better than whom, who is good, better, or worse. Who is superior or inferior, right or wrong… We have become so unconscious of ourselves that we have not allowed our own inner being to blossom. We have let our eyes only see the exterior; and missed the tremendous beauty that’s already inside us. Hence, drop comparison, competition, and judgment. Jealousy will vanish. Otherwise, you will drive yourself to insanity. You will go absolutely nuts. It’s not possible to compare with everyone. There are more than 6.6 billion people in this world, yet everybody looks different. Why? Because, existence is not interested on creating duplicates. There are no photocopies. How are you going to compete with everyone? Just be yourself. All the enlightened masters (Buddha, Gurdjieff, Lao Tzu, Boddhidharma ...) have been saying, "Just Be Yourself. Be your own light," and instead of heeding them, we have been simply overlooking this truth and preventing ourselves from the greatest treasures of the existence. My simple suggestion: Allow your own self to blossom in its own way. Make space for your own inner juices to flow, and find your own individuality. There is no other joy than being yourself. The bliss is simply incomparable. But this is possible only if you cultivate a habit of deep acceptance. Simply accept yourself as you are with no shame, guilt, conditions, and fear.
So drop this foolish attitude of comparing. It is nothing but a clever tactic created by so called moralists, priests, politicians, societies, and religious institutions to prevent you from being yourself. Why – because then you would be free from their imposed beliefs and dogmas. You will start asking questions about your inner dimension. They have no answer for your questions. They don’t want you to know the truth. It would be a big threat to their institution which is nothing more than a business. They don’t want you to discover you own individuality to bloom and blossom, as it will lead to absolute fulfillment and blissfulness in life. You will experience your freedom and a life full of ecstasy and contentment. Once you are free as an individual and have broken the shackles, the boundaries that have been created to divide and rule people of all color, race, religion, ethnicity, creed, value and belief, then you won’t be worried about being better than somebody else. Neither will you be happy to see people who are inferior to you. You will be simply content with who you are. Nothing worries you. Now even if Warren Buffet, orBill Gates, or even a great emperor passes by you, you won’t be jealous. You won’t be hurt. You won’t get a sense of inferiority – because you are simply happy with whom you are. You have arrived at the understanding that there are no inner differences, we are all same. We all carry the tremendous potential to taste the beauty of the existence, and celebrate life in ultimate freedom and awareness, and enjoy the eternal dance of joy and blissfulness. Now you won’t feel superior when a poor person or an under privileged person passes by you – because you have dropped comparison, you have dropped the phony game of being somebody else. Now, you are neither superior nor inferior, but simply a free conscious individual who is living his life in its totality and awareness.
So just allow yourself to be and let your authentic individuality blossom. Cultivate deep love for yourself and others. Respect others as who they are, and respect the way God has created you, then instantly a surge of blissfulness will fill your entire being. You will be free from all the trammels and cunning clutches that have tortured your soul, with jealousy. Comparison and competitiveness will seem meaningless to you, as you have come to experience how profound, full and significant your own inner being is. Yes, now you have lost jealousy, but look at what you have found – your own individuality, your own inner treasures, inner tranquility and peace, and the beauty and joy of the whole existence – and above all, your own freedom as an authentic individual – not a blind follower, and not somebody wearing somebody else’s face.
Author: Naren and Emily