Suffering for Dummies
The only question worth asking, in my opinion, is who am I, and the only information needed to answer this question is contained within human suffering. Everything seems to hinge on this particular point. I think this somewhat obvious by the fact that it is typically pain that prompts us to ask or inquire into such important matters as “Who am I?” or “What is the meaning of life?” This seems to be something which we have forgotten as a species. I say forgotten as it has been baked right into our culture, in both the east and west, for thousands of years. The Buddha began his teaching career with a discourse on the truth of suffering and Christ called upon us to take up our cross. Suffering being the very cornerstone of revelation seems to be a fundamental fact recognized in both the east and west. It is evident that in order for any real wisdom or insight to emerge we must begin with where we are, as it would be insane to start where we are not, such as with descriptions or discussions of enlightenment, salvation, or whatever. We must begin where we are right now, which interestingly enough is with the very experience that prompted us to inquire or begin our journey in the first place, suffering. The fact is that I must inquire into “my own” suffering if any real insight is to be gained. Which means I can not cling to or become dependent upon some tradition, philosophy, teacher, guru, or whatever. Those are all hang-ups, merely buffers or distractions that enable to avoid the necessary precision of suffering. In order to really tap into this precision, this pin point accuracy (we shall discuss later what it is point at), we must move beyond an even more subtle tradition, language. For me to try and relate with “my anger” is to have missed the point. Here “I” am relating to a word, “anger” which has a meaning or tradition behind it. The word is loaded. The moment I relate with the word anger I reject the basic experience. The word anger has a negative connotation, so in relating to the word the experience is condemned, it is rejected. So, in order to really experience suffering we have to move past the word and experience the sensation that the word is point at. For example, if we are a alcoholic or a drug addict the primary suffering does not lie in our substance abuse, but in the poverty mentality that leads us to believe we must abuse the substance. The alcohol and drugs are not problems they are solutions. The true or pervasive suffering is the belief or fundamental feeling that we are broken and must find someone or something to repair us. This is the underlying truth about suffering. The pervasive aspect of suffering is always connected with this subtle feeling that we are missing something, and that life is all about finding what ever that is. Unfortunately, this poverty mentality is the natural consequence of the way in which we perceive the world. We see the world as if we are some solid autonomous entity which does life. The moment we separate ourselves from life we impute a distance or a space between the two, which basic intelligence is always telling us needs to be filled. So wander through life constantly looking for a fix. In moving past the word and into the sensation or experience we discover the truth or essence of anger the same way we come to know a chair by sitting in it or a song y listening to it. From this point of view I can safely say “I am anger” and not “I am angry”. Not kind of angry or sort of angry, but angry. Amazingly this sort of insight gives rise to a sense of “oneness”. Better than oneness, maybe humility, although they are very closely connected. First of all, the notion of I becomes obsolete the moment we cease relating to our psychological atmosphere as though it were somehow apart form us. Second, we realize that we just like the murderer in prison, the CEO who cheated thousands of people, and the child soldier in the Congo are anger. When we move beyond the language used to describe suffering and into the basic experience of suffering we discover the very essence of fear, anger, greed, and all the rest. We see these things as being common manifestations of the ego centric personality, an ordinary arrangement for most humans. It is not my anger, your fear, or their hatred. It is anger, fear, and hatred. It is not their problem, it is a human problem, and we are humanity. So we, like Christ begin to discover what it is to be fully human and fully divine by taking up our cross, or looking first hand beyond tradition into the nature of the human condition. The discovery of being both fully human and fully divine brings us to the next point in our discussion, which is grace or the effortless nature of this revelation. Once we move beyond the tradition of language, and stop running from the message or the Gospel of human suffering, we make room for the true order of nature to reveal itself. When we get caught up in the language of suffering we condemn the experience prior to investigation. In doing so we construct it’s opposite. In the case of “anger” we reject it by slapping a label on it which is loaded with negative implications, then we create it’s apparent opposite “love”, which we cling to for dear life. We reject the validity of anger, construct a solution which we call love, and then try to the best of our ability to imitate love. What’s worse is that love born out of anger is in fact infused with anger, and unfortunately the worst kind, self-hatred. This sort of superficial love is the manifestation of our deep disgust with who we are at that moment, and a last ditch effort to be anything other than that. This is far removed from the naturalness and genuineness involved in being fully human and fully divine. Recognizing we are fully human, yet fully divine is to be completely integrated. There is dignity in being who and what we really are. We are integrated so there is integrity. Rejecting the truth out right before we even consider it, creating some fantasy land to hide out in, and pretending to be something we know little to nothing about is a far cry from dignified. It is a down right schizophrenic break from reality. So back to the topic at hand which is grace. Simply in seeing the truth the assumed problem of suffering is re-solved. It is re-solved, because it was never a “real” problem to begin with, rather it was an illusory problem which arose on the basis of a false assumption (the assumption being that “I” am something that does “life”). Suffering arises in the midst of misunderstanding or ignore-ance. It is sin, not in the moral sense, but in the psychological sense of the word. The word sin literally means “to miss the mark.” So when we transcend the language of suffering and begin to investigate the actual experience of suffering we hit the mark or the truth of the matter. This is not an intellectual process of transformation, but an instantaneous revelation in which truth is revealed. This insight or wisdom awareness resolves the issue as the issue wasn’t anything more than a lack of insight or understanding. If someone truly see’s that they are a liar, dishonest, or phony they instantly revealed to be honest. A liar can not say I am a liar, because the moment they do so they are telling the truth. To truly see that I am anger is to open up and give myself the necessary space to be who and what I am at that moment, which is to Love myself . A crazy person does not know that they are crazy. As soon as they genuinely see that they are delusional sanity begins to emerge. Once we clearly observe the pattern or train of thought that is our insanity, understanding sets in, and the pattern which once appeared to be so chaotic is now seen as order. If you would like to see this principle played out watch the Russell Crow movie, “A Beautiful Mind”. The moment he realizes that she doesn’t get old the insanity begins to dissolve. Everything we do, we do in order that we may be happy. We can not do something for any other reason. Even if we are trying to avoid pain we are still trying to be happy. It is as if we are geared for happiness, and for that reason it only makes sense to me that happiness is our true resting place. When we embrace suffering as the most fundamental form of intelligence, which is constantly calling us back to this primal resting place by revealing our misunderstandings, ignorance, or sin we come to know what it means to be both fully human and fully divine. It is almost as if those the emotions are biological features meant to “go off” like an alarm indicating that sin or ignore-ance has crept into the picture. If we pay attention to this alarm we will see that there is no fundamental difference between us and life. That the distinction exists only at the conceptual level, that essentially “I” and “Life” are one in the same. Interestingly enough the experiencer and the experience turn out to be of the same essence, wisdom. Since there is no longer two opposing forces there is no longer psychological conflict, and since there is no conflict or struggle there is no freedom. This freedom or happiness is in fact our true resting place.