Courtesy: The Times of India, Mumbai 29/06/08
Doorway to a new life
E Raymond Rock
When everything is taken away from us, we become grounded in reality very quickly. A sage was once asked why he was so happy, he responded, “I have nothing left to lose!” Being grounded in reality happens in that split second when we know all is lost; a moment before the car crash, a moment after the diagnosis.
The reality we then face is quite different from the daydreams of our everyday illusions. The fanciful images that we had previously projected into our idyllic lives melt away when we come face-to-face with certain disaster. There is something we can learn here, because many times, the result of a traumatic experience is that we come out of it a changed person, and the changes are usually for the better. New vistas open up for us, and we find ourselves and our interests somehow strangely altered. We actually become happier. There are times in our lives when we do things and don’t know why, and although these things may appear foolish to our friends, we feel compelled to do them nonetheless. Sometimes these things involve letting go of something very dear to us, and we can hardly believe what we are doing. This can be a crushing experience, yet we do it. Just when things are going swimmingly, there is sometimes an underlying urge to cancel everything out.
In the East, a tradition exists where people pile all of their belongings into a boat, sail out to sea, and dump them every seven years. If one followed this tradition, think of how careful one might be in what one purchased!
In addition, how aggressive would we be in making money? Maybe we would forget about money and do what we love for a change. That would certainly produce some happiness. If our karma is good, however, so good that we are protected from disasters, we might need to become proactive in causing our own disasters—to help things along. Great men in the past have done just that; Christ lived as a homeless beggar; the Buddha left royalty behind to live in rags in the forest for six years, seeking and finding enlightenment. Foolishness? Perhaps, but who has affected the history of the world more than these two men have?
In essence, what the Buddha and Christ were saying is that until the bottom drops out of your life, you will continue to love your life.
True happiness is that Reality we touch when all is lost. Money, love, family; these are all caught within the web of existence; and existence is nothing but stress compared to this Reality.
Existence has three characteristics, three laws of the universe, and they are that 1) everything changes. 2) life is stress. 3) no “self ” stands behind life. Reality, on the other hand, has never been born, will never die, does not come from a previous condition, and has the characteristics of eternity and unchanging ness. The three characteristics of existence are unassailable, and while we remain caught in them, we can never be truly happy although we try to convince ourselves otherwise.
Look into your own heart and see what is true. It is only when life is taken away for a brief moment, when we escape momentarily from existence and touch that reality that we cannot speak about, only then is true happiness possible. The miracle is that just touching this reality for a brief moment is enough to change our experience of life into one of happiness.
Everything that we think will make us happy, all that they tell us to accomplish, to be ambitious about, and to compete for, never does so for long. If none of this makes any sense to you, then you must continue seeking happiness in the things of the world.
If for some reason seeking happiness in the world does not work for you, in the long run, then there are things that you can do to ease yourself into a reality where happiness is assured.
By easing yourself into this reality, you are not required to give things up in a violent fashion; they fall away by themselves. If you ever become serious about real happiness, weary of temporary happiness slipping through your fingers time and again, then go after the missing element.
The missing element is emptiness, and there is a good way, a gradual way, and a certain way to bring this element into your life. Emptiness is the doorway to a new life, and the doorway to emptiness is meditation.