Pain Is Inevitable, Suffering Is Optional.

Pain is of two kinds, mental and physical. Both are experienced by all living beings and we humans are no exception. While most people can handle physical pain with medicines or by learning to live with it, almost all, cannot manage mental pain. Mind being a monkey, it keeps going back to the pain to re-live, experience and even get a perverse joy in that experience. Quite a few even make big shows of experiencing pain long after the cause has disappeared.

I am a follower of the Indian philosophical system of Vedanta, which teaches detachment called titiksha in Sanskrit. Titiksha along with the other five qualities that are mentioned in the Wikipedia article makes a person face life’s vicissitudes with poise and detachment. Followers of such teachings do not suffer. Since there are ways to avoid suffering, not taking recourse to them is the option one exercises.

All spiritual systems teach adherents how to handle mental pain and Buddhism is no exception.  Here is a Zen story to teach the same.

I hope that you enjoyed my take on this Friday’s 2 on 1 post. I had suggested the topic. My fellow blogger too would have some thoughts on this subject and you can read them here.

Let It Be.

“Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty.” Brene Brown in The Gifts Of Imperfection.

All the religions of the world have a closing word or phrase or invocation after a prayer or a hymn or a discourse.  Amen, Ameen, Aymeen in the Abrahamic religions and Thathaasthu and Sadhu Sadhu Sadhu, or Shanti, Shanti, Shanti in the case of Buddhists and Hindus respectively.

Those endings are what I had in mind when I suggested this topic for this week’s Loose Bloggers Consortium where five of us currently write a post with the same topic every Friday.

The four other bloggers who write regularly are, in alphabetical order;  Ashok,  gaelikaa,  Maxi,  and Shackman.  Do drop in on their blogs and see what their take is on this week’s topic. Since some of them may post late, do give some allowance for that too! Ashok too is having prohlems with his blog being down and may or not participate this week.

I use Thathaasthu often.  Thathaasthu directly means “Let it be.”  This is to agree with someone, usually after a blessing or a statement of import. Just this morning I sent a mail to some friends, some of who are among the readers here, reading as follows.

The Taliban in Karachi

There has already been a lot of turf wars between the Mohajirs and the Pashtuns in Karachi and this news item gives me more cause for alarm due to the sheer numbers involved. 

And a much earlier piece.

Sind is already a volatile place and the Mohajirs who do not speak Sindhi are not exactly popular.  Westward, the Balochis do not like either the Mohajirs or the Pashtuns.  And all of them dislike the army which is predominantly Punjabi.

Things are getting from bad to worse in Pakistan with the government / army constantly under attack from the Taliban and local nitwits like the LeT and its offshoots besides the very large presence of Al Quida there.  The drug cartels are all jockeying for position and that too will be a problem on this side of the border with Punjab already a major drug problem state. The Mohajirs have roots on this side of the border.  I have been predicting that we will have a massive refugee problem sooner or later and the climate in India will simply be devastating to the refugees and their relatives on this side of the border. American withdrawal will speed up the process.   What a world we live in!

I got a cryptic response from a friend within five minutes of sending that mail. “Thathaasthu”.

In this case, he agrees that the nightmarish scenario presented by me is inevitable and so says, don’t fret, let it be.  It will all work out!  He has faith and wants me to keep faith too!

What do you think about that cryptic message?  Do you agree?  Will you let it be?

Anger.

I hope that you enjoy reading this post on the weekly Friday Loose Bloggers Consortium where eleven of us write on the same topic. Today’s topic has been chosen by Conrad The Old Fossil. The ten other bloggers who write regularly are, in alphabetical order, Delirious, gaelikaa, Grannymar, Maxi, Maria SF, Padmum, Paul, Rohit,Shackman, The Old Fossil and Will. Do drop in on their blogs and see what their take is on this week’s topic. Since some of them may post late, do give some allowance for that too!

I get angry. I am human. But, it is rarely that I do and that anger passes away before it can do any harm to me or others. It is rare that it becomes destructive. All that is in the present tense. In the past my anger has resulted in violence and harm but after I took to meditation, it simply became manageable. I did not have to go to any Anger Management Course or for counseling. It simply happened by itself.

Please turn on the speakers before you press the play button if you want to understand what anger can do to a man. Discretionary viewing is advised as the language is devastating.

What this guy and others with similar dispositions need is a dose of Thich Nhat Hanh.

“Just by breathing deeply on your anger, you will calm it. You are being mindful of your anger, not suppressing it…touching it with the energy of mindfulness. You are not denying it at all. When I speak about this to psychotherapists, I have some difficulty. When I say that anger makes us suffer, they take it to mean that anger is something negative to be removed. But I always say that anger is an organic thing, like love. Anger can become love. Our compost can become a rose. If we know how to take care of our compost…Anger is the same. It can be negative when we do not know how to handle it, but if we know how to handle our anger, it can be very positive. We do not need to throw anything away,”

~ Thich Nhat Hanh. In For a Future to Be Possible: Buddhist Ethics for Everyday Life

Letting Go.

I hope that you enjoy reading this post on the weekly Friday Loose Bloggers Consortium where eleven of us write on the same topic. Today’s topic has been chosen by Maria The Silver Fox. The ten other bloggers who write regularly are, in alphabetical order, Delirious, gaelikaa, Grannymar, Maxi, Maria SF, Padmum, Paul, Shackman, The Old Fossil and Will. Do drop in on their blogs and see what their take is on this week’s topic. Since some of them may post late, do give some allowance for that too!

Letting Go

That Buddhist practice of releasing pigeons to send peace out into the world is a very popular and emotionally appealing ritual which has become quite common among our political specimens too.  Apart from signifying the message of peace the releasing of pigeons also is symbolic of letting go of all forms of attachments.

As my regular readers know, I prefer to quote people who can do much better a job than I can and this time is no exception.  Paulo Coelho is no stranger to my readers and this is what he has to say about letting go.

“Things pass, and the best we can do is to let them really go away. That is why it is so important (however painful it may be!) to destroy souvenirs, move, give lots of things away to orphanages, sell or donate the books you have at home. Everything in this visible world is a manifestation of the invisible world, of what is going on in our hearts – and getting rid of certain memories also means making some room for other memories to take their place.

Let things go. Release them. Detach yourself from them. Nobody plays this life with marked cards, so sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. Do not expect anything in return, do not expect your efforts to be appreciated, your genius to be discovered, your love to be understood. Stop turning on your emotional television to watch the same program over and over again, the one that shows how much I suffered from a certain loss: that is only poisoning you, nothing else.”

How easy it is to pontificate like that and how difficult it is to let go! I keep wanting to give away many of my clothes that I never wear like my formal suits and jackets; like books that I am unlikely to read ever again’ vessels and dishes bought to set up a home away from home over twelve years ago and now just lying idle, etc and when I start to do something about that, I get all nostalgic and postpone the real act of getting rid of any of them. But get rid of them I must if I have to tick off all the items in my bucket list, and one of these days, I will let them all go.

I however cannot ever consider letting go of memories of a forty year long relationship with a remarkable woman and as masochistic as it may sound, I love to “turn on my emotional television to watch the same program over and over again, the one that shows how much you suffered from a certain loss.” I do not think that any normal person will be able to do that.

To wind up, and to illustrate another angle to attachment and letting go, another story from the Zen treasury. I would like to reach the level of the Senior monk but I have a sneaking suspicion that even he is just pontificating and in his heart must be re-living the experience.
two-monks-by-artist-Paul-Davey

Two monks were making a pilgrimage to venerate the relics of a great Saint. During the course of their journey, they came to a river where they met a beautiful young woman — an apparently worldly creature, dressed in expensive finery and with her hair done up in the latest fashion. She was afraid of the current and afraid of ruining her lovely clothing, so asked the brothers if they might carry her across the river.

The younger and more exacting of the brothers was offended at the very idea and turned away with an attitude of disgust. The older brother didn’t hesitate, and quickly picked the woman up on his shoulders, carried her across the river, and set her down on the other side. She thanked him and went on her way, and the brother waded back through the waters.

The monks resumed their walk, the older one in perfect equanimity and enjoying the beautiful countryside, while the younger one grew more and more brooding and distracted, so much so that he could keep his silence no longer and suddenly burst out, “Brother, we are taught to avoid contact with women, and there you were, not just touching a woman, but carrying her on your shoulders!”

The older monk looked at the younger with a loving, pitiful smile and said, “Brother, I set her down on the other side of the river; you are still carrying her.”

 

Religion And Spiritualism.

In my present imposed house arrest, I often have to get into dicussions with visitors on relgion, spiritualism and philosophy. These are usually serious in tone and despite my penchant for being flippant, the atmosphere is inevitably somber.

After the guests leave, I usually introspect to see how better I could have handled the discussions and when I voiced it to one of my guests, he said that he would send me some serious advise and has kept his promise.

Now I hope that my readers will understand why I prefer being a Hindu.

Has the short clip helped you decide what you would like to be?

Nothing.

Welcome to the Friday Loose Bloggers Consortium where Anu, Ashok, Conrad, Delirious, gaelikaa, Grannymar, Magpie11, Padmum and I write on the same topic. Please do visit the linked blogs to get nine different flavours of the same topic. Today’s topic has been chosen by Grannymar.

I would like to call ‘thing’ as anything that is or may become an object of thought. Therefore, nothing would imply no thing. In other words, a void or emptiness with no thing in it. Say like the skulls of many people that I am sure all of us know, and like mine is considered to be by some very full skulls.

I started my spiritual journey in early 1978 and by 1985 was deeply into Vedanta, an Indian system of philosophy and Buddhism. I found no contradiction between the two and concluded that they were two sides of the same coin.

By this time, Fritjof Capra had already published his Tao Of Physics which was a best seller for that time and I believe continues to be in print even now, thirty years after its publication. Some little scepticism left in me was completely removed when I read that book which I repeatedly read even now.

What has that got to do with today’s LBC topic? Let me try and explain.

Science is reductionist in its approach to finding the ultimate building block. The smallest thing in nature, matter. Let us call that matter a thing. Eastern philosophy calls it Anu, the nearest equivalent in science being atom. Now, even atom has been reduced to protons, neutrons, quarks and leptrons. It still has not found the smallest. There is a problem however in that the sub atomic particles that make up the smallest particle, which is atom, appears to be some form of energy.

Mathematicians have calculated that 99.99percent of an atom is empty space, or NO THING. Since atoms make up every THING, 99.99 percent of everything including us human beings, is also empty space, or NO THING.

The appearing and disappearing nature of sub atomic particles is called ANITHYAM meaning, impermanence in the Eastern philosophical systems. In other words, since the smallest particle of matter is impermanent and the atom itself consists of such impermanent particles, even the atom is impermanent. In other words, every thing that is seen as matter appears for verification by our senses only when there is a perceiver. If there is no perceiver, there is no matter.

In Capra’s book I first understood this principle and the difference between Subject and Object. Since object is impermanent, the philosophical systems call all matter as MAYA or illusion, or NO THING.

Since our body/mind/intellect complex is also objectifiable, it cannot be the Subject. The mistake we make is in identifying the subject with the object and considering that the I is the body/mind/intellect complex, which we have seen as NO THING.

Then, what is the Subject? It is obviously the I, the perceiver. Eastern philosophical systems insist on dis-covering the real I. The method is meditation. In meditation, one can find that stillness, or the witness, which is again, NO THING.

The NO THING is called Emptiness (Shunyatha) in Buddhism and Limitlessness (Brahman) in Vedanta. This is what I meant when I said that they are two sides of the same coin. One uses a positive and the other the negative. The Yin and the Yang or the Male and Female principle.

Have I caused enough confusion? It is NOTHING but intellectual kite flying.

In other words, I am NOTHING. So are you.