Tragic Optimism.

“The man I am, greets mournfully, the man I might have been.”
~ Hebbel

I contacted a Senior Teacher of Vipassana in Pune yesterday, whom I have known since the last more than two decades. He was a highly successful Medical Practitioner as was his wife but, both have quit their practices to devote their full time and energies to Vipassana. I contacted him to find out how best I can attend a camp with my health issues. Being a doctor and a teacher of Vipassana, I thought that he would be the best guide to approach as I felt that I needed a concentrated meditation camp at this stage of my life. He guided me to my full satisfaction and also assured me that he will ensure that I will be well looked after in the local Meditation Center.

It was a nice long chat catching up with each other on many subjects and I intend keeping in regular touch with him henceforth.

After the talk was over, he sent me a photograph taken during the early days of a Vipassana Meditation Center at Markal near Pune with me and two students of meditation in it. The link will take you to show you how the place is now.

This was circa 2003 when it was still in its nascent stage and accommodation and meditation hall were still in early stages of being set up. I was approached by the same teacher to be a volunteer to serve the attendees as by then I was already a caregiver to my incapacitated late wife. In this particular case, they were a group of blind students who had to be looked after, and guided around the primitive undeveloped area so that they did not come to harm and the ten days that I did this changed me for ever.

Spending eleven nights and ten days with blind people and serving them will do that to any body. One is humbled by them with their good cheer and will to survive despite their handicap and their total trust and unconditional affection for me was a high impact emotional experience for me. My caregiving duties only increased and was even doubled after my then 91 year old father came to live with us.  That period till ten years later saw the most stressful times that I have ever experienced and thankfully I was able to withstand and survive those situations due, I have no doubt, to my regular meditation practice.

That experience with the blind students changed my attitude towards life and just about that time was when I first came across Viktor Frankl and his Tragic Optimism. His profound conclusion that I share with my readers below describes my current situation at the age of 77 with health issues.

“From this one may see that there is no reason to pity old people. Instead, young people should envy them. It is true that the old have no opportunities, no possibilities in the future. But they have more than that. Instead of possibilities in the future, they have realities in the past—the potentialities they have actualized, the meanings they have fulfilled, the values they have realized—and nothing and nobody can ever remove these assets from the past.”

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.

Karma.

My regular readers know that I am a great believer in the theory of karma.

Often, there are stories that makes one wonder why somethings happen one way when similar instances end up with different outcomes.

There are many stray dogs everywhere but some get adopted and get homes and most don’t. Why should this happen?

There is no logical explanation except that the dogs that get adopted do so because they are enjoying the fruit of some good action in the past and the adopters are enjoying a fruit of their own past actions.

Here is the first story to illustrate the phenomenon.

And the second.