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.

Meaning / Purpose / Happiness.


This Mark Twain quote was shared by a friend on facebook and led me to muse over it and the result is this post.

In Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search For Meaning, Frankl often quotes Nietzsche: “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.” The “why” is what he calls the meaning of one’s life, which according to Frankl is the patient’s will to strive, succeed, and to live.

Man can also find meaning by suffering. When one is faced with suffering, and there is nothing he can do to change his predicament, the only remaining option is for him to change his perspective, to change the way in which he views the situation. An example that Frankl gives is of a story of a grieving widower who had lost his wife. The man came to Frankl to ask for advice. Frankl asked the man, “What would have happened…if you had died first and your wife would have had to survive without you?” Through this question, the suffering the man was enduring gained a new purpose, he was mourning, but his wife would not have to mourn him.

This story of the widower helped me overcome my own grief of losing my wife and friend of 48 years, but understanding that the relationship was because I was happy in it and the grief was in losing that state of happiness, came about by my study of Vedanta about which I shall elaborate a little later.

I had posted a video post of the Dalai Lama and in commenting on it, Monk had given me a link to one of her old posts that is very interesting on the subject of finding meaning.  She had written it before I started visiting her blog and so was not aware of that post.  Having read it, I was inspired to include the link here for reference, as the subject matter is the same as that of this post.

My regular readers will remember that I am a student of Vedanta. For a Vedantin, ie one who is a follower of the Vedanta system of philosophy, the purpose of one’s life is to find Moksha (Liberation) which is to get released from the cycle of births and deaths. A student of the system, tries to achieve jivan mukti, which is to find the liberation in this life itself. What this implies is that he finds and abides in the happy himself during this life itself. So, the purpose of finding out why he was born is to recognise that he was born to become a jivan mukta.

If all that sounds very mumbo jumbo, simply stated, it is to reach that inner space which is naturally a happy state, but which has been overwritten by other impressions which need to be discarded. The process of discarding those impressions and abiding in the released state is the purpose of, at least, my life.

If you are interested in probing further about your own purpose / meaning, you can try the twenty minute formula that Cheerful Monk shares in her post a link to which I have given above.

Religion Vs Spirituality.

spirituality

‘Religion is belief in someone else’s experience. Spirituality is having your own experience. Atheism is no experience, only measurement.’
~ Deepak Chopra.

As most of my readers know, I call myself a Vedantin. Vedanta is the system of philosophy that develops the ideas in the Upanishads that reality is a single principle, Brahman, and teaches that the aspirant’s goal is to transcend the limitations of self-identity and realize one’s unity with Brahman.

As I have maintained elsewhere a number of times, there is nothing called Hinduism. The word Hindu was originally given to the people who lived in the land where the river Indus flows. That is now Pakistan.

The word Hindu does not appear anywhere in our Vedas, Puranas or other material. The nearest definition of what we follow in India is Sanatana Dharma.  There is thus no question of Hinduism being a religion.

The way an Indian approaches the divine is left entirely up to her/him. There is no central authority, no dogma, no compulsory rituals, nothing. It is totally anarchic, arbitrary and voluntary. A Sanatana Dharmi can see the Divine in a stone or a pillar and will hold all creation in awe.

I am therefore someone who can be called as a spiritualist rather than a follower of a religion. The highest authority of Indian jurisprudence, our Supreme Court has just held that Hindutva as it has come to be known is a way of life and not a religion.

The Sanatana Dharmi accepts that Ekam Sat Vipra Bahuda Vadanti.

So, while Religion if someone wants to follow, is also acceptable in the Indian scheme of things, the ultimate goal is to become a spiritualist. The reasoning is that Religion is needed for personalities that are predominantly emotional and Spirituality is for the intellectual types that reason reality and reach Brahman.

Today’s topic for the weekly Friday LBC posts was suggested by me. You can see what the other two bloggers in the LBC, Shackman and Pravin have to say in their respective blogs.

What Nondescript Item Had The Most Impact On Your Life (How/Why ?)

Two stones.  One black and the other white.  They are called Banalinga.

banalinga white

banalinga black

These were gifted to me by a dear friend who alas is no more after he had learnt that I was getting interested in Vedanta. I had gone to the Narmada river on a number of occasions with him and he said that this was the least he could do for someone getting interested in Vedanta.

These two stones are very much part of the alcove where I perform my puja every day.

They impacted me by taking me into the study of symbolism in religion and particularly in ours. That in turn led me to explore myths and symbols as so beautifully brought out by Joseph Campbell.

His oft repeated conclusion that there is striking similarity between the world’s religions resonates with our own: Ekam Sat Vipra Bahuda Vadanti. The stones represent the Yin and Yang of the Truth.
yin yang

This topic was suggested by Shackman for the weekly Friday Loose Bloggers Consortium where currently eight of us write on the same topic every Friday.  I hope that you enjoyed my contribution to that effort.  The seven other bloggers who write regularly are, in alphabetical order,  AshokgaelikaaLin, Maxi, PadmumShackman and The Old Fossil. Do drop in on their blogs and see what their take is on this week’s topic. Since some of them may post late, or not at all this week, do give some allowance for that too!

Education.

education

There are as many definitions for ‘education’ as there are people interested in some aspect of it. My own is simple and one that I have found to be effective.  Education is learning to learn.

My own education followed more or less that definition after the initial schooling was over. Post school achievements for me were all autodidactic, except for my Masters Degree, which by an accident I acquired by attending regular classes in an institution of learning.

And, this is the important point that I wish to drive home in this post, the Bachelor’s Degree and the Masters Degree that I acquired, in my humble opinion, equipped me for getting admission to the institute of management and getting a job via campus recruitment respectively, AND NOTHING ELSE of practical value, except that both enabled me to learn how to learn.

Post my professional qualification my employer took great pains to train me to be an effective manager and to this day I acknowledge that debt as being a greater one than my other academic achievements.

And more importantly for my life, the education that I received in our traditional way of the Guru-Shishya Parampara in learning Vedanta from a remarkable teacher and his teacher, has enabled me to live a peaceful and productive life.

All these would not have been possible for me had I not been prepared for learning to learn, by a very remarkable system of grounding called the Montessori method of primary education in my childhood.

Having shared my own experiences, I would simply add that I am appalled at what happens now in our country in the field of education, particularly in the higher levels where we are producing graduates and post graduates who are unemployable.  There are some notable exceptions to this rule but they are the ones that select the cream from the hordes that are churned out in the system by a highly competitive selection procedure.  For the rest, the less said the better.

I am glad that my own life is at its last stages where I don’t have to compete to learn anything.

This topic was suggested by Shackman for the weekly Friday Loose Bloggers Consortium where currently six of us write on the same topic every Friday.  I hope that you enjoyed my contribution to that effort.  The five other bloggers who write regularly are, in alphabetical order,  AshokgaelikaaMaxi, and Shackman and The Old Fossil. Do drop in on their blogs and see what their take is on this week’s topic. Since some of them may post late, or not at all this week, do give some allowance for that too!

As You Like It.

When one is a busy housewife with four children and a long distance commuting husband, living in a joint family in India, finding time to spare for intellectual kite flying is difficult. So, when I urged Maria G for some topics to be included in the list for the year for the LBC posts, in an inspired flash of originality, she came up with a list of Shakespearean dramas. Readers will remember our post on Much Ado About Nothing some time ago which was the beginning of this series.

This is the second of a series the rest of which my readers will come to read eventually in the weekly Friday Loose Bloggers Consortium where five of us write on the same topic. The four other bloggers who write regularly are, in alphabetical order,  AshokgaelikaaMaxi, 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, or not at all this week, do give some allowance for that too!

I don’t quite know if like Roasalind in the play, Maria G has plans to flee persecution, but I love the play for its many melancholy speeches the favourite of them all being:
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts……”

This opening, ties in neatly with Vedanta which propounds exactly this as a philosophy. This also ties in with my earlier post When Are You Leaving? Vedanta names Truth as The Witness that is simply Consciousness and everything that we see is illusion. Realisation by internalisation of this is liberation, moksha, nirvana etc. I like it very much thank you.

I have always suspected that Shakespeare was a Vedantin. In fact, there is a story in our part of the world that says that he was originally Shaakeppa Iyer who decided to travel West, and in Persia became Shaikh Peer and eventually found his way to England where the transformation was complete.

And let us see what my favourite philosopher has to say about this great play. Please click on the image to enlarge it for easier reading.

all the world is a stage