The fundamental truth of life
------ © Dr. Satya Prakash Choudhary
"Where are all the riches of kings? Where are all the worlds created by Brahma? All these are destroyed and dissolved(in the eternal process of Time). How can I have faith in all these things?
Millions of Indras have been swallowed up like bubbles in the ocean of eternity. Wise men will laugh at me for my having pinned my faith to earthly life.
Millions of Brahmas have passed away. Several cycles of creation have elapsed. Kings of the earth have disappeared like particles of dust. Where is the confidence then, in my life and its stability?"
(I.22-24, Janaka Gita, Upashanti Prakarana, Yoga Vasishta )
Why do we suffer? Why do bad things happen? Why are there illness, death and devastation? Why do we hurt each other? Is it possible to be truly happy? These are common questions that many people end up asking at some stage or the other, but not finding satisfactory answers. Life hurts us all- from loneliness, uncertainty, despair, disappointment, from being ill, from being poor, from violence at home, from violence in the society.
We learn so much about so many things. We learn geography, economics, politics, finance, management, astronomy, microbiology, mechanics, quantum physics, nuclear energy, even the inner life of plants. We are taught many things at school and at home, but seldom are we taught or prepared to deal with the shock of life's hurts. About life, we are left to learn ourselves. In this regard there isn't much difference between the educated and the uneducated, between the rich and the poor, between the developed and the underdeveloped. Anyway why do we suffer? Why is life filled with loss? Why is there so much emotional pain? Do things always happen by causality or do they also happen by chance? Is it possible to know why life hurts us even when we are fair and nice? Am I a spiritual being with physical limitations or a physical being with spiritual potential? Who am I? Why do I exist?
No one can give fully satisfactory or verifiable answers to such questions. However a good starting point is that we don't really know for sure. It is part of the enigma called life. Nevertheless we all have our theories and explanations. There is a little philosopher in most of us. A good philosopher is one who asks good questions. Philosophy is good at asking questions, not necessarily so good at giving very good answers. Some philosophies convert us into stoics, some into agnostics and some into fearful worshippers. Either we end up believing somebody else's ideas blindly or we end up believing in nothing, trusting nobody, not even life. We cling on to our little-big egos, nourishing and protecting our false selves, with no idea of who we really are. Somewhere along most of us learn to cope with life. We learn to escape emotional pain and confusion with entertainment, with sex, with relationships that are often shallow, with work or business or busyness. We learn how to merely escape loneliness and emotional pain, not how to put an end to it. The problem is still there, in fact compounded by the very escape mechanisms we use- our addictions and exhaustions, our coping mechanisms.
Millions of cosmic events have taken place. Eons of time have elapsed. Very many generations of people have taken birth and have died. A few great enlightened Yogis and awakened Buddhas too have come and gone. But still we haven't learnt how to stop suffering or how to stop inflicting suffering on others. Our biological, psychological and technological evolution is not matched by spiritual evolution. It is a sad and frustrating truth that we cannot completely make sense of life and its mysteries. Life remains a paradox. Often the answers to its major questions are also paradoxical.
There are myriad causes and conditions that bring about anything. There are no definite answers to some questions; there are only possible answers, not definitely verifiable answers to the big questions. Some of these questions have been addressed long ago in ancient India just as they could have been addressed anywhere else. Innumerable seekers treaded the diverse paths of life, seeking answers to such questions. Those were the days when books were not yet written, not to speak of being published. There were original discoverers who had never read any book of any kind. They had to find out for themselves. They couldn't take support from the sacred texts as there were none to quote from. They searched out the truth for themselves. They found it in the deepest recesses of their own minds and hearts, their own beings. It sprang forth from the depths of their own consciousness. Since they didn't invent the truth, since they didn't find it merely through the process of thinking, since it wasn't to be found within the realm of thought alone, they didn't claim authorship for it. As it just flowed through their very Being like a poem, like music, like a river flowing naturally, coursing through the depths of their own Being, they felt that it was revealed to them, that they were not the authors of those truths. There were others who adopted a different perspective though. They thought that these truths were not exactly revealed. No doubt they sprang forth from the depths of mankind's consciousness; no doubt these truths were of tremendous value. Yet they are relative, not really absolute.
Whatever be their approach to Being, regardless of their varying perspectives with regard to the origin of these truths, some of these seers started teaching what they discovered. Their compassion for their fellow beings made them speak out, as they attempted to share the great joy of reveling in their own Being. The insights offered by some of these awakened seers are quite helpful to us in our own journey through life and its myriad experiences. Their teachings provide guidance for us, at least in pointing the way. While their words are no more than signposts they guide us during the dark nights by illuminating our hearts. They help us understand life and its mysteries better. Behind various spiritual teachings and traditions, between seemingly divergent schools of thought, there are common threads that connect the most significant insights and the most profound teachings. These threads hint at a common truth, albeit only a part of the truth.
Change, transition, suffering, loss etc are an inevitable truth of life. Despite life's losses and the impermanence of all things, it is possible to deal with suffering meaningfully. Though painful, it is possible to face any loss with courage, wisdom and clarity. Just as loss, suffering and impermanence are an inevitable truth of life, so is the preciousness and interconnectedness of life. When we understand through personal insight the nature of life and its problems, we understand that it is possible to change our lives by taking personal responsibility for our actions. Moreover peace, happiness and satisfaction are not just possibilities; they are the very purpose of human existence. In uncovering our authentic selves we not only heal ourselves, but also find peace and happiness. Infact happiness is not even a goal, it is the way. Most importantly the solution to our problems is right there within us. The wisdom that leads to self-healing, compassion, peace and happiness is within us. This in short is the common message, the truth that most enlightened sages hint at. They had awakened to this greatest truth. Their teachings are wake up calls, temple bells that seek to awaken us too. But we have to awaken in order for this to be true for us. Otherwise their proclamations become lifeless and meaningless. This book weaves together a deep understanding of the truths revealed by the awakened seers resulting from personal practice and study, my experiences and insights as a psychotherapist and last but not the least, my own personal struggles, experiences and insights as a human being.
Something is true not because it has been uttered by a great man like the Buddha, not because it is agreeable to the majority, not because it comes from a scholar or famous workshop leader, not just because it is logical. Something is true because it is valid, because it works. In fact this is the test of truth. Truth is not a matter of knowledge. Truth is that which is. Truth is Being. Truth is not something abstract; it has its own life and like all living things it is incessantly unfolding, changing, adapting. Truth has to be experienced in the present moment, in the here and now. It is not in the distance, in the past. It is here and near, in every tear, in every smile, in every feeling and thought, under every leaf, in every thing, in you and in me. But it is so covered up, sort of hidden, that we have to uncover it and see. When what is false drops away naturally truth remains. Truth comes to light. Yet behind that light, much remains in the dark. What's more it has to be remembered that it is not ever possible for us to describe truth in its entirety. Anytime only certain aspects of truth can be examined while others remain hidden. Moreover language has its limitations. Much is distorted through words. If you write an experience or an insight down as a truth, then you prevent the further unfolding of this truth, because then it becomes fixed and life-less. We can never get the living truth by merely examining the teachings or insights of the seers.
So why bother reading anything at all? Why did I even write this book?
True enough, personal insight through constant reflection on life and living can reveal truth better. Yet reading can stimulate that process of reflection and awakening if you are ready for it. Don't take the words as the truth. Just read the words. In the act of reading, the insights of the seers become thoughts in your mind. Allow those thoughts to work their magic. Let the truth behind the words sink. Let it just sink; go on with your life, living life as usual. After some time what has sunk into the depths of your mind will surface naturally. Let it come up. It will come up at the right time. And what comes up is not merely what you have thought up. It is not a truth that you blindly believe in just because it came from the Buddha or another great Yogi. This is truth that comes to light in your own soul, and it fits you exactly. This is what happened with me. It has happened with many others as well. Allow it to happen with you. Open the doors of your heart. Let go. Let life flow.