What's it all about?
I just had to ask . . .
Thinker at the Gates of Hell - Auguste Rodin
"From the moment of birth every human being wants happiness
and does not want suffering.
Neither social conditioning nor education nor ideology affects this.
From the very core of our being, we simply desire contentment.
Therefore, it is important to discover what will bring about
the greatest degree of happiness."
- the Dalai Lama
People have said,
"There are three essentials to happiness in this life:
something to do,
something to love,
and something to hope for"
It all sounds so nice and neat;
but what if we do not know what to do, who or what to love or what to hope for?
What is supremely important? Not just in your life, but in life itself. What are we supposed to do here? Are we supposed to make a family to love and take care of, or devote ourself to the good of the whole world? Should we sacrifice for ideals beyond our friends and family, such as God or country? Should we create a business so we can help others, or just make lots of money to buy things and experiences for ourselves and our family? Some say life is about Truth or the Divine, but what if someone threatens to kill our child unless we tell a lie or renounce our God?
What will we do then? What is of supreme value?
If we are mistaken about what is important, if we are wrong about what we value in life, then we have not evaluated things correctly and if we can't do that, something about our life will not be right and things will not fit together; we will develop a secret life cut off from a public life; we will become hypocrites. Most of all, if we are wrong about what is important in life then we will waste our life, a fate that is worse than death.
The Buddha said that suffering is the nature of life, presenting its unwanted face to the world as it always has and will. Suffering is inescapable and that is another reason why we must find what is truly important, what we should do, love and hope for. For if we do not know, then even our inevitable suffering will be pointless and in vain.
When we were young, our parents told us how to act and what is important. As we grew older, we left our home to adventure in a wider world, throwing ourselves into experiences that changed our values from the ones we were raised with.
Youth was the time of idealism; when we felt something extraordinary for the first time. Whether it was a teaching, a person, romance, philosophy or adventure, we often committed our lives to it, unaware of the limits of our devotion or its object, blind to the fact that our commitment was not eternal and that we would one day break our vows. Adolescence was the beginning of seeking for an authority to tell us what is important, of what we should do and what life is all about. Before we were ruled by our parents and now we sought a higher authority or to break with all authority as rebels sometimes do even without a cause. Yet all the time (in obeying or rebelling), we were reacting to authority, tied by the umbilical cord of our own reactive, yes or no, believe or doubt, nature. We were not yet mature human beings.
The stories I share here are only fingers pointing at the moon of what lies beyond both belief and doubt . . . they contain what I believe is important, healing, beautiful and good; but they are only fingers and not the moon. If you look in the direction at which they point, they may be beneficial to you as they were to me. They may not.
Not all the stories I tell here agree with one another, not all of them can be true and none of them are true all the time; there is always a limit, some occasion, some ‘Sophie’s choice’ in which there is no 'right way' to go . . . and those are the stories that interest me the most.
I am old enough to know I am full of prejudice and limitation and chastened enough to know that some of it I am aware of and some of it I am not . . . there is no need to believe what I relate here and it is not my purpose to make you do so.
I am reminded of the texts of the Pali Canon, where every sutra begins with the word, ‘Ehvam,’ which means, ‘Thus I have heard.’ The Buddhists used ‘Ehvam’ as an introduction to what they were about to read from the scriptures. They wanted their listeners to know that what follows is only hearsay, not the 'truth,' but only something has been heard and remembered. They meant to 'say' these words of the Buddha are not some revelatory, absolute truth, such as Hindu's consider the Vedas.
Rather what follows is not something that should be believed in, it is something that must be experienced. They are saying we must evaluate what is heard using our own understanding and our own experience and that is the proper way to receive these teachings.
So, as you read or listen to these tales, remember they are hearsay. If you have not experienced them for yourself, enjoy them and leave them aside. One day, you will become the authority for what you have been seeking all your life . . . for at that time, like waking up, it does not matter what has gone on in the dream we have been dreaming; there is nothing to work out, achieve or believe in regarding the dream. The sun has risen on a bright new world and the suffering of our dream has vanished.
Such is the rasa (taste) of the stories I tell here . . .
Thinker at the Gates of Hell, by Rodin