A Look Behind Happiness and Suffering
What is every human searching for? From the moment of birth, every human being desires happiness and wants to end their suffering. Can we achieve permanent happiness? Foremost what causes suffering?
If impermanence is causing suffering to human beings, and impermanence is a character of our universe, what can we do to be happy? If the universal principles are permanent, it would appear that the only way to achieve true happiness is to lift our consciousness to this state of reality. If those principles could be talked about, but never fully explained, each human needs grace in addition to will and faith to reach this understanding. May this grace shower each being until this Earth becomes a place of loving-kindness. – GM Brana
Let’s first define suffering. From the dictionary, suffering is defined as a feeling of pain. This feeling of pain could be imparted by endurance of physical or mental stress or by loss or damage to oneself or a possession deemed important. Most people experience suffering as a result of sickness, bullying or death of a loved one. It’s important to note that the opposite of the pain inflicted by suffering is the feeling of pleasure and not happiness. We learn what is “pain” or “pleasure” based on our experiences. If we ask what is the cause of suffering, we can get different answers, from ego to ignorance, desires, attachments, cravings, resistance to change, lack of faith, expectations, fear, unknown future, perceived separation from the Source and many other notions. Is there only one cause or are there multiple causes of suffering? What is the root cause of suffering? How is suffering created? Is it something that exists only in our mind? Is suffering good or bad, a gift or a curse?
Impermanence and Suffering
“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” ~ Rumi
Once we land in the physical body, we are subject to the laws that govern the physical plane of existence and the character of this plane is impermanence. We are faced with a process of constant change of all things – personal and impersonal, internal and external. Material things such as our houses, our cars and our clothes are impermanent. All of them will decay and eventually be destroyed. Not only is our physical world constantly shifting and changing our relationships with other people are marked by impermanence. Similarly, in one’s career, one cannot hope to succeed if one does not keep abreast of changing situations like new trends in one’s profession, regulations or new client requirements. Impermanence is a fact of physical reality, verified by direct immediate observation. On the other hand, we welcome impermanence, when we get released from an unpleasant life situation.
There is a story of a student who went to his meditation teacher and said, “My meditation is horrible! I feel so distracted, or my legs ache, or I’m constantly falling asleep. It’s just horrible!” “It will pass,” the teacher said matter-of-factly. A week later, the student came back to his teacher. “My meditation is wonderful! I feel so aware, so peaceful, so alive! It’s just wonderful!’ “It will pass,” the teacher replied matter-of-factly.
Some changes can bring us pleasure and some pain; however, everything will come to pass – good and bad. It’s generally accepted that the Buddha taught that impermanence is related to suffering. Let’s not confuse, however, using our free will to make positive changes in our life with the “impermanent character of our physical universe.” From the book Encounters with Enlightenment by Saddhaloka (David Luce): The Buddha lay down under sal trees and his faithful companion Ananda, began to weep against a doorpost. ‘I still have so much to learn, and my teacher who is so kind will soon be gone!’ he wept. The Buddha sent for Ananda and told him gently, “Come, Ananda, don’t weep. Surely you must understand by now that we have to be separated from all we love. How could anything which comes into being not also have an end?”…The Buddha’s last words were: “Impermanent are all compounded things. With mindfulness, strive on.” Then entering a deep meditation, the Buddha left his body.
From the book “What Makes You Not a Buddhist” by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse: “One is a Buddhist if he or she accepts the following four truths or seals: 1) All compounded things are impermanent. 2) All emotions are pain. 3) All things have no inherent existence. 4) Nirvana is beyond concepts.” It’s not the high ranking masters who guard Buddhism, but the four truths that are the guardians. According to Dzongsar, the Buddha taught that suffering can be cut at the root by dismantling the self, for if there is no self, there is no sufferer. When Siddhartha became enlightened, he became known as the Buddha. Buddha isn’t a person’s name, it is the label for an awakened state of mind. “It’s so easy to see how people get caught up in the roller coaster, and you naturally have compassion for them. One of the reasons you have compassion is that impermanence is so obvious, yet they just don’t see it.” “Enlightenment is part of our true nature. Our true nature is like a golden statue; however, it is still in its mold, which is like our defilements and ignorance. Because ignorance and emotions are not an inherent part of our nature, just as the mold is not part of the statue, there is such a thing as primordial purity. When the mold is broken, the statue emerges. When our defilements are removed, our true buddhanature is revealed.” “Fundamentally, anything that is subject to interdependence doesn’t have sovereignty; it cannot fully control itself; and this dependence creates uncertainty, which is one of the main components of the Buddhist definition of suffering.”
If we accept that the physical universe is impermanent, and if we don’t try interfering or halting impermanence, does this release us from suffering? Even if we know that things are impermanent, and we don’t fight change but accept it, can this knowledge and attitude guarantee us that we’ll not suffer when we are let go from a job that we like or when a relationship with a dear friend ends? If we understand that things are impermanent, does this release us from suffering? If we understand that our loved ones physical bodies will eventually die, can this knowledge guarantee us that we’ll not suffer when this actually happens? Are we supposed to or are we obliged to interfere and help the person heal or reduce their pain, and could this interference be a resistance to change? By offering help to a fiend in grief, are we interfering with change? It’s natural to us to help a person who’s suffering. It’s also natural for us to feel sadness when a loved one passes away. Eradicating emotions would lead to annihilation of human aspects of self. We know that the impermanence of life is an occasion for suffering. But could we go even further and say that impermanence is the cause of suffering? Let’s look at the causality link. We can say that our reaction to change is an effect of some cause. Is the cause resistance to change or change itself? Can eradicating our reactions to change eradicate suffering or could that even increase suffering or even worse make us robots?
While the acknowledgement that the laws of impermanence are a part of life here on this Earth does offer an enormous amount of benefits and relief knowing that some things are out of our control, the fact is that someone, somewhere will still suffer, as long as impermanence is a character of our physical universe. A question arises in our mind: “Could the Source be so cruel to create the physical world which is impermanent, and therefore every being is destined to suffer?” The Buddha, who was also searching for an answer on happiness and how to end suffering, explored this question in his mind. If there were no impermanence, would there be suffering? What kind of world would that be? We could only imagine it would be a world, which does not have any movement, frozen in time and space matrix. Without the ability of movement, our world would have no purpose. This would lead eventually to annihilation of the current universe. We could also contemplate on the existence of a static world before the first moment of Creation. Indeed, there would be no cause of suffering in this kind of existence. On the other hand, with no change, evolution could not exist. Impermanence was introduced so that each individual could evolve, and with us the Whole could evolve. Through Buddha’s teachings, we learn that desires, ill will and ignorance lead to continual suffering. Enlightenment, self-realization or liberation, would be the total, absolute and permanent end of this anguish. The Buddha’s term of enlightenment has been described in different ways. He has called it supreme bliss. It is also described as freedom from delusion.
We can’t know the true reason why our universe was created, but we can conclude that impermanence is necessary for the evolution to be possible and that suffering can be a catalyst for growth or a motive to search for ultimate happiness in the form of self-realization. It is also important to remember that all beings are equal in both their desire for happiness and their right to obtain it.
It’s said that the universal principles or sometimes referred to as natural laws were set in motion at the initial stage of Creation, and that everything in the universe is subject to it. The purpose of our evolution is to gradually gain understanding of the universal principles, which makes us wiser and helps us set and achieve newer, much higher goals. Our physical consciousness looks at the principles through the frosted glass of our ego meaning that we do not see our world clearly. The universal principles are not mapped in scientific equations. When a person lives his or her life in accordance with those principles, he or she is successful in all his or her endeavors and is surrounded by harmony, love and beauty. If the person knowingly or unknowingly acts against these principles, then the results are the opposite – failure, chaos, and conflict with himself and with the surrounding world. In daily life we are very familiar with notions of cause and effect, of things behaving in an orderly and predictable manner. The principle of Cause and Effect teaches us that our future is the effect of past and present actions, thoughts and emotions. Cause and effect is the relationship between events or things, where one is the result of the other or others. It’s not about punishment or reward, but simply a result of choices. The principle of Free Will, gives each person the opportunity to make choices. Therefore, we can change our future by changing our actions, thoughts and emotions in the present moment. Spiritual teachers aim to help their students create a better future for themselves and the world around them.
Nature of Our Mind
One of the first steps on the path to happiness and self-realization is taking a look at the nature of our mind. A primitive human being does not want to evolve, lives based on instincts, is satisfied with a simplified way of thinking, is not interested in abstract thinking, does not know that any higher form exists and is not capable of wanting something better. Metaphorically, this kind of person lives in Plato’s cave looking at the “shadows”, thinking that those shadows are the only reality. An evolved human is able to reach the highest plane of abstraction with his or her thoughts and see beyond the shadows to see things as they are. When the human mind drops all notions and images and dives into the mysterious silence, into full absence of mind itself, at that moment the human spirit is one with the Consciousness of Source.
To begin to comprehend the Consciousness of Source, we have to realize, however, that it is something that cannot be comprehended with just the basic facets of the human mind. This is because if the Source is all encompassing and infinite, and we are not able to construct a device that measures this infinity, we need to use other faculties to understand it. Our understanding is based on scales or concepts, like an equation between two opposite ends. To know what is warm, we need to know what is cold or hot. We understand relative differences, but not the true essence. Every human idea, thought, or belief results from its contradiction with some other idea, thought, or belief. We have many opposites: “cold-hot”, “dark-light”, “birth-death”, “good-evil”, “spirit-body”, “success-failure” etc. By looking at the opposites, we could conclude that a cause of our death is our birth. In other words, if we were not born, we could not die. The human mind can perceive and comprehend the world only in terms of opposites. Human beings see the world as an aggregate of multiple opposites. If we look at this duality, it can be represented by an infinite number of two vectors going in opposite directions. Absolute Light and Absolute Darkness are opposites, and we can’t understand light without darkness. To evolve, we need to gradually resolve the opposites in our mind. To reach self-realization, we need to permanently resolve all dualities in our mind to begin to understand it in its entirety.
The quest of our life is to evolve spiritually, and not only to understand, but also to apply correctly the universal principles, and create harmony. Harmony depends on the ability to align with the universal principles. We can experience temporary revelations and creative and inspired moments. When we are in touch with the higher reality, we can perceive beauty, harmony and divinity in everything. We also become aware that we’re are one with the Source, and were never separate from it. Being aligned with the universal principles on a permanent basis is known as self-realization, liberation or enlightenment. This of course, cannot be achieved without first developing the state of mind that is both harmonious and neutral.
Just by looking at life choices, desires and attitudes, we can know where the person stands on the spiritual path. The person who’s liberated is very well balanced between loving kindness and discernment and has a strong intellect and intuition. People who are not awakened are not bad people, all people carry a divine spark. They are on their way to be awakened.
On our spiritual path, we’ll have to address cause-effect, free will, as well as endure spiritual tests by the Source, and temptations from the opposite to the Light. Our task is to stay true to our self. The new age spiritualists who attribute everything to karma or the law of attraction are ignorant of the higher reality. Some even wrongly claim that a person who is abused is guilty of attracting to himself or herself this abuse, or deserves it because of their karma. Whenever in doubt, go back to a place of love and compassion towards self and others. To reach liberation, person’s physical body needs to be purified with organic plant-based nutrition and his or her remaining desire for the integration with the Divine should be selfless, until even his or her intent dissolves. Great spiritual teachers were fasting extensively to purify their bodies and had periods of seclusion. There are many traps on the way to self-liberation, and a guidance of a true spiritual teacher is very beneficial.
There are many individuals who sincerely follow a spiritual path, and who are genuinely striving to evolve and to be more aware and better human beings. Their purpose of learning to love themselves is to reach their full potential in harmony with all creation. However, in some cases there are individuals who exhibit narcissistic thoughts that they are enlightened beings to impress and dominate, and have a strong sense of entitlement. This type of self-importance pushes one further from the goal of being one with source.
Kabbalah describes why we need to drop intent or desire for self-realization:
Person 1) had a spiritual discipline with no physical interest in life, and ended up dead (i.e. we need to retain desire for the physical presence);
Person 2) had a spiritual discipline but he was forcing the union (desiring merger, forcing it by intending it) with no clarity, and he went crazy or lost his mind;
Person 3) didn’t know how to integrate the worlds, and he ended up loosing his faith (he imagined that he’s above the physical world morals and principles);
The question remains what can we do in our every day life to be happier?
1. Develop the Sattvic Mind
Every person perceives their reality, based on his or her state of mind. The ancient Rishis defined those states of mind as sattvic (harmonious, compassionate), rajasic (driven by selfish desires, aggressive) and tamasic (driven by addictions, lazy & cruel). Only if a person has developed the sattvic state of mind, will they be able to understand the higher reality. People who have the rajasic or tamasic state of mind have a distorted image of reality, like they are looking through a frosted or dirty window. For our mind to be pure, our body needs to be pure and clean. To better understand the states of mind, read the Wisdom of the Ancient Rishis article. We can strive to develop the sattvic mind, with proper training of the mind through meditation, choosing organic plant-based nutrition, removing intake of toxins and contemplating on the nature of reality. Millions of people never analyze themselves. They are preoccupied with their meals, sex, work and entertainment. They don’t know what they are seeking. By evading self-analysis we live like conditioned machines. Our self-analysis leads to greater progress.
2. Balance Our Rhythm
Our life is subject to a rhythm, which looks like a pendulum. If we swing into extreme pleasure in one moment, we’ll swing back into equal intense pain in the next period of time. Thus to reduce the extreme feeling of pain, we need to have self-discipline to reduce the extreme feeling of pleasure. If we make our pendulum swing just a little bit to the left and little bit to the right, we’ll be close to our most balanced point. This is the “middle way”. Zeno, the founder of Stoicism thought people should try to reach inner peacefulness. Stoicism laid great emphasis on goodness and peace of mind, gained from living a life of virtue in accordance with nature. The best way to be peaceful was to be moderate in everything. You might compare Stoicism to the Buddhism, which is also about inner peace, or to Taoism, which has some similar ideas about balance and moderation. All are describing how to find and preserve equanimity in the midst of changes.
When conditions change, we need to find a new balance to neutralize the new amplitude of opposites in our mind, which are always on the move. If we refuse to register that change has occurred or are ignorant of change, we can’t find a new balance point. Absolute neutralization dissolves the opposites and results in a higher state of consciousness, placing the person above duality. The higher the plane of consciousness, the fewer directions argue with one another. Resolving all the opposite leads to self-realization.
In today’s society sex desires mostly come from lust, greed and a need to control another, and are ego expressions. People live from ego expressions until they awaken. When they awaken, sensual pleasures are part of divine love experiences. May all beings experience divine love in their relationships!
“Ideas are the blueprint of Creation.” ~GM Brana
From principles, ideas are created. From ideas, thoughts are created. From thoughts beliefs are created, which foster our words and actions. We also create beliefs based on our experiences and external inputs. We learn in both directions, from the mental to the physical plane via our intuition and vice versa from the physical to the mental plane via experiences.
3. Use Our Free Will Positively
We can look at the glass half-full or half-empty. It’s our choice, if we look at suffering as an opportunity for growth, and as a tool for development of our inner strength. Our inner strength becomes a function of our will and faith. Amplifying either our will to resolve the situation or amplifying our faith that the situation will be resolved for the benefit of all, will increase our inner strength. Happiness cannot be bought in stores, and it’s a matter of our choice. We can choose to be unhappy because of a rainy day, or decide to relax and enjoy the sounds of raindrops on our windows.
4. Apply the Formula for Happiness
“Visualize harmony and beauty in your life. Generate positive thoughts. Amplify them with love and compassion. Realize them with disinterested and kind actions. Synchronize your energies with wisdom. Concentrate all your attention on good.” ~ GM Brana
“Our present moment = expression of SUM of our (intents + thoughts + emotions + words + actions). Live mindfully in the here and now.” ~ GM Brana
5. Express Your True Essence
Stay true to yourself, even if you’re not understood.
Be good, even if everyone around you is not.
Be kind, even if everyone around you is unkind.
“A remarkable human has achieved a natural flow of integrity and kindness in thoughts, words and deeds.” ~ GM Brana
Integrity is not measured by humans, it’s valued directly and only by the Source, which has records of every moment since the initial stage of creation.
“Nurture everyone with unconditional love, as it is the origin and the destination.” ~ GM Brana
Is the Source perfect or imperfect? Every idea has its opposite. Yogic tradition is based on an idea that the Source is all-knowing, omnipotent and perfect, while Kabbalah speaks of imperfections at the time of Creation, and Buddhists do not believe that this world was created and ruled by a God. We need to synthesize the opposite ideas, like thesis and antithesis, and allow for truth with a quality of paradox to emerge, in order to begin to understand the true essence of things. As an example, we could ask ourselves a question– is our universe driven by randomness or order? If we would comprehend that randomness and order coexist we would be closer to truth.
In conclusion, we need to stretch our mind to begin to understand the true essence of things. We’re given the capabilities to use the higher plane of consciousness in which the universal principles are embedded, while being in our physical body. Understanding of natural laws brings us peace and ultimately minimizes or ends suffering. We can even embrace our temporary reactions to impermanence without feeling pain. Our inner feeling gives us clues if we are in alignment with those principles or working in the opposite direction. We can call this inner feeling our intuition or heart wisdom.
“A true paradise is within your gentle heart. Blessed are the ones who co-create from this sacred space.”~GM Brana
May all beings experience true happiness and their liberation! May all beings live from their highest divine potential, aware of their true origin and majestic light!
Note: This article is readable due to Jess Neat’s efforts to volunteer editing. Any errors are entirely those of the author. The author (GM Brana) does not consider herself self-realized, neither a master nor a guru. The author also does not consider herself an incarnation of any known former spiritual teacher. She was born with natural capabilities of awareness and energy. She’s challenging beliefs only to inspire you to Dare to Think for Yourself.