Suffering and Meaning: By Harsha (Harsh K. Luthar, Ph.D.)
“All My Hopes For Salvation Are Gone”
It is natural to wonder what the meaning and purpose behind extraordinary suffering is. That is how Buddha’s spiritual quest started. Gautama Buddha perhaps did not take the next step, but one can also ask what is the meaning of “meaning” and what are all the implications of the notion of “purpose.” Some would not consider this a healthy inquiry but it points to the central role played in perception and how perception is simply another way to indicate the movements of energy. When we ask someone, “How are you doing today?”, what we are really asking is, “How are your energies moving in relationship to your environment and what are your perceptions?”. And we have to ask people, “How are you doing?” on a daily basis. You can’t just ask once and be done with it. We have to ask everyday because we intuitively know that all perceptions including our own are in constant movement. Energy is in constant movement. That is why we are seeing people and ourselves being born, suffering, getting older, dying etc. Movement of energy is change in manifestation. So the question of “meaning” and what is that we are really “seeing or perceiving” is relevant to a serious inquiry.
Great Sages such as Sri Ramana Maharshi point out that the fact of our existence is self-evident. Other than that, we cannot be sure of much. The rest is all inference. So the greatest “spiritual practice”, if one wishes to label it such, is to stay with that Root Truth and be aware of it under all conditions. The Root Truth of I AM. This is not a thought. This is the “Look” always looking at itself. It is the Awareness Always Self-Aware.
Self-Awareness has been called the greatest mantra because it is accessible to all without regard to race, religion, gender, nationality, etc. Its potency is unimaginable. To some, it looks too simple of a practice. Yet, for those who have the maturity to grasp it, it is the most subtle, ideal, and the best practice. It requires no investment, no particular posture, no great learning, and no adherence to a school of thought. This practice accomplishes everything that needs to be accomplished.
Sri Nisargadatta whose core teaching is identical to that of the Sage of Arunachala Ramana Maharshi has also put it simply: “The Self is nothing else but the knowledge that ‘you are’. Meditate on that principle by which you know ‘you are’ and on account of which you experience the world. Meditate on this knowledge ‘you are’, which is the consciousness, and abide therein.”
Love to all
Image courtesy of Dana Cocchiarella (2002)
I would appreciate your views on the question: “Is hunger an illusion?”
You ask a wonderful question about the nature of hunger. Here is the definitive hint. No need for gratitude. This stuff is a piece of cake for me (sorry for the reference to food!). I will pass this on to HarshaSatsangha as well.
Hunger is an illusion right after having had breakfast. Gradually it appears to become real before lunch and has to be dealt with in a fitting fashion. This cycle continues indefinitely until the body drops. After that there is the hunger to get another body (being born again). That hunger disappears after having received a body.
Hunger is essentially the fundamental desire to survive. From that appear thousands and millions of other hungers.
Meditation means to know the true nature of this hunger. That is why meditation on the breath is taught in many traditions. In and out. The hunger to breathe is most fundamental to the body. One can’t help it.
If you look at any spiritual practice (fasting, pranayama, meditation) they all focus on hungers of various types. Through any one strand of hunger you can go back to the fundamental hunger and understand its Source.
That fundamental hunger to know One’s Own Nature calls. Always calls. The Buddha Nature calls. The Original Face calls. It does not sing out like a Rock band, “Oh come to me! Come and look at me!” It calls by Simply Existing. By Simply Being! It Calls ItSelf. It breathes It Self. With every breath, the reminder is there. It Sings to It Self in pure silence!
Lots of Love
We know the world through the mind. Sri Ramana used to say that mind is a wonderful power that arises from the Self and makes all this visible.
The conscious mind is a manifestation of the Kundalini Shakti, the storehouse of all impressions. Ultimately, Mind, Kundalini, Shakti, Maya, all these mean the same thing.
Jnana makes us aware that the rising of (Mind, Maya, Shakti) has a Source which is complete in It Self, the pure Sat-Chit-Ananda. The Pure Joy without a trace of longing.
It is because of the presence of Sat-Chit-Ananda at the core of our being, the whole world is starving for love, love or Ananda being the root nature. In one way or another, we seek this Ananda or Love. It powerfully affects us as human beings.
I remember being at a retreat around 1981 and talking to this woman in her 60s. She was divorced and actively looking for a man.
I advised her to forget about men and finding love and all that stuff and focus on meditation and Self-Realization and be free. I remember the pained look on her face and she said, ” But I really need to have a man in my life.”
I should have apologized to her right away for suggesting that she forget about finding love.
I was such a fool then.
Love to all
Image courtesy of Dana Cocchiarella (2002)
Conversations with Ramana Maharshi were typically public and watched by other devotees. The following dialogue between Sri Ramana and an unknown visitor occurred at the Ashram and is recalled by a devotee. The man was in depth of despair and at first Bhagwan seemed quite unsympathetic. The visitor’s conversation with the sage is quite remarkable and worth reading.
Selected portions presented from the Maharshi newsletters.
“The man started moaning and crying even more, as if his heart were breaking.
“All my hopes of salvation are gone. You were my last refuge and you say you have nothing to do with me! To whom shall I turn now? What am I to do? To whom am I to go?”
Bhagavan watched him for some time and said, “Am I your guru that I should be responsible for your salvation? Have I ever said that I am your master?”
“If you are not my master, then who is? And who are you, if not my master? You are my guru, you are my guardian angel, you will pity me and release me from my sins!” He started sobbing and crying again.
We all sat silent, overcome with pity. Only Bhagavan looked alert and matter-of-fact.
Bh: “If I am your guru, what are my fees? Surely you should pay me for my services.”
D: “But you won’t take anything,” cried the visitor. “What can I give you?”
Bh: “Did I ever say that I don’t take anything? And did you ever ask me what you can give me?”
D: “If you would take, then ask me. There is nothing I would not give you.”
Bh: “All right. Now I am asking. Give me. What will you give me ?”
D: “Take anything, all is yours.”
Bh: “Then give me all the good you have done in this world.”
D: “What good could I have done? I have not a single virtue to my credit”
Bh: “You have promised to give. Now give. Don’t talk of your credit. Just give away all the good you have done in your past.”
D: “Yes, I shall give. But how does one give? Tell me how the giving is done and I shall give.”
Bh: “Say like this: ‘All the good I have done in the past I am giving away entirely to my guru. Henceforth I have no merit from it nor have I any concern with it.’ Say it with your whole heart.”
D: “All right, Swami, I am giving away to you all the good I have done so far, if I have done any, and all its good effects. I am giving it to you gladly, for you are my master and you are asking me to give it all away to you.”
Bh: “But this is not enough,” said Bhagavan sternly.
D: “I gave you all I have and all you asked me to give. I have nothing more to give.”
Bh: “No, you have. Give me all your sins.”
D: The man looked wildly at Bhagavan, terror stricken. “You do not know, Swami, what you are asking for. If you knew, you would not ask me. If you take over my sins, your body will rot and burn. You do not know me, you do not know my sins. Please do not ask me for my sins.” And he wept bitterly.
Bh: “I shall look after myself, don’t you worry about me,” said Bhagavan. “All I want from you is your sins.”
For a long time the bargain would not go through. The man refused to part with his sins. But Bhagavan was adamant.
Bh: “Either give me your sins along with your merits, or keep both and don’t think of me as your master.”
In the end the visitor’s scruples broke down and he declared: “Whatever sins I have done, they are no longer mine. All of them and their results, too, belong to Ramana.”
Bhagavan seemed to be satisfied. “From now on there is no good nor bad in you. You are just pure. Go and do nothing, neither good nor bad. Remain yourself, remain what you are.”
A great peace fell over the man and over us all. No one knows what happened to the fortunate visitor; he was never seen in the Ashrama again. He might have been in no further need of coming.”
Dear Harsha and Friends,
When I was a child of nine I was forced to spend hours, days, months, and years on my back due to undergoing rheumatoid arthritis. I spent my days alone as my parents both had to work and all my siblings had to go to school. Unwittingly, I began inner contemplation of myself, pranayama, and getting away from the senses in order to rise above the tremendous pain. Gradually I began noticing that the sense of time was lost to me, and I could remove myself from the bodily pain. I had times when I felt contracted to a pinpoint of smallness indescribable and also expansion so vast it also is indescribable. I started having beautiful visions of holy figures, and the cosmos alive with vastness of lights and movement. I had also visions of falling to the earth in bliss/ecstacy at the beauty and love. At times I thought I could ‘hear’ the sound of all creation. I tell these things only as an example of what I think was a child being able to practice meditation without ever having heard of it and without any direction from any person (well, not one that I knew!) I also think that the wondrous side-effects of this in the form of expanding consciousness and accompanying visions help me also to believe that I had tapped into That. What do you think of this? Could this indeed be why at such an early age and by the circumstances in my life these things occurred?
In Love and Friendship,
Yes. It seems your conditions and circumstances led you automatically to practice inner contemplation. In classical yoga, there are several steps and Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses) comes before Dhyana (Meditation and visionary states) and then Samadhi. I can easily imagine how laying in bed the whole day at a young and tender age could lead to that.
It seems Divine Providence has a unique way for all of us to open up to our own Awakeness. Suffering is the fertilizer for the seed of inner aspiration which blooms into the thousand flowers of heavens and merges with Being.
Love to all