Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Suffering and relief - Part 1

Human beings want to be free of suffering.

No - this post is not about yet another technique to relieve suffering. There are many techniques out there to relieve suffering of all kinds. And they can be helpful sometimes. If you are drawn to them, then by all means go there.

This post is addressed to those among us who have already tried many techniques, and even found them helpful sometimes. This post is addressed to those among us who have found that, in the end however, no technique has put them beyond suffering. Yes, there has been occasional and temporary relief from suffering. Sometimes the relief has been longer lasting than at other times. But no matter what they try or how they approach it, the suffering visits again and again and they are not free of suffering.

We have a powerful human urge to relieve suffering, in ourselves and in others. And equally, we have a powerful human addiction to relief from suffering. Remember how it feels when a very vexing and troubling issue is cleared up? Remember the delicious relief of suffering dissolved? Of course you remember. We all remember. And we love it. And we want more of it. And more and more.

But how about some relief from relief? Any takers? :-)

The intensity of any experience, relief included, is proportional to the extent of contrast within the experience. When we go from acute distress to peace, it feels palpably different and marvelous! When we go from peace to more peace, the change is not registered so dramatically. Yes?

What we are really addicted to is the drama, - the highs and lows of experience. They make us feel alive in a glittering sort of way. In order to experience this kind of intense high, we need to experience an intense low first, for it is the contrast between the two that makes the high so dramatic. This is not just true for addictions to substance. This is true for the human addiction to experience. And while it may seem ridiculous to say that we are buying into our suffering because we are addicted to the relief from suffering, there may be more than a grain of truth there to examine, each for himself.

While we find it easy to let go of suffering, we don't find it so easy to let go of relief. While we are eager to let go of blame and guilt, we are not so eager to let go of credit and praise. But they are inextricably tied together. One can only be experienced in contrast with the other. So grasping at one thing automatically preserves the other. Grasping at praise preserves the blame. Grasping at relief preserves the suffering.

Notice I said grasping. I did not say enjoying. The difference can be stark or subtle. Only you can know what it is for you. When the sun shines, we can enjoy the sunshine. But when it changes to rain, the sunshine is not missed. When it rains, the rain can be enjoyed. When it snows, the snow can be enjoyed. Each brings its own flavor. This is enjoyment without grasping. When I want the sun to shine instead of the rain that is pouring, it is grasping. When I am anxious that it should be sunny tomorrow, it is grasping. And there is little enjoyment in it.

Again, this post is not for those who enjoy being in the game of opposites. It is indeed a wonderful game. And there is nothing wrong with the game at all. If you enjoy the game, go for it. Enjoy yourself. There is indeed an infinite variety of games to play out there, in the world of opposites.

But if you have seen that, in the end, they are all the same game, and if you just don't enjoy the game anymore, then know that you don't have to play it. You can rest. You can rest in the vastness beyond suffering and relief. Neither is needed for this rest.

Relief from suffering is great, and relief from suffering and relief is sublime. This vastness - it includes all opposites and is beyond all opposites at the same time. Rest here.

And this vastness is not dumb and this vastness is not passive.

More on this in the next post.

1 comment:

J. said...

Thanks Ameeta! Joe