How suffering arises

Both Vedanta and the Buddha teach the same. We suffer because of the way we perceive which then forms the basis of our thinking. Our thinking then shapes how we react to a stimulus. How we react would start a chain of cause and effect resulting in karma which boomerangs back as joy or suffering. 

You can’t really begin to understand how to stop suffering if you didn’t also take into consideration several other factors besides the Law of Causation i.e. Karma. Karma is formed from every act we engage in – think, speak, do. They cause energetic imprints that uncoil when the conditions are right. Yoga scriptures call them samskaras and vasanas. They exist as little pods of energy that are lodged within the chakras. Given that there are 7 mini chakras within each of the 7 major chakras, you will begin to appreciate all the nasty stuff we can accumulate if we don’t shape up quick. These are related to aspects of your personality in the form of vrittis or stuff that cause your mind to ‘churn’. Anger, hatred, malice, greed, and self-doubt are some examples of vrittis that manifest when we are triggered right and proper. If you think about it, most of all of our suffering happens in the mind, doesn’t it?

And this shall pass…. non-permanence

Then there is the fact that everything is inherently non-perpetuating. It never lasts. Both Vedanta and the Buddha has said, “And this shall pass.” Like a bubble in the stream or a cloud in the sky, everything is of a fleeting nature. No permanence. You will never find anything in this world that is non-changing so why do we hang on so? Why do we hold on to people, things and events that we hope will continue to give us the same pleasant experience when in reality, people leave? We outgrow our jobs or things? Just like when we were kids and our pleasure is a toy. When we are adults, we don’t visit a toy shop in the same way. Not anymore. As an adult buying a toy for a child, we would take a more analytical stand, decide which is safe, non-toxic, educational, etc. And so it should be with all things.

There is an attachment that you are holding on to… grasping

The greatest skill you could teach yourself through meditation and self-enquiry is to scrutinise yourself – what makes you, you. Journalling on a daily basis is one of the most effective ways to do this. Sit. If you have been honest, you will soon see stuff emerging. You will inevitably find yourself grasping and hanging on to an attachment you have formed. A breakup best illustrates this. You keep thinking of the other person and swing between anger and sadness as you berate yourself with all the should-have, could-have, and what-if. And the memories of your time together? These would be your biggest bug bear. And so the Buddha and Vedanta both say: Give it up. But I can’t! Not just yet! Give me time! Yes, we know and we understand it’s going to take time. We have seen some divorces that are so impactful that it can take a long time before the person heals and moves on.

Letting go… it’s the only way

Even though we know that ultimately, it is the letting go that will save you, we totally agree that it is easier said than done. Still, life goes on and surely, carrying all that painful stuff along can serve no good. So, like Vedanta and the Buddha say, we have to start changing the way we think and perceive. What exactly does this mean? This means we will need to wrap our heads around the phenomenon of impermanence and non-self in all things in this world. Actually, a bit of quantum physics would help here. They have found that a chair isn’t really there at all. None of the things you see around you. They are all ’empty’. In short, nothing is what it seems. And this applies to all our experiences of joy or suffering. Everything is impermanent and ever-changing so how can any thing like that be real? Therefore, why are we so silly to keep wanting to perpetuate the pleasurable and avoiding the unpleasurable when we can stay centred on ’emptiness’.

The Witness… this is who you really are

If nothing is inherently a ‘thing’ possessing the quality of permanence then what about me? Am I also empty? In which case: Who am I? What am I? Yes, we are back to that $64-million question. Who is really suffering? Who is feeling the joy? Through your meditation and yoga sadhana, you will come to realise that there is a pair of eyes looking through your pair of physical eyes. The scriptures call it the Witness within. It is the epitome of calm and equanimity. Nothing can ever shake it. That’s who we really are but we don’t know this till we have encountered and experienced it for ourselves. And if we operate more from the stand of the Witness, we can then choose how best to react, respond and live our lives.

We learn to let go more and more of the grasping of attachments that led to the suffering in the first place. We make the effort to change the way we – think, speak and do. The moment we decide to change the way we think is when we give all the old patterns of behaviour a good shake. You will start the domino effect going. This includes whatever else that lurks beneath the subconscious, right down to the unconscious levels of your psyche, the very things that drive your behaviour without you knowing and cause you joy or grief. Remember the samskaras and vasanas? Thank goodness, we can start clearing them out simply by changing the way we think and act from now on. So start replacing your old bad habits with more effective ones. There is no time to waste.

For more on samskaras and vasanas, go here.

For more on how likes and dislikes can become the bane of your life, go here.

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