That which you accept and embrace leads you to peace and happiness.
Yesterday we met a young lady manager who had a lot of questions on Life. She asked us why is it that when all we want is happiness, it is remains elusive; why is it that instead of inner peace, which is our birthright, our Life is full of suffering?
Actually, she has the answer to her – and perhaps everyone’s – question contained in the question itself. Happiness and inner peace are indeed your birthright, but because you have chosen to suffer, you imagine that it is impossible to be happy and that inner peace is forever elusive.
I once met a man named Thomas in a bar in Chicago, some years ago, who recalled a Zen story for me. Thomas was sitting alone and having a drink and chomping on peanuts. And I was sitting alone at the other side of the bar counter, having a drink and chomping on peanuts. At our third refill, I remarked to him that it was always wonderful to have drinks on the house – because both of us were getting free drinks with the hotel’s complimentary coupons. He laughed heartily and said, “Life itself is free. We didn’t have to pay for it. So, everything’s free in that sense!” That remark piqued my interest. And so we drank some more and talked a lot about Life and its ephemeral nature. That’s when Thomas told me this Zen story.
The story is about the great Japanese Haiku poet Issa. When he was only 30, Issa had already lost his five children. Then his wife died and he was almost completely mad — in anguish, in suffering. He went to a Zen Master.
The Zen Master asked, “What is the problem?”
Issa said, “My five children are dead and now my wife is dead. Why is there so much suffering? I can’t see the reason for it. What is the explanation? I have not done anything wrong to anybody. In fact I have lived very much aloof. I’m a poet, I live in my own world. I have lived a very poor Life, but I was happy. Now suddenly my five children are gone, my wife is also gone — why is there so much suffering, and for no reason? There must be an explanation.”
The Zen Master said, “Life is just like a dew drop in the morning. It is the nature of Life that death happens. There is no explanation; it is the nature of Life. Life’s nature is like a dew drop: it hangs for a while on a leaf of grass; a small breeze and it is gone; the sun rises and it evaporates. That is the nature of Life. Remember that.”
Issa was a man of great intelligence. He understood it. He came back and he wrote a Haiku:
Life, a dew drop?
Yes, I understand.
Life is a dew drop. Yet… and yet….
So beautiful. Quoting Osho, Thomas said the dew drop metaphor explained the transient nature of Life. But the ‘yet and yet’ usage by Issa pointed to the way we humans forget this impermanent quality of Life and how we allow ourselves to be overcome by grief when what we are attached to gets snatched away from us. Or when what we want doesn’t happen. Indeed. Our desires and attachments bring us grief and that leads to our suffering. It is only through suffering, like Issa, when you have been felled by Life, that you awaken and understand Life’s transient nature. You then realize that Life is but a dew drop. Here now. And gone in a moment! Then you stop asking ‘why’ and instead accept your reality leading you to inner peace and happiness.
But, like our manager friend who we met yesterday, there are so many, many, many people out there asking ‘Why?’ of Life or are asking, more specifically, ‘Why Me?’. These questions arise when things don’t go per your plans or when Life socks you in the eye, catching you unawares, numbing you, shocking you! You are perfectly justified in asking these questions. Because don’t you deserve an answer to what’s going on in your Life? That’s a logical expectation. But Life never operates on a logic that you__or I__can or will ever understand. So, ‘Why?’ or ‘Why Me?’ then become the most futile questions ever in Life.
Where does such insensitivity from Life leave you? What should one, who is beaten by Life, then do? Simply, suffer in silence?
he Buddha recommends that we try an intelligent solution. He has said this so beautifully. He said that suffering is optional, even while pain is inevitable. His wisdom pointed to an irrefutable truth – that as long as you are alive, you will encounter pain. But to suffer on account of that pain, is optional. Suffering comes only when we pose questions to Life and resist a situation we find ourselves in.
When people misunderstand you, you feel pained. But you suffer only when you insist that they understand you or when you resist their misunderstanding you. When someone you know dies, there will be pain. But suffering comes when you insist that death should not have happened and when you want that person back, alive, again. When someone cheats you, deserts you, stabs you in the back, there will be pain, but suffering arrives only in the moment you wished that what has happened had not happened. Or when you lose your job or money in your business, there will be pain. But it becomes suffering when you wish you had not lost either. All your suffering comes from wishing pain away.
So, when you encounter pain remember Thomas’ Issa story. Don’t ask ‘Why’ anymore. Simply accept Life knowing that what is, is. You will then discover that pain, when accepted, does not cause suffering, but, in fact, leads to you to peace, constructive action and happiness!