Learn to celebrate the “suchness” of LIFE

A neighbor we came to know recently has been having a series of freak accidents. Over a period of 20 months these episodes have left her completely immobile. All of them have systematically affected her lower limbs and have led to her being confined to her bed at home. She does try to keep her spirits up, egged on by her 20-year-old son, her caring husband and her compassionate mother-in-law, but the fact that she can’t be her “usual self” – enthusiastic and bubbly – does seem to be gnawing at her sometimes. It is but natural the way she may be feeling!
Why does this often happen in Life? That the most irrational things happen to people? I wish anyone had an answer to these questions. Because, such is Life! The Buddha has talked about the “suchness” of Life. In Buddhism there’s this concept of ‘tathata’ – the suchness of Life. Or simply, like that famous section in Reader’s Digest, “Life’s Like That (Only)”!
Almost everything that happens to us in Life is just an event. A situation. We analyze it. We interpret it. And we label it. But our labelling does not change anything. If at all it does cause anything – it only makes us miserable. Life has no agenda. There’s no conspiracy to fix you, just as there is no grand scheme of favoritism to reward you. Even so, whatever happens to you – or to me – happens with a reason, which at first is never apparent. But when you look back, as Steve Jobs famously said, you can only – and always – connect the dots backward!
An beautiful Zen story is worth sharing here.
There was once a famous Zen Master in Japan. Her name was Otagaki Rengetsu (1791~1875). She was on a pilgrimage, and she came to a village at sunset and begged for lodging for the night, but the villagers slammed their doors. They were against Zen. Those must have been traditional Buddhists and so they didn’t allow this woman to stay in the town; they threw her out. It was a cold night, and the old woman with no lodging… and hungry… had to make a cherry tree in the fields her shelter. It was really cold and she could not sleep well. And it was dangerous too — with wild animals roaming the fields.
At midnight Rengetsu woke up with a start — because it had gotten colder — and saw, as it were, in the spring night sky, the fully opened “cherry blossoms laughing to the misty moon”. Overcome with the beauty of the moment, she got up and bowed in the direction of the village! She said to herself: “Through their ‘kindness’ in refusing me lodging I found myself beneath the blossoms on the night of this misty moon. I would have missed something of such rare beauty had I not witnessed this sight tonight. This became possible only because of the ‘kindness’ of the villagers!”
This is what celebrating the ‘suchness of Life’ means.Rengetsu teaches us how such a celebration is possible even in the most difficult times. She felt truly grateful. With great gratitude she thanked those people who refused her lodging, otherwise she would be sleeping under an ordinary roof, and she would have missed the blessing — those cherry blossoms, and their whispering to the misty moon, and the silence of the night, the unbelievable beauty of the silent night. She was not angry with the people. She accepted their decision with equanimity. Not only that she accepted it, she welcomed it, she embraced her situation — she felt grateful.
So whether you are rendered immobile by Life or cashless or companionless or jobless – whatever it may be that Life has dealt you at this time, know that there’s a reason. You can and will discover that reason only over time. You can and will celebrate the “suchness” of your Life surely when you look back to reflect. But for now, accept the “suchness” unquestioningly, with gratitude. You will find yourself anchored and drenched in peace despite your circumstances.

‘Just being’ is a Life-changing App

Intelligent living advocates only one principle – just being! Yet, despite it being so simple to understand conceptually, many of us find it difficult to practice. There’s way to demystify ‘just being’ though. For that, we must first understand, how we live our daily lives.

Each of us is an embodiment of the Universal Energy pulsating through us. Eckhart Tolle simplifies this further: “You are the Universe expressing itself as a human for a little while”. So, the energy in us, when intellectualized and expressed inward, manifests itself thoughts and emotions__ often as worries, anxieties, anger, guilt, fear, happiness, joy and such. When the same energy gets expressed externally we build relationships, comparing or viewing ourselves in relation to fellow human beings and with the rest of the Universe, with nature, with the world around us! When we do neither, not intellectualize and not relate, what happens to the energy? It just thrives within us, deep inside, at our individual cores.

That state is ‘just being’. When you simply are. You are not intellectualizing. You are not comparing. And not relating either.

Our upbringing and conditioning, and our education, forces us to intellectualize everything. The entire idea of education is to use the Universal Energy in us to ask why things are the way they are and how can we get them to work better to our advantage. So, people have become, and continue to become, more and more qualified, more and more knowledgeable, but their quality of ‘being’ has diminished dramatically. Society forces us to compare, to relate to ourselves in respect to others. Everything has a measure and its value is always in relation to something else, similar or otherwise, that has been there. So, while we are great at thinking we are superior or inferior, depending on who we are comparing with, we are pathetic at simply ‘being’__well, ourselves!

Nothing wrong with either our education or our society. Except that Life doesn’t conform to either. And so, when Life takes you on path you are unfamiliar with, you have to ensure neither your education, nor society, come in the way of your experience, your learning and your ‘just being’!

Simplifying this further, (education and) intellectualization happens when the Universal Energy thrives in your head. (Social) Relationships happen when it thrives in your heart. ‘Just being’ happens when that same energy does not move, and is thriving in your inner core. ‘Just being’ is a wholesome state. Where you are one with the Universal Energy.

‘Just being’ does not mean you must not live a ‘worldly’ Life. It does not mean you should abdicate. It really is about learning to ‘live in this world and yet be above it’! ‘Just being’ enhances your awareness exponentially. So, when intellectualization happens, for instance, when you get angry, your awareness sends you a signal to arrest the anger. It doesn’t stop you from thinking and feeling, it only keeps reminding you of the pointlessness of fear or guilt or worry. ‘Just being’ teaches you to be detached in all relationships by diligently, and faithfully, reminding you of the impermanence of everything.

Here’s a Zen story illustrate this learning. When you go to the Obaku temple in Kyoto in Japan you will see carved in wood, over the gate, the words “The First Principle.” The letters are unusually large, and those who appreciate calligraphy always regard them as a masterpiece. They were drawn by the Japanese Master Takushu Kosen (1760~1833) over two hundred years ago. When the Master drew them he did so on paper, from which workmen made the larger carving in wood. As Kosen sketched the letters an outspoken pupil was with him. The pupil never failed to criticize his Master’s work.

“That is not good,” he told Kosen after the first effort.

“How is that one?”

“Poor. Worse than before,” pronounced the pupil.

Kosen patiently wrote one sheet after another until 84 ‘First Principles’ had been accumulated, still without the approval of the pupil.

Then, when the young man stepped outside for a few moments, Kosen thought: “Now is my chance to escape his keen eye,” and he wrote hurriedly, with a mind free from distraction: “The First Principle.”

“A masterpiece,” pronounced the pupil.

This is the essence of ‘just being’. Kosen finally succeeded because he was one with his effort, his vision for the way the letters must appear on wood, above the gate. He was not intellectualizing his effort __ not thinking of what his pupil would be thinking when he wrote the last time. He was not considering his relationship with his pupil and wondering what he his pupil might say about a Master’s work! He just wrote. He simply was!

I hope you share my learning that this is no rocket science! You too can create your own masterpiece by ‘just being’. Truly, ‘just being’ is a high-utility, wonderful, Life-changing, App! You don’t even have to download it to install it. All you need to do to get started is, well, just be!