teisho 1199 – 2009
I emphasise constantly the importance of suffering, both in our lives and in our practice. Suffering indicates the possibility of realization. It is the fact that we are in conflict with ourselves that is our greatest hope. If you have worked with suffering you will know that in the more acute periods of suffering the practice becomes most intense, meaningful and necessary. But this does not mean that we encourage people to seek suffering for its own sake.
Our ultimate direction is to realize that true self is happiness. But we should not seek happiness or peace because if one is trying to find peace or happiness it means to say we are turning our backs on the source, on the possibility of realizing true peace and true happiness. Nisargadatta: ”Do not try to make yourself happy. Rather question your search for happiness.” We have a kind of superficial way of handling ourselves, situations, other people and so on. A hand-me-down way of reacting, ‘everything is fine’. Faire enough at one level, but it is not any good when one is working on oneself. One must be open to allow what is really of concern to arise in ourselves. Nisargadatta: “It is because you are not happy that you want to be happy, you feel an acute lack. So ask yourself, what is it I lack?”
Some people feel they are lacking affirmation. Their reaction is either to try to get people to recognize them or to give it all up: ‘it doesn’t make any difference to me,’ a sour grapes attitude. If one recognizes there is unhappiness here and asks ‘what is the source of my unhappiness?’ one is now prepared to get the feeling of the unhappiness or failure or being unloved by others. You don’t search for this, but the unhappiness is there and one allows it to be there. Then what is underlying this will come up to the surface. Of course, this will be painful. It is this pain that is the source of the unhappiness. This was the pain that induced Buddha to say life is suffering.
Nisargadatta: “Find out why you are unhappy; because you are unhappy, you seek happiness in pleasure. One gets true happiness in the quiet use of the body and mind.” A walk, a cycle ride, a swim, or just being with another person.
Nobody is going to call sitting on a seven-day sesshin pleasant, but there is something beyond the pleasure and pain which is its own worth. It is unnamable, but without doubt, sitting in zazen in this way has a reward which is intangible but real, because it is an invocation of yourself. You are bringing yourself into focus.
Pleasure eventually turns to pain and then you long for some other pleasure without pain. True happiness is freedom. It is not freedom from pain, or freedom to act as you wish, but it is freedom in its essence. Longing for happiness is a longing for freedom, a longing for oneself.
Nisargadatta: “Make no distinction, don’t separate the inseparable and don’t alienate yourself from it.” You are intrinsically happy. Everything is fundamentally OK. But very often you grasp at it, to make sure it is real, that it will persist. You are trying to turn it into an experience. But happiness is not an experience, it is freedom from experience. Freedom from the sense of self. In happiness, one is just one with the world, with all that is. “No one walks upon the path this Autumn evening” is a haiku of happiness.
You are Buddha, you are whole, you are freedom, you are peace in itself. Right now, not tomorrow but right now. But in addition to this, there are certain conditions you make, there are certain requisites that you have: In order to really be happy the following must be fulfilled: then you have your shopping list and you look and you see you can’t check anything off. Then you become depressed. It takes a certain kind of courage, a willingness to sacrifice. You must give up your pain, your suffering. If you have the attitude that suffering is how it has always been, that it is the true state, then that is how it always will be.
But if you see your true state is happiness, freedom, now you can look at all this unhappiness in a new way. Hakuin says there are certain requisites for practice: faith – you lend yourself constantly to the openness, the freedom that you are instead of offering yourself to the darkness, to the pain and turmoil that you feel. You let go of the self-pity, the self-indulgence, and see rather that, as you are right now you are peace, you are happiness itself, you are openness, you are unobstructed freedom, and that is what is called faith.
Hakuin says you also need great doubt. Now you see suffering in a new way, as a challenge, a possibility, as a resource. When you have this attitude the whole quality of suffering changes because it then becomes a yearning, like unrequited love. You can only experience this because your true nature is love and wholeness. You are no longer working from darkness to light, but are now working from light with darkness. It is a different attitude. A different way of working.