By Thisaru Mahadurage
September 5, 2023
As humans, we are always in pursuit of something, and that something is happiness, which is elusive and can never be fully satisfied. If we observe closely, this constant search is what defines our lives. We find ourselves chasing after objects, people, and various desires, yet the feeling of fulfillment remains elusive. However, there is a path that can bring an end to this cycle of suffering. Different terms like Enlightenment, Nirvana, Awakening, and Realization are used to describe this state. In Buddhism, the term “dukkha” refers not to sadness, but to the perpetual dissatisfaction that we experience in our lives. It’s a thirst that can never be quenched.
Out of all the people who are consistently caught up in this chase, only a few pause to reflect on the emptiness and exhaustion that accompanies it. If you were to connect with individuals from all around the world, you would find that their stories are quite similar to yours. However, not everyone realizes that there is something amiss in the way life functions. Instead, they continue riding the constant rollercoaster of emotions, attempting to temporarily patch up their sadness with alcohol, drugs, parties, and anything that brings fleeting moments of happiness. And so, the cycle goes on.
To understand the true nature of life, you need to have a lot of failures in life. If your life lacks failure you wouldn’t mind living the way you’re living therefore failures are a blessing in disguise. If you’re not resonating with this article, you need to go out into the world more and face failure in various aspects of life be it relationships, work, in achieving your goals and so on.
As you accumulate enough failures in life, you will come to the realization that there is nothing external to seek for fulfillment, but rather the answers lie within yourself. After attempting to find happiness in various external factors like relationships, material possessions, or achievements, you will reach a point where the only direction left to explore is inward, towards self-reflection. This marks the beginning of your personal journey, where you start questioning yourself and the purpose of your existence.
During my youthful years, as I transitioned from school to the real world, I felt an overwhelming sense of exhaustion, as if I had experienced this cycle countless times before. Despite having an abundant life in many aspects, I couldn’t shake off this feeling. It was then that I began contemplating the quickest path to liberate myself from this cycle. Although I had little knowledge about the concept of Nirvana at the time, my intention was to embark on that path as soon as possible. Hence, my younger self devised a future plan where I could freely pursue that ultimate goal. Below is the original plan I sketched,
As I write this nearly a decade later, I deeply appreciate my younger self and the wise decisions I made. Starting my own business has been a significant step, and I cannot express enough gratitude for the maturity I displayed back then. Embarking on this journey has exposed me to countless failures, which only served to reinforce my doubts about life. Establishing a company from scratch, without any initial investments, can be incredibly draining. However, if you persist and keep pushing forward, results gradually begin to manifest. One day, you’ll find yourself looking back and realizing that you’ve finally achieved your goals. I consider myself fortunate to have experienced that feeling. I owe it to my past self for not giving up during challenging times, as life is inherently tough. When you understand that perfection and everlasting satisfaction are unattainable, persistence becomes more manageable.
Following the passing of my father, I encountered a series of misfortunes at a young age, which added deeper meaning to the path I’ve chosen. Loss, suffering, and dissatisfaction all compel us to seek the truth. However, even the act of seeking truth is still a form of seeking, though now we find ourselves on a much much better path.
“When we reach our lowest point, we are open to the greatest change.”Avatar Aang
If you haven’t found failure yet, there’s a surefire way to do it. Simply give everything your maximum effort. Go all out in pursuing your goals, love someone with all your heart, push yourself during workouts until you can barely walk – whatever you do, give it your all. That’s where failure is most likely to be found.
While we can all agree that we are all searching for happiness, have you ever paused to question what happiness truly means? If you observe closely, you’ll realize that happiness is the same feeling regardless of your age or the circumstances that surround it. The only difference lies in what brings you that happiness.
What if I were to tell you that happiness is always present beneath the surface of your thoughts, but the nature of the seeking mind conceals it. The moment your mind stops its relentless pursuit, happiness begins to radiate. However, the mind tends to claim credit for it, suggesting that the happiness you experienced is a result of your achievement. In reality, when you attain something you desire, the seeking mind naturally comes to a halt. This is one of the illusions created by the mind. It enjoys taking credit for something it didn’t truly accomplish.
If you’ve ever had the opportunity to meditate deeply, you’ll come to understand that you have no control over anything. Among the five senses, and even if we include thoughts, if you observe closely, you’ll notice that when you hear something, hearing simply occurs, and it’s not something you actively do on your own. You can’t choose what you want to hear. If you want to experiment, try listening to the sounds around you and attempt to predict what you’ll hear next. You’ll soon realize that you have no control over what you hear. The same applies to the other five senses: sight, taste, smell, touch, and thoughts. By focusing on each of these senses, you’ll discover that things simply appear, and you are merely an observer.
This is one of the insights you’ll gain when you embark on your journey, realizing that all those failures and misfortunes were never under your control. So, if nothing is truly in your control, then you might wonder if you can simply stop worrying, right? It would be great if that’s how the mind worked, but unfortunately, it doesn’t. You will still experience suffering, knowing that you don’t and won’t have control over the things that happen. The only way forward is to continue seeking within yourself.
The next phase of your journey involves discovering peace in the present moment. If you’re familiar with Ekhart Tolle’s “Power of Now”, you’ll understand where I’m headed. As you delve into meditation, you’ll soon realize that being fully present in this moment instantly brings tranquility. In this space, free from the constraints of the past and the uncertainties of the future, all your worries dissipate. When you contemplate it, you’ll recognize that your worries are rooted in either the past or the future. Without these two extremes, you reside in a state of perpetual peace.
Anything related to your past or future exists solely as thoughts. If you have delved into the nature of thoughts, you’ll understand that they are not to be trusted. By their very nature, thoughts are inclined to seek and will employ any means necessary to keep you in motion. This is why people often complain about intrusive thoughts when they are trying to sleep. Thoughts are designed to keep you occupied, diverting your attention from the truth. However, this is something you can transcend when you are aware and fully present in the moment. Although thoughts may continue to arise, they lose their power to affect you when you are conscious of their presence.
If you can bring your mind to a halt, even for a brief moment, you will catch a glimpse of enlightenment until it resumes its activity. There’s a method to momentarily pause the mind, allowing you to glimpse this state. This method is inspired by Loch Kelly’s “The Way of Effortless Mindfulness”.
With this question your mind briefly stops giving you a glimpse to what enlightenment is. Being in this moment is a powerful practice if you can sustain it.
If you’ve been on the spiritual path for a considerable time, you’ve likely come across the notion that the self is not real or that it is an illusion. I, too, held this belief until I delved deeper into the nature of consciousness. However, this understanding is not entirely accurate. The self is indeed an illusion, but that doesn’t mean it is unreal. The term “illusion” signifies that it is not what it appears to be. This is where the concepts of duality and non-duality come into play. According to those who have attained true realization, the reality of this universe is non-dual. Non-duality means that there are no separate individuals or objects in this universe, only oneness. So, the self is real, but the belief that you are a separate individual is not real. In truth, we are all interconnected beings, like fingers connected to one hand, controlled by a single entity. We are all integral parts of a collective consciousness.
Dissatisfaction and suffering are inherent in everyone’s life, much like the reflex to withdraw your hand from a flame. When your mind is exhausted, your body’s alarm bells ring, urging you to take action. The only course of action is to turn inward. We are mere pieces and gears in the vast machinery of the universe, mistakenly believing ourselves to be separate individuals. Recognizing the truth of our interconnectedness brings an end to suffering, as in unity, there is no room for happiness or sadness. You are simply the universe experiencing itself through your senses.
Here are some resources if you’re interested in pursuing this in depth.