The majority of the emotional pain that people experience is caused not by something outside of themselves but by their internal reaction to things. And those reactions that bring pain are usually based on attachments and expectations that are unfulfilled. You make an appointment with you and they don’t fulfill your expectations so you get disappointed. That is why my motto is, “No appointments, no disappointments.”
One of the main Buddhist precepts is that life is suffering. The father of Yoga, sage Patanjali, made a similar statement: “Dukham evam sarvaam vivekinaha.” This means, for a person with discriminative knowledge everything is painful.” Was Buddha just depressed? Was Patanjali a pessimist? It is easy to misunderstand what they were teaching and see it as some kind of negative or pessimistic view of the world.
In actuality, Buddha, Patanjali, and many of the great sages realized that everything is painful when we have an attachment to it or when we are not in proper relationship with people and things. What is right relationship? It is the understanding that we are to be in the world, but not of the world; to be active and involved in life without being selfishly attached to the results of our actions.
God, working through the nature, through people, and things teaches us this lesson on a daily basis. Any time we have the wrong approach in life, we experience pain. And when we feel that pain, we either learn the lesson and drop the attachment or we get stuck in more and more pain. That is why when we realize that everything holds the potential for giving us pain and causing suffering, we will—if we are intelligent people—be careful to have the proper relationship.
In effect, pain is our friend and teacher. Pain is trying to tell us: “Hey, if you don’t want to be in pain or to suffer, drop your attachment and selfish expectations. Then you will certainly be happy and joyful.” But we seem to not understand the message that pain wants to give us. Instead we misinterpret it and feel that people or events are needlessly torturing us! Things are painful to us in order to help relieve us from the unhealthy attachments we have formed.
We can misunderstand this sutra of Patanjali or what Buddha taught and see everything as painful. If everything is painful why did God create everything then? Did God purposely create everything to be painful and to hurt us? Is God playing some cruel joke on human beings? No, not at all. Things are in reality, neutral, but they become painful because of our wrong association. Our relationship to the person or thing is incorrect, and then that causes us pain.
So, Yoga and Buddhism teach us that we are in pain because of our improper attitude, because of our wrong relationship, because of our negative attachment. And that should make us want to detach. Once detach yourself completely that which seemed to be causing pain is no longer experienced as painful. That means that it is our mind, our thoughts, our understanding that causes us to experience something as painful. That means that we have caused our own pain and we ourselves have the ability to remedy the pain. In Buddhism we have the tenfold path that leads to liberation from this suffering. In Yoga, there is an eighfold path that is very similar.
These wisdom paths teach us how to be in right relationship with everything in this world. They show us that everything in nature and in life is essentially neutral. What makes it a positive or negative expereince for us is our reaction to it. Haven’t we heard the simple proverb, “One man’s poison is another man’s nectar?” But, how could that be? Poison is poison, isn’t it? If it is poison to one person how can it be nectar to You? What is it really: poison or nectar?
Everything is neutral—neither painful nor pleasurable. We make things painful by our wrong connection. If you plug your finger into the electrical outlet it is painful. If You plug your lamp into the outlet it is enlightening. If you plug nothing into the outlet, it is nothing. The outlet is just there, it’s neutral. The entire nature is neutral, neither good nor bad, pleasurable nor painful. It become painful if you into it with a wrong relationship.
And the entire function of prakriti (nature) is to give us this experience; to help us to have the correct relationship with everything. We should know the proper relationship. For example, let’s take the element of fire. Fire is very good, right? It gives you warmth in winter. Because it gives warmth, you might say, “Oh, fire, you are giving me warmth. You are just wonderful, I just want to hug you.” But, let’s say you go and begin to hug the fire, what will happen? The fire will burn and may even kill you. What would you say if the fire burns you? “Oh, fire I hate you. You are burning me. I don’t want to even go near you.” So you step far away, and what happens? Soon, you will find yourself freezing cold.
What does this mean? Living a detached life or living in “right relationship” means that we live a balanced life. We should not be overly involved or overly uninvolved in anything. That is the relationship we should all develop with everyone and everything. Don’t go too close to where you are completely dependent and don’t stay too far away to where you are so detached and independent. Healthy interdependence is what we all need. Maintain the correct distance.
In the Yoga sutras, Patanjali speaks about raga (desire) and dvesha (aversion) as two of the stumbling blocks of life. Yoga teaches us to rise above like and dislike because they are two sides of one coin. If you go toward one, the other is just on the other side. This is what we call the “rollercoaster ride of life,” isn’t it so? You like someone very much and you want to pull them very close. If they don’t like you, you want to push them far away. Or, you see an expensive piece of jewelry that you really want to have. You will lust after that and when you get it, you will immediately be afraid of losing it.
The point is not that you shouldn’t have nice things or love anyone but don’t get constantly pulled by likes and dislikes. Find the neutral place, the balance point from which you interact with people and things. You have things, but don’t let them have you. People and things come, you accept them; when they go, you also accept that. Cultivate this detachment and non-clinging in life and you will always be peaceful and happy. Otherwise, you will be tossed and turned by the ocean of desires and attachments. It’s very simple.
If we have that kind of total acceptance then there is nothing that can shake you; nothing can make you unhappy. And at the same time there’s nothing to make you happy. Why? Because you won’t have to rely on anyone or anything being there to make you happy. If something is there to make you happy and when that something goes away, you will become unhappy. Instead, you are happiness. You don’t depend on things to make you happy.
You just experience your own natural state of inner happiness and joy. By nature we are all bliss beings. The ancient Aham Brahmasmi. I am that Supreme. Anandcham. Shantoham. I am blissful. I am peaceful. I don’t have to depend on anything to be happy or to stay away from anything to be happy. Because still both are happiness, no? You want to keep something to be happy or you want to star away from something to be happy. None of them is going to make you happy. Nothing has to make you happy. You are happiness. That means, it all boils down to realizing one’s own nature. “My nature is peaceful. My nature is joyful. All other things come and go like passing clouds. White clouds come. dark clouds come. But this side I am the sun. I always shine.” Remembering and learning this truth of your true nature is the only war to escape from the clutches of maya, clutches of Prakriti.
Prakriti is maya. Prakriti means nature. You call it Maya. It’s not that it comes to trick You. It’s just there. If you handle it properly there’s no need to trick you. It’s not interested. Patanjali says that when a person experiences that kaivalya state then Prakriti has finished his job with him. Patanjali talks about that. When he has experienced what to experience. That means his own true Purusha, nature, then Prakriti cannot do anything with You and it need not do anything with you.
Because when the cloth is clean the laundryman will not keep it there, it will be wastage of taking place. He will find the owner and, “Come on, take it away. I can’t store it anymore here. It’s taking more room for me. I still need a lot of room for the dirty laundry.” So the Mother Nature, even if you call her, she will say, “No, I finished my job.
You don t need me, I don’t need you. My job is over.” Then even though you are In it you are not of it. Like a doctor, when you are sick you go there and the doctor treats you and tells you to come back for follow-up appointment and continues to monitor your recovery. Once recovered, it’s not necessary to come in every week. You are okay.
It is like the example given in the scriptures is a drop of water rolling on the lotus leaf. Valini talam. If you take a little water and throw it on the lotus leaf almost they are like pearls. They roll around like mercury rolling around. They can never wet the lotus leaf. You become a lotus leaf. You are In the water but the water can never wet You. You are in it but not of it. You are like a boat in the water. But you don’t let the water into the boat. There’s a big difference, is it not? I ask you: Where should the boat be? In the water. And where should the water should be? Not in the boat.
B0at should be in the water. Water should not be in the boat. If the boat allows how should the water get into the boat? If there is a little? Hole.
Sometimes we want to be holy. When You become holy water gets in. So better to be unholy I think. Make sure that there’s no hole where the world can enter into you. But if you say, “No, I don’t need the world, I don’t want the world, the world should not enter into me, I’m going to run away from the world,” where will you run? You still have to be in the world. And then why? You don’t need the world. Then why are you in the world? Because somebody can jump on you and then go across. The boat should be in the water. Otherwise what good of that boat then? The boat may not like the water getting into it. See the problem there. The boat doesn’t want the water but the boat has to be in the water. Why, because others can use the boat. The boat even personally is not interested in taking people taking across but it is just there. Those who want to get in, get in. Those who want to cross the river or ocean or pond, they can do it. The boat doesn’t come and say, “Come on, get into me.” No. But it is there.
So, you are in the world but don’t be eager to go and serve. Then there is n egoism there. You are just there. Those who want to get in, get in. And then, even if you get in the boat will not take you you have to row.
Use the boat to go across. Even though the boat is a good thing to take you across, you have to use it. If you overload and abuse it the latest news is some of our soldiers abused a boat and they all sunk and many died.
Somewhere near Haifa. Many of them died. They are still looking into the reason why. So, use the boat correcting The boat is there, you should know how to use it, use it correctly and then you can safely go across. If you abuse it, you ruin your life.
So our goal should be like becoming a boat. Just a boat. Be in the water. Don’t try to jump out. “Oh, it’s all terrible. I don’t want to be in this world, painful world.” You cannot jump. Where will you jump? From the devil into the? Deep sea. From the frring pan? Into the fire. You cannot jump out of either. You cannot run around. Instead, stay put.
A good spiritual seeker has to learn this. Just detach. See the whole world as a natural way of doing things, happening things. The great Yoga Swamigal used to say, “Apomajungakar,” he will say. “Oh, it all finalized long before. It’s all decided long before.” The one who was in Jaffna. I think we have his picture somewhere in that corner. Yoga Swamigal. He was a great siddha. He was a great admirer of our society in Jaffna. He would never allow anybody to come near him. He will Just chase them away, “Hey, hey, go, go, go, go!” At last days he even fell down and broke his hip, he was In the hospital. He will always allow only our members to go there, sit and chant. He had a very soft corner for me in his heart. He was a great saint. He will just, “Oh, apomamaniakari.” Apomamaniakari means, “It’s all finalized long before. I don’t worry about that.” Never affected by.
And his guru, Chalappa, was another great siddha. Chalappa swami. They used to call him viser Chalappa. Viser means crazy. Crazy Chalappa. And naturally, people will call him Crazy Chalappa because of his behaviors. He will ask the devotees, always people are around. “Hey, go, get some nice rice, nice dal, nice vegetables. I want to cook a good meal for me, myself.” And they will bring everything, the pots and pans and they will even put three stones and start a fire there and he will put everything, “I am a wonderful cook, gourmet cook! I am going to cook a special meal for me’ And you can also have some as prasad!” And he will work so diligently, every minute details, cook everything beautifully for 2-3 hours and everything is over, then the food is served on the nice, big banana leaf.
“Ahh, mmmm, 26 varieties. Wonderful, wonderful. Ahh. Aha! Aha! Is that what You are looking for now, salivating?” He will talk to himself. He will just get up, kick the whole thing, all into the dirt, pots and pans and leaves, everything. “Ahh, see? Now eat.” He will bend down and lick hat went down into the dirt. How else people will call him then? After all that he will talk to his own mind, “Ahh, you were really ready to pounce on that. Are you salivating? Mmmm! That’s how they were able to show how much of detachment, how much of a control they had over their senses.
They all did things in their own way, crude way sometimes. It all boils down to this. If we want peace and joy. don’t look anywhere else. Until you have that detachment then it’s hard to experience the peace and joy within. It takes a big price to give up everything. All these teachings, all these hours and hours and weeks and weeks and months and years of talks got summarized in one little piece by that old lady, Avvaiyar. She seemed to have been asked a question, “How can I liberate myself from all these things?” Veedu. Veedu means liberation. “How can I get veedu?” Moksha. Veedu in Tamil, mokha in. Then he said, “Oh, simple. How simple.” “Atridu patinil utradu vidu.” Atridu patinil if you detach yourself completely, free yourself from all the attachments you are there already. The vedas proclaim that. What is, after all, bandhamam moksham? Manaeva manishanam karanam ban dh mokshayo. You make your self bound, you make your self liberated.
Nobody is interested in binding you, nobody can liberate you. Nobody! Not even God can come and liberate you if you decide to bind yourself. So, Atman uteray Atman Atmanem. Bhagavad Gita. You raise yourself by Yourself. Nobody, others can only show you sometimes, tell you, show you the way. The signpost, “Charlottesville 53 miles” is not going to take you there howevermuch you go, hug round and worship and put garland around and prostrate in front, “Please take me to Charlottesville.” You read the signpost and go. And don’t even sit there. “Oh. this is the signpost that showed me the way to go to Charlottesville. Oh, I am very grateful to that. I cannot leave that.” And you sit there and decorate. No. So, all the dogmas, all the temples, all the talks, and all of these things are just simply signposts. Nobody can help you. Not even God.
Even God cannot help you if you don’t? (Help yourself.) So who is important? You. You help yourself then God can say, “Yes, I helped.” You give the credit to God. The real person is you. Because you bound Yourself. God didn’t bind you. So it’s not God’s business to liberate you. See, it all looks like sort of juggling job. Magic. So, let us learn to free yourself from this world. And then live happily in the same world.