Read an Excerpt
The End of Suffering
Fearless Living in Troubled Times
By RUSSELL TARG, J.J. Hurtak
Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Russell Targ and J. J. Hurtak
All rights reserved.
Why Do We Suffer?
If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other.
Suffering is part of the human condition. It comes from our own existence as separate bodies that react to our emotions and our rational mind. The principal cause of suffering is attachment. This is the Buddha's basic teaching of the Four Noble Truths. We crave and desire fulfillment from people, places, and things, and we strive for cherished outcomes in the so-called external world. We learn to fear life's impermanence; thus we cling to things that are in themselves impermanent. This clinging to ever-changing externalities, rooted mainly in our personal story, results in our experienced separation from one another and from the Truth or the Divine.
Our sense of separation causes suffering by leading us to search for love or the experience of the Divine outside the Self, just as in Marc Almond's well-known song "Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places." As his lyrics state, "Learn to love yourself before anyone else." In the movie On the Waterfront, Marlon Brando cries out poignantly, "I could have been a contender. I could have been somebody." That's what we all long for—the discovery of who we are. I (Targ) was once talking about Buddhist traditions with a group of Nashville songwriters. I described the familiar teaching that "the love we are looking for is already within us." They agreed, but laughed and said that if this idea gets out, no one will listen to popular songs, whose main theme is "the IFD disease—idealization, frustration (because the ideal can never be found), and demoralization." This is the same path through life that the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer describes as "striving, disappointment, and boredom"—utterly devoid of any internal spiritual life.
In his book on the Enneagram, psychologist and spiritual teacher Eli Jaxon-Bear makes this important idea touchingly clear. He writes:
When identification shifts from a particular body ... to the totality of all being, the soul realizes itself as pure limitless consciousness. This shift in identification is called Self-realization. In this realization, not only do you find that love is all there is, but you also discover that this love is who you are [emphasis added]
The Hindu Vedas and other scriptures teach the critically important idea that we already have within ourselves the love and everything else we could possibly want. Pema Chödrön, Buddhist teacher and student of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, describes this as "the dynamic energy of the awakened heart." And the Gospel of Luke confirms that "the kingdom of God is within you." As physicist and writer Peter Russell says, "Love is the secret sensation of the Self." Yet love is clearly more than just a feeling. It is a unifying experience and is spoken of as such in many of the world's scriptures.
One of the oldest and most profound truths is the Vedic teaching that Atman (the divine spirit or awareness within us) equals—is one with—Brahman (the whole undivided physical and nonphysical universe). This equality of Atman and Brahman is also a precursor of the twentieth-century physics discovery of nonlocality and our nonlocal awareness. In physics, nonlocality means that particles are connected with each other, or entangled, even though they are moving away from each other at the speed of light. This entanglement is inherent in the very nature of the space and time in which we live. The experience of nonlocal or spacious awareness is the gateway to the love and liberation that lead to discovery of who we really are. Spaciousness of mind and nonattachment to stuff allow us to expand our awareness to experience oceanic connections with all of nature. It is the pristine mirror that leads to what Jesus called "the peace that passes understanding." Spaciousness is an expression of unbounded love that allows our awareness to fill the interconnected universe. And the Buddha describes the end of suffering in which we are finally liberated to experience the world with naked awareness instead of with the conditioned awareness of grasping, judgment, resentment, and the fear of impermanence. One could say that enlightenment is the state in which we experience everything for the first time; that is, our lives are a succession of many awakened moments of pure naked awareness.
Suffering, the Buddha taught, is caused when the freedom that is inherent to our nonlocal pristine awareness is obscured by the limitations of our ego and our physical body. We forget that we are pure awareness, residing only for a time as a physical body. This does not mean that we should ignore our body. Bodies, we are told, are very precious and hard to come by; they are the seats of emotions, without which we would be missing our empathetic connections with one another. Emotions are ubiquitous guides, leading to wisdom along the path; thus the body is a valuable teacher. We are, however, more than just a body.
Most of us begin life with total love for and acceptance of the world around us, but as we grow older we learn to constrict these feelings in response to the unpredictable experiences of life. We experience both good and bad, and the meaning of these experiences is not always clear to us. We get caught up in the daily game of scripting and role-playing. We dramatize our ego, which is the story of who we think we are. Our so-called business card is really our story card. The more we think that our story, accomplishments, and recognition represent all that we are, the more we suffer, because it's not the truth.
Of course, many of us try to move beyond reinventing ourselves externally—new clothes, new car, new face, new partner. Still, the powerful inner need for self-realization and the apparent lack of love around us can make life seem almost unbearable. And confusing your story with your true nature leads to unsustainable inner contradiction and paradox. The actress Marilyn Monroe was an outstanding example of this problem—a person who seemed to have everything—and nothing, not even a self. In spite of her beauty, wealth, and position, she became lost in the Marilyn Monroe persona of her own creation. As she walked the alluring and profitable tightrope between innocence and sexuality, she was, in the end, unable to internalize and discover the woman behind all the photos. For Marilyn, being seduced by her story produced negative thoughts that began to outweigh her positive appreciation of life. It was this dissonance of story versus life that made her both crazy and sick. Over a long period of time, these contradictory thoughts, whether we are conscious of them or not, can become disruptive forces that bring disease to our minds and our bodies.
Equally as important as surrendering one's story is not to expect or crave applause—or even thanks. If you or I have done the job to the best of our ability, we don't really need the standing ovation. If you want a reward, then Saint Matthew suggests saying your prayers and doing your good deeds in secret (until the desire for reward passes). It's the hypocrite who prays loudly on the street corner and puts the Ten Commandments on the front lawn, to paraphrase Matthew 6:5-6. The hypocrite confuses the experience with the form.
Disruptive forces abound. We live primarily in a world of competition, acquisition, and consumption. Living with television, e-mail, cell phones, and the Internet, we rarely experience a single quiet moment. Constant exposure to television and other media places a tremendous amount of emphasis on who we "should be," which can lead to depression becoming a "normal" part of life. In his epic book on contemporary shamanism, Daniel Pinchbeck writes, "We live in a world of data overload and media smog, where everything distracts from everything else. Yet underlying this noisy assault, our culture offers us nothing transcendent. No deeper meaning, no abiding hope." The goal of advertising is to make us feel unhappy and needy and then promise relief. Its purpose is to create suffering that can be relieved only by purchasing a product that will fulfill a need that we never knew we had. Living in a multimedia environment, we are also exposed to a dehumanizing atmosphere, where we build up a tolerance, even an indifference, to the violence and hardship experienced by others. We begin to view the televised suffering of others as separate from ourselves, as though this media saturation has overloaded our "empathy chip."
Although we all experience suffering in our lives, many people store up their emotional pains and resentments—suppressing instead of expressing their feelings and emotions. Others act out the pain through anger and rage without being aware of the root cause. Whether repressing or acting out, our culture spends millions of dollars on psychologists and psychiatrists, often without ever fully exploring the "fundamentals" of why we are not happy. Quieting our minds is never easy and is certainly more difficult without deeper levels of awareness and inner development to determine the source of our suffering.
Whenever peace tries to be present, chaos also attempts to gain control. For example, you have just finished your meditation, then you turn on the radio and hear a terrible news report about this group killing that group. It is essential that we overcome the ubiquitous and poisonous "us versus them" mentality fostered by the media. Each of us can break out of our dualistic worldview by changing the way we think and act in relation to each other. We will be happier if we work together as a collective force, because we are all one in consciousness.
Exploration of life can transcend the illusions of a separate self trying to find answers in the material world, where money can never buy the love or the happiness we are seeking. We cannot relieve suffering by replacing one ego-centered story with another—or seeking another "I" outside ourselves to find fulfillment. The idea that I am a pretty good half-a-person seeking a similarly fractional partner to complete me is never successful. This creates an unhealthy codependence that frequently leads to resentment when the other half quits doing whatever he or she did to make me feel whole. This is why codependent love can so quickly turn to hatred. When the other half-a-person, or some material thing, does not fulfill our needs, we convince ourselves that we are indeed alone, believing that nobody understands our pain or fears. This situation often leads people to explore alcohol or drugs to relieve their pain. The point is, by transcending the illusion of a separate self, you can contact your own loving nature before you start searching for a partner to travel with you on a spiritual path.
With only a small change in perception, we can release ourselves from our constrictive space of personal isolation and from feeling that we are victims of circumstance. For example, we can begin to perceive that we give all the meaning there is to everything we experience. This is why we hear that "The coward dies a thousand deaths" (of the ego). We all have the power to take back control of our lives and experience our higher selves rather than just have things happen to us. When we are stopped in traffic, for instance, we can pound the steering wheel and experience our ego reacting with impatience and anger, or we can welcome the opportunity to slow down and appreciate our surroundings or spend a moment in gratitude. This teaching is another example of the very important Buddhist teaching on emptiness (sunyata), where nothing at all is happening, except for the meaning we assign to it. This is one of the many strong parallels between Buddhism and the twentieth-century spiritual guide called A Course in Miracles. Also, there is a Buddhist newspaper, called The Dot, whose motto is "Nothing happens, and we report it."
Developing compassion is a step on the path to the end of suffering. From this perspective. Western philosophers like Kierkegaard and Pascal argued that good works come only from suffering and the pressures of life, and that greatness derives from grief and pain, poverty, destitution, and a thousand other obstructions. The great East European mystic of the last century, Gurdjieff, also speaks about voluntary suffering, which is when we choose to bear the unpleasant manifestations of others. Difficult relatives are the usual opportunity for this practice. Acknowledging difficulties is a spiritual exercise to recognize the ego, which wants to strike back or push away, instead of remaining centered in the face of unpleasant inner turmoil. This is similar to the Buddhist tonglen practice, the meditation practice of sending and receiving, in which you give away all your joy and goodness with each outbreath, then take in resentment and foulness of the world with each inbreath. The objective of all the practices is to let go of attachments and develop compassion and loving-kindness for yourself and others. Compassion is the key. Letting go of attachment does not mean disinterest. Our goal here—that which gives meaning to our lives—is to understand and experience the truth, and then to share that open-hearted and unitive experience with others. Meditation is the path providing the mind-quieting opportunity to practice what Pema Chödrön calls the four Limitless Qualities of loving kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity.
There is, however, genuine suffering connected with profound sadness and grief that we feel in our heart, for example, from the loss of a child or loved one. Often crisis causes a complete change in our reality structure, which can bring us to the point of paradigm shift. The shift that occurs as a result of suffering can lead us to the experience of love and compassion—the oceanic connection to nature and all life. Compassion, love, and the experience and understanding of egolessness are essential ingredients that facilitate the end of suffering. Nonjudgmental emptiness is a primary requirement for true compassion.
For the most part, our everyday suffering is not caused by tragic events of the heart, but rather by insults—real or imagined—to our ego story. Suffering is the response to these imagined attacks that interfere with what we want and what we feel we need. Fortunately, we can learn to let go of these conditioned responses and view suffering as a delusional idea. We can choose not to collect suffering memorabilia to paste into our scrap-books. Since our personal story is only made up of ideas, we can learn to release these ego-insults and let them float away like helium balloons. Or, as Ken Wilber would say, if you don't want to suffer, "ditch the small self." We the authors would say, "Give up the story—the story of ME."
We are spiritually asleep if we allow the regrets of the past, the worries and fears of the future, and the expectation of others to guide our lives. In the midst of the panicky feelings and beliefs and the distractions of this spiritual sleep, it is most difficult to summon intuition or to hear the voice of inner wisdom. The combination of guilt from the past and fear of the future prevents us from experiencing the present. This projection is what Dzogchen Buddhists call conditioned awareness, and it profoundly interferes with the timeless existence we are describing in this book.
With regard to fear of the future and guilt over the past, the great screenwriter and director Woody Allen has made a career out of his lifelong suffering. In a recent Associated Press interview, he describes his view of life:
Most of life is tragic. You're born, you don't know why. You're here, you don't know why. You go, you die. Your family dies. Your friends die. People suffer. People live in constant terror. The world is full of poverty and corruption and war and Nazis and tsunamis....
This is New York existential angst, where basically everything sucks. This stance, however, has served Woody very well—through several Academy Awards and more than 20 nominations. Of course, we notice that much of his suffering is either in the past or in the future. He is not presently in pain, as far as we know.
Elie Wiesel, who survived the Holocaust and several concentration camps and went on to win a Nobel Peace Prize, admonished a Jewish writer friend on the subject of forgiveness. He said you should never be silent, but that if you don't let go of hating the Nazis, then they have won and you are still in the camp.
If we were to begin talking with Woody Allen, we would invite him to the Stage Delicatessen on Seventh Avenue. And after he had bitten into a big fat corned beef sandwich, with the juice dripping off his chin, we would ask him to tell us about his suffering. We would respectfully investigate whether it is possible to get him to focus his brilliant mind on the present moment where nothing at all is happening but sandwiches. Or are we doomed to forever share our table with Nazis and death?
Excerpted from The End of Suffering by RUSSELL TARG, J.J. Hurtak. Copyright © 2006 Russell Targ and J. J. Hurtak. Excerpted by permission of Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.