In the human life there are many different types of experiences. Everyone encounters difficult experiences, and joyous, happy experiences. Experiences of success, experiences of joy, experiences of love. But also experiences of pain, sorrow, loss, sadness, and fear. And anger. Human life is complex. It is neither black nor white. Sometimes you may feel your life is wonderful, very happy. Everything’s going your way. And at another point in your life you may feel it’s really difficult, that you can’t believe how hard your life is. Why is this happening to you? So the variation in human experience is wide. And it seems for some people life is more challenging than for others. But really speaking it is not how many challenges you have, but how you relate to the challenges in your life. The people whose lives are most productive, most successful, are not people who’ve had no difficulties or challenges in their lives, but rather people who’ve taken those challenges and difficulties as an opportunity to test themselves and to bring to life all that they can give. Rather than allowing difficult circumstances to make them depressed and to give up, they see the circumstances as an opportunity, a challenge to give everything they have to life.
So you take two people, and you put them in the same circumstance and they face the same challenges, and you’ll find two entirely different outcomes. The outcomes are not guided by the difficult circumstances, but by the person’s response to their circumstances. Tragedy, hardship and difficulty are a part and parcel of human existence. In the complexity of human life there is both pain and joy. So your approach makes a difference. When you do spiritual practices, when you take time for meditation, contemplation and you read spiritual literature, and listen to spiritual talks, you begin to realize that there is a deeper stratum to human life than your interface with your day to day circumstances and environment. And even when life is very difficult, there [is] within you resources to sustain you and to maintain your life. When you begin to see yourself as an interwoven part of an integral whole, when you begin to see that you are not just this body that you live in or the thoughts and ideas in your mind, but you are connected to, integrated with your environment, all the living beings around you. You are part of an ecosystem. You are part of a living system, a living, breathing, evolving system of life. And you cannot be separated. Your existence cannot be separated out from that field of life in which you abide. You, the people around you, the animals, the plants, the air you breathe, the sunlight, the rain, everything is connected.
When you begin to realize your interconnectedness with life, you suddenly realize that you are not alone. And you begin to realize [that] the suffering of other living beings affects you. And your suffering affects the lives and well-being of others. And as you deepen in your spiritual life, you also begin to realize, not only does your suffering affect others and the suffering of others affect you, but that you’re interwoven so deeply in all of the life around you, that you really can’t be separated out. That what happens around you happens to you and what happens to you, happens to all around you. That you are a woven tapestry, not just the body and mind which you inhabit. When you begin to really look deeply inside yourself, and try to find, “What is this body and mind?” “Who am I?” You begin to realize that I, that person, “Where is the source of that person?” You begin to realize that that person doesn’t have a separate source. That there is really no you. There’s a series of thoughts in the mind, and feelings that arise from those thoughts. There is a body that is made of a complex system of organs and biochemical processes that interconnect different biological organs and functional processes, but do they constitute you? Do the thoughts that run through your mind constitute you? No.
So why is it you think you are the thoughts in your mind? Or you think you are the organs in the body and the skin that surrounds them? How are the atoms in your body different from the atoms of the other people in this room and their body? How are you separate? In the field of being, all are interwoven, interconnected. Together, all of you and everything you are surrounded by, your entire earth forms a tapestry of life that cannot be separated out. The assumption that you are the body, the assumption, the belief that you are the thoughts that run through the mind – that’s a belief, but where is its foundation? What is it that makes you different from all else?
Loneliness and separation cause so much suffering in human life. The sense of “I” as opposed to “thou.” The confinement in the belief and understanding that you are this body inside a skin [with] all of these organs, that somehow all these physical components compose you. But if someone should remove your appendix, do you feel that “you” have been removed? No. It is merely an organ in the body, as are all the other organs. So how are they “you?” And the brain and the thoughts that run in the mind, is that “you?” Or simply a tool that you use, your organic computer? But who runs the organic computer?
Perhaps the one who is aware, the one who knows the thoughts? The one who experiences the feelings? The one who experiences awareness of body? The one who is conscious - that is you, isn’t it? But how is that consciousness different from the consciousness in every other person? In every animal and every plant? You know that you are aware you are witnessing the thoughts in your mind, the feelings in your body, but that does not mean “you” are defined by what you witness, by what you see, by what you observe, by what you experience. You are more than your experience. You are the one who can experience. You are the one who knows suffering, who experiences it, and knows joy, experiences it, who utilizes the senses and experiences them. But are you defined and limited by your experience? Or is that self-imposed?
For when you really look into the nature of your own existence, that is when the relationship of “I” and “Thou” begins to shift. So, rather than “I” and “other,” you begin to experience the integrated whole. You begin to feel yourself as a part of the fabric of life. And when this happens, you begin to realize so much suffering is created not by external circumstances, but by your own beliefs that you are separate, that you are alone, that there is you and everyone and everything else. This fundamental human experience of separation is the very root cause of suffering. The belief in duality, the belief that “I am separate from everything else,” this causes the need to defend this little I, to build up situations that will bring prosperity to the little I, and to ward off fear and attempt to avoid circumstances which will bring difficulty to the little I. This is the dilemma of human life, because inevitably you are unable to consistently ward off suffering and difficult experience.
No one wins all the time. And the very praxis of always trying to win, win, win for my little self, and the anxiety and fear of losing, the discouragement and depression when loss comes, this is the pain of the human condition. But it is all based in ignorance, in ignorance of your true nature, in the assumption that you are separate from others. It’s only a belief and assumption. Can you let it go? Can you experience the field of wholeness in which you are a part of all life, and all life is a part of you? Where you live in the sunlight, you live in the shadows, you live in every being, and every being lives in you? Where your destiny and your existence are woven into the fabric of life? Then you are whole. Then you are free.
Then even death cannot cut you. The body comes and goes. Bodies rise, live for a time, and turn again to the dust of the earth. And then another body rises, lives for a time, and again returns to the dust of the earth. But “you,” you the witness, the one who experiences and is aware, you go on, knowing, experiencing, living, searching for your own true self. Until you begin to notice wholeness and your unity with all life. And you realize, “I have always been. I will always be. I live in every being, and every being in me. I live in the entire cosmos.” And then you realize that you are eternal, immortal being, experiencing the endless changes of creation and the omnipresent stillness of pure existence. In that eternal self, immortal being is self-resplendent. And the root of suffering is dissolved. So never let the difficulties of life overcome you. Always pick yourself up, no matter how hard the circumstances, and recognize that life’s struggles are your opportunity to wake up from the dream and to become aware of your immortal nature.