Being Happy vs. Thinking Happy Thoughts
A meditation on the role of words in teaching
“You can be happy no matter what.”
A strong statement that reaches into at the heart of many teachings.
When you ask people, especially spiritual people, whether they believe that is true, most people would say: yes, I believe that is true.
But I am also sure that the majority of these people would rather win the lottery than lose a leg.
What matters, I guess, is the level at which we realize certain truths.
Mostly we are abiding on the relative level, on the level of thoughts and emotions playing off of each other.
On this relative level it is always possible to ‘one-up’ ourselves.
To convince ourselves that problems are actually challenges, that misery is a great teacher, and that losing a leg is the greatest thing since sliced bread.
We can always find a more positive point of view that throws a different light on our current position.
But that’s not experience, that’s how we interpret experience. We are still in a conceptual state.
In essence all thoughts are equal. They are all mental phenomena. No thought is privileged. Yet we spend our time fishing for thoughts that are true.
We are so discursive. We read books, we listen to teachers and we get uplifted. Or not.
But either way it’s temporary. Because we are always led from one thought state to the other.
The better truth is spoken, the more misleading it is. Better words speak more truth.
But we haggle over this truth and that truth and we are unforgiving.
Instead of admitting that speech and thought per se are inadequate, we choose to believe this or that.
The master points her finger at the moon, but we look at her pointing finger, not the moon.
We demand an answer from the teacher but she doesn’t say anything, and we find ourselves unable to learn from her silence.
Silence is. Silence does not point. Silence IS the point.
But pointing is not pointless.
Words are pointers. Like a needle on a compass, they tell us where to go, where to explore.
Many masters have written books. Those that say that you cannot learn from books, have not understood the relationship between the pointing quality of words, and the experience they are meant to evoke.
Some of the greatest tantrikas were grammarians.
They understood the function of language as a pointing device.
The famous story of the blind men feeling the elephant can be interpreted in two ways: that all the blind men do not understand what an elephant is, or that each of them has a valuable piece of the puzzle.
All views hold value. There is always a way to dissmiss and a ways to accept a view, the positive way or the negative way.
If we go the negative way, which is the way of Vedanta the entirety of reality comes before us as a veil. Everything is an illusion, and truth is always at an infinite remove, hidden behind a layer of untruth.
The positive way is: accept all, include all phenomena, reject nothing.
These are the two ways to arrive at the absolute.
In the first we are like an explorer with a machete going through the jungle of unrealness, hacking away at this and then at that. Nothing is ever real, everything must hacked away. We live in the matrix and some have taken the blue and others the red pill.
In the other way there are no pills. Reality as it feels to the touch, is no more unreal than the image on a computer screen.
This is the affirmative way. This is real and that is also real. Everything is real.
This embrace of everything is typical for the tantrik way.
If we are to come out of our conceptual state, we can follow either one of these two paths, the inclusive or the exclusive.
There is an old form of meditation called neti meditation where, each time that we think a thought, we say: neti, this is not it.
This is not it, this is not it. Neti, neti.
This is a prime example of the negative way, where the entire world appears before us as an illusion.
The other way: love everything that arises. Embrace everything that wants to come, but do not be attached to it.
The key distinguishers between these two methods is the role of passion.
No matter what, we have desires. And in the negative approach we look to abondon desire in order to arrive at the desireless absolute.
In the tantric approach desire is connected to the will of the absolute. Desire is not restrained, but merged with that which is coming into being anyway.
Desire is connected with the oscillation of the finite and the infinite, the pulsation of the absolute.
Finiteness and infiniteness, reality as one and as many, become equally manifest for the yogi. And her yoga consists of enlarging her capacity to hold this in her heart.
Can we speak of happiness or unhappiness then, when we seek to abide in the tremor of existence?