Why am I unhappy despite realising the truth?
I’m not sure what you said to Claudia is completely true. I am of the mind that it could be an infinite number of ways that this life plays out.
I had a full-blown awakening over 40 years ago, when I was 18, that stayed with me for two or three weeks, and have had a couple big ones since. While we can say these experiences are not the real deal, the knowing that I am (forget that I’m always that, I’ve known it intellectually for 40 years) at those times is no different from every description I have ever heard or read. Yet my life has been unhappy overall since then.
Everything I read or hear is meaningless in regard to all this Advaita biz, because nothing says it. However, I keep at it because I have no other choice. I have come to the conclusion that it’s a matter of grace, and there is nothing outside of that that can affect a thing in regard to awakening. I do acknowledge that had I found the right teacher at that early time that things may have been different, but I did not and that would also have to be a function of grace.
So in the end, isn’t this all mere entertainment? Passing the time as mistaken identities, searching for something that can’t be found? Isn’t it possible that some of us will spend our lives in frustration and despair, having been to heaven itself, where every expression of truth was real and tactile, only to spend most of our time as self-absorbed humans to whom such words are dry and devoid of meaning?
Forgive me if this sounds a more like a suicide letter than a question. My life is good in all relative respects, but there is a longing deep in my heart that cannot be filled, and this has been a result of my ‘awakening’.
I welcome any comments, and thank you all here for your words. Though only words, they do inspire and clarify, and are taken along with everything as awareness playing dumb until it stops. Gotta talk about something I suppose. I hesitate to post this because it is so raw, but it is an honest question that is often hard to ask in a group such as this. I know I am not alone in this regard, and hope some light may be shed that will help to slip beyond.
I am touched by the openness and honesty of your response. I feel that in our conversations in this group we are beginning to move away from the more intellectual aspect of the teaching (which certainly has its place) and to talk more about raw experience.
You say, ‘I have come to the conclusion that it’s a matter of grace, and there is nothing outside of that that can affect a thing in regard to awakening’. I agree with you entirely that there is nothing outside of grace that can affect a thing with regard to awakening, but we seem to have a different understanding of what constitutes grace. You seem to suggest (and please correct me if I have misunderstood) that grace comes only in the form of an unsolicited and spontaneous awakening such as took place for you 40 years ago.
Moreover, you suggest that anything other than such a spontaneous event is somehow simply ‘all mere entertainment’ and ‘Passing the time as mistaken identities searching for something that can’t be found’. In other words, you first decide what constitutes grace and what does not, and then dismiss anything that does not fall within your own particular belief as mere entertainment and trivia.
But how do you know that a ‘chance’ meeting, a book that you come across, a few words read in an email or suggested by a friend, the desire to sit quietly and welcome your feelings or to turn your attention towards its source and other such occurrences, suggestions or impulses, are not expressions of exactly the same grace that delivered that experience 40 years ago? The only thing that makes them seem otherwise is your belief that they are otherwise.
If we did not superimpose our own beliefs on top of grace (yes, of course, that is also an expression of grace) we would relieve ourself of the ‘there is nothing to do’ dogma and more importantly the despair and frustration that accompanies it. We would be open to the possibility that grace comes in a wide variety of ways and that each of those ways is uniquely tailored to our predicament, even sometimes in ways that may challenge our views as to what ‘true non-duality’ looks like.
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I meet so many people who are unhappy and have been told there is absolutely nothing they can do about it, so in addition to their unhappiness a layer of resignation and frustration has been added. This unhappiness is often all the more intense in those such as yourself who have had profound moments or periods of awakening.
It is quite true that from an absolute point of view there is nothing to do and no one to do it. However, unhappy people are not speaking from the absolute point of view. They are speaking from a level at which the apparent separate entity, its unhappiness and the seeking that inevitably attends it, are experienced as being very real. There is absolutely no judgement in that.
It is important to understand that as this apparent entity, doing or not doing is not a choice. Doing (in this case searching for happiness) is inevitableand unavoidableif we feel we are a separate entity, that is, if we are unhappy. It is disingenuous to say, ‘I feel I am a person, a separate entity, and I am unhappy, and yet I know that there is nothing to do’. The separate entity isthe doer, the searcher, the thinker, and so on. What has happened in such cases is that a thin veneer of kosha advaita has been washed over our belief and feeling of separation.
At the risk of being repetitive, let me express this in a slightly different form, as it goes to the heart of the matter as to whether or not there is something to be done:
If we are unhappy we are, by definition, rejecting the current situation. We want things to be different. This rejection of the current situation is itself synonymous with the search for a different situation, that is, the search for happiness in the future. In other words, unhappiness and the search for happiness are inseparable.
If we say that we are unhappy and that at the same time we understand there is nothing we can do, that there is no search, then we simply haven’t looked deeply enough at our present condition.
In such a case, one clear look at ourself will reveal an apparent entity who is very much in search, that is, an entity that is doing something. Therefore, seeking happiness is, for the one who believes him or herself to be an entity, not a choice. It is a given. The separate person isthe search for happiness.
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So the best advice such a person can be given is to seek happiness in the right place. As a result of the experience you describe, which took place 40 years ago, you have already been given direct insight as to the true nature of happiness. It is not necessary to have such an experience to come to the understanding that happiness is not to be found in the realm of the mind, body or world, but as this has happened for you, you are in no doubt.
If, as you say, your experience was ‘a full-blown awakening’, then you will be absolutely certain that it was not located in time or space. You will be certain that what you are is unlimited, unlocated, unborn, unchanging, undying presence. Your glimpse was a revelation of that which is ever-present in your experience. This means that right now, in this very simple act of reading these words, that non-objective experience is present.
This deep longing in your heart is a mixture of the very happiness you seek plus the belief and feeling that it is not present. If we superimpose the belief that there is nothing that can be done in relation to the unveiling of happiness, we consign ourself to resignation, frustration and despair, relieved by odd moments of happiness. It is true that the longing in our hearts cannot be filled. But it can be dissolved.
It is true that the company of a qualified teacher 40 years ago would have been able to point you in the right direction, that is, towards the reality of your experience. But that help is all around you.
Happiness is the simply recognition of our own being – it is the most natural thing. That which recognises this being and that which is recognised are one and the same.
As I mentioned to Claudia, it is naïve to expect happiness to remain ever-present after such an awakening. The mind and the body often come back with a vengeance. It is at this time that a qualified teacher can help, both in interpreting the often perplexing reappearance of old patterns of feeling and, more importantly in helping to slowly realign the mind and the body with our new awakening. In the absence of such a teacher the old habits will, in most cases, prevail.
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So, if we think we are a person (and feel unhappy as a result) there are two things that can be done. One is to seek the source of that apparent person. As we turn our attention towards our own being, this very one, the apparent entity who seemed to turn his attention, is revealed to be none other than presence itself.
The other is that by taking our stand as this aware presence, we can cooperate with the realignment of the mind and the body, and indeed the world, with this new stance. It just requires patience, clarity and courage.
Presence has seemed to veil itself from itself by taking the shape of dualistic thought. But being the very substance of all experience, presence has also provided within every experience, the way back to itself, a golden thread, the way of investigation and contemplation.
From the point of view of a person these two possibilities will inevitably feel like a doing – so be it. They are presence’s gift of grace to itself.