We Never Find The Entity That SuffersSo much of self-enquiry seems to turn on space and quiet reflection. But what about when the emotion's kicking in bigtime? Is it business as usual? "Who's suffering?" "Who's asking the question?"
Self-enquiry seems to require a nice balance of suffering to keep me focussed but not too much suffering, because too much suffering distracts. Too much suffering seems counterproductive. I mean, when the house is on fire, I just want out - it doesn’t seem like the right time to start asking questions like: “Now, what’s the exact nature of this house and it’s burning?” So, what’s to be done when the suffering is fierce?
Another reason I’m asking this question is that the online company I keep and the books I read tend not to talk much about intense emotion, even though intense emotion is regularly on the radar. (On my radar, anyway.)
So much of self-enquiry seems to turn on space and quiet reflection. But what about when the emotion’s kicking in bigtime? Is it business as usual? “Who’s suffering?” “Who’s asking the question?”
Paul: Self-enquiry seems to require a nice balance of suffering to keep me focussed but not too much suffering, because too much suffering distracts.
Rupert: Self-enquiry or investigating the nature of our self or our experience, is a gift that appears spontaneously. Even if we think we, as a person, can do something to induce this desire to investigate, such as read a book or attend a meeting, that desire itself comes as a gift, unbidden.
If the situation is so intense that there is no spare energy or attention for anything but a practical resolution of the situation (such as getting out of a burning house) then the desire to enquire into the nature of experience is unlikely, as you say, to appear. However, such situations are rare.
If the desire to explore the nature of the self only appears at times when the situation is of a lesser intensity, that is fine. In the end, it doesn’t matter what the situation - the apparent entity around which the suffering revolves is the same in mild or intense situations. The suffering may seem more or less intense, but the entity is the same in both cases. Self-enquiry is the exploration of this apparent ‘I’, not the paraphernalia of suffering. So it really doesn’t matter what the particular characteristics of our suffering - a mild sense of lack is as good an opportunity as a more intense feeling. If the feeling is overwhelming, the impulse to enquire into its nature will not, by definition, arise.
However, I am puzzled by your example of the house. A house on fire usually triggers a practical response (that is, ‘out,’ as you say). There is no entity and therefore no suffering in that situation. There is no room or time for an abstract entity in such a situation. (I am speaking from experience!)
Suffering usually starts after the event, while we are drinking tea in our neighbours kitchen and the thought comes to us, “I have lost all my belongings.” That would be a good time to ponder the nature of the one who has lost everything. Even to try to find that one would be interesting…..
Paul: “Who’s suffering?”
Rupert: Imagine watching Hamlet on stage. Who is suffering, Hamlet or the actor? Hamlet is not really suffering, because a costume cannot suffer. Nor is the actor suffering, because he is acting. Who then is suffering? And how real can the suffering of a non-existent entity be?
The next time you find yourself suffering, irrespective of whether the suffering is intense or mild, try to find the one who suffers. The suffering revolves around this apparent entity inside, but when we look for the entity…...we never find it.
With kind regards,