Road to Gorakhpur: 18.00 hours, we’re on the bus, there’s an immense noise from the engine and the driver is pressing the shrill, twin-pitched, piercing horn continuously as if he were practising a Miles Davis piece on the trumpet, over and over. Three and a half hour journey and I’m getting thrown around all over the place on this unbelievably rough road. The bus makes a sudden lurch and overtakes a slow moving vehicle; then again, rapidly making our way past all these trucks, one after another. It’s a convoy of Diwali Lakshmi Puja pickup trucks, each one with a generator throbbing in the back: boom, boom, boom, boom. And there’s the Lakshmi shrine all lit up with flashing red, blue and orange disco-lights and Hindi dance music at max volume: thud, thud, thud, thud, thud, thud – followed by a long line of young people running and dancing behind it. The distraction of this holds my attention for a while. It’s really like being on another planet – after a day spent in the silence of Lumbini and minimalism of Theravadin Buddhism.
It wasn’t a good day, pity. I was in the park with the group doing a couple of 45 minute meditation sits on the grass under the Bodhi trees in that historical place and it didn’t come together for me – just one of those things. I spent most of the time tossed around in the samsara of mind stories and now here on the bus, the difficulty of this journey propels me further into a small vortex of thoughts that I failed something, hopelessness and… what to do?
Try deep breathing, keep it simple and allow the chaos to be what it is. See it harden into a grasping knot of discontent and stay with the focus on breathing as I tightrope walk across the raging inferno of things not being right, not being the way I want them to be. It goes on like that for a while and eventually the fierceness of it lessens. The fires reduce to smouldering ashes and there’s a moment of relief. The pain of it is not there now – wait to see what this change will bring and when I look for it again it’s like there’s an empty space where the suffering used to be. I realize it’s gone.
Now it’s later. I’m looking through various notes and there’s a reference to the Noble Truth of Suffering that I copied from somewhere and I can’t remember where: ‘…the disenchantment, listlessness that arises from familiarity with fearfulness, unsatisfactoriness and the comfortless nature of things.’ Hardly an inspiring statement and I can understand why people see dukkha as pretty negative – what is this… masochism? It’s not that, it’s just facing up to it, no avoidance behaviour. I’m saying this because there was one time I was in a situation of no escape from serious physical pain; just no way out, the only thing to do, the only way to go was towards it; no more backing off from it. I had to accept it, let it in. Immediately I notice a small easing, enough to somehow find a release from it – not hard to do when there’s no choice and there’s no other direction to go but straight into it. In hindsight it seems as if I didn’t know it at the time but this was an important part of finding the way out? That’s how it was in the end; I could see the suffering, identify it – it’s like, oh yeh! I see now… and seeing it dispels the ignorance of not having any idea what’s going on and being controlled by it. That’s what lets it go (frees it). Off it goes, bye bye and the suffering is suddenly not there anymore. [Link to: Homer & the 1st Noble Truth]
The struggle itself is what causes the suffering. It’s about the energy used in trying to get away from it just fans the flames and makes it worse. And, because it’s habitual, maybe a lifetime of allowing it to be like this, it’s chronic and things just go on like that until I see the only thing that’s preventing me from letting go of suffering is that I’m still holding on to it….
‘We learn how to let go, in the process of observing the consequence of our grasping.’ [Ajahn Munindo, Dhammasakaccha]