End Conditioning, End Sorrow
Expression, experience and understanding
Our thoughts, feelings, words and deeds are all different forms of expression which return to us as experience. Usually, we are more concerned with the effect or experience and forget that expression not only shapes experience—it itself becomes the experience on the rebound. It does not matter whether you are a doctor, lawyer, housewife, student or swami—we are all expressing in some manner and environment, and experiencing the effects.
Through the cycle of expression and experience, we have an opportunity to know the inner health of the mind as it reacts and to transform the very character or substance of the mind by responding to all that arises in a better way—without separating ourselves from anything.
What are problems?
Problems are effects experienced within when the inner world does not correspond to the outer world. What we want is not coming and what we don't want is here to stay, it seems. This inner world comprises our hopes and expectations, no matter what the justification and our conditioning.
What is conditioning?
Conditioning is habits of the mind that insist on conditioning—interpreting and shaping our lives. There is a condition outside and thought colors it so that we do not see what is actually there—only what thought or inner conditioning tells us is there.
Since childhood, we are trained to take care of everything we consider 'ours' first. Then, we are trained to be competitive with others and doing it better than others or most brings praise and recognition. The inner feeling of 'our things' and 'our people' is trained further into 'our interests' and the idea of self. Once the idea of self or 'who I am' is taught, it becomes a self-feeding circle of self-centeredness and selfishness that will insist on interpreting perception and shaping response.
Gradually, the feeling of 'I', 'mine' and 'better than others' or 'me first' saturates consciousness and the trained 'I' enters life fully conditioned and perhaps eager to win. But there is just one little problem: others have had this self-centered competitive training too so each is out to win—praise, success and even love. Peace and inner balance is lost as every free moment is spent in the quest to take care of one's own interests and get more.
We already carry some natural conditioning—limitations on our senses that makes everything appear outside, apart from each other and the feeling that we 'are' males or females. I use 'are' to show that existence is tied to these conditions in which we find ourselves. If I am aware of something, even these conditions, then they are an object of my awareness and cannot be who I am or the self which is existence.
When you add to natural conditioning things like 'ours' and 'our people' and further 'our interests'—the self which is pure consciousness—who we are—is ignored and the dark clouds of add-ons are taken for self. Just as the sun cannot be subdued by the clouds, self cannot be subdued by the clouds of confusion and ignorance. We just look at these dark clouds as self—as who we are and so do others who have been given this training of ignorance and each fights to protect their interests.
To subtle conditioning due to the limitations of senses and impressions carried across births is further darkened by conditions we find ourselves in this journey—ignorance reigns supreme internally and externally. Our lives are filled with fear as self and self-interests are entangled with existence or who we are.
Today, technology has dissolved barriers of distance, time and purpose. People are always working; thinking and competing becomes normal and there is saturation of conditioning. This is all training but training that hardens individuality till separateness from the whole and self-interests become a natural and vital need for each individual. When this happens in society, corruption rises as a short-cut perhaps, and being a good person becomes an optional and seemingly impractical feature that is practiced with only a very few—one's own people. Virtue practiced selectively is not virtue—it is vice… it is not natural, a part of one's character—and can be turned off for something else. That ‘something else’ which can be put into gear with those who are not ours or what is not in our best interests must exist within and it is surely not virtue.
I have read someplace: when wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; but, when character is lost, everything is lost.
When one clearly sees one's inner erosion and its heavy price on one's life and happiness, one begins to find better ways to live, to increase one's natural goodness and reclaim oneself. This, not just to be good socially but simply to be good, as it is its own reward. Goodness has to grow in one and saturate the heart so that it is natural and therefore effortless. Selective goodness is applied goodness and this means that given the right conditions, it is not only possible but natural to be non-good—no good.
Natural goodness and oneself have to become synonymous; then, one is incapable of getting hurt and therefore, incapable of hurting others. Why is this not possible? We love being with infants as they are so natural and hence innocent (inner scent or inner sent). They have not been trained to be self-centered as yet and so they love naturally. Is it ever worth it to lose ourselves for anything and then struggle hard to regain what was lost, cosmetically?
The goodness I am talking about is what is felt and lived when the idea of 'other' is not there. The Upanishad says, "Wherever there is other, there is fear". Otherness is not part of the natural order, we are in one planet, in one solar system, in one galaxy and in one creation—just how do we stand outside it and then insist on others as outside us too? These are notions in our minds only—conditioning that can and must be overcome. Conditioning or limitation cannot be overcome by 'adding' more thought or theory as they are more limitations only. Limitation is overcome by realization of the natural state which is full—free of all limitation.
When one is naturally good, goodness flows from one as his very fragrance and this natural goodness is its own protection. One does not feel the need to accumulate much as one is happy in one's self, just as a rose can never know odor as it is always saturated in its own fragrance. Just as a rose gives off fragrance to one and all, a good person radiates goodness naturally.
Accumulation rises out of fear and selfishness, and the more one accumulates, be it wealth, power, position and even learning, the more selfishness and fear increase. This so because the thirst to get more increases and one becomes even more concerned about protecting what has been accumulated. Contentment is the greatest abundance and blessing. Not a one can give you contentment, it is a gift that has to be bestowed by oneself. Natural goodness blossoms in the rich harvest from the fields of contentment. When you are not thirsty to accumulate, the mind is not stirred up, turbulent, there is inner peace, and goodness flourishes where there is natural peace.
When we perceive things, the mind registers an impression on the mind just like a photograph. There is nothing wrong with this as it is a natural function of the mind—just as a camera registers impressions. But unfortunately, this is not all that happens, it is only the beginning unless we are vigilant.
Right from childhood we have been conditioned in so many ways, and over time we have become identified with our conditioning so much that it is hard to set it aside. This is not anyone's fault—it has just happened—but we can do something about it. There are moments in our lives that scream for freedom from such fetters, but though we work on the situations, we never fix the underlying cause, so problems arise again in the same or different forms.
What or who is 'I'?
We should start right at the water's edge instead of considering theoretical definitions of who 'I' is. I am the personality who has quite some conditioning and this is not only the source of my problems but the problems themselves. I seem bound and I would like to be completely free of all limitation. This now makes me a seeker—one who feels bound and feels he must find a way out.
Problems, conditions or 'I'
Our problems and sorrows are not caused by people, things or conditions, they are the effects experienced when we cannot seem to reconcile the inner world of thoughts and feelings with the outer world of circumstances and conditions.
It may be difficult to grasp, but things are always going to be just as they are—just as they have always been! I am a part of all things or creation; and just like a wave cannot expect the ocean to be a certain way. It is not reasonable to expect things to be a certain way. If we impartially examine why we have a problem with things being a certain way, we may discover that we are not only the cause of problems we experience—we are the problem.
Never things outside?
Never. If situations were responsible for our problems, each situation would affect two different people in the same way. Let's say the rain today was the source of my sorrow today, it would have to be the same for you too but you do not mind, you have a nice raincoat and umbrella and besides, your lawn needed the rain so you are happy. There has to be something in me that does not want rain today and that something is the cause of not only my problem with rain today but with all problems.
If we impartially examine problems, not the shape our problems take but problems themselves, we will know where to start: Just what are problems? How come they exist in me? How come I hurt by something in me? Can I not do something about 'things in me' from which I hurt and hurt others?
Our problems are experienced in our own selves as an effect of something. Effects cannot be separated from their cause. Since the effect is experienced in me, the cause must be in me. But I am one person, a whole being with one mind and this phenomena of cause and effect suggests a split, a division within me. A part becomes the cause and acts on another part of itself which experiences the problem as an effect. If I can understand this, not intellectually but actually see it happening, I could keep the mind from this division by staying whole, as I naturally am.