Saturday, August 1, 2015

Why Do We Suffer?

“Why do people suffer?” Why all this pain?”

“Come with me and I will show you.”

No longer upon the mountaintop, we stood behind some trees in a jungle entangled in vines. In front of us was a clearing into which a well-beaten path led. In the middle of the clearing lay a pit.

“Why are we here?” I asked.

He held up his finger for silence. Suddenly the jungle reverberated from the trumpeting of elephants. Then I saw a man, his eyes wide in fear, running down the path looking over his shoulder to where the trumpeting sounds of the elephants issued.

“Oh, no!” I cried, ready to dash out. “The pit! The man doesn’t see the pit!”

Yama held my shoulder. “Watch.”

As I feared, the man fell unmindful into the vast pit. With one hand he caught hold of a thick root. The elephants came and ran around the pit in rage. For a moment he felt safe. Then he noticed at the bottom of the pit awaited an enormous serpent; its maw opened wide; its hot breath scorching the man’s skin. Then he noticed on the root a rat, which ever chewed upon the root. Above his head he now heard the buzzing of a swarm of angry bees.

The Pit, Janaka Stagnaro
Just when the man was near despair and ready to let go, a drop of honey fell onto his lips. Tasting so delicious, so sweet, the man forgot his predicament, and holding tightly onto the root with one hand he held out the other to catch another drop of honey.

I turned away, for I could not bear to see the inevitable.

“Who is he?  And what did it all mean?”

My guide looked at me and smiled, touching my chest.  “He is you. He is everyone. He is anyone who believes he is but a body, a pitiful creature encased in decaying flesh.

“He runs upon the path of life, running through the tangled jungle of lifetimes of habits and impressions, likes and dislikes. The elephants are his desires, pursuing him, trumpeting in fear of non-fulfillment. 

“The pit is hope.  

“The root he hangs onto is his good deeds of other lifetimes. Gnawing upon it is the rat of time.

“Below him, in the vast, bottomless pit, awaits the serpent of passions, lust and anger. Buzzing around his head are the bees of his thoughts, ready to sting him any moment and send him down into the awaiting jaws.

“Yet the man forgets all these dangers, all this suffering, and holds on tighter, just for another sweet taste of pleasure the mind has made.

“Instead of running upon the path over and over again, falling into the same pit with each new lifetime, from that path he could leave. He could say that this path he wants no more.

“However, he remembers that taste of honey. And so he continues.

“No one causes man to run that path and to suffer.”

                       --excerpt from The Teachings of Yama: A Conversation of Death

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