When you look back at your own life, you see that with the suffering you went through, you would have avoided it each time if you possibly could, yet when you look at the depths of your character now, and the fact that you’re sitting here doing this work, you see it’s all a product of those experiences.
Weren’t those experiences part of what created the depth of your inner being?
I look back over the times when I was suffering miserably. I certainly wouldn’t lay it on myself if I’d had a choice, but it happened. It was part of the working out of my life plan, and now when I look back in perspective, I see the power of those experiences. I see how they deepened something in me that was necessary for the moment.
Now, the extrapolation of that is to the end point, where you say, “Suffering is grace,” which would be to understand the Second and Third Noble Truths, which say the cause of suffering is the nature of the clinging mind, and if you release the clinging you are free of suffering. You can see how suffering is grace, because taking it backwards, it shows you where your mind is clinging.
The example I give is when I started to lose my hair. I had a model of myself as somebody with hair, but I didn’t have hair anymore, so I had this long piece of hair that I wrapped around and watched the way the wind blew all the time. Now I was suffering from my condition, and the cause of my suffering was not losing my hair. The cause of my suffering was my mind’s reaction to the losing of my hair, the cause of my suffering was my mind holding onto being somebody that had hair, when in fact, I was losing it. I mean, that’s why I’m doing a book on aging now because the cause of suffering in aging is the way in which the culture denies aging. It’s not aging in and of itself. Sickness, arthritis, all this stuff stinks, it stinks but so what – it’s what you’re given. You can moan and groan or you can say, “Yeah, right, and here we are decaying. What do you know? Ahh…” See, and some of you are laughing, like “Oh, he’s kidding… just as long as it doesn’t happen to me.”
Once you see the trip your mind is laying on you, it’s just unbelievable how you’ve been had. Now, my saying that and you hearing that is a plane of consciousness, is a perspective that changes the way you think about the way your mind works. That’s what we’re doing here. That’s what this process is about, so the extreme, as I said, is where you see that suffering is grace, you don’t ask for it, but when it comes, you see that it’s clueing you into a place that the mind is clinging, and you go back into your practices of letting go of clinging of the mind.
– Ram Dass
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