THUS SPOKE THE SAGE
“What is it that you seek from me?” the sage asked.
I had come a long way to meet this holy man. The last few miles I had travelled by foot through a wooded area. The village headman had been good enough to give me the directions to the place where the holy man lived. I had found the place after walking for about an hour. It was a small hut. The village headman had told me that once in a while the Swamiji would come down to the village, sit with them, partake of whatever they offered him and then go back. He rarely spoke but would answer any question put to him.
“I come seeking happiness, your holiness” I replied.
“Why do you seek happiness?”
“I believe that it will bring an end to my suffering” I again replied.
“And what is that suffering you talk about, my son?” the sage asked with a smile on his lips.
“This very existence, it is painful.”
“So what do you mean by ‘painful’?” the sage queried.
“Well it’s an unpleasant feeling. It makes living miserable.” I replied.
“What is this feeling you talk about? Where do you think it rises from?” he asked.
For a moment I lapsed into silence and then said “I am filled with anxiety when I think that one day I shall die without ever having achieved all that I have wanted to from life. I shall die without having known what true happiness is. It makes me miserable and I suffer.”
“You really think that if you find happiness it will bring an end to your suffering?”
“Isn’t that so?” I asked.
“No, happiness does not bring an end to suffering. It is the end of suffering that brings happiness. So you see there is no way that you can escape suffering. It is a process that has to be undergone before you reach happiness.”
“And how does suffering end?”
“When you learn to live with it?”
“How‘s that possible?” I asked.
“Well when I said you should learn to live with it I meant that it would be necessary for you to understand the cause and accept the effect as a natural result of your own actions. Once acceptance is there then it ceases to bother you and the unpleasantness or the suffering as you would like to call it vanishes. This perhaps is the state of happiness you are referring to” the sage replied.
“Do you mean to say that I should accept the suffering and do nothing about it?” I asked.
“I never said that. The process of understanding and acceptance is in itself the way to overcome suffering. Life is interspersed with periods of suffering and periods of happiness. Both are temporal in nature and vanish the day you die. After all, both are sensations of our physical existence.”
“So you mean to say that there is nothing like a state of permanent happiness?”
“What I told you is true of our physical existence. This is a reality one has to accept before realising what lies beyond. It is in this process of trying to understand and accept that we ultimately transcend the boundaries imposed on us and may be get a glimpse of that permanent happiness that you talk about, though I would term it as bliss or eternal peace. You said you have come here seeking happiness. I cannot nor can anyone else give you what you want for you are searching in the wrong place. What you seek is within you and that’s where you will find the answers. Running away from reality does not take you any closer to what you are seeking. I can only say that your suffering will teach you more about who you are then your happiness.”
It was late in the evening when I walked back to the village. In that slowly descending darkness as the moon ascended and a gentle breeze blew I was enveloped in that stillness and a strange sort of bliss. I let lay the existential dilemmas somewhere within me for the moment and allowed myself to be immersed in that beyond.