Suffering is not due to bad karma, but ignorance

Not everyone believe in karma, but there are quite some people believe in karma, especially in Asian culture.

A lot of time, people would relate or refer any kind of suffering as the result of bad karma (the consequences of bad actions). If someone is going through some kinds of difficult situation or very unpleasant condition or painful experiences in life, where the body and/or the mind has to go through certain difficulty or pain, people would say, “Oh, this is due to bad karma. And it’s good to go through suffering to burn-off the past accumulated bad karma.” Although by saying so, it might make the person who is suffering feels a little better and make it easier to deal with suffering, but most suffering is unnecessary and can be avoided if we know how to avoid behaving ignorantly.

People like to give their opinion and say, “Oh. Such a terrible bad karma exists in your family. Your family has to go through all these suffering is because of your family past bad karma. You all must have done lots of bad things in the past. That’s why your family has to suffer so much for it in this life.” This is such ignorant thinking and belief and saying.

Even good people who have been doing a lot of good and right actions, and didn’t do much bad or wrong in this world, and for those who believe that they have been accumulated lots of good karma in their past life are not excluded from experiencing physical, emotional and mental suffering if their minds are not free from ignorance and egoism. People like to say, “You are such a good person. You don’t deserve all these suffering. It must be bad karma from your past life.” And this is ignorant thinking and belief and saying.

For the strong ego, it would prefer to blame on past life bad karma for its suffering, than to acknowledge and admit that it’s due to its ignorance in the present.

Those who know about suffering and the cause of suffering do not blame on past life and bad karma. It’s ignorant behavior of actions and reactions in this life existence that people end up in many unnecessary suffering.

Most suffering is truly unnecessary, and the cause of these suffering is ignorance that gives rise to ignorant behavior, that leads to the consequences of ignorant behavior, which is unnecessary suffering that doesn’t has to be existing in the first place.

For example, if a person is suffering from an illness, which is treatable and not too complicated, if the illness is being treated properly and immediately, but for some reasons, due to ignorance, one is not getting the proper treatment immediately, and this person has to suffer more painful consequences that could be avoided in the first place, and/or it might be too late to do anything even though one tries to get the proper treatment later on.

Another example, one who ignores the little small problems that arise in life which could be solved easily and immediately, but for some reasons, due to ignorance, all the unattended little small problems would turn into serious unsolvable big problems. And it might be too late to do anything even if one realizes and regrets towards one’s ignorance.

Another example, one who knows that by mixing with those who have strong influence in getting into unnecessary troubles and by taking certain substances to get high can turn into addiction that would cause many forms of complication in health, life and relationship with others, but still want to take those substances to get high and hang out with those who have strong influence in getting into unnecessary troubles, and ends up in unnecessary suffering and troubles. That’s pure ignorance.

And for another example, due to the strong ego, one pushes the body and mind beyond its limitation to achieve what the ego wants to achieve, and causing unnecessary damages into the body and mind, losing one’s mobility and sanity, and requiring intensive care from others. This is not because bad karma. It’s purely ignorance.

Due to ignorance, egoism and impurities of dissatisfaction, disappointment, lust, desires, anger, hatred, jealousy, greed, hurt, guilt, offensiveness, defensiveness, pride, arrogance, fear and worry, and so on, one would generate actions and reactions that give rise to unnecessary suffering onto oneself and affecting others either directly or indirectly.

Even the most intelligent or virtue person in this world also can’t escape the fundamental suffering of a life existence that is under the function of the physical body and mind perception of names and forms that is subject to impermanent changes and selflessness (All the impermanent changes and perception of names and forms are not in the control of an ‘I’, or how ‘I’ would like it to be).

If one is free from ignorance, then even though one is going through some kind of physical and/or mental suffering, one will not generate or react with further ignorant reactions that would bring further ignorant consequences. One would know how to transcend or go beyond the difficult condition, or unpleasant and painful experiences with correct understanding, wisdom and compassion, and remain equanimous being at peace, being undisturbed or undetermined by it, while being aware of the difficult condition, or unpleasant and painful experiences are impermanent and it’s not ‘I’.

Past life and karma (whether good or bad, easy or difficult) doesn’t mean anything to the one who has realized unconditional peace and love, who is free from ignorance. There’s no fear or aversion towards difficult condition, or unpleasant and painful experiences. There’s no clinging or craving towards easy condition, or pleasant and enjoyable experiences.

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The importance of renunciation, seclusion and solitude

This is not about against happiness or meaningfulness. But it’s about being free from attachment towards names and forms that give rise to the sense of happiness and meaningfulness, to realize unconditional peace that is unconditioned by names and forms that are impermanent, that is beyond the sense of happiness and meaningfulness.

All minds will feel good, happy, meaningful, loved and blessed when one is in the company of other people or family and friends who are like-minded and engaging in interactive activities with other people, appreciating good people, good company, good condition, good relationship/friendship and meaningful life. Though the mind might not necessarily be free from loneliness, meaninglessness, missingness, unhappiness and longing for interaction, when one is unable to be with other people, family or friends who are like-minded, and is not engaging in interactive activities with other people for a period of time, if there is attachment, clinging and craving towards good people, good company, good condition, good relationship/friendship and meaningful life.

It’s not difficult for us to feel happy and loved when we are constantly surrounded by people who are like-minded and engaging in some forms of interactive activities together, doing something that we enjoy doing, and it makes us feel good, happy, contented, loved and blessed. But when we are unable to see or be with the people whom we love for a prolonged period of time, and we are not doing something that we like to do together for some time, we’ll start to miss each other, missing the presence or togetherness or companionship and doing the things that we like to do together, and then the sense of loneliness, meaninglessness, missingness, unhappiness, and longing for interaction with other people, family and friends start to manifest in the mind. This is normal, but it also indicates that the mind is not free from ignorance and egoism, even though the mind might feel good, happy, contented, loved and blessed when we are being with other people, family and friends, whom we love to be with, and engaging in interactive activities together from time to time.

There’s attachment towards love and affection, supports and interactions from people around us. This is normal for most people, but this is also the cause of suffering.

There’s nothing wrong with the mind feels loved, blessed and happy when we are being with people whom we like and doing activities that we enjoy doing together. We should appreciate all the good condition, good people, good company, good relationship/friendship and meaningful life. But, a well-trained mind is free from loneliness, meaninglessness, missingness, unhappiness or longing for interaction, when it is not coming in contact with people, things and activities that it loves and enjoys.

If yoga practitioners want to know how much we have improved in the yoga practice, we can try practicing seclusion and solitude for a prolonged period of time, renouncing social activities and cutting off all sorts of communications with other people, especially family and friends whom we love very much, as well as refraining from worldly interactive activities that we enjoy doing on regular basis, for at least two to three years, or extended to five or six years. It’s normal that worldly minded people are strongly against and disagree with the practice of seclusion and solitude, and that’s their freedom of thinking and belief. Those who still have young children or old parents that they need to take care of, they are not ready to practice renunciation. They need to perform their worldly life duties. They can practice seclusion and solitude later.

When the mind is being isolated from people, things and activities that it likes and enjoys for a prolonged period of time, most minds would want to run back into our daily pleasure of being together and interacting with other people, family and friends who are like-minded, and whom we miss very much if we don’t see them or be with them for some time. These minds have not advanced in the path of yoga, even though they might have been doing some forms of yoga activities that they enjoy doing for years, and they have learned about the teachings of yoga, and they feel happy, meaningful, loved and blessed for having nice people around them and doing things that they enjoy doing regularly, but they have not yet apply the teachings of yoga into everyday life practically, if their minds depend on being with people whom they loved and doing things that they enjoy doing to feel happy, meaningful, loved and blessed. The mind that practices yoga, that is free, will still be happy as it is, even if there are unkind and disagreeable people around, and for some reasons, it is unable to do what it would like to do. This mind doesn’t need to feel loved or blessed or meaningful at all.

Yoga practitioners who think there’s no need to practice non-attachment, as they are very happy enjoying a good life and they are enjoying doing some forms of yoga activities regularly, they don’t have to practice seclusion and solitude. They can continue their everyday life the way that they like it to be.

Some think that they have given up worldly activities, enjoyments and community, but then they don’t realize that they have attached onto what they call ‘spiritual’ or ‘non-worldly’ activities or enjoyments or community. It’s still a form of attachment that will lead to suffering, whether it’s worldly attachment or non-worldly/spiritual attachment. In worldly life, the mind feels unhappy and meaningless when it doesn’t get to see or be with or interacting with people from its community, family and friends, and then in spiritual life, the mind feels unhappy or meaningless when it doesn’t get to see or be with or interacting with its spiritual community, family and friends.

Just like letting go an unhealthy lifestyle but then attaching onto a healthy lifestyle, is not the end of suffering. For many people, they don’t see or can’t understand that attachment towards a healthy lifestyle would also lead to suffering. But, when the healthy lifestyle that they love very much is inaccessible for some unforeseen circumstances, they will then understand. Just like people get very upset and frustrated when the good things that they love very much are being damaged or destroyed by some other people, or there’s obstacles that obstruct them from getting the good things that they love and want.

Yoga practitioners who think non-attachment is indeed a very important element in the path of yoga, but they think they don’t have attachment towards what they like to do and enjoy in everyday life, they can try to practice seclusion and solitude for a prolonged period of time, to see how much the mind has developed in non-attachment.

Unattached towards both worldly and non-worldly/spiritual activities, enjoyments and community.

If the mind is well-developed in non-attachment, this mind can live in the world as it is and appreciate all the good people, good company, good condition, good relationship/friendship and meaningful life, but it’s free from clinging and longing, and suffering. It’s unconditioned or undetermined by the impermanent qualities of name and form, whether it’s in the form of worldly or non-worldly/spirituality. When all these good and meaningful names and forms changed and disappeared or are unavailable, there’s no suffering.

Feel offended by something that the mind doesn’t like and doesn’t agree with?

It’s normal and common that the mind easily feels offended or intimidated or angered by something that the mind doesn’t like and doesn’t agree with. That’s the normal behavior of most minds that are under the influence of egoism.

The mind that practice yoga of non-attachment, non-identification, non-craving, non-aversion, non-judgment, non-comparison and non-expectation, that is free from pride and arrogance, wouldn’t be offended or intimidated or angered by something that is different from its thinking and behavior, and allowing others to be different and to have the freedom to express their thinking and behavior that is different from this mind.

Even when other people have no intention to offend anyone, and the names and forms have no quality to be offensive, the mind that is under the influence of egoism will still be offended by this or that, due to pride and arrogance. This mind also puts the responsibility of its reactions of being offended, intimidated or angered onto the names and forms that it doesn’t like and doesn’t agree with.

Yoga practice is about purifying and quieting the mind, and developing awareness and correct understanding towards the mind activities that are under the influence of ignorance, egoism and impurities, through self-control, self-introspection, self-inquiry and self-realization, to free the mind from ignorance and egoism and impurities.

Minds that have no awareness towards the ignorance, egoism or impurities in the mind and have no idea about the practice of non-attachment, non-identification, desireless, non-craving, non-aversion, non-judgment, non-comparison or non-expectation, might be doing some forms of yoga exercises regularly, but there is no peace or compassion, when the minds are easily be disturbed, offended, intimidated or angered when coming in contact with names and forms that the minds dislike and disagree with, being over-powered by ill-thinking and ill-will.

If someone wants to know what is the yoga practice of freeing the mind from ignorance, egoism and impurities, one can contemplate on this,

One can choose to smile or not to smile to the world. There’s nothing wrong when one chooses not to smile. There’s no obligation that one has to smile to the world, and when one chooses to smile to the world, there’s no expectation that the world will smile back. The world is not obligated to smile back. If the world smiles back, let it be. If it doesn’t, let it be. If the world is offended or intimidated by one’s smile or smile-less to the world, let it be.

Passionate mind and dispassionate mind

There’s nothing wrong with passionate mind or dispassionate mind. They just have different prospect and interest towards life existence, and how they live and act in the world.

Both minds can also be endowed with kindness and generosity and good will, to be good, to do good and to hope for the best for the world. Though the meanings of what is best for the world and the way of achieving what is best for the world can be very different for the passionate minds and the dispassionate minds.

In terms of Satsanga as one of the important elements for the yoga practitioners to progress in the path of yoga, especially those who haven’t develop a strong foundation of non-attachment and they are easily be affected or influenced by other people’s thinking, belief and behavior, and they attached onto their actions that are being performed out of good intention and they are affected or determined by the outcome of their actions very much, then they need the company of the dispassionate (less conflicts), and avoid the company of the passionate (more conflicts). Satsanga doesn’t matter for those who had developed strong non-attachment, who are not affected or influenced by other people’s thinking, belief and behavior, who don’t attach onto their action and are not affected or determined by the outcome of the action, there’s no difference between the company of the passionate or the dispassionate for them, but for the sake of conserving energy to not wasting energy into unnecessary issues created by the passionate minds, the yoga practitioners should also avoid the company of the passionate.

Those who are passionate are not bad people. They can be very good people who believe in goodness and righteousness and maintaining the order of the society or the environment. They can be doing many good actions in the world that they think are the best for the world. Just that the passion or intense love towards what they love, what they believe in, or what they think how the world should be like and how people should think and behave (act and react), could generate unnecessary disturbance or disharmony in themselves, and create disturbance and disharmony for others.

Passionate mind will feel hurt, frustrated, irritated, disappointed, distressed, depressed and angry, when things are not the way that it thinks they should be, or the way that it wants them to be, and under the influence of impurities, it will generate hurtful or violent action and speech to project the disturbed state of mind. There’s attachment towards the action being performed, and there’s expectation towards the fruit of action has to be the way that it thinks it should be. This is a mind that changes according to whether the experiences are something that it likes and wants, or something that it doesn’t like and doesn’t want. This mind projects kind qualities when it is happy and satisfied, when things are the way that it likes them to be, but it projects unkind qualities when it is upset and dissatisfied when things are not the way that it likes them to be. At one moment, it can be very kind and friendly, and in another moment, it can be very unkind and hostile.

Dispassionate mind won’t feel hurt, frustrated, irritated, disappointed, distressed, depressed or angry, when things are not the way that it thinks they should be, or the way that it would prefer them to be, and won’t generate hurtful or violent action and speech as the mind is free from disturb, ill-thinking or ill-will. This mind projects kind qualities disregard whether things are the way that it likes them to be, or not. Even when things are not the way that it would like them to be, this mind is still kind and compassionate. It doesn’t have ill-thinking or ill-will to hurt those who are different from them, who dislike or disagree with them, and who against them or hurt them.

There might be necessary action being performed, to bring awareness to others who are under the influence of ignorance, but there’s no attachment or expectation towards the action and the fruit of action. If others are getting offended and upset for being ‘lectured’ by other people and they continue to be ignorant, let them be. None can change another being, or remove the ignorance in others. None can change the world to be the way that one thinks it should be.

Yoga teachings doesn’t discriminate good or bad people. But it points out the distinction between passionate minds and dispassionate minds on the path of yoga towards peace and harmony in the society or in the world. Even good people who have good intention to perform good action might be under the influence of passion. These minds are not free. Yoga practice is to free the mind from passion, to be dispassionate, while living in the world, do one best performing necessary actions for the sake of peace and harmony in oneself and in the world, and let it go.

Be free.

The difference between non-attachment and positive thinking

It’s good and helpful to develop positive thinking especially when the mind is being influenced by negative thinking that generates unnecessary tension, fear, worry or unhappiness in the mind and further projecting all these impurities through speech and action into the environment in the relationships with others in everyday life.

Positive thinking is part of the many yoga practice, but it’s not the goal or the end of yoga practice, as the mind is still not free from attachment and identification towards names and forms that the mind perceives as positive and negative, and there is craving and clinging towards what the mind perceives as positive, and there’s aversion towards what the mind perceives as negative. The mind is not free from desire, duality and separateness. There’s desire of craving or longing for positiveness or goodness and there’s clinging onto positiveness or goodness with intention or expectation to control the reality to be the way that the mind thinks it should be and likes it to be.

There’s nothing wrong with “Think positively and optimistically, and everything will be good in your life and you can achieve anything that you want.” especially for the minds that are easily be disturbed or determined by names and forms that the worldly thinking and belief categorized as bad, negative, unhappiness and wrong. Just that the mind is not free from desires, even though the mind would feel happy and satisfied when the desires are being gratified, and its impermanent. Then pride might arise in this mind, “I am superhuman. I have superpower. I can control everything to be the way that I like it to be.” This mind is not free. And it’s okay, if that is what the mind wants. It’s everyone’s freedom for how the mind thinks and what it wants.

The mind that is free, is undetermined by gratifying desires of likes and dislikes, wants and don’t wants, to be happy, confident, meaningful or peaceful. It is peaceful as it is, undetermined by the world or the worldly thinking and belief, ideas and values, good and bad condition and situation.

Non-attachment is nothing to do with positive thinking. The mind that knows non-attachment doesn’t need to think positively. The thinking is just what it is. It is neither positive nor negative.

It’s about unattached towards what the intellect recognizes as positive or negative, good or bad, happiness and unhappiness, right and wrong. Undisturbed or undetermined by all the perceptions of name and form that are pleasant or unpleasant. Without attachment or identification towards the different states of the mind or the mind activities. Without intention or expectation towards the perceived reality to control the reality to be the way that the mind likes it to be. Allowing the reality to be what it is, and allowing the reality to change as it is.

The mind is free from being determined by coming in contact with positiveness and goodness and not coming in contact with negativeness and badness, to be peaceful. The mind is peaceful as it is.

The mind is free from desire, duality and separateness. Knowing that the quality of positiveness and negativeness are both impermanent. But, beyond positiveness and negativeness, is unconditional peace, that is undetermined by the qualities of name and form that the mind perceives through the senses, whether it’s positive or negative elements, good or bad condition and situation, and desirable/pleasant or undesirable/unpleasant life experiences.

If the reality is nice and pleasant, let it be. It will change, and allow it to change, without intention or expectation to control the reality not to be bad and negative.
If the reality is not nice and unpleasant, let it be. It will change, and allow it to change, without intention or expectation to control the reality to be all good and positive.

There are actions being performed out of compassion in everyday life, but there’s no attachment, identification, desires, intention or expectation towards the action and the fruit of action. There are beneficial actions being performed but there’s no intention or expectation that the fruit of actions will be all good and positive, or nothing bad and negative. Allowing the fruit of action to be what it is.

There’s no identification with all the impermanent changes of names and forms to be existing as ‘I’.

Life might be good and easy, enjoy and appreciate without attachment. It’s impermanent, and it doesn’t matter.
Life might be not so good and full of difficulties, but it’s okay. It’s impermanent, and it doesn’t matter.

Be free.