Learning to transcend cause and effect
Our suffering in life is not because of what happened. It is our inability to accept what happened.
We did not expect our loved ones to betray us. We did not expect to be humiliated by people in power. We did not expect to lose our job. We did not expect to lose someone dear to us. We did not expect financial insecurity. We did not expect a loving relationship to end. We did not expect a health crisis.
Nobody looks forward to any of these events. Yet they happen. The heavy hand of life spares no one. Often when these events happen we are stunned. As though a 100 ton truck has collided into us at top speed. We are left dazed and disoriented. When we gather our senses, we realize that we are numb to the pain.
Gradually as we express ourself, the mental pain seeps into our awareness. And with that come feelings of hurt, anger, rage, sadness, grief and fear. When we are unable to make sense of what happened or deal with the emotional pain effectively we fall into depression. Or we may direct our anger outside and seek revenge for what happened. Either way, our inner world is in turmoil and every thought brings seething agony.
When we cannot take it any longer we ask the question countless humans have asked over human history.
There is no answer to this question. We may provide solace to our questioning mind by believing we are paying for our past life karmas. Or we may rationalize based on the positions of the planets in our horoscope. Or we may justify our suffering in the name of learning and growth. But the fact of the matter is no one knows, why things happen the way they do.
There are three approaches to looking at life. The first is the most common. The second is less common. And third is the rarest. Let me explain.
Cause And Effect
This is the general approach to making meaning of what happens in life. Everything has to have a reason behind it. The cause behind our lack of self-confidence is because we did not get the love of our parents. The cause for loss of our job is the heartless corporate management. The cause of the pandemic is lack of government foresight. Or the cause of my suffering is my own stupidity.
The mind seeks a cause.
And once it identifies a cause it blames, it’s angry and it seeks to correct the cause of suffering. This is a cycle that has been going on from time immemorial. “suffering — cause — blame — correction”. Unfortunately no matter how hard we try to correct the cause of our misery, our suffering never seems to end. With every change in government, management and relationship we rejoice with hope and say “Achey din aaney wale hai!” But there is no sign of good days. It’s the same old whine in a new bottle.
This is the way of the devotee. He has ascribed all causes to a singular source. God. This source can be called Higher Reality, Lord, Christ, Krishna, Allah or Emptiness. There is a recognition that there is a mysterious entity that runs the universe. After all, whatever is happening right now was set in motion 13.8 billion years ago. So if one has to really find the true cause of things one must go back to the source and inquire who started the Universe.
If we are pained by the untimely death of a loved one, then we must inquire who caused life. If we are dismayed by life threatening illness we must ask who gave us a healthy body. If we are heartbroken at the loss of a relationship, we must investigate what serendipitous events brought us together.
If we try to trace the true source of life we would either give up or realize it is an exercise in futility. And no matter what scientific or religious theory we ascribe to, it does not relieve our suffering. There is only one antidote to suffering.
Not a passive acceptance, but acknowledging the Mysterious Power behind all that happens. And doing what needs to be done in the moment, given one’s role and capability.
Life Is Happening Without A Cause
This approach to seeing things is the rarest. Such an individual does not seek a cause. Neither does she believe there is a cause behind anything. Every moment is unfolding in the Universe as it should. There is not a pin out of place. She sees the Unity of Existence.
Such a person does not have a notion of separate existence. There is no me and others. There is only Life happening each moment. And all that is seen is One Life playing many roles. We do not punish our teeth for biting the tongue. It is part of one body. Similarly the Universe is one Body. Consciousness has taken many forms to unfold the drama of life.
Cause and effect is a mental phenomenon. It occurs only in the thinking mind. Human suffering is mental suffering. There can be physical pain in the present moment, but suffering is the result of our memory and imagination. If we are lost in our thoughts we lose touch with Consciousness. We lose touch with the Present Moment. We lose touch with our true Self. We lose touch with Life.
“On what basis does such a person take action?” you ask
Just as we breathe, Life spontaneously takes action to address life. In the manner most appropriate, without the need for validation.
The three approaches to seeing are not exclusive and compartmental. Even if our mental radio is mostly playing the channel of ’Cause And Effect’, we have the choice to turn the knob to other channels every now and then. When we practice devotion in any form, we tune in to the channel of ‘God’s Will’. When we sit silently witnessing whatever is happening in the moment, we tune in to the channel of ‘Life Is Happening Without a Cause’.
We must take some time out from our mental chatter every day, to listen to the Song of Devotion and hear the Silence of Oneness.