aka: the only demon ever is self-importance

I thereby pay homage to my root teacher - the Great Protector Tenzin Gyamtso, as well as all the wise ones, whose sole purpose and intention is to benefit sentient beings!

This essay ponders the very essence of so many things which we do not call mental illness. I'm going to ask questions and raise hypotheses and subsequently try to refute or defend them, so reading through it should feel like an ongoing debate on the topic of the mind and reality. However, before I begin, I must state that I am neither well learnt, nor have any significant realization in the spiritual practice, therefore this work should be regarded as written by someone with a limited intelect and experience. Furthermore, I shall also stress that every aspect of this essay may and should be questioned and debated, for it is a well proven method how to reach a better accuracy and understanding. Therefore, if you have anything relevant to add and/or share, feel free to use the email address in the credits section to engage in a debate.

    1) discussing the terms: demon, freedom, happiness, reality

The main hypothesis was already raised in the title, hence without further due, let's delve straight into it. First, we shall begin by defining the terms. In this context, the term demon does not stand for the theistic concept of a self-existent entity whose nature and/or purpose is to harm us. Instead, it represents a purely mind-dependently originated sum of physio-mental constructs and processes which in some way obstruct our freedom. By this definition, another term for it may be mental illness. Therefore, the title may as well be: "The only mental illness ever is self importance".

Nevertheless, how ever appealing the last statement may seem at the first glance, at the second it may seem a bit problematic. The problem lies in the relationship between thumbs and fingers. One of the main points which I shall attempt to defend here is that there's a substantial benefit in calling obstructive constructs mental illnesses - at least for those who wish to thoroughly explore the mindscape in order to realize its true nature and thus become finally liberated from all suffering, which as I will argue, is equal to true freedom as well as happiness.

In our mundane way of thinking, we usually associate freedom with doing whatever we want or worse, whatever comes to mind - which, in the realm of logic, looks synonymous with being slave to one's every thought, or inducement. Truly scary indeed. In this line of reasoning, I would perhaps argue that a much more suitable definition of freedom may be being fully capable of not acting on one's thoughts, emotions and inducements.

So, how shall we define happiness? Most of us are taught since childhood to associate it with moments of joy and pleasure. Which, I will argue, are very different things. Let's define Joy and pleasure as physio-mental states caused by temporary releases of endorphins which are conditioned by specific triggers from the outside world. Each time when we "achieve some goal". When we buy ourselves new clothes, etc, get a present, when we see things which we find pleasing, and so on, we get a "good feeling" - which most of us consider happiness. However, by such an approach, we are, perhaps, missing out on something almost immeasurably greater.

The main problem for joy and pleasure to qualify as happiness lies in their dependence on outside phenomena. Anything that is conditioned by other phenomena is by definition (and laws of physics) impermanent. If we analyse every thing and phenomena around us, we necessarily come to the conclusion that each and every of them has a cause, which itself also has a cause, which itself also has a cause, etc. This is in the western world called "the 3rd Newton's law", whereas in the eastern world it is called the law of "Karma". The Sanskrit word karma means "action" (- which requires reaction). Although we are used to using these terms in different contexts, they are the same. Only that in the west, we, for some irrational reason, dwell on separating "physics of matter" and "philosophy of mind" as though they were intrinsically separate. Here, I don't intend to speculate too much why that is, but it might suffice to say that it may be related to the trauma caused by the centuries of being ruled by theistically dogmatic and harsh political regimes that would consider anything other than their own ideology an act of heresy and/or witchcraft and punish it with cruelty. Yeah, we still have a long way ahead of us to make peace with out social history. But let's go back to the point...

Let's say that we want to put the designation of happiness to a quality of our living experience which is stable and lasting. But before we determine what happiness is, let's try to say what it isn't. I think we can all agree that each time we feel displeased in any way, we are not happy. So, why do we feel displeased? If we looked back and analyse our memories and experiences, could we, perhaps, find a common denominator? May there be a one single incentive for us to become irritated, defensive and "delightful for others to interact with"? What is the initial spark that kindles unhappiness? Perhaps worry? Isn't it that each time we become unhappy, the reason is that something doesn't and/or won't go according to our expectations? When we are used to observing the causes of our mind's inducements, it might come as an unintuitive idea, although if we are sincere in our investigation, we shall find out that each time, it is indeed the case. Therefore, does it make sense to say that when we don't worry about anything what so ever, we are happy? Uuh, I think we might be closing in on the jackpot here! So far, we can agree that the cause of worry is expectation. Hence let's dig into that for now. Where does expectation come from? Isn't it synonymous to our insistence that things are the way we wish them to? Perhaps we feel that we deserve it being so? Thus let's ask a question: Why things are not the way we want them to be? Is it truly possible? In order to understand that we must ask what makes them be the way they are in the first place.

    2) Dependent origination

We have established that everything in our world is based on action and reaction, cause and effect (or result). In other words, everything exists not separately, but in relation to other phenomena - to some as cause, to others as results - therefore we can call its nature "relative". So, how many other things does one thing relate? Let's take a very simple and familiar example. Each of us have two biological parents (or at least genetic information from two people was needed for us to be born), each of them has also two parents, etc, etc. Now, try to count how many people is it for you some ten generations back... A lot, right? But that's far from over. When tracing back causes and effects we find them to have a tree-like structure, branching out with time. Therefore, the further back we go, the exponentially more off-springs (events) grow from any particular branch. So, perhaps us missing a bus this morning might not seem like a big deal when it comes to the overall picture, or maybe going for a coffee instead of a movie? In today's point of view, probably not much. But what if, had we gone to see a movie, we accidentally tripped over someones leg who, quite unfortunately already had had a bad day, making our misstep the tipping point for them to storm away in rage? Perhaps by getting out of the cinema and going home early, they would avoid getting into an accident... Or perhaps because of it they would get into an accident... Or, just outside they'd bump into someone who would subsequently become their lifelong spouse with whom they'd have a family... Or by storming out they'd prevent meeting their possible lifelong spouse, resulting in later having a completely different family or none at all... Or we might have been the ones to be tripped over. I think you might get the gist what kind of point I am trying to make.

Coming back to our family tree - just take time to sit back and try to imagine how many causes and conditions were needed throughout the whole history of the universe in order for you or me to exist the way we are, or to simply to exist at all. Cool, right?! And now, go ahead and find me a single thing or phenomenon for which this does not apply.

    3) The cause of suffering

Ok, without further due, we shall poke our noses directly into the (hopefully proverbial) hornets' nest! I'm suspect that for some readers this might be the final paragraph, so thank you for flying with us. Let me begin with an example. I am going to argue that as for the true direct cause of our suffering, it is neither the bump on our forehead, nor the streetlamp into which we've just walked. As for the true indirect cause of our suffering, it is neither my lack of attention, nor the external stimuli - say our phone or a beautiful girl or boy (or anything for that matter) passing by - by which our mind had gotten distracted. Same goes for all the life savings we have lost at the stock market (or poker table), and/or the our only true love who had left us for someone else. Sincerely, it's none of these things. Never has been and never will be - so don't blame them for it.

So, what is then the real reason behind our suffering? Or, to put it even better term, what is suffering itself?

To be continued...


(c)Sunrise, designed by 慧淨 2004-2024