Ignorance is the root of suffering. When I use the word “ignorance,” I am speaking about ignoring the truth of who you are in favor of some problem or identification with suffering. Ignoring the limitless truth of yourself, ignoring the eternal presence of divinity, of beingness itself, is the very source of continued suffering. Continued suffering occurs when your concepts of happiness, truth, and freedom are seen as separate from who you already are.
When I speak of suffering, I am not speaking of the compassionate suffering experienced when one witnesses the anguish in the world. In the acknowledgement of that anguish, suffering can be experienced. This is part of the texture of life, and it is appropriate. Suffering may even be a necessary part of life. By continued suffering, I am referring to what could be called “unnecessary” suffering, whereby you are wrapped up in replaying your own or the world’s dramatic stories over and over in your mind.
The Resistance to Suffering
Unnecessary suffering is actually the resistance to suffering. Unnecessary suffering can be dropped in an instant, yet it is usually perpetuated through cycles of mental and emotional activity as an attempt to escape the experience of emotional pain.
Horror and tragedy are happening throughout the globe right now. Certainly, we are aware of the horror and suffering in our medical systems, in our economic systems, in climate systems, in the streets of our cities, within our own families, our own homes, and our own psyches. To be finished with suffering does not mean to ignore suffering. To be true to the eternal truth of who you are is not to ignore anything. What you are finished with is your fixation on suffering. This does not mean adopting a substitute fixation on some idea of enlightenment or heaven or nirvana. It means recognizing that you have the capacity to realize yourself as not separate from the totality of life. The degree to which you are willing to stop ignoring is the degree to which you are willing to truly know yourself.
People often begin the spiritual life as an escape from the miseries of their worldly life. This is legitimate. It is the way we begin, but it is not the way we end. The ending, which is surrender, is the recognition that no escape is possible or needed. This means fully embracing whatever appears in consciousness rather than ignoring any of it. This embrace is not passive acceptance, or resignation, but rather a deep meeting. When consciousness meets itself in “other,” then the conditioned beliefs that you are different from anyone else, that you are less than or greater than anyone else, lose their power. Regardless of your tribe, nation, or spiritual conviction, these distinctions are finished as reality. The story of “difference” is revealed to be an imagined story.
Yes, it Matters
Many of us live privileged and precious lives. You may even recognize the preciousness of your life. But your recognition is useless if you don’t recognize that the privilege of your life is not an escape from what is happening globally right now. The willingness to be true to who you are is the willingness to see yourself everywhere.
People have asked me if after spiritual awakening it still matters that there is global suffering, hatred, and continuing violence in the world. Yes, it matters. It matters because it is all a reflection of our own minds. There is nothing going on in the world that is not going on in our own minds. In your willingness to see the truth of that, to experience the horror of that, and finally to see what is also forever untouched by that, you are at least one aspect of consciousness that knows itself to be free. In that living knowledge, which ignores nothing, it is possible to make yourself useful to all of life.
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Gangaji is the author of The Diamond in Your Pocket, Freedom & Resolve: Finding Your True Home in the Universe, You Are That, and Hidden Treasure: Uncovering the Truth in Your Life Story.