Sunday, April 26, 2015


From Nikhil Roy's blog
I too have seen or imagined I saw the anguish etched in the words or on the faces of others. To detail its particulars is never enough and has a kind of self-importance that demeans the endlessness of that anguish coming from whatever source.

Is there a greater idealism than that which seeks to eradicate such anguish? I doubt it, but from time to time the sorrow is so enormous that I become as sad as a thoughtless idealist teenager.

How I wish I could....

But I can't.

And neither can anyone else.

The cherry on the sundae of anguish is imagining or pretending that doing away with anguish were an attainable possibility. Talk about salt in the wound to have to let things be, whatever the good-hearted efforts or sentiments.

The best I can do is retell the story of Gotami, a woman whose baby died. Gotami was anguished and in that anguish she was said to have gone to Gautama, the one often referred to as "the Buddha" of what is sometimes called "Buddhism."

Gotami begged Gautama to resuscitate the dead baby she held in her arms. Begged. Begged as only a mother might. Each time Gautama told Gotami he could not accomplish such a miracle, she was deaf to his words and began to beg all over again.

Finally, Gautama relented and told Gotami to bring him some mustard seeds from the first house she came to where no one had died. Gotami set off with a lighter heart: Surely she could find such a house, be given a few mustard seeds, return to Gautama and have her baby resuscitated.

And those from whom Gotami begged for mustard seeds were generous and giving. Each gave a little to this anguished woman. But when she asked if anyone had died in the house, her donors were startled: Of course someone had died there -- it was the way of the world.

Gotami did not give up. She traveled and begged, traveled and begged, and everywhere her reception was the same.

Finally she was spent, wrung out. She had reached to edges of her edgeless anguish. And so she returned to Gautama and looked him straight in the eye: "Enough with the mustard seed!" she said. "Give me the teachings."

It seems unfathomable that an unfathomable anguish should have no concomitant, edgeless fix. It is, after all, too much to bear ... there must be some relief, some answer, some balm. To stand by or simply accept or enter the fires anyone might imagine s/he was consumed by ... that would be horror heaped on horror.

What teachings are "the teachings?" As if the vortex of anguish were not confusing and unanswerable enough, so it is with the teachings that solve the anguish no (wo)man can solve. Some play the joy card, some embrace a gloomy outlook ... each Gotami is as trapped as the next.

Find the teachings.

Put them into practice.

Is there another option?

1 comment:

  1. I have experienced unanswerable and unearned anguish. It passed. I have experienced inexplicable and unearned joy. It passed. I have experienced the perfection of a moment that wasn't perfect by my own definition. It passed. And i have experienced the determined effort to achieve a lasting and unchanging enlightenment. Then i looked back and saw that everything i've ever experienced has passed, so i said screw all of that effort to stop things from passing.

    So far that has stuck. And meanwhile, a lot of other things go flowing by. So much stuff i can't keep up. And apparently all the stuff doesn't need any help from me to flow by. And apparently i suffer no harm by not chasing after knowing more about it. Not that i don't sometimes worry too much, but that passes.