When you talk about our having to suffer, you tell us to be joyful at the same time. Trying to compromise these two things seems difficult.
When I say suffer joyfully it looks paradoxical and your mind starts thinking how to compromise both, because to you they are contradictory. They are not, they only appear contradictory. You can enjoy suffering.
What is the secret- how to enjoy suffering? The first thing is: if you don’t escape, if you allow the suffering to be there, if you are ready to face it, if you are not trying somehow to forget it, then you are different. Suffering is there but just around you; it is not in the center, it is on the periphery. It is impossible for suffering to be in the center; it is not in the nature of things. It is always on the periphery and you are the center. So when you allow it to happen, when you don’t escape, you don’t run, you are not in a panic, suddenly you become aware that suffering is there on the periphery, as if happening to someone else, not to you, and you are looking at it. A subtle joy spreads all over your being because you have realized one of the basic truths of life: that you are bliss and not suffering.
So when I say enjoy it I don’t mean become a masochist; I don’t mean create suffering for yourself and enjoy it. I don’t mean: go on, fall down from a cliff, have fractures and then enjoy it – no. There are people of that type and many of them have become ascetics, tapasvis, and they are creating suffering for themselves.
They are masochists, they are ill. They are very dangerous people. They wanted to make others suffer but they are not so courageous. They wanted to kill others, be violent with others, cripple others, but they are not so courageous, so their whole violence has turned within. Now they are crippling themselves, torturing themselves, and enjoying it.
I am not saying be a masochist; I am simply saying suffering is there, you need not seek for it. Enough suffering is there already, you need no go in search. Suffering is already there; life by its very nature creates suffering. Illness is there, death is there, the body is there – by their very nature suffering is created. See it; look at it with a very dispassionate eye. Look at it — what it is, what is happening. Don’t escape. Immediately the mind says, “Escape from here, don’t look at it.” But if you escape then you cannot be blissful.
Next time you fall ill and the doctor suggests to remain in bed, take it as a blessing. Close your eyes and rest on the bed and just look at the illness. Watch it, what it is. Don’t try to analyze it, don’t go into theories, just watch it, what it is. The whole body tired, feverish — watch it. Suddenly, you will feel that you are surrounded by fever but there is a very cool point within you; the fever cannot touch it, cannot influence it. The whole body may be burning but that cool point cannot be touched.
I have heard about one Zen nun. She died, but before she died she asked her disciples, “What do you suggest? How should I die?” It is an old tradition in Zen that masters ask; they can die consciously, so they can ask. And they are so playful even about death, so humorous about it, joking, laughing, they enjoy devising methods how to die. So disciples may suggest, “Master, this will be good, if you die standing on your head.” Or someone suggests, “Walking, because we have never seen anyone die walking.” So this Zen nun asked,” What do you suggest?”
They said, “It will be good if we prepare a fire, and you sit in it and die meditating.”
She said, “This is beautiful, and never heard of before.” So they prepared a funeral pyre, the nun made herself comfortable in it, sat in a Buddha posture, and then they lit the fire.
One man from the crowd asked, “How does it feel there? It is so hot that I cannot even come nearer to ask you – that’s why I am shouting. How does it feel there?”
The nun laughed and said, “Only a fool can ask such a question — How does it feel there? There it always feels cool, perfectly cool.”
She is talking of her inner being, her center. There it is always cool and only a foolish person can ask. It is obvious. When a person is ready to sit in a pyre meditating, and then the pyre is burnt and she is sitting silently, obviously it shows that this person must have achieved the innermost cool point which cannot be disturbed by any fire. Otherwise, it is not possible.
So when you are lying on your bed, feverish, on fire, the whole body burning, just watch it. Watching, you will recede towards the source. Watching, not doing anything…. What can you do? The fever is there, you have to pass through it; it is no use unnecessarily fighting with it. You are resting, and if you fight with the fever you will become more feverish, that’s all. So watch it. Watching fever, you become cool; watching more, you become cooler. Just watching, you reach to a peak, such a cool peak, even the Himalayas will feel jealous; even their peaks are not so cool. This is the Gourishankar, the Everest within. And when you feel that the fever has disappeared…. It has never really been there; it has only been in the body, very, very far away.
Infinite space exists between you and your body — infinite space, I say. An unbridgeable gap exists between you and your body. And all suffering exists on the periphery. Hindus say it is a dream because the distance is so vast, unbridgeable. It is just like a dream happening somewhere else — not happening to you — in some other world, on some other planet.
When you watch suffering suddenly you are not the sufferer, and you start enjoying. Through suffering you become aware of the opposite pole, the blissful inner being. So when I say enjoy, I am saying: Watch.
Return to the source, get centered. Then, suddenly, there is no agony; only ecstasy exists.
Those who are on the periphery exist in agony. For them, no ecstasy. For those who have come to their center no agony exists. For them, only ecstasy.
When I say break the cup it is breaking the periphery. And when I say be totally empty it is coming back to the original source, because through emptiness we are born, and into emptiness we return. Emptiness is the word, really, which is better to use than God, because with God we start feeling there is some person. So Buddha never used “God” he always used sunyata — emptiness, nothingness. In the center you are a non-being, nothingness, just a vast space, eternally cool, silent, blissful. So when I say enjoy I mean watch, and you will enjoy. When I say enjoy, I mean don’t escape.
From A Bird on The Wing (Previously titled Roots and Wings), Chapter One
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