What is the truth? Truth is letting go of all illusions. Truth is the fire that burns to the ground falsehoods, deceptions, and nightmares. It is the sacred river that rinses away sorrow and gloom.
Buddha was born into a time and a culture that looked to mythology to explain reasons for everything, from volcanic eruptions to famine. It was a time of limited world views and unlimited superstitions. Born a prince, he grew up enjoying all the goods the world had to offer. He left his wife and son to find the cause of human suffering. Buddha’s story is of a man who succeeded to transcend all cultural illusions and awaken to the truth.
Standing at the intracoastal I watched birds gliding on the ocean breezes. The sun’s warmth felt like a mother’s touch—a feeling of belonging and oneness. As children looking at the starlit sky, we sensed we were a part of something much bigger. We may have lifted our arms wishing we could fly up, transcending smallness and illusions.
We can experience spiritual highs watching the stars above or drinking a glass of our favorite wine. But, these are temporary antidepressant moments. They don’t get to the root of our unease and endless search to feel content and grounded. But they are reminders of just how good it feels when we let go of illusions and live in truth.
Buddha told his disciples that the root of suffering is not the feeling of pain or sadness, but the never-ending pursuit of short-lived feelings. Searching for the next pleasure causes us to be in a constant state of restlessness or non-acceptance of present moments.
Truth must be experienced. I don’t like artichokes, I told myself and others. But, I’d never tasted one. Then a friend served artichoke soup at a dinner party and my hunger lifted the spoon to my mouth before I knew it was artichoke soup. It was delicious. A twenty-page essay can’t describe the taste of an artichoke. And we will not comprehend the truth by reading more books, praying more often, or grasping additional concepts for the knowledge bank. A stack of spiritual hardcover books on the shelves looks nice, but not to be equated with the assumption that the owners’ rest in truth.
True realization is an inner awakening that everything is an illusion. Things are as they are. This is life. We laugh, grieve, and cry when it hurts. These are the human boundaries we exist within. There is nothing more.
Jonathan Livingston Seagull discovered that boredom, fear, and anger are the reasons that a gull’s life is so short. With this realization, a big thing for his little bird brain, he erased his troublesome thoughts and lived a long, fine life.
Sometimes the ego seems to be working in our interest, helping us find what’s real. That’s good, we think. After all, letting go of illusions and seeing the truth is the source of freedom. The ego insists that the more esoteric the knowledge, a whole bookcase of holy and spiritual books, the higher one’s godly reward. And when you have a workaholic ego like mine, gathering endless conceptual information, you are lured into thinking you are getting closer to the truth.
If clear seeing is not revealed in temples or churches, books or lectures, how do we find the truth and live happily ever after? Perhaps there is no best way. If there were, we would have found it and shared it on Twitter, where it would go viral within hours, and we would all be like Jesus and Buddha, the awakened ones.
The commonality of enlightened people, aside from compassion, is surrender. Not as in surrendering to every thought entering their head, but more like sitting at the playground watching children, like unruly thoughts, running from the see-saw to the swing to the boulder climber. Instead of engaging, they remain detached, letting them jump from one thing to the next without judging. There is no enemy, not the children, not your fleeting thoughts. This is important because when we identify an enemy, we feed the ego that now has someone to blame. The harder we try to get away or fix the externals, the greater the resistance. The more we think about the mosquito bite, the more it itches. If we let go of all efforts to tame it, it disappears.
Christians pray to an almighty for answers, Buddhists look inside. The heart of Buddhism is meditation, the art of resting in place. For the first thirty years of my life, I did a lot of praying. In the last few decades, I’ve done countless of sitting meditations. I can’t recall if my prayers were answered, and in meditation there are no fireworks, just me sitting observing the distance between thoughts gradually increasing.
Reading more books or listening to sermons are not required for finding the truth. It’s in letting go that answers arise. When you quit trying to recall the name of a restaurant, minutes later, it surfaces effortlessly. Resting in our consciousness, realizations can happen unexpectedly, like a dolphin jumping from the surface of the ocean. Wow! It takes our breath away. In rest, we allow our minds to pause their construction of an illusionary world.
Some of us find sitting with ourselves difficult, while others seem accepting, even content. When we are with ourselves without external distractions, we furlough the ego. When we rest in acceptance, we are at peace. There are no solutions to be found in man-created-isms. Life is fleeting; we have little control. If we rest in the knowing, we develop an inner strength that helps us overcome fear, insecurity, doubt, and distraction. In other words, our glass of wine tastes fine every time, and the stars in the sky are brighter. Time removes illusions and gifts us the NOW.