Thursday, March 16, 2006

Mastering the Dualities

Mastering the Dualities

There's always a price to pay for anything that you do in life. Everyone knows that. Unfortunately not everyone is good at identifying the hidden costs involved. And not everyone knows how to count their blessings too. So we go through life complaining about the difficulties that we have to go through and at the same time overlooking some of the simple joys that come our way.

Most of the time, people are unhappy when their experiences in life do not turn always turn out as expected. If you have high expectations, then you have to be prepared to suffer the pain of not achieving what you expected. Well, if you cannot stomach the pain, don't expect so much in first place.

Pain and pleasure always comes bundled together. The relationship between the two is like that between kinetic and potential energy. When pleasure is experienced, then pain is hidden as potential energy--it is simply not manifested yet. The intensity of pleasure that you experience is directly proportional to the potential pain that will manifest itself when the pleasure ends.

Having said that, we must also not be afraid to suffer pain because it takes pain for us to understand the folly of our desires. Pain is a great teacher. The dualities--pain and pleasure, happiness and sadness, love and hate--arise because we deliberate introduce the perturbation in first place through our desires. We desire positive over negative, yang over yin. Once the oscillation is set into motion, the pendulum swings between the two extremes. You cannot experience one without the other.

To live is to experience the dualities. It is through this experience that you gain the ability to see things with equanimity. Soon you learn not be too carried away by the roller-coaster ride of sense experience; you simply see things as they are--the good and the bad, the positive and the negative, without judgement. You take them as they come along and act accordingly.

Every action that you take with have positive and negative reactions, but you must be consciously aware of the system of forces involved. Every situation in life is a combination of many subtle forces, each pulling or pushing in a different direction. With experience, you are able to sum up the situation instinctively at an instant and know how to act accordingly.

Everyone of us is a bundle of many contradictory forces. A person must always act in full awareness of all the forces that are at work within him. To act in ignorance of these forces is to court unnecessary pain. And when pain is encountered, we'll have to analyze the situation at hand and resolve it to its component forces. Only then can the right course of action be taken.

A man of wisdom is one who has internalized the calculus of pain and pleasure. Like I've said before, you don't need to understand fluid mechanics to be a good swimmer; you learn the behaviour of water instinctively through practice and experience.

Similarly, one must learn to swim safely through the continuum of experience called life by having an instinctive awareness of all the forces at work.

How do we develop this instinctive awareness?

Practice, practice and more practice. Go out there and embrace life. The world is like a gymnasium for the soul, and membership is free.