Tom Crockett – Seeking is Suffering
Please enjoy this excerpt from Chapter Four entitled “Seeking Enlightenment” from Tom’s excellent One Drop Awareness book from Bliss Press. One Drop Awareness: Picturing Enlightenment and Nonduality, is a playful primer for oneness. It is an exploration of nonduality and the relationship between the appearance of form and formlessness, between growth, change, and evolution and the realization that everything is perfect as it is. It is also a collection of visual and textual pointing out instructions—nudges in the direction of enlightenment.
Siddhārtha Gautama, the Buddha, was a Hindu sage in the same way that Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, was a Jewish Rabbi. Both were driven by a desire to end suffering and reveal the hidden truth of existence. The Buddha built upon the truths of his day found in the Vedantic (Vedantic means way of knowledge or knowing) tradition.
The Vedantic tradition of Hinduism held that there were five causes of suffering:
• Not understanding the true nature of reality
• Attachment or clinging to transient phenomena
• Fear or repulsion of transient phenomena
• A false sense of identity
• Fear of death
Of course, they also said that the last four causes could be summed up in the first cause. When we do not understand the true nature of reality, we behave in ways that lead to suffering. And the true nature of reality is that everything that can be perceived is transient and impermanent and illusory.
The Buddha reduced suffering down to one cause. Duhkha, or suffering, was caused by the thirst for (craving or seeking after) things that were, by their very nature, impermanent. If our happiness is dependent upon things that are impermanent, our happiness is destined to be impermanent.
In fact, this Buddha character had a lot to say about suffering and seeking and enlightenment.
Pain and Suffering
It is important to remember that pain and pleasure are phenomena of this realm of incarnation. We cannot escape them. Trying to escape pain or pleasure is not the same as ending suffering. It, in fact, causes more suffering.
Pain and pleasure are temporary and fleeting experiences. When we dwell upon the pain of the past (the recollected self) or armor ourselves against the pain of an imagined future (the anticipated self), we create suffering. When we lament the fact that we are no longer experiencing a certain pleasure or live in anticipation of a pleasure yet to come, or when our focus in the moment becomes an opportunity for judging and evaluating what is arising as if we were providing play-by-play commentary upon our own existence, we miss the beauty of this moment and create suffering.
Pain is the experience we have. Suffering is the commentary we write in the aftermath of the experience.
I sometimes meditate with my dog. She is a German Shepherd named Maya. Actually, between the two of us, I am the only one capable of holding the concept that we are meditating. I am much better at turning my attention inward past the phenomena of thought to abide with that which is observing. She is much better at experiencing each moment as it arises.
She does not add unnecessary suffering to her day. If I accidently step on her paw, she barks, whines, and limps only as long as she needs to and then opens as love to me almost instantly. If my beloved, accidently hurts my feelings, I generally suppress my barking, whining and limping in such a way that it can be days before I realize how closed my heart has been and how much suffering I’ve added to a moment of pain.
From the Author
Honestly there aren’t many picture books about enlightenment, pure awareness, or nonduality (probably for good reason), but, since I don’t need to do anything because I am perfect as I am, and since I understand the trap in seeking my identity in the creation of some other form, I don’t suppose there is any harm in playing passionately with words and images and pulling them together to form a book.
I will also apologize in advance for treating this subject with some humor and inquisitiveness. So many teachers in the nondual tradition in the West seem to be so earnest and serious about their revelations. I don’t mean any disrespect. I just think that the truth of nondual awareness should liberate us to a more passionate engagement with the world.
I also understand that for some people, nondual awareness is simply true. It needs no other value than that it is true. For other people, however, nondual awareness is also useful in that it seems to bring an end to the suffering associated with separation and striving. Being something of a pragmatic mystic, I appreciate the truth, but find the usefulness, well, useful.
This is not meant to be the final word on enlightenment and nonduality. There are teachers and writers with a far greater depth of understanding than I possess. I am also writing as something of an outsider. I have been that dreaded thing—a self-confessed “spiritual seeker” and spiritual teacher—for nearly three decades and, if I have any kind of expertise, it is in knowing what doesn’t work, at least what doesn’t work for long.
I am not a guru. I am not even a very good teacher. I don’t know that I will ever reach that point where my eyes will glaze over in rapture as I pontificate on how there is no “me” anymore, but I do identify less and less with the “me” that has been seeking and teaching for so long.
This book is kind of a visual primer. Though I have read widely and learned a lot from other teachers, what I’m presenting in this book is expressed through a filter that I’m not sure those teachers would agree with. As much as anything, this book is a collection of the answers that have arisen from asking myself the most difficult questions about my own dissatisfactions and longing.
It is also important to stress that I’m communicating with words and pictures, but there is nothing special in the words or pictures. They are just pointers. When it comes to nondual realization, pointing out is the best we can do. I am consciousness pointing out consciousness. That doesn’t make me special. That doesn’t make the words special. If the words don’t point you to anything useful, let them go, but if they do point you to something useful, you also have to let them go. There is nothing in the words that you need to hang on to.
The challenge in talking about something like this is that I have to use concepts to describe a radical lack of conceptualization. I will use metaphors that draw distinctions: distinctions between emptiness and form, between oceans and waves, between waking and dreaming, but they are all just teaching tools. There are not two things, only one.