In August 2007 I wrote an essay and gave it to my buddhist mentor Thorre Schlaméus. His feedback has been better than expected. . .
Because I like translating, I translated it this week into English (LOL). Everyone who is eager to get a new and provoking view on the subject may find this attempt interesting.
The self-fulfillment of an illusion
1\2 The Eternal Loop
For the human eye – actually the human conception altogether – the way of things is conceived through contrasts. We can’t perceive light without darkness; warmth we notice only, because we also know the cold, and so on.
Generally speaking, everything we observe is based on our judgment whether or not an appearance is current or absent. Even the phenomenon of consciousness becomes evident for us only, because we do experience unconsciousness as well.
Every one of us, once in a while, happens to feel how it is to wake up slowly from a sound sleep. With sticky eye lids, we are diving up to the surface of clarity. Sometimes it needs incredulous five seconds before we recognize inside whose house it is we’re waking up this morning.
One or two moments after our striving for clarity, we see ourselves triumphantly taking back the full power of consciousness. And, we Buddhists are in no way an exception. But, aren’t we a little bit inconsistent by doing so? Isn’t the state of unconscious, deep sleep already the absolute painless,teasingly peaceful Nirvana? I suspect, the only reason why we live with might and main, is in order to fall asleep exhausted the coming night and to get rewarded anew with deep, painless sleep.
Ok, I admit, it's just joking around. The true, ever-lasting Nirvana has to be earned by means of a life-long training. Otherwise, everything would start all over again from the very beginning; life-cycle after life-cycle we would be kept in the loop of rebirth, which in the end appears to be as arduous as the daily struggle of awakening.
Hence originates our commitment to a lifetime of drudgery walking the Eightfold Path. We want to make sure that after the end of this life we will never have to wake up again, that we never again need to become aware, triumphantly, of our power of consciousness. And, we aren't even irritated by those foolhardy voices who want to assure us that eternity doesn’t last longer than a calm, motionless night.
However the nature of eternity is; before we’re able to subside into the cosmic, permanent sleep, we have to tread the aforementioned path, which demands a high degree of discipline and patience. One wants to say: Tough task! –Right, and don’t forget; during your hike on that long road, your sufferings will never be eased even a little bit! Now you may wonder: “What? No ease at all? Didn’t the masters promise on that road I’ll learn how to eliminate the sources of pain, one by one?” Yes, but that still doesn’t change the intensity of pain you have to perceive. I see, you’re shaking your head. Consider to read the second part!
2\2 The staircase without steps
I’m saying again, the effect of downgrading your suffering-level will never be recognized by you. Every time you cut it down one more degree, your desire for the next cut remains as strong as before. (“Degree” is of course an artificial term to illustrate the process.) You won’t feel a tiny bit more coolly, no matter how low you already have been descending. Let’s suppose you’ve already reached the lowest possible degree of suffering-perception; even then, your longing to leave the last level and obtain deliverance would be intense. – And this is because:
There’s a simple mechanism preventing the joy of relieve. The less pain we have to endure, the finer calibrates our receiver. As I said at the beginning, our system of perception is founded on the rule of contrast. If the “input” of pain is fading, the system has to sensitize itself, simply in order to sustain the sharpness of contrast. In effect, the milder pain of tomorrow feels as tormenting as the severer pain of today. That is the paradox of what I call “descending the staircase without steps”.
Now you know the reason why the last day of your life will feel as sorrowful as today, although you decided going the path of the paths. You are doing a seemingly never-ending work just to make sure you'll escape rebirth – given your work was really good. The crux is, it is all a matter of faith! It's potentially insane to believe in a result which impossibly will ever be proved by anyone! So, please keep in mind the last conclusion I want to give you now.
In the moment of death, as you leave the last threshold and enter the here-after, you're losing all your capability of feeling anything. Not just the pain, but also the not-pain. Therefore you weren't able to enjoy the not-pain after death. So, when is the right time to enjoy the deliverance? – Now! You have to imagine it now, and this is why you should meditate regularly. Through meditation you harvest the fruit of deliverance. Indeed, a very transcendental fruit, since you only can anticipate it rather than observe it in real-time, when it really came after your last breath faded. Therefore, I wish you sufficient courage and madness to keep going – no matter what!
Nicole Lüderitz, 2007