The Path to No Path


Many years ago, in India, I took the early morning bus from Pune to Goa, and arrived at Calangute Beach late in the afternoon. After finding myself a place to stay for the next few weeks, I went for a walk along the beach, heading towards the northern end.

I was enchanted by the beauty of the place. The sun began to set, and produced the most beautiful sunset that I have ever seen. The sky was glowing with amazing colours. I wished that I had thought to bring my camera with me, but I had left it with all my luggage.

Every evening for the next several days, I went back to that same part of the beach, with my camera, to photograph the sunset, but I never saw such a beautiful sunset again. Each evening, when the sunset failed to repeat itself, I felt frustrated, and eventually I gave up on the idea of capturing it on a photograph, feeling a bit resentful that the sunset had not lived up to my expectations.

I had so quickly forgotten the joy of seeing that amazingly beautiful sunset, and was now suffering from the lack of it. This is the phenomenon of attachment at work. If I experience something I like, I try to hang on to it, and if I experience something I don't like, I try to get rid of it.

Now the “conventional wisdom” is that this is an eminently sensible approach – maximise the positive aspects and minimise the negative aspects. What such 'wisdom' does not realise is that this attitude necessarily and immediately brings suffering with it. How can I be utterly content with life if, at every moment, I am trying to hold on to some parts of it, and trying to reject other parts? Attachment is the very antithesis of contentment. I repeat: attachment is the very antithesis of contentment.

I have heard many times that it is important to focus on positive thoughts, for these will bring happiness. Yet it seems to me that only somebody who is unhappy will want to focus on positive thoughts. If you are already happy right now, why bother to focus on positive thoughts? In fact, if you are really happy right now, you are lost in the happiness, and there are no positive thoughts to focus on (and no negative thoughts to repress, or run away from, either).

In fact, to seek happiness is to find unhappiness. To seek happiness is to be unhappy. To run away from unhappiness is to choose to be unhappy. Unhappy people choose unhappiness. Indeed, unhappy people create their own unhappiness!

It is clear to me that if I choose to focus on positive thoughts, I am denying the fact that I am basically unhappy. This means that I am lying to myself. How can I be happy if I am being dishonest with myself? This is pure escapism, and escapism is not happiness. People only want to escape from unhappy situations, not from happy ones!

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If you should wish to contact me about anything you have read here, especially if you feel strongly for or against what you have read, or if you feel that something is missing, I offer you an opportunity to share.

I look forward to hearing from you.

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