Thursday, May 26, 2011

Day 5: The Unfaithful Wife or The Case of Mistaken Identity

In the One Hundred Parable Sutra the fifth sutra talks about a fool who had loved and married a beautiful woman that was not faithful to him. One day, his beautiful wife decided to leave him for a younger, more handsome man. She went to an old woman in their village and anticipating her husband's grief, asked her to put a dead woman's body in their bed when she left and to tell her husband when he returned from his trip that she had died. The old woman complied. 

The husband returned home, and believing his wife had died, made all the funeral arrangements according to custom. He had her cremated and kept a bag of her remains with him day and night, mourning the loss of his wife. 

Many years later, his wife tired of the other man and decided to return home, but her husband didn't believe it was his wife and sent her away. 

The moral of this story is that a fool is a person who hears false teachings, becomes confused, and then believing what he or she is told, faithfully devotes their life to following the teachings without even questioning new information or truths when the come along. 

Questioning truth is an innate radar we have that can result in our living freely balanced according to our own truths rather than living according to the desires of others. Just as others do not have the right to deceive us for their benefit, we have the responsibility to live without oppressing the needs of others. While it sounds utopian given the limited resources on this planet and number of inhabitants in need and want of those resources, it is still a much easier way to live when this is the moral compass or trajectory.

Questioning out of fear, on the other hand, while holding tight to old wounds, results in our oppression of our selves. When we blindly follow old hurts because they were once real, we are not allowing ourselves to grow and walk a new path once a lesson has been experienced. Until we integrate these lessons and allow ourselves to move forward, we doom ourselves to repeating the same lessons over and over until we decide we no longer need to experience them.

Ask most people if they'd rather go to heaven vs. hell and they'll say, "That's easy. I don't even have to think about it, heaven of course." Ask Niccolò Machiavelli, and he'd say, "I desire to go to Hell and not to Heaven. In the former I shall enjoy the company of popes, kings and princes, while in the latter are only beggars, monks and apostles." 

Everywhere we look, someone's waiting for someone else to tell them how they should feel, what they should wear, how they should think, and why they should be unhappy with what they have; and if they don't have someone else imposing a deadline, it's difficult to live. 

When I encountered this experience in my personal life, I felt like the guy who goes to Heaven with his wife, who until their car accident had been keeping him on a gluten-free diet, high in protein, fruits and vegetables, and all the essential vitamins and iron. They looked fabulous for their respective ages, spent at least two hours a day at the gym, never failed to keep track of what they ate, how many calories they consumed, and how many glasses of water they drank. When they arrived to Heaven, it was far greater than they had imagined... a championship golf course, Italian boutiques, French cafés, they could eat and drink anything they wanted while looking perfectly handsome for all eternity. The entirety of afterlife would be one uplifting, personally gratifying, acutely intriguing experience of swimming in the creative of pure potentiality. "Wow," the 90-year old gentleman says after his tour with St. Peter. "Had I known, I would have never stepped foot in that gym, I would have eaten more steaks, and sat around watching football and drinking beer instead of taking that darn Yoga class with my wife for the last 40 years!"

Just in case I do not have the opportunity to spend the rest of eternity in a charming French café in the Latin Quarter of Parisian Heaven, debating with the greatest philosophers of all time, sipping red wine and eating bread and cheese, I'm going to do it while I have the chance. That's my Heaven on earth - allowing myself to be my self - there's no mistaking pain for truth in that. 

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