If we all would pine away for the Divine the way we seek intimacy with other humans, we'd have certainly reached Nirvana by now. But the majority of us need to return to some sort of great worldly experience of love or pleasure or whatever again and again and then be cast from it again and again before even considering to seek anything beyond. And yet each of us encountering these inevitable and unnerving limitations pulls at our deepest heart strings to seek the beyond. It's in the very nature of humanity to try to transcend itself.
The problem is the mind. Remaining in the only realms known to mind, whatever we attain to still remains limited to the realms of mind. Only by dropping out of this mind cycle (represented as a wheel in Buddhism) can we see a more fulfilling, less elusive and truly dynamic way of being.
For example, we lose our lover or our big opportunity or our beautiful home in the suburbs, etc., and we're so sad, yet we know it was all never really that great in the first place. But the mind impels us to forget this.
The mind survives in the wheel. The mind is the wheel. Liberation from the wheel is liberation from the limitations of the mind. When we begin to renounce the world, the mind fights for survival by impelling us to crave the old way of being, simultaneously causing us to forget how we were never satisfied in the first place.
Nevertheless, the mind usually wins. We jump back into the illusion again and again for 30, 40, 50-plus years but with an increasing awareness in our depths that, even if we reclaim all the old familiar joys or much better, they'll still not satisfy deeply enough to avoid the inevitable turn back to disappointment.
Now many are reading this right now -- not just the younger ones -- and saying, "How negative, how hopeless. Why go on if you believe this?" But those who are spiritually mature, who have been through the wheel many times, are saying, "Yes, how true, how true. But how do we drop out of this wheel and move beyond these realms of mind?"
As the enlightened yogis have said, this maturity is the essential sign of being ready for true yoga -- yoking fully with the Divine. (Yoga might not come to the matured soul as "yoga." It has many names, many paths.)
Next column (July 6): How to stay out of the wheel and live a satisfied life.
WILLIAM BRASHEAR, owner of Cincinnati Yoga School in Blue Ash, is a Thai Yoga Masseur and has practiced Vipassana Meditation for 18 years.