One result of discovering the amazing teachings of Eastern philosophy was that I began to closely study my own relative nature. Over time I came to the conclusion that it was composed of two almost equal but opposing sides: yes, I was half hedonist and half ascetic. Not surprising since we are enmeshed in a dualistic structure and are inclined to strong likes and dislikes. The stronger the personality, the more intense are these likes and dislikes, so, someone like me, for instance, would seek all sorts of sensory pleasure while suffering from an abysmally low tolerance for pain.
Now a wise human would gravitate to pleasures that are meaningful and that last, but the confused adolescent that I was sought enjoyment in fleeting things that left me dissatisfied and hungry for more. It was only when I heard the phrase: “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” that I woke up with a start and realized that I had been frittering away my precious life in repeating the same old nonsense and foolishly expecting the results to be gratifying.
It took humility combined with years of study and practice to discover that there was nothing intrinsically wrong with my compulsion to seek bliss. In fact, the mystics tell us authoritatively that bliss is the substratum of our nature and that our birthright is a state of unending peace and happiness. And yet everywhere I looked, I saw even intelligent humans that the world respected engaged in activities that brought them inevitably to frustration and sadness. I knew I already had the answers, but I had not made the right effort to make use of them. First I had to clear the wreckage of the past, which meant taking inventory of all the stupid and ignorant things I had done, then I had to focus on making amends wherever I could so I could move on, free of the horrible baggage of guilt and shame that burdens so many of us.
Simply following the yamas and niyamas, the rules of good living set down by the yogis, was more than enough to accomplish this feat, though the actual execution was both painful and difficult. When this was done (it is ongoing exercise, of course, and one must continually monitor oneself on the inner path), the teachings began to come alive to me in a new way. As the petals of the cosmic lotus unfolded, I realized with mounting excitement that everything the mystics and sages had promised was no less than the truth. Yes, when we follow the example of those who have walked the highway to liberation before us, and who have succeeded in this awesome task, we begin to experience a new lightness of being and a deep unchanging happiness.
Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva in the form of a hill of fire and light, who whips us until we unlearn our destructive habits of thought, speech and action so that we can rejoice in the bliss of our true nature!