I want to invite you to enter into an ongoing conversation with us about the human predicament, its cause and its cure. By human predicament I mean the fact that a creature with such promise as humanity should, in such a short time, bring itself to the actual brink of extinction as a result of the efforts of each and every one of us to follow the fear of individual extinction into an endless project of survival at any cost, to protect ourself, to save ourself, from life itself.
This conversation has actually been going on for quite a long time — for thousands of years in one form or another — and until now its product for the most part has been a wondrous collection of understandings, insights, trance states and practices that focus on efforts to purify in one way or another the states of mind and the ever-shifting characteristics of our lives. We have, in other words, successfully transformed authentic spiritual insight into one more aspect of the project to fix ourselves, in order that we might be worthy of survival. We seem quite at home with the conclusion that the characteristics of being human are the problem — not just the cause of our misery, but its actual substance — and that the solution therefore must be to reform, transform, transcend, eradicate or escape from humanness itself.
I suggest to all who will listen that the actual cause and content of human misery is much simpler and easier to dispose of than all that. I suggest that it is the fear itself, the fear of life, that plagues us. And that that mindless fear is nothing more than an accident of human birth.
Imagine for a moment, if you can, what it would be like suddenly to burst into existence with a clear sense of self-consciousness — the consciousness of being yourself — but with no idea even what that yourself-ness is; with no understanding, no past, no knowledge of other, no concepts, no boundaries, no notion of body — naked and alone — suddenly just here, lost in an incomprehensible, wild maelstrom of sensation and movement that is consciousness in motion — that is life itself.
Imagine the terror that must strike in that moment, when there is not even the concept of terror to hold it at bay with the power of the word in the act of naming it.
Can you see how that terror would take root and come to be seen as an indispensable reminder in service to the absolute need to protect yourself in a life that is profoundly dangerous and almost seems to be determined to do you in? Can you see how the fear fades finally into the background, to form the ground from which everything else in life is viewed and related to? Can you see how that fear is actually the blind fear of life itself?
This fear is actually an opinion about your nature, a comment to the effect that you are at stake here, in grave danger here, trapped here in a life of hopelessness you didn't ask for, in a mind that cannot save you from either the fear or the life, a mind that seems to hold you in thrall to useless thinking, a mind poisoned by a relentless need to watch everything, name everything, distinguish within the ocean of sensation and thought the good from the bad, that which might help you from that which will certainly hurt you and might well damage you irreversibly; that might well finish you off once and for all.
But if this idea that you are in danger here is false, and there is really nothing for you to fear from life, then the whole game is undone. In this case, the solution is quite simple, and it has nothing to do with reforming, transforming, transcending, understanding, or doing anything at all about the characteristics of your life.
You can see yourself for yourself, directly, and the solution to a false opinion about you is the reality of you, pure and simple. And, since you are here, always — since you are the one and only constant in this shifting wildness of movement, sensation, thought, emotion, and so forth — settling this issue once and for all should be very easy. And it is. It requires no understanding, no merit, no special training or transmission; it doesn't require that you believe anything I or anyone else has to say about you. All that's needed is that you look at you who are the subject of the opinion that you are in danger from your own life. You don't even have to believe it will actually work, all you have to do is do it. Just look.
Right now, in this moment, just look at yourself briefly with your mind's eye. See if it is not possible right now, even as you are reading this, to catch just a glimpse out of the corner of your eye of the feeling of you, the you-ness of you, the profound and primal ordinariness of you. See how certain, how literally unquestionable it is that you are here, and how that presence of you here is certain in a way nothing else can ever be. See how ordinary you are, how it is you that fills all the space between one thought and the next, one sensation and another, see how little interest you have had in those spaces.
This is what I ask everyone to do: just look at yourself, see if you can find a way to get a brief glimpse of the you-ness of you, the person-ness of you, because if you do this once knowingly, you will without fail do it again... and again... and again... And the day will certainly come, without regard to anything else you are doing or not doing, without regard to anything else that is being done or not being done to you, the day will come when you will notice that the underlying fear of life is dead — an old and false notion about your nature snuffed out by contact with the reality of your nature.
This is the vichara of which I speak, and the conversation I invite you to join.