Friday, September 12, 2014

Stop Complaining - You Do Have a Choice

In my previous post, “Changing Free Will from a Harmful Illusion to a Life-Affirming Fact,” I argued that we are programmed by our learned experience to act, and react, in certain ways and thus do not have free will in the way that term is normally understood.  But, if we were properly nurtured, even as adults, we would be able to free ourselves from this programming.and act with real free will in a way that would be of benefit both to ourselves and to the rest of society.

Unfortunately, the likelihood of such a fundamental change happening in our society is next to zero  Instead, it devolves to the individual to become aware that they have been programmed and to free themselves from that programming.  You can’t change the world around you, but you do have a choice to change how you relate to yourself and that world, and thus end your doubts and confusion, your fear and anxiety, your anger and negativity.  This is the fundamental teaching of Buddhism.

To free yourself from this programming, to change your habit-energy, is a choice we can make.  Without question, it is a choice that is very difficult to make and carry out because our ego will fight making that choice with all its power and cunning.  But it is a choice that people have made and that we can all make.

Let me restate two critical steps.  First, one must come to recognize that you, and all others, are a function of the environment of your upbringing, all your learned experience, and that this experience has programmed you to act in certain ways.  That is something that most people can accept after some thought.

It is the second step which is the kicker.  You must come to an awareness that all your learned experience, being dependent on what you’ve been taught, is thus empty of any intrinsic existence ... the point being that you think the way you think because you were taught that way, whereas another person thinks quite differently because they were taught quite differently.  Where does reality then lie?  

People generally claim to have access to the truth, to reality ... they know ... whereas they don’t in fact because all they know is what they’ve been taught and reality cannot be taught.   It can only be experienced directly, which means free of the intervention of the ego’s thinking mind.  NOTE:  I am talking here about how we view ourselves and the world around us, the judgments we make, not the facts of the physical world or mathematics.

All your feelings, perceptions, mental formations ... indeed your entire consciousness ... are empty of any inherent existence.  It is just in your head.  Strange though it may seem, despite the all-too-real problems in your immediate and the larger world, the direct cause of your suffering, your unhappiness or frustration, is not the state of things you must contend with, but how you relate to yourself and the state of things.

Are you unhappy with the way things are?  Are you suffering because of that unhappiness?  Do you want your suffering to end?

The first thing you must do then is decide, if in fact what I posit is true ... that all your suffering is a function of how you relate to yourself and the world around you, not the actual state of things ... do you really want to change, not who you are, but how you relate to yourself and others.   I emphasize the word “really” because the next question is whether you are willing to go deep within yourself, to do the work which has been hinted at above, in order to free yourself from the way you’ve been programmed?  If the answer is “yes,” read on.

How does one bring about this change in oneself?  How does one unlearn the lessons of a lifetime?

The first thing one must do is find a mechanism to enable you to step outside of yourself.  To be able to look objectively at yourself and the world and how you relate to things.  Slowly, you will begin to discern the disconnect between your learned experience and reality and begin to see things as they really are, free of labels, thus bit by bit freeing yourself from your programmed mind.  Ultimately, you will be able to make the choice to find peace and happiness and end your suffering.

This is not surprisingly a complex process that demands discipline and commitment over an extended period of time ... years.  Such awareness does not come in a flash.  But there is a path to follow.  It is set forth in detail in my various books and discussed further on my Buddhist blog.  For a summary, you might want to read the post, “End of Suffering Cheat Sheet.”  For more information please go to,