Questions and Answers


QUESTION: Isn’t suffering a natural part of life? Why should we try to escape from it?

N. GOENKA: We have become so involved in suffering that to be free from it seems unnatural. But when you experience the real happiness of mental purity, you will know that this is the natural state of the mind.


Can’t the experience of suffering ennoble people and help them to grow in character?

Yes. In fact, this technique deliberately uses suffering as a tool to make one a noble person. But it will work only if you learn how to observe suffering objectively. If you are attached to your suffering, the experience will not ennoble you; you will always remain miserable.


Isn’t taking control of our actions a kind of suppression?

No. You learn just to observe objectively whatever is happening. If someone is angry and tries to hide his anger, to swallow it, then, yes, it’s suppression. But by observing the anger, you will find that automatically it passes away. You become free from the anger if you learn how to observe it objectively.


If we keep observing ourselves, how can we live life in any natural way? We’ll be so busy watching ourselves that we can’t act freely or spontaneously.

That is not what people find after completing a meditation course. Here you learn a mental training that will give you the ability to observe yourself in daily life whenever you need to do so. Not that you will keep practising with closed eyes all day throughout your life, but just as the strength you gain by physical exercise helps you in daily life, so this mental exercise will also strengthen you. What you call “free, spontaneous action” is really blind reaction, which is always harmful. By learning to observe yourself, you will find that whenever a difficult situation arises in life, you can keep the balance of your mind. With that balance you can choose freely how to act. You will take real action, which is always positive, always beneficial for you and for all others.


Aren’t there any chance happenings, random occurrences without a cause? 

Nothing happens without a cause. It is not possible. Sometimes our limited senses and intellects cannot clearly find it, but that does not mean that there is no cause.


Are you saying that everything in life is predetermined?

Well, certainly our past actions will give fruit, good or bad. They will determine the type of life we have, the general situation in which we find ourselves. But that does not mean that whatever happens to us is predestined, ordained by our past actions, and that nothing else can happen. This is not the case. Our past actions influence the flow of our lives, directing them towards pleasant or unpleasant experiences. But present actions are equally important. Nature has given us the ability to become masters of our present actions. With that mastery we can change our future.


But surely the actions of others also affect us?

Of course. We are influenced by the people around us and by our environment, and we keep influencing them as well. If the majority of people, for example, are in favour of violence, then war and destruction occur, causing many to suffer. But if people start to purify their minds, then violence cannot happen. The root of the problem lies in the mind of each individual human being, because society is composed of individuals. If each person starts changing, then society will change, and war and destruction will become rare events.


How can we help each other if each person must face the results of his own actions?

Our own mental actions have an influence on others. If we generate nothing but negativity in the mind, that negativity has a harmful effect on those who come into contact with us. If we fill the mind with positivity, with goodwill toward others, then it will have a helpful effect on those around us. You cannot control the actions, the kamma of others, but you can become master of yourself in order to have a positive influence on those around you.


Why is being wealthy good karma? If it is, does that mean to say that most people in the West have good karma and most people in the Third World have bad karma? 

Wealth alone is not a good karma. If you become wealthy but remain miserable, what is the use of this wealth? Having wealth and also happiness, real happiness—that is good karma. Most important is to be happy, whether you are wealthy or not.


Surely it is unnatural never to react?

It seems so if you have experienced only the wrong habit-pattern of an impure mind. But it is natural for a pure mind to remain detached, full of love, compassion, goodwill, joy, equanimity. Learn to experience that.


How can we be involved in life unless we react?

Instead of reacting you learn to act, to act with a balanced mind. Vipassana mediators do not become inactive, like vegetables. They learn how to act positively. If you can change your life pattern from reaction to action, then you have attained something very valuable. And you can change it by practising Vipassana.


Bài viết này được trích từ cuốn sách The Art Of Living – Thiền Sư S.N.Goenka và William Hart.

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