Skip to content

The Cheap Way to Flight From the Self

“What is meditation? What is abandonment of the body? What is fasting? What is the holding of breath? It is a flight from the Self, it is a temporary escape from the torment of Self. It is a temporary palliative against the pain and folly of life. The driver of oxen makes this same flight, takes this temporary drug when he drinks a few bowls of rice wine or cocoanut milk in the inn. He then no longer feels his Self, no longer feels the pain of life; he then experiences temporary escape. Falling asleep over his bowl of rice wine, he finds what Siddhartha and Govinda find when they escape from their bodies by long exercises and dwell in the non-Self.” (Location 151)

There are cheap and expensive ways to escape from suffering. The cheap ways (alcohol, sugar, etc) usually return doubly as hard in the form of agony later (hangovers, withdrawals). It is like taking a loan against suffering.

Meditation, exercise and fasting are expensive. They are the act of sitting next to suffering, letting the drama play out, and not letting the whole ship capsize under the weight of the suffering. Later, the sufferer is not as reactive to pain.

They work so hard all week long, suffering the work, suffering the action, not because they like to, but because they feel they have to. They have to work because they have to pay the rent, because they have to support their family. They have all that frustration, and when they do receive their money they are unhappy. They have two days to rest, to do what they want to do, and what do they do? They try to escape. They get drunk because they don’t like themselves. They don’t like their life. There are many ways that we hurt ourselves when we don’t like who we are. (Location 654)