The following is one well-known method to catch a monkey: A hunter makes a small hole in a coconut and scoops out the contents with a special tool. Afterward, some fruit or nuts is placed inside as bait, and the coconut is then tied to a nearby tree. The trap works because the monkey is able to insert its empty hand, but it’s unable to extricate its hand while holding the bait. Due to the monkey’s greed and desire to keep the apparent prize, it’s trapped. The monkey could easily escape, if it would only let go of the bait.
The human condition shares many similarities with the monkey and trap described. Due to ignorance of our essential nature, and desires related to the “person,” there is suffering. We want this to occur but not that. Based upon apparently outer circumstances, we habitually judge a day as good or bad, successful or unsuccessful. We conclude that if we get what we desire, and avoid that which we don’t desire, we will be happy. Because of our deeply ingrained belief that happiness is dependent on getting, we spend our lives competing for whatever we believe symbolizes success. For many persons, such might be a promotion, a raise, a spouse, or a beautiful house. We will, and often do, sacrifice our health, time with family, and years of our life to attain–what? Can our happiness really be guaranteed by acquiring a shiny trophy in a bookcase, or a bank account with a specific amount of numbers?
I am NOT advocating a desireless life upon a couch; for such a strategy would soon reveal itself as only a softer, but ultimately no less painful, trap. To do nothing is not the answer. The solution is to let go of our identification with the person who is adamant that things or achievements will ensure happiness. Through deepening awareness, we learn that we can set a goal and–quite remarkably–still remain happy in spite of the results. In a paradoxical twist, we often achieve more and experience greater fulfillment by letting go.
We’ve been strongly conditioned to believe that objects, people, and certain circumstances hold the power to grant us happiness. This belief is the bait of the human trap. From a wisdom perspective, it is well known that it is not objects, people, or certain circumstances that actually yield happiness–but the dropping of the state of desire! When we get what we desire, or avoid getting what we don’t desire, we are briefly happy. Through self investigation, we can realize this directly. How long did the new house, spouse, car, or promotion yield happiness, before another replacement desire arose?
This strategy is not some drummed-up belief system in which we pretend that we are not Jane or John Doe. It involves understanding the mechanism related to desire and self inquiry into the very nature of our Being. This is most often facilitated through periods of stillness. There, as Silent Awareness, we may witness sensations, images, feelings, thoughts and perceptions–which clearly indicates that we are NOT them. We are the eternal, immutable witness. We needn’t experience the suffering of monkeys; for we, unlike them, can investigate our erroneous and grievous assumptions related to identity. In short, we may ask–“Who Am I?”–and not relent until we directly know the answer.
Dare to dream (and care for one another).
With heartfelt regards,
Copyright © – 2022 – R. Arthur Russell
P.S. Please share this article if you enjoyed it. If you’d like to view my latest book (This Taste of Flesh and Bones–released September 8, 2020), press here. My YouTube videos may be found through this link. May the content of either or both help you along your spiritual journey. 🙏🧡