ESSAYS

A HISTORY LESSON

 

After watching Ken Burns’ PBS video series about the West, I came to the conclusion that as interesting as U.S. history is with all its different characters and story lines, it and all history can be summed up as the unsuccessful pursuit of object-oriented happiness. 

    

Over and over again, throughout history, we see man inflict suffering upon himself and others due to desire for objects. We see man inflict suffering on their spouses, their family, friends, community and country. In the history of the West, it’s apparent in the frontiersmen who put their families in extreme danger for want of their own land, in the Mormon founders’ revision of Christianity in exchange for absolute power, in the railroad tycoons using (and later, throwing out) the Chinese like disposable widgets, in the lies and killings directed toward the extinction of Native Americans, and of course, in the 49’ers who stopped at nothing to extract riches from the earth. 

    

And don’t think it was just the Neo-Americans. Previous Spanish inhabitants were equally lustful in their own search for riches and their desire to convert a native population to Catholicism (a clever psychological means to control the indigenous population in a way that was both cost efficient and didn’t require armies of men to keep them down).

 

Neither were the Native American Indians, saints. There were plenty of over-zealous warriors from tribes willing to capture, imprison, enslave, kill and push their neighbors out for territorial gain.

 

…And on and on it goes, where it stops nobody knows.

 

Man’s pursuit of object-oriented happiness is beginningless and continues unabated today at breakneck speed thanks to the internet and other recent technologies. This is man’s insanity. It’s man’s fever, regardless of race, nationality, location or time. Doesn’t man see that all his greed leads nowhere? Doesn’t man see that it’s all just a “chasing after the wind”? That once your basic needs are met the rest is just vanity? Doesn’t man see that a hundred years from now hardly anyone will remember their name or have a care about all the wealth and power they once amassed? 

    

I could go on and on describing how illogical and absurd it is and how it’s a psychosis. It’s inexplainable, that is, until we learn of the source. Greed is just a symptom of Self-ignorance, of not knowing who we are. Greed is the impossible mission of trying to satisfy our inner ghost, a non-existent entity—the ego—which is nothing more than a strange byproduct of the intellect reinforced by beliefs, family and society at large.

    

Buddhism with its Four Noble Truths is right when it teaches that desire in the form of grasping causes suffering. Whatever we hold too tightly eventually comes back to hold us in negative ways. Unfortunately, Buddhism doesn’t go far enough in completing the picture—which would be that the cause of our desire is about our mistaken identity. Our whole bloody history is about a mistaken identity and you can count on it that our future will be more of the same.

 

Man is just awareness under the spell of maya. We can’t say it’s the soul’s will to be deluded and ignorant. Nobody chooses to be driven by greed. Nobody chooses to be ignorant and to suffer as a result. Who would make such a choice? Who would pursue something they know in the end would just hurt themselves and those around them? Who would pursue a path to self-destruction? Nobody is doing anything. Nobody is doing the impersonal forces that drive us, nor is anyone doing their conditioning. History isn’t written by man, it’s written by the creator, maintainer and destroyer. Strange place this is, and yet, how could it be otherwise? I suppose in some alternate universe we would all be born enlightened, but that’s not in the plan. History is just a stage and life, a karma matrix. 

 

From a macrocosmic view, history looks like God playing. This is God’s most amazing story or game, and the game doesn’t work unless there’s maya—a mysterious power that exists within awareness and makes the impossible, possible. Maya is not only responsible for every physical object in creation, but for every thought, desire and fear. The ultimate maze in this game is that which leads the individual to find out that the master/creator of the game is also the player; that God is the game, the game pieces, and the game rules. It’s God’s game that it plays with itself. It’s a game of pretend on an elaborate scale.

    

Why must awareness need a means to know itself? Why the game? Why why why? Nobody knows the reason, not even the sages. Our only salvation is knowing maya or ignorance isn’t real; that it ceases to exist with knowledge. This is all just God’s dreamscape that awareness is for some reason, experiencing. It’s God’s most amazing experience. The show is playing, the actors are performing, and we are its captive audience. 

The Broken Tusk is the website of author, Daniel McKenzie who writes essays and books in the context of Advaita Vedanta.

© Copyright 2021 Daniel McKenzie

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