I am currently reading “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle. In chapter VIII there’s a story about the inevitability of change. That story made me aware of how powerful an influence temporary feelings have on my life. It also gave me a tool against that destructive behaviour. I am hoping it may do the same for you.
According to an old sufi story, there was once a king in the middle east, who was constantly torn between happiness and despair. The slightest thing would provoke a strong reaction in him, and when he felt happiness, it would swiftly turn into disappointment or hopelessness.
The king eventually became so tired of himself, and his life, that he decided to face his problems and call for help. He was notified of a wise man in his kingdom, that was said to be enlightened. The king pleaded for his help, and when the wise man came to see the king, the king told him: “I want to be as you are. I want balance and clarity in my life – And i will pay you any price you demand for that insight”.
The wise man responded: “I might be able to help you, but this insight is so valuable, that the entirety of your kingdom will not be enough to pay for it. That’s why i will give it to you as a gift, if you will honor it”. The king promised he would, and the wise man went on his way.
Weeks later the wise man came to the king again. This time bringing a jade shrine. The shrine contained a golden ring with arab letters inscribed on it. The letters said: “This too shall pass”.
“What is the meaning of this?” the king asked as he stood baffled. The wise man told him to always carry this ring on him, and to always look at it before he judged anything again. Good or bad. “Do this and peace will be with you always” the wise man said.
“This too shall pass”. What is it about these simple words, that is so powerful?
It seems as if this state of mind will not only serve as consolation when you feel pain in life, but it also sounds like you shouldn’t get too excited about good things either, because your joy will ease away soon enough anyway. Let us examine it a bit deeper.
What the sentence really means is, that you should do your best, not to judge the situations you find yourself in. Be they good or bad. The words do not that mean you shouldn’t praise happiness in life, and they are not meant to simply comfort you when you feel pain in life. They have a more profound purpose, which is to make you realise every situation is temporary. Every situation is temporary, because every form and every feeling in life is temporary.
When you become aware, that every form and every feeling is temporary, you develop an abundance in your life, and it will be possible for you, in a higher sense, not to identify yourself with form and feelings. To not identify yourself with your situations doesn’t mean you will fail to experience all the good things in life. It will actually make you enjoy them more, when you accept that all things are temporary and that change is inevitable. Because realising this will make you praise the good situations in your life, as long as they last, without the fear of losing them. When you are free of the chains linking you to your current situations, you are free to develop a higher perspective of the situations in your life, without being trapped in them.
I couldn’t help to think, that maybe this is what Chuck Palahniuk was talking about, when he made Brad Pitt give Edward Norton a chemical burn in Fight Club – In a slightly more sadistic way of course.
The words “This too shall pas” is revealing eternity, because they are pointing out that all situations in life are temporary. – And only that which is eternal can point out that which is temporary. “This too shall pass” is a sentence pointing at the eternity living inside us. The eternity that will outlive our physical form and our thoughts and feelings. The eternity which is life.
When you cover up the eternity living inside you with temporary situations you are giving them much more meaning than they, in reality, have. Living like this will continually lead you into despair over truly irrelevant things.