Lightening the Load
Dr. Stephen Fulder
Foreward to the Hebrew version of: Know Reality, Live Calmly by Jonathan Harrison
Lightening the Load
There is a famous sharp Zen story, which goes like this. A seeker wandered far and wide in search of liberation. Eventually after much difficulty he heard about an enlightened master that might help him. He found the master who was a simple old man walking along a path carrying a large bundle of firewood on his back. He asked the master: ‘How do I become completely free?’ The master looked at him and then put down the bundle he was carrying. He didn’t say a word. After some time the seeker asked impatiently: ‘Is that it? Then what?’ The master picked up his bundle, hoisted it on his back and continued on his way.
We all wish we could put down the loads we are carrying through life. There are internal loads such as anxiety, lack of joy, restlessness or a judgemental mind. Or they seem to be external loads such as not getting what we want or relationship issues or our bodies that seem to betray us. But they are actually also in our minds, for life is constantly changing and how we face change is entirely up to us. The loads seem quite stuck to us. Indeed they have become part of us. They don’t get dropped by wishing to be load free, nor by thinking about them, nor by imagining them to have dropped, nor by denying them. We need something else. As Einstein once said: ‘ You can’t solve problems with the same mind that created them.’ We need some help because the stress is so much integral to our life that trying to clean it we find we are always washing ourselves with dirty water.
This is where meditation and spiritual practices are important. There is no doubt that the Zen master could put his burden down so absolutely only after much Zen practice. Something needs to be shifted at the deepest level, how we are with ourselves, with our experiences and with the world, moment by moment. And then something extraordinary happens. We discover that our very nature is peaceful, joyful and connected, but we could not see it because it was obscured by the beliefs, stories, memories, narratives and habits that filled our consciousness with clouds. Once the clouds can be seen as unreal and not solid, the sun shines out. And in its light our view of reality expands way beyond the boundaries that we thought was the world.
Learning meditation is not easy and it is not difficult. It is helpful if there is some good teaching to set us on the right path. This is where this book comes in. Jonathan Harrison has written a wonderful manual which is remarkable in its directness, simplicity, and sharpness. It offers very concise instructions not only on meditation but also on different ways of viewing ourselves and the world. They go together. The text is similar to what’s called the ‘pith instructions’ in Tibetan texts: short, deep and pithy, guiding on method but also pointing out the kinds of experiences and shifts in view to be noticed on the way. Meditation is not in the end just a technique, but another way of knowing, of being a conscious human being – a knowing that is clear, free, unconditioned and boundless. That is why questioning and inquiry are so important along with meditation in the whole range of Buddhist paths. This book does it very well – opening up and questioning those things that we always took to be real, what we assumed were facts. In particular how we shape what we see and know, according to what we want to see and know. Through the exercises and the concise clear text of this book, the world as we usually know it, that gives us the stress and pain, is thrown open and deconstructed. And we are guided to the clarity and peace of our true being.
Dr. Stephen Fulder