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Excerpted from Letting Go of the Person You Used to Be by Lama Surya Das. Copyright 2004 by Lama Surya Das. Excerpted by permission of Random House, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.

"Omniscience would help us grasp these matters, but it is in short supply in the human realm."

  Lama Surya Das
Letting Go of the Person You Used to Be
, Part 1

Why is there illness, death, and suffering? Why are we separated from those we love? Why is there pain? Why do bad things happen? Why do people hurt each other? Why is life so filled with loss? And the universal question: Why do bad things happen to me? Stuff happens -- everyone knows that -- but why does it happen to me, why am I so often in the midst of it!

No one has fully satisfactory or verifiable answers to any of these questions. We don't really know. This is part of the great mystery of life. Sure, there are many possible theories and explanations. I have friends, for example, who are astrology buffs. They say that the world events that began on September 11, 2001, were put in motion by an opposition between the planets Pluto and Saturn. It was written in the stars.

Some people are adamant about personifying evil. When we look around us we see leaders from all persuasions referring to those who disagree with them as being evil and followers of the devil. There are men and women who blame everything on Satan himself, who they envision as a real, albeit unseen, entity, who malevolently waltzes through our world, taking advantage of our weaknesses, which of course causes all varieties of havoc. I picked up the newspaper one day last year and read a statement from a fundamentalist preacher who said that some of our most serious problems are well deserved and come about because we are sinners with questionable sexual proclivities. This kind of simplistic fundamentalism has never had much appeal for me. It doesn't even make sense. In fact I think it is a crock, and I don't mind saying so.

Schopenhauer, one of my favorite philosophers, said: "Life is endless pain with a painful end." But is that all, I wonder? It's a sad and frustrating fact that much of the time we can't make sense of the unhappiness of our lives. Some events are easy to comprehend and can be directly attributable to cause and effect. We drive carelessly, for example, and we have accidents. This makes sense. But random events do occur, and cautious people are also in serious accidents. Cautious people are driving in the wrong place at the wrong time; cautious people are also hurt. Things happen that don't seem fair. Why? Are there underlying explanations for this? If I were to answer this question, I would have to say -- probably. Everything has a cause or causes, but I certainly don't always know what they are. Nor do I think that anyone else does. The reasons why we are hurt by life are often as mysterious as the reasons why we are graced with beauty and joy. This all belongs in the category of the unknowable. Much in the universe is inscrutable and unfathomable. Omniscience would help us grasp these matters, but it is in short supply in the human realm.

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