“I consider the position of kings and rulers as that of dust motes. I observe treasures of gold and gems as so many bricks and pebbles. I look upon the finest silken robes as tattered rags. I see myriad worlds of the universe as small seeds of fruit, and the greatest lake in India as a drop of oil in my foot. I perceive the teachings of the world to be the illusion of magicians. I discern the highest conception of emancipation as a golden brocade in a dream, and view the holy path of the illuminated ones as flowers opening in one’s eyes. I see meditation as a pillar of a mountain, Nirvana as a nightmare of daytime. I look upon the judgement of right and wrong as the serpentine dance of a dragon, and the rise and fall of beliefs as but traces left by the four seasons.”

  

Without an acute awareness of our personal suffering and a deep, heartfelt determination to be completely rid of both this suffering and its causes, there is no way to begin the spiritual quest authentically. For just as Prince Siddhartha’s sudden and unexpected visions of old age, sickness and death shocked him out of mistaking the world to be a pleasure palace, so too must all spiritual seekers confront the unsatisfactory nature of their lives so directly that they become thoroughly disenchanted with the ordinary human condition.

If we do not take a long, hard look at the uncomfortable truths of our impermanent existence, we can easily waste the time between now and our inevitable death in essentially worthless pursuits, never taking advantage of this precious opportunity to do something truly meaningful with our life. Like the foolish prisoner who becomes so accustomed to the confines of his cell that he turns a blind eye to all chances of escape, we shall be condemning ourselves to spiritual stagnation and the endlessly recurring miseries of cyclic existence.

Yet it is not enough merely to become discontent with our present condition; everyone experiences discontent at one time or another but very few do anything of real significance about it. In fact, the usual ways of dealing with problems and disappointment…..blaming them on someone else or drowning them in forgetfulness…..only bind us tighter to the wheel of suffering. What we must do is recognize that the true causes of all our misery lie rooted in our own ignorant misconceptions and that these can only be eradicated through the development of a clear, penetrating insight into the nature of reality. Only through the continued cultivation of such penetrating wisdom will it eventually be possible to attain liberation from all states of existence conditioned by ignorance and be free of suffering.