A machine does what it is programmed to do until it eventually breaks down. Until then, it repeats its limited, repetitive actions endlessly.

As human beings we are programmed as well, by our culture, our traditions, our education, but most importantly by our minds. There is usually very little that is unique about any of us.

Some of us raise families, some live alone. Some will kill, others will heal. But these are not differences; these are merely the pursuit of pleasure played out in different ways.

So we all live mechanically, driven by our pursuits of pleasure that equate to happiness whenever that pleasure is fulfilled, and sadness when our pleasure is withdrawn. "Wanting" is our primary program, and as long as we pursue wants, we live mechanically.

This is played out every day in societies all over the world. Wherever we go, we find people raising children and working, or trying to find work, and if there is no work then the idle time is spent in insurrection and terror. It is all so predictable and mechanical when following pursuits of pleasure.

No different from machines, we continue to seek pleasure until we break down; until we no longer have the energy or capacity to chase after our pleasures. Then we face persistent discontent resulting from pleasure withheld.

Before our equipment actually breaks down, what if we no longer sought pleasure? What if we, for example, became celibate like a Buddhist monk or nun while our bodies were still in peak physical condition? What happens when we withhold our pleasure and no longer concern ourselves with pleasure's fruition; which is happiness?

When we seek pleasure, do we at the end of it always find pain when the pleasure ceases? And realizing that, does our pursuits of pleasure become so neurotic, addictive and mechanical that we never allow a lull between our pleasurable experiences? Just think of the pressure that creates for us.

The resulting happiness that pleasure creates when it is satisfied never lasts, and therefore requires more and more pleasure until we truly become a pleasure seeking machine, just to allay the pain when pleasure is absent. Once we can see this in ourselves, wouldn't it be natural for us to question whether there a happiness not bound to pleasure, since pleasure is no more than an addictive drug? If there was a happiness beyond pleasure, could our mindless and endless pursuits of pleasure cease, where we could have some peace and real contentment in our frantic lives?

This happiness not bound to pleasure; would it truly sustain itself? And if there is such a thing, wouldn't that kind of happiness be worth looking into rather than living with a temporary, fleeting happiness based on pleasure that must be renewed minute by minute for the rest of our lives?

The mind that seeks pleasure is not as complex as it initially appears. Actually, it is rather straightforward. It simply recognizes objects in its field of awareness and either feels neutral toward them, which requires no action, or loves them and feels compelled to possess them, or hates them and feels compelled to push them away.

If the mind loves something, it holds on to it. If it hates something, it repels it. And within all this pushing and shoving is the pursuit of pleasure and the attempted avoidance of pain.

When the mind is attracted to something, it immediately attaches to it, craves it, clings to it like a fly stuck on flypaper. However, even though the pleasure derived from the initial attachment and attraction dissipates over time, letting go is difficult because withdrawal could be painful, possibly due to commitments made, or just plain greed. So the mind becomes stuck.

But what about a mind that understands itself and resists pursuing that which it is attracted to? Will this kind of restraint lead to something different, perhaps to a different kind of happiness than a happiness derived from clinging and attachment, which is no happiness at all?

Experiencing this different kind of happiness negates a mechanical life. No longer answering the bell like a conditioned Pavlov dog, the mind is now operating with discernment and wisdom instead of merely living in images. It now can see clearly each move and its consequences, and in this new awareness lies the complete happiness that never erodes and is not dependent on pleasures.

This awakened mind, no longer attaching or averting, becomes free from all of that. Free from the judging and never-ending evaluating that causes nothing but conflict. In this new found freedom, the mind's field of awareness now expands to include so many new things that were before hidden when the mind was totally occupied with the pursuit of pleasure.

This mind now has the capability of going beyond the material, beyond the machinery of existence, and toward that inexpressible, ineffable reality that saints whisper about. Now the mind lives spontaneously, not fearing the past or future, and in a new reality void of the images and shadows of the former mind.

And then mind itself disappears.

Author's Bio: 

Anagarika eddie is a meditation teacher at the Dhammabucha Rocksprings Meditation Retreat Sanctuary www.dhammarocksprings.org and author of “A Year to Enlightenment.” His 30 years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Thervada Buddhist monk.

He lived at Wat Pah Nanachat under Ajahn Chah, at Wat Pah Baan Taad under Ajahn Maha Boowa, and at Wat Pah Daan Wi Weg under Ajahn Tui. He had been a postulant at Shasta Abbey, a Zen Buddhist monastery in northern California under Roshi Kennett; and a Theravada Buddhist anagarika at both Amaravati Monastery in the UK and Bodhinyanarama Monastery in New Zealand, both under Ajahn Sumedho. The author has meditated with the Korean Master Sueng Sahn Sunim; with Bhante Gunaratana at the Bhavana Society in West Virginia; and with the Tibetan Master Trungpa Rinpoche in Boulder, Colorado. He has also practiced at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, and the Zen Center in San Francisco.