Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Suffering is not only for the unfortunate. The four noble truths are considered the essence of Buddhism and the first noble truth is: “Life means suffering“. We have to endure physical suffering such as sickness, injury, tiredness, old age and eventually death; and we have to endure psychological suffering like fear, frustration, depression and disappointment. What Buddhism is about is the path to the end of suffering, but that path is only for monks. We common people can only hope for a more fortunate future reincarnation.
Well, medical science and all the religions and psychological schools are trying to reduce the suffering or inventing explanations to it to give it a meaning? Which method is the best? Alcohol, marijuana and tobacco can also be very helpful; frantic work, the fanatic support of a football team, running and self hypnotism are also useful, as well as TV sets and iPod’s. There are many different ways to escape psychological suffering - delusions, denial, rationalizations, you name it.
I have tried out many alleys in my life but for the time being I’m into acceptance. (This is because I have read Russ Harris, Jon Kabat-Zinn and Steven Hayes.) This seems to me as a new approach. Acceptance is not pleasant, not enjoyable and it is not leading anywhere, not even to enlightenment. It is about being here and now with whatever there is here and now, pain, the endless nagging mind, an ugly ego, all of it. There is no way out. This is it. Whatever thoughts or feelings that I have in my head and in my body, I now try to let them be there, simply because, as Jon Kabat-Zinn says, they are there already. (Physical suffering shall of course be treated. If you have a splinter in your finger, you shall not try to accept it, you shall take it out and if you have a bad head ache you can take an aspirin, but it is different with psychological pain. If you, for example, feel bad because you have been too egoistic this feeling should not be medicated or escaped. Medication is of course important if you are deeply depressed, but as soon as you are reasonably back on your feet again you have to start working with your delusions again.)
However, life is not just suffering. Sometimes life can be so kind to us. How could we possible survive if there were no love at all to be found, only acceptance of all the suffering. Love stories, sunsets, big oak trees, crazy little children, chirping little birds, jokes, friendship, such tings balances the suffering and that is why they are so important. “Chirping little birds and crazy little children are very important.” This is my first noble truth.
What is awakening? When we talk about a green apple or a red house everybody knows what we are talking about, but when we talk abut the ego, the false ego, the true self, the mind, the I, spirituality or awakening, everybody seem to have different ideas about what we are discussing. Here are my present ideas about awakening:
Nothing is permanent. Everything will pass. You fall asleep at night and you wake up in the morning. It is the same thing with spiritual awakening. It comes and goes. Awakening is not a once and for all event, but the waking up from a daydream, again and again. Suddenly we are lost in our thoughts again and suddenly we wake up to the here and now. To be completely lost in thoughts and beliefs without this intermittent awakenings to the the fact this was just thoughts or beliefs, is to live in an unawakened state of mind. It is to be mesmerized or bewitched.