One of my students spent some time this morning expressing their concern over some of the recent health challenges both Jampal Choden and I have been dealing with. He said, “I just hate seeing you suffer so much.”
And so I had to explain to him that I do not suffer, and that I believe suffering is nothing more than a delusional state of existence. He rallied against that a bit, saying that if I denied the reality of suffering, I was denying the first of the Four Noble Truths.
“Ah, but I didn’t say suffering doesn’t exist… the question is WHERE does it exist!” I told him.
“All around us,” was his reply.
I told him that wasn’t my truth. You see, whenever we perceive suffering as existing all around us, or anywhere “out there” in the world, we’re not operating from pure awareness. In pure awareness, we recognise that whatever seems to be going on around us is merely a reflection of our inner state of mind. Thus suffering is in the mind. When we focus our attention on transforming our minds, through Lojong practice, through Mindfulness Training, through silent periods of calming the chatter, and through the cultivation of compassion, we begin to transform the world around us.
Suffering is the result of arguing with reality. When we experience pain, we grasp at ways to avoid that pain, to numb it, to essentially pretend it’s not there. That causes us to suffer. There are very few moments in the day when I am not experiencing some degree of intense physical pain. But I don’t suffer because I acknowledge that pain as if it were an old, albeit annoying friend. And I know there will be moments when the pain takes leave… maybe for an hour, maybe for ten minutes… but it takes leave, and that’s all that matters. Pain is phenomenal, therefore, it will eventually no longer exist. So why struggle to avoid it.
I don’t like the extreme heat of summer. But I know there is no way to “out run the season”, unless I move to areas in which the climate is different. If I am going to stay in South Central PA, then I am going to experience 89 degree afternoons in May. It’s that simple. No need to suffer, because I accept it, and move through it, because I know Fall always follows Summer. Heat is impermanent.
You see, any time that our beliefs and thoughts contradict what is, we create the causes for suffering. So the key is to learn to cultivate a calm, non-judging, non-grasping mind. The key is to learn to dwell deeply in the moment with Pure Awareness.
When pain grips the space between my shoulders, I consciously bring my awareness to the moment. And in that moment, I recognise that I am alive… and I am well. And I cultivate gratitude for the fact that my body alerts me whenever there is an imbalance, just as it’s doing in that moment. Pain signals that something needs to be relaxed, repaired, healed or rebalanced. And sure enough, as I begin to focus on relaxing the muscles in my shoulders, which have tightened up due to the Parkinsonism, the pain softens and releases.
The only way to deal with pain, so that we don’t cause ourselves to suffer is not to run from it, but to move toward it and through it.
Now don’t mistake it, there are people who are experiencing suffering. And they may indeed seem to be all around you. But the suffering itself is also only in their minds. And so we do what we can to alleviate that suffering for them. We feed those who are hungry, we comfort those who are sick and dying, we smile at those who are sad and lonely. And because we have to think new thoughts to cultivate that attitude of compassion and gratefulness, we are transforming ourselves and the world around us.
khenpo gurudas sunyatananda
“Chenrezig, Treasure of Objectless Compassion;
Manjushri, Lord of Stainless Wisdom;
Vajrapani, Destroyer of all adversarial forces;
O Je Tsong Khapa – Losang Drakpa –
Crown Jewel of the Sages of the Land of Snows,
Humbly at Your Lotus Feet I ask your blessing.”
Drawing on the essential teachings of the great spiritual teachers, philosophers and freethinkers throughout time, Khenpo Gurudas Śunyatananda (retired Archbishop Francis-Maria Salvato, O.C.) has been regarded as a provocative, revolutionary “voice of reason” within the field of religion and spirituality, since 1983. Having the distinction of being one of the few openly non-theistic, openly-gay and post-denominational thinkers ever to serve as Bishop-Exarch and spiritual leader of the autocephalic Eastern Catholic Franciscans in North America, Gurudas is the author of more than 600 articles, eight books and currently serves as the spiritual advisor for a non-theistic, intentional spiritual community, The Spiritus Project. He can be reached at:http://dharmadudeunplugged.com
Copyright ©2011, Khenpo Gurudas Sunyatananda (The Most Reverend Dr. F. Francis-Maria G. Salvato, M.Sc., O.C.). All rights reserved. This material may be reproduced, blogged, quoted or distributed, provided the entire copyright including contact information remain intact. It may NOT be altered in any way, without express written permission.”