Suffering refines us, says the Buddha

Indian Express: Suresh Jindal (Editorial)

HIS Holiness Dalai Lama often explains that there are two aspects of religion: a code of behaviour and moral conduct to guide one to live in harmony with their environment, and a view of the nature of ultimate reality. In the first aspect, all religions inculcate the values of generosity, ethics, patience and compassion. In the second aspect, there are profound differences. In the Biblical stream - Judaism, Islam, and Christianity - the view is of One god, One Prophet, One Book and a Chosen People.

The Indian traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism do not have this dualistic and absolutist view of God. God is a potentiality of every one and the seeker has to find his own route to it. There is no single path or special revelation to an individual that can lead the seeker to Him. A myriad paths can lead to the realisation of God, as many streams lead to the same ocean. It is dependent on the seeker's mental disposition and mental continuum. Buddhism is the only tradition that does not believe in or accept a creator, God or Atman.

The Buddha himself said: ''Don't worry about gods, goddesses, spirits, the afterlife, any of that rather, look very carefully at the nature of your own subject, your own self, and try to penetrate to the bottom of that, for if enlightenment exists, it lies through an understanding of (and going beyond the subject itself.''

We all know and feel that all sentient beings want happiness and freedom from suffering. Yet all sentient beings must experience sufferings of three kinds: of afflictions to the physical body, of that which comes from the changing of happiness into sorrow, from riches to rags, from fame to disgrace. Finally, suffering that comes with happiness from the moment one is born until death.

At the first turning of the wheel at Sarnath, 2500 years ago, the Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths of Suffering, which is the beginning of Buddhist inquiry. He observed the obvious truth that all sentient beings have to experience suffering, if of nothing else then of sickness, old age and death. The second is also experiential, that all suffering has a cause. The Buddha also taught the ways to remove suffering from its very roots.

The causes of suffering are ignorance, aversion and craving. Ignorance is caused by deluded states of mind. His Holiness states that delusions are states of mind which, when they arise within our mental continuum, leave us disturbed, confused and unhappy. Therefore, those states of mind which delude or afflict us are called afflictive emotions.

Deluded states of mind arise when we perceive reality in a hallucinated way, in a false way, in a way where appearances obscure the actuality of objects. Buddhism is primarily a study of the nature of the mind and emotions. It teaches the path to the cessation of suffering from its very roots. For that you first have to understand the causes and conditions of suffering. It puts the entire responsibility of our sufferings and its cessation entirely on us. It has no blind believe, and no'revealed' truths that cannot be subjected to logic and reason.

Buddhist investigations teach that all phenomena have the three stages of production, abidance and dissolution. All objects that are born live for a while and then ''pass from here to eternity.'' All objects in the conventional reality are impermanent and subject to dissolution and death. The cause of our suffering is the root delusion in the permanence of things.

The Buddha himself urged that his teachings should be assessed like a goldsmith who assesses gold by cutting it, buffing it, and melting it. And like the goldsmith, to reject any that contain even a single atom of impurity in them. Not to accept them merely because the Buddha says so!

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Referred by: Mukandan CM
Published on: July 5, 2001
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