Annual India Tours
These lectures were transcribed by T Vd Broek. Heartfelt
gratitude is offered for all the hours of work spent on this Dharma activity.
These talks are offered free of charge. They have been slightly edited.
Aug 11 1991
We have dealt with human existence as precious, that life is impermanent, and should try to incorporate that more consciously into our practice. And then we dealt extensively with refuge and the different meanings on that. Right now, the next one, is the topic Buddha presented which has terrific power in this type of meditation which deals with a technique of adjusting your perspective, so life can be made meaningful.
This is the Noble Truth of Suffering. In the original presentation it was important to realize suffering and to become very dissatisfied with the mind set that brings one into suffering situations. The more one becomes dissatisfied, the more one has the opportunity to strive for liberation. In that, liberation aimed at is nirvana where one abandons all desires and the mind arrives to the state of sunyata or emptiness. Within that realization of selflessness, there is everlasting happiness, nirvana.
From the mahayana perspective it is important togo through the same process but the objective is different. Although one should become quite disheartened with a bad attitude, and try to observe a bad attitude as something which is not good and does not benefit oneself or others in any way whatsoever, it actually creates suffering, that is important. The point is to realize that if one gets in touch with suffering, and the causes of suffering, that it increases the quality of your being a great deal. Rather than to going to nirvana which is an extreme saying suffering is horrible and therefore totally rejected and abandoned, in the mahayana they say, if one realizes one's own suffering, then one has the place to move into real compassion, not an artificial one where one is looking down on other beings who are suffering with arrogance or pity on delusion. Rather, the approach is that we should try to realize suffering, that the nature of reality is suffering, and within that realize the equanimity of self and others. That we are all equally suffering. Within that the mahayana goal which is full enlightenment brings one to a much fuller experience of reality. Because by understanding one's own suffering, one can empathize with another's suffering. Thus one can have true love, compassion regarding others in their suffering situations.
To arrive at that, the initial movement is that you start to become more conscious of just how miserable you are. You should try to be more conscious of the fact that you do a lot of things in the alleviation of suffering. In our world are many things which can distract you from your situation, and if it is not relying on television or entertainments, you really on various chemicals and drugs to distract you from any misery which you may experience. These are easily available in our society.
In the Buddhist presentation, the initial premise is that life is suffering, is dissatisfaction. One should not expect life to be full of happiness. Within that, the Buddha said the first Noble truth is the Noble Truth of Suffering. It means in relying upon cyclic existence, you will find it is not reliable, it is not satisfactory, it is not a place where if you want to be truly satisfied or fulfilled, you will not be able to get it by relying on cyclic existence. The nature of cyclic existence is unreliable.
If you can start to recognize that, than a lot of your suffering drops away because you do not have expectations that everything should be wonderful or blissful. Rather, that is the basic nature of reality.
There are different ways the noble truth of suffering is presented. There are four fundamental tenants the Buddha presented about the nature of reality. He said all which are born must die. All that is gathered must be scattered. All that rises will fall. And that is accumulated will be lost. This means if you take a birth, at the end of that life is death. This is the first thing to be conscious of. Earlier we talked of personal impermanence as being the ingredient in your daily activity to try to bring into focus. Second, all that is gathered must be scattered, means no matter how much you try to accumulate wealth or whatever, at some point it will be dispersed again. If you are wealthy and amass a great deal of property and treasures, at some point those things will be scattered and spread elsewhere whether you do it consciously or because things change and things are taken away.
All which rises must fall. This applies to power. Vanderzalm is a wonderful example of that. At one point he was on a wave of power and now no one wants to be associated with him. His party never even thanked him. So if one thinks one should always be happy, that would be nice, but the nature of reality is no matter how high or powerful you aspire to be, there will be a falling away. One cannot expect prestige or power have any inherent reliability. They are dissatisfaction in the sense that if you rely on them, at some point you will experience a falling away.
Another thing the Buddha spoke of all that come to meet must part. This refers to personal relationships in regards to no matter whom you get together with, at some point you will have to say goodbye. And if you understand that in your mind, when you initiate a relationship with someone and enjoy their company, if you understand that as an inherent part of that relationship, you do not get that uptight about it. You do not get attached to the person of the relationship. You might have an enjoyable relationship but you can see that it will be over at one point, whether through death, or an emotional argument and parting. But the nature of relationships, is that no matter how intensively people try to come together, there will be a going apart of those people. That is the nature of reality.
This evenings meditation is a questioning of your own emotional position. That if you look upon regular existence, you can ask, are the things which I rely upon truly reliable? We do seem to live in a cloud which says things are permanent. That we are going to be alive forever. But reality is, we do have to die. We should try to recognize that we live within a mental position which is saying we have eternity to get my act together. Yet each day we should review the day and ask if we were happy with it. And if we were happy with it, ask if I was to die tonight, would I be comfortable? So the awareness of death is that one tries to have no unresolved issues.
And secondly, no matter how much we are involved in relationships, even the best of relationships falls apart. We do have an ideal that marriages will last forever. And I think in our hearts we all wish that, but reality is, it is not that way.
If you get the head space that life is not reliable, it is incredibly how much one can relax about things because you are not uptight about the fact that you have prestige today, and no prestige tomorrow. It is part of reality so you are more accepting of it. But if you have a relationship with someone and it blows apart, you can say, it is the nature of reality. Although it hurts, still you can be more accepting of it. Or if you lost your riches, again you do not have to be overly attached about it. You realize it is part of reality. And finally when death comes to your door, you can accept that.
In this way you can be more in focus with reality. I think the Buddhist teachings are very wonderful. And in moving yourself into that position, it makes you more in tune with reality.
Copyright 1994 Daka's Buddhist Consulting
All Rights Reserved