Following on from my last two podcasts I would like to say that the aim in this kind of spiritual life is not that one not experience pain. The aim – if we can call it that - is that one emerges from a travail, whatever it is, as a wiser, kinder person, more humble and faithful. And for this to happen, some kind of learning process has to take place. I’m not talking about the kind of learning you do from a book.
So, the heart, the intuition, the soul has to learn. Now, I think for all of us, when we get into difficulties, some kind of learning does start. But all too frequently the learning never really reaches completion. And the reason it doesn’t reach completion is because we are distracted from it. We are distracted from it by the pressing urge to escape from the pain. So, we are very apt to clutch its straws, to grasp onto an instant but short-term solution of some kind.
This is why people who have had an unsuccessful love affair quite often in the immediate aftermath jump into another one, which may be every bit as or even more unsuitable than the one they have just come out of.
This is why, also, for instance, a person who blames their misery on the place where they live and then goes to great efforts to get themselves re-housed, and succeeds and moves into their new premises all too often finds that they are just as miserable in the new place as they were in the old one.
And this is why, also, the person who finds themselves surrounded by opponents and enemies and who resorts to the obvious straightforward answer of trying to get rid of them and, maybe, emasculates or destroys all his enemies, then finds himself in a new situation and looks around and finds there are just as many enemies as there were before, and maybe even the new enemies are more potent, are more threatening, more lethal than the ones he was coping with before.
This kind of treadmill existence is called samsara.
So, you don’t avoid the pain. Dukkha happens. That’s how it is. But there is a learning, and the kind of wisdom that we learn in this kind of process is paradoxical in the sense that it is founded in an awareness of our own stupidity, of our own complicity. When we have got our life into a mess, we have invariably played some part in the whole sequence ourselves. So, the learning that comes, has inevitably to do with contrition. It’s a humbling experience, and this is why dukkha is the gateway to the path. This is the meaning, fundamentally, of the Four Noble Truths.
If we can meet the suffering in a way that enables us to learn, and to learn deeply, and to mature, to come through the whole process as a more mature person, then the dukkha, the suffering, will indeed have put us on the path.
But to do that one has to keep one’s nerve. One has to resist the impulse to just grab at instant relief, in whatever form it seems to come. And the faith that enables us to keep our nerve in that kind of way is the assistance that we receive, the grace from the Buddhas. That’s Namo Amida Bu.
Namo Amida Bu
Thank you very much.