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Friday May 14th 2004, 1:15 am
Filed under: General
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(This post was a continuation from my last one where I am drawing a distinction between pain and suffering)

A couple of days ago I referred to a master (Buddha) saying something to the
effect of “Nirvana is the cessation of suffering”. I don’t think that that
his understanding is different than your own and I will explain why. In the
same paragraph that I used that Buddha quote, I also referred to him
teaching, “Joyful participation in the sorrows of life”. These two teachings
may sound contradictory but again, it is only because of the inherent
limitation in language. It has come to my attention that we should make a
distinction between pain and suffering when talking about these matters.
Pain referring to the sorrows of life that inevitably arise because of the
nature of duality such as your tooth surgery or the loss of a loved one.
Suffering would refer to the resistance of ‘what is’ such as this pain
resulting from injury or loss.

I make this distinction because ‘pain’ is direct, immediate and
independent of thinking. Whereas ‘suffering’ is *only* a result of
thinking. A couple months ago, we got hit hard with a lot of unexpected
bills and other problems that were very overwhelming. It all came on like an
avalanche and the topper was that I thought my drivers license was suspended
for missing a court date for a speeding ticket. After that final blow, I
went out and sat on my porch as I always do at night. My mind felt too
restless to meditate so I just sat with all the problems and noticed the
heaviness associated with them. As I began to associate with the heaviness,
the mind kicked in as the ‘problem solver’. Almost immediately, I realized
that there was no suffering until my mind jumped up to solve the problem.
Now I was suffering but it was not because of my situation, instead it was
because of my resistance to my situation. It occurred to me that with out
thinking, there is no problem and no suffering.

The mind or thinking itself acts as a problem solver. So, it
generates these fictional ‘problems’ and employs itself as the problem
solver to solve it’s own generated problems. It occurred to me that I was
aware of the situation for some time but it was only when I thought about it
that I suffered or perceived a ‘problem’. In a flash, it dawned on me that
all that was actually happening was that one day, instead of looking at the
trees or my living room, I would be looking at the Department of Motor
Vehicles. Instead of giving my money to someone else, I would be giving it
to them. Instead of spending x amount of money on food, entertainment etc. I
would be spending a less amount. There was no problem at all and no
suffering at all except for thinking about my situation. No thinking = No
problem. No thinking = no suffering.

If we allow for the pain that arises out of our circumstances, then
this pain does not have to become suffering. In Zen, they say, ‘When pain
comes, only pain”. I can only assume that the Buddha understood ‘suffering’
in the same light that I just described. Just look at the first two noble
truths. 1) All human life is suffering and 2) Suffering arises because we
resist the impermanent nature of the world. It sounds like he is also
describing ‘suffering’ as the resistance to ‘what is’. If your tooth hurts
and you allow for the pain then there is no suffering, only the Awareness of
pain. If your tooth hurts and you resist the pain then there is now pain and
suffering. A life free of pain may not be possible or even desirable but a
life free of suffering certainly is. What is even more beautiful about all
this is that even if you find your self unnecessarily suffering, the mere
recognition of this unnecessary suffering liberates you immediately. I can
think of nothing more liberating than the immediate realization or
recognition of your own mistakes.

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