The Buddha said, “I only teach two things:
suffering exists and there is a way to make it stop.”
In the ancient language of Pali, the word for
suffering (or unsatisfactory conditions) is “Dukkha.” There is a
sense of suffering in everything that we human beings do. However
small it may be. It could be getting up in the morning when the
alarm clock rings when you would rather sleep in; it could be
getting stuck in a traffic jam; or it could be involvement in some
kind of a social function in which you would rather not
Dukkha can also be a catastrophic event like
losing a loved one or being involved in a serious accident in which
you are badly injured. Look at how we have to survive from day to
day; we have to do it by eating. Of course, when one thing eats,
another thing dies (either a plant or an animal). With this in
mind, the late Dr. Joseph Campbell said, “When you think about
life; it really is a horrible idea.” (The little fish devours the
plant, the big fish devours the little fish, and the bigger fish
devours the big fish.) This is life.
However, the Buddha said, “The mind is
forerunner.” What we see as suffering – everything from stubbing
your toe to observing the food chain – comes from the human mind.
It’s the mind that defines suffering. Human beings, unlike other
animals, have the power of conceptual thought. And, with that power
of conceptual thought we make characterizations of the things we
observe in our environment, for instance: suffering.
If we have a relative who has passed away
after a long illness, we generally ask each other the question,
“Did he suffer?” Suffering could be described as continuous pain.
The Buddha’s teaching suggests that human beings are in the unique
position of being able to put an end to suffering – both the large
sufferings and the small sufferings.
The Buddha had an evil cousin named Devadatta
who was insanely jealous of the Buddha. Devadatta even tried three
times to kill the Buddha. On one of those occasions Devadatta
pushed a rock off a cliff to try to kill the Buddha who was sitting
below in meditation. The rock struck and injured the Buddha’s foot.
The Buddha felt and noted the painful injury, but did he suffer?
The answer is, “No.”
The process of pain has a physical-mental
quality to it; suffering on the other hand has a purely mental
quality to it. You don’t need physical pain to facilitate
suffering. The loss of one’s job brings on tremendous suffering,
but it doesn’t spring forth from a physical injury. This brings up
the Buddha’s teaching of the Noble Eightfold Path.
The Noble Eightfold Path consists of:
Right Understanding, Right Thoughts, Right Speech, Right Action,
Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right
The Noble Eightfold Path is number four in the
Buddha’s Doctrine of the Four Noble Truths. Those Four Noble
Truths are: 1. Suffering exists. 2. Suffering has a cause (namely,
craving). 3. There is a way to end suffering. 4. The Noble
Eightfold Path is the way to end suffering and bring about the dawn
of “True Happiness” (Nirvana).
We train ourselves to walk the Noble Path by
purifying our minds to be better able to see the truth of what
is ; as we sharpen our skills of Right Understanding, Thoughts,
Speech, Action, etc. We do this primarily through the practice of
meditation. This can take many forms, but the primary focus of
meditative practice is an awareness of one’s breath.
Meditation also has wonderful practical benefits for the
average person in reducing stress, calming the mind, improving
concentration, helping with physical ailments that are prompted by
stress, and inculcating a general sense of well-being. Join us.