SOME THOUGHTS ON SUFFERING

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At the heart of matter of being human is the problem of suffering. What are we to do with it, how do we contend with it?

If suffering cannot be accounted for at our current level of understanding then we might ask, as a starting point, if we can at least *admit the possibility* that there could be a perspective that could include it and justify it, and by doing so ameliorate or even extinguish it? Could there be perspective where suffering isn’t suffered? Perhaps some would call this first step faith. Others (perhaps unwilling to consider a wider context) might say blind faith and cruel folly. But to truly account for and confront the existence of suffering, we’re called to step beyond our current understanding, and find some greater context of experience where the full gamut of experiencing can be included and integrated.

The Buddha identified grasping and clinging as causes of suffering. Clinging to ideas and things and people, clinging to desires and identities, to the body and opinions, to any aspect of conditioned existence (the Five Skandhas). The reason this clinging causes suffering is because all phenomena are subject to inevitable and spontaneous change, are empty of permanent and independent existence, and therefore any attempt to ‘hold on’ to anything is an exercise in futility. The tendency to cling is in itself born of the misunderstanding and misapprehension of the nature of reality, avidya. When the truth is fully seen, attachment ends, and with it suffering. Peace and freedom therefore, is to deeply recognise and accept the nature of reality.

Advaita comes to the same or at least fundamentally equivalent conclusions: inquire into and recognise the true nature of reality and the suffering born of delusion naturally falls away.

Looked at in this way, suffering needn’t merely be the presence of random and meaningless misery, but the very inducement to seek its causes and ultimate extinction. Of course adopting this perspective isn’t a rationale for seeking-out or meting-out pain, rather it’s about being awake to the possibility that the presence of suffering (Dukka, unsatisfactoriness) as a Dharma Gate, a way of transmuting and transforming the mud and misery of conditioned existence into the lotus of liberated insight.

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