« Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional » Chapter 4: self reconstruction and ancestral wisdoms

« Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional »

Chapter 4: self reconstruction and ancestral wisdoms

Taking back his life in hand, self-reconstructing himself, after a break, a disease or any other traumatizing event, is not easy and obvious, for the simple fact that life does not necessarily teach us how to do it, does not always give us necessary keys to do this work, long and often disheartening… Nevertheless, once committed to it, we notice how much it is stimulating, and enlightened.

As I said it in the first chapter of this « saga », our contemporary life, based on consumerism and capitalism, creates needs that, contrary to the fact that one suggests us, are far from our real needs. It is this attachment, in objects as in persons, added to the illusion of durability, that represents the origin of the biggest pains we feel. Saying that, I just refer to the Dharma, teachings of the Buddhism. The western world does not teach us any more to investigate, to question, to set of responsibility, least of all to be ourselves. Rules and conventions are there to substitute for all this.

We live too often in the illusion that we have no other choice than to produce, that our self-fulfilment is in consuming and owing, that our happiness always depends on something that is somewhere else… Our modern society, here, imposes us a behaviour, creates an almost insatiable thirst, which obliges us too often to ignore our essential needs as human beings. Separated from our true natural self, we reject our deepest aspiration. Often a profound auto-depreciation follows, with a powerful sense of guilt, in brief, a profound suffering.

We look for outside what we already have inside, we get tired until exhaustion… From childhood, modern world strays us from our true nature, from our spiritual aspiration, instead of helping us to develop them and to blossom. Modern society is not worry about our happiness, but only about its own survival. It is an illusion to believe that we are still the ones who call the shots. It has been quite a while since we control nothing any more, and it has been quite a while since the system escaped us. We live in a structure that prevents individual and collective self-fulfilment, feeds on us instead of feeding us, but we continue to make it prosper.

No use to wonder why. The answer is simple: if we do not react, it is because we do not know how to react, nor towards what to go. The fear of the unknown and the change, the weight of the traditions and the collective, not all this facilitates taking initiative, nor acting out.

But before trying to change our modern world, it is necessary to heal ourselves first, to reconstruct ourselves, in a way, to « reconquer » ourselves. What involves, among other, to deconstruct reflexes and « assets » set up during the years, our life’s experiences, the imperatives imposed by our social and cultural environment we grow up.

The Buddhism, for example, considers the ego, praised by our modern western culture, is nothing else than a delusive fiction we wrongly identify with. Unlike the preconceived idea, which wants our being is a fixed identity that refers to this « self », we are fundamentally free of any central principle, open and autonomous. Remain attached to this ego, as in any other shape of attachment, is source of suffering.

In fact, when we begin to be interested in the Buddhist thought, we are almost disconcerting by the simplicity and the correctness of two words that, to them only, summarize the notion of suffering, and explain its origin. It is in fact the first two of four truths that underlie the whole Buddhist thought: dukkha and samudaya.

When he speaks about dukkha, suffering, Buddha presents his point of view on the life and the imbalance of the world, what is deeper than our conception usually involved in the word suffering. Far from being reduced to physical or moral suffering, this term refers to the notion of impermanence and attachment, and to their implications.

During his sermon in Bénarès, Buddha asserts:  » birth is dukkha, disease is dukkha, death is dukkha. Sadness, lamentations, pain, sorrow and despair are dukkha. Being in touch with what we do not like is dukkha, being separated from what we like is dukkha, not obtaining what we wish is dukkha, in summary, the five aggregates of attachment are dukkha.  »

Without detailing too much, dukkha shows that suffering is an integral part of the life, that it is universal and inevitable. This observation can seem fatalistic, but necessary. It is a fact. Acknowledging it establishes at the same time the foundation on which we are going to build the rest of the dwelling that takes us to liberation: « one who sees dukkha, also sees the birth of dukkha, he also sees the cessation of dukkha and he also sees the path which leads to the cessation of dukkha. » Buddha explains here that these truths are interdependent, and one who sees (thus understands) one of these truths, also sees the others.

This brings us to the second truth, samudaya, which is going to help us to grasp the causes of dukkha: the fundamental cause of suffering is ignorance, this insatiable « thirst » which tallies with desire, greediness, and attachment.

Ignorance leads us to create any kind of attachments and desires which always bring to suffering, to perpetual dissatisfaction. Nagarjuna explains to us, in his Mūlamadhyamaka-kārikā (Fundamental Verses of the Middle Way) « , that ignorance, as erroneous interpretation of reality is at the origin of suffering. So, ignorance leads to believe that there is a « self » (our famous ego), and that this « self » is permanent. Yet, this illusion, an erroneous conception of the reality, leads us to desire, to attachment, to greediness, so many sources of suffering.

Attachment, due to the principle of impermanence (we know all that nothing is immutable), is a big source of suffering. Because any thing tends to disappear, our attachment to it drags us towards suffering. Attachment concerns as well desire, lust, material elements, ideas, ideals, thoughts, theories or faiths. Fortunately, because of the impermanence of everything, pain is also impermanent…

Ignoring these principles drives us to covetousness, to greediness, to desire of (material and person) possession, to power, and their attendant of misfortunes. Settled in this perpetual dissatisfaction, we always want more, and we always suffer more. These poisons can go as far as hatred, the hatred against what we ignore, what we do not know, and we are quickly confronted to xenophobia, racism, and their army of destructive feelings.

The teachings of Buddha show that ignorance is the source of twelve links of conditioned production or dependent-arising of life in cyclic existence. This process shows the origin of suffering according to the interdependence of every thing in this world, principle called Pratityasamudpada. For Buddhism, we are not isolated beings, and everything has an incidence on us, and vice versa. The illusion to be separated from others and from the world brings negative actions and suffering. These 12 links also obey to this law of causality, which wants that every link involves the following one and is provoked by the precedent. The first link is ignorance, followed by volitional action-consciousness, name and form, the six sense spheres, contact, feeling, attachment, existence, birth, aging, and death.

Therefore, by fighting against our ignorance, we manage to release ourselves from other links and thus from suffering. For that purpose, there are 2 main paths, Hinayana – the Small Vehicle, and Mahayana – the Big Vehicle. In the first one, instructions teach us to make peace with ourselves, at the same time by the inner quiet, the understanding of the spirit of nature ( vipashyana ), the care of ethics and the purification of our behaviour. Mahayana, path open to all, does not emphasize any more the individual liberation, but the ideal of compassion.

Compassion has a major place in the Buddhist tradition and thought. Contrary to the emotional conception we have of it in the West, compassion is not a feeling, but a clear understanding of the unity of all beings, which are not separated from each other (Pratityasamudpada). It appoints the care one has to relieve all beings from their suffering, and to dedicate himself to their good. Actually, the real compassion is to make others, by helping them, able to find the strength and the courage inside their life and themselves, to be capable of overcoming their problems. In a way, the essence of compassion is empowerment, and, thus, the source of transformation, of personal reconstruction, and self-acceptance.

There are other ways, which facilitate and accompany transformation, and go to the same direction as Buddhism, and based on the same principles: yoga and tantric philosophy.

The compilation of these 4 articles, as their contents, are not thought as THE ideal answer, or the only way which exists or works, but rather possible paths you can try, for themselves or as a supplement to another way. They are ideas to research, to dig, to deepen, to self-appropriate. These articles are the result of an exploration led for several years, and which follows upon a series of traumas, as everybody can suffer during his life. Nothing extraordinary, but simply the feeling to have to share the means which allowed me, personally, to resurface, and also to help others, in order to show that indeed, if pain is inevitable, suffering remains optional.

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