DUKKHA FOR KNOWLEDGE AND VISION
The "twelve-point-dependent-origination" (//paticcasamuppada//) starts
with ignorance (//avijja//) and goes through kamma formations
(//sankhara//), rebirth consciousness, mind and matter, sense contacts,
feeling, craving, clinging, becoming, birth, and ends with death.
Getting born means dying. During that sequence there is one point of
escape -- from feeling to craving.
While this is called the mundane (//lokiya//) dependent- origination,
the Buddha also taught a supermundane, transcendental (//lokuttara//)
series of cause and effect. That one starts with unsatisfactoriness
(//dukkha//). //Dukkha// needs to be seen for what it really is, namely
the best starting point for our spiritual journey. Unless we know and
see //dukkha//, we would have little reason to practice. If we haven't
acknowledged the over-all existence of //dukkha//, we wouldn't be
interested in getting out of its clutches.
The transcendental-dependent-origination starts out with the awareness
and inner knowledge of the inescapable suffering in the human realm.
When we reflect upon this, we will no longer try to find a way out
through human endeavour, nor through becoming more informed or
knowledgeable, or richer, or owning more or having more friends. Seeing
//dukkha// as an inescapable condition, bound up with existence, we no
longer feel oppressed by it. It's inescapable that there is thunder and
lightning, so we don't try to reject the weather. There have to be
thunder, lightning and rain, so we can grow food.
//Dukkha// is equally inescapable. Without it, the human condition
would not exist. There wouldn't be rebirth, decay and death. Having seen
it like that, one loses one's resistance to it. The moment one is no
longer repelled by //dukkha//, suffering is greatly diminished. It's our
resistance which creates the craving to get rid of it, which makes it so
Having understood //dukkha// in this way, one may be fortunate enough
to make contact with the true Dhamma, the Buddha's teaching. This is due
to one's own good kamma. There are innumerable people who never get in
touch with Dhamma. They might even be born in a place where the Dhamma
is being preached, but they will have no opportunity to hear it. There
are many more people who will not be searching for the Dhamma, because
they're still searching for the escape route in the human endeavour,
looking in the wrong direction. Having come to the conclusion that the
world will not provide real happiness, then one also has to have the
good kamma to be able to listen to true Dhamma. If these conditions
arise, then faith results.
Faith has to be based on trust and confidence. If these are lacking,
the path will not open. One becomes trusting like a child holding the
hand of a grown-up when crossing the street. The child believes that the
grown-up will be watching out for traffic so that no accident will
happen. The small child doesn't have the capacity to gauge when it's
safe to cross, but it trusts someone with greater experience.
We are like children compared to the Buddha. If we can have a
child-like innocence, then it will be possible for us to give ourselves
unstintingly to the teaching and the practice, holding onto the hand of
the true Dhamma that will guide us. Life and practice will be simplified
when the judging and weighing of choice is removed. No longer: "I should
do it another way, or go somewhere else, or find out how it is done by
others." These are possibilities, but they are not conducive to good
practice or to getting out of //dukkha//. Trust in the Dhamma helps to
keep the mind steady. One has to find out for oneself if this is the
correct escape route, but if we don't try, we won't know.
If //dukkha// is still regarded as a calamity, we will not have enough
space in the mind to have trust. The mind will be full of grief, pain,
lamentation, forgetting that all of us are experiencing our kamma
resultants and nothing else. This is part of being a human being,
subject to one's own kamma.
Resistance to //dukkha// saps our energy and the mind cannot stretch
to its full capacity. If //dukkha// is seen as the necessary ingredient
to spur one on to leave //samsara// behind, then one's positive attitude
will point in the right direction. //Dukkha// is not a tragedy, but
rather a basic ingredient for insight. This must not only be a thinking
process, but felt with one's heart. It's too easy to think like that and
not to do anything about it. But when our heart is truly touched, trust
and confidence in the Dhamma arise as the way out of all suffering.
The Dhamma is totally opposed to worldly thinking, where suffering is
considered to be a great misfortune. In the Dhamma suffering is seen as
the first step to transcend the human condition. The understanding of
//dukkha// has to be firm, in order to arouse trust in that part of the
teaching which one hasn't experienced oneself yet. If one has already
tried many other escape routes and none of them actually worked, then
one will find it easier to become that trusting, child-like person,
walking along this difficult path without turning right or left, knowing
that the teaching is true, and letting it be one's guide. Such faith
brings joy, without which the path is a heavy burden and will not
flourish. Joy is a necessary and essential ingredient of the spiritual
Joy is not to be mistaken for pleasure, exhilaration or exuberance.
Joy is a feeling of ease and gladness, knowing one has found that which
transcends all suffering. People sometimes have the mistaken idea that
to be holy or pious means having a sad face and walking around in a
mournful way. Yet the Buddha is said never to have cried and is usually
depicted with a half-smile on his face. Holiness does not stand for
sadness, it means wholeness. Without joy there is no wholeness. This
inner joy carries with it the certainty that the path is blameless, the
practice is fruitful and the conduct is appropriate.
We need to sit down for meditation with a joyous feeling and the whole
experience of meditation will culminate in happiness. This brings us
tranquility, as we no longer look around for outside satisfaction. We
know only to look into ourselves. There's nowhere to go and nothing to
do, it's all happening within. Such tranquility is helpful to
concentrated meditation and creates the feeling of being in the right
spot at the right time. It creates ease of mind, which facilitates
meditation and is conducive to eliminating sceptical doubt
Sceptical doubt is the harbinger of restlessness, joy begets calm. We
need not worry about our own or the world's future, it's just a matter
of time until we fathom absolute reality. When the path, the practice
and effort mesh together, results are bound to come. It is essential to
have complete confidence in everything the Buddha said. We can't pick
out the ideas we want to believe because they happen to be in accordance
with what we like anyway and discard others. There are no choices to be
made, it's all or nothing.
Tranquility helps concentration to arise. //Dukkha// itself can lead
us to proper concentration if we handle it properly. But we mustn't
reject it, thinking that it is a quirk of fate that has brought all this
grief to us, or think that other people are causing it. If we use
//dukkha// to push us onto the path, then proper concentration can
Right concentration makes it possible for the mind to stretch. The
mind that is limited, obstructed and defiled cannot grasp the profundity
of the teaching. It may get an inkling that there is something
extraordinary available, but it cannot go into the depth of it. Only the
concentrated mind can extend its limitations. When it does that, it may
experience the knowledge-and-vision-of-things- as-they-really-are.
The Buddha often used this phrase "the-knowledge-and-vision-of-
things-as-they-really-are" (//yatha-bhuta-nanadassana//). This is
distinct from the way we think they are or might be, or as we'd like
them to be, hopefully comfortable and pleasant. But rather birth, decay,
disease and death, not getting what one wants, or getting what one
doesn't want, a constant perception of what we dislike, because it fails
to support our ego-belief. In knowing and seeing things as they really
are, we will lose that distaste.
We will come to see that within this realm of impermanence,
unsatisfactoriness and corelessness (//anicca, dukkha, anatta//), there
is nothing that can be grasped and found to be solid and satisfying. No
person, no possession, no thought, no feeling. Nothing can be clung to
and found to be steady and supportive.
This is right view, beyond our ordinary every-day perception. It
results from right concentration and comes from dealing with //dukkha//
in a positive, welcoming way. When we try to escape from //dukkha// by
either forgetting about it, running away from it, blaming someone else,
becoming depressed by it or feeling sorry for ourselves, we are creating
more //dukkha//. All these methods are based on self-delusion. The
knowledge-and-vision-of-things-as-they- really-are is the first step on
the noble path, everything else has been the preliminary work.
Sometimes our understanding may feel like one of those mystery
pictures that children play with. Now you see it, now you don't. When
any aspect of Dhamma is clearly visible to us, we must keep on
resurrecting that vision. If it is correct, //dukkha// has no sting, it
just is. Decay, disease and death do not appear fearful. There is
nothing to fear, because everything falls apart continually. This body
disintegrates and the mind changes every moment.
Without knowledge and vision of reality, the practice is difficult.
After having this clear perception, the practice is the only possible
thing to do. Everything else is only a side-issue and a distraction.
From the knowledge-and-vision arises disenchantment with what the world
has to offer. All the glitter that seems to be gold turns out to be
fool's gold, which cannot satisfy. It gives us pleasure for one moment
and displeasure the next and has to be searched for again and again. The
world of the senses has fooled us so often that we're still enmeshed in
it and still experiencing //dukkha//, unless the true vision arises.
There's a poster available in Australia which reads: "Life, be in it."
Wouldn't it be better if it said, "Life, be out of it?" Life and
existence is bound up with the constant renewal of our sense contacts,
seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, smelling and thinking. Only when we
have clear perception, will disenchantment set in and then the most
wonderful sense contact will no longer entice us to react. It just
exists, but doesn't touch our heart. //Mara//, the tempter, has lost his
grip and has been shown the door. He's waiting at the doorstep to slip
in again, at the first possible opportunity, but he isn't so comfortably
ensconced inside any more.
This brings a great deal of security and satisfaction to the heart.
One won't be swayed to leave this path of practice. When //Mara// is
still calling, there's no peace in the heart. One can't be at ease and
satisfied, because there's always something new to tempt us. With
knowledge-and-vision-of-things-as-they-really-are and subsequent
disenchantment, we realize that the Buddha's path leads us to
tranquility, peace and the end of //dukkha//.
//Dukkha// is really our staunchest friend, our most faithful
supporter. We'll never find another friend or helpmate like it, if it is
seen in the right way, without resistance or rejection. When we use
//dukkha// as our incentive for practice, gratitude and appreciation for
it will arise. This takes the sting out of our pain and transforms it
into our most valuable experience.
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