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A Path Out of Suffering: The Other Noble Truths

Excerpted from Awakened Heart, May 20, 2020 (not yet published).

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Aaron: The Second Noble Truth says the cause of suffering is our grasping—grasping for things to stay as they are, not to change. This is impossible; because in this world of conditions, as conditions change the results of those conditions will change.

Can any of you remember being young children and being so excited about each birthday, wanting to get older? “I want to be 9!” “I want to be 12!” “I want to be 18!”

Anybody here who can’t wait to be 92? Anybody here who can’t wait to be 80 or 70? Maybe it would be a delightful celebration for your birthday; maybe not. But being that age, wanting the body to age, to get older, none of you really want that.

But you can’t stop it; the body will age.

You may be able to influence the speed at which the body ages, with meditation and taking care of yourself, your diet and exercise, living with love. This can help the body age more slowly, but nevertheless, if the body is going to pick up a virus, it will pick it up. You can be careful but not be certain. And if the body is going to fall off a cliff and break its neck, it will do that.

The Second Noble Truth: suffering is caused by desire.

The Third Noble Truth: there is an end to suffering.

You have the choice about living with love and joy or living with fear.

I come to you here as a being who was human in so many lifetimes, and suffered intensely in some of those lifetimes. And then I woke up. There was still sadness at times, there was still body pain at times, but there was no longer suffering. Instead, there was ease and joy.

And you can do the same. There is an end to suffering. As the song calls it, the Eightfold Path of Peace.

These are ancient truths. The Buddha did not create these truths; the Buddha realized these truths in meditation and made them accessible. Others in other spiritual traditions have also made them accessible in different words. However they are phrased, the outcome is the same. We are one, one with everything.

What is the experience of being one with everything, of not being separate? It comes in tiny bits of insight. There may be some profound understanding at some point, but usually when you come out of such a meditation, it becomes “that meditation when I saw that.” But where’s that insight now? Are you living that insight now? That’s the important thing. How do you best live that insight of non-separation?

What is this experience of suffering right now? What are the roots of it? In what ways am I participating in those roots through old delusion, through old fear? Do I choose to remain caught in that suffering and blame others, blame circumstances? Or am I ready to be a mature adult and take responsibility for my experience? Am I ready to let go, to let go of the way I think things should be, be in the present moment, with love, and then consecrate my energy to helping things be for the highest good of all, which may or may not be harmonious to the way the ego thinks it should?

If I think it should never rain, what about the farmers who need rain for their crops? If they think it should rain every day, what about me, who wants to go for a picnic? This is so much a part of your human experience, this kind of dilemma.

There’s a way out of suffering for good
There’s a way out of suffering for good
Out of suffering for good
Realize your Buddhahood…

…Or phrased in any way you like: realize that YOU are awake. You have always been awake. You’ve been dreaming that you were asleep, but you never were really asleep, it was all a dream. Now it’s time to move out of the dream and be present in this life as it is, awake. “They” are not creating my suffering, I’m creating it out of my attachment. If I can’t be honest with myself about my attachment, I can never step out of that attachment. And then I will continue to suffer no matter what anybody or anything else does. Am I ready to be compassionate to myself about the depth of my pain? Because I cannot truly be compassionate about others’ pain if I cannot be compassionate with myself.

I would remind you: you are already awake. Part of the suffering is the denial of that awakeness. If you’re already awake, then you are responsible. If you deny it, then it’s somebody else’s fault that you suffer. Is that easier?

My friends, are you ready to be awake? I think you are.