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Suffering Exists: The First Noble Truth

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

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Aaron: After his enlightenment, the Buddha reflected on what could be shared with others, to try to find some concise format in which to express it. The formula that came up for him is this Four Noble Truths. He based it on the way a physician visiting a sick person would state what he had learned. What is the problem? What is the cause of the problem? What is the possible outcome, and how do we move toward that outcome? This was a prescribed formula of his day, in which a physician worked.

So, the first: what is the problem? There is suffering, dukkha. The word ka in Pali means the hub of a wheel. Du means “off-center”. Thus, dukkha is the wheel that is off-center. Conversely, the prefix su means “center”. Sukkha is happiness, the wheel that is centered.

There will always be sukkha and dukkha as long as we wander in this conditioned realm, caught in conditioned beliefs, especially caught in the belief of a separate self. You are all separate selves, but you are also part of the whole.

When you rest in the awakened heart, you are not separate. When you live from your ego, you experience your separation.

So, the first Noble Truth is that of the unsatisfactoriness of conditioned experience when we grasp at its being perfect and stable, because it’s never going to be stable. Part of the enormity of the world’s suffering right now is not COVID-19, but the expectations and grasping for it to be different. Can you feel that? So many of you for months have said, “I wish I had a quieter pace of life. I wish I could stay home a bit. I wish I didn’t always have to be out doing things.” Well, here you are. True, it came with sickness and a lot of suffering for many people with illness and death. Still, the world is always going to be changing, and there’s no way to hold onto it, as one way or another.

In India, a major typhoon caused enormous flooding, great destruction. Some people died. People who were safely sheltered at home from the virus now are moved into close contact in shelters. There’s no way to stay safe as long as you’re here in a human body. The human body itself is finite. You cannot hold onto it. Furthermore, you do not have to hold onto it. I know from the human perspective you want to, but my dear ones, you have died many times.

Many of you, with the idea of death or of change, are like the child climbing up the ladder to the high diving board. “I want to do that!” You get out on the diving board, look down, and say, “No, I can’t jump.” You climb down. Other children climb up and jump. You see it’s safe. You climb up again. “No, I can’t do that!” Well, it’s not the jumping that’s the problem, it’s the fear of jumping. It is safe to jump.

You are very attached to staying healthy. And I understand that. It’s very wise to live within the parameters of the day, the social distancing and washing your hands and taking care. Can you do it from a place of love, not a place of fear? Can you do it out of care for others, to keep others from experiencing sickness and possible death?

But for many of you, there’s a place of hardness and fear. What if I touch a surface, contract the virus? Fear, fear.

The high vibration of love is what protects you. As soon as you find yourself suffering, you are probably in a place of fear. Grasping for it to be other than it is. Holding onto things the way they were, not wanting life to change.

Things are always going to be changing.

Then what is the changeless, the eternal? What endures?

Only love, loving kindness, patience, generosity—these beautiful traits, they endure.

Everything else arises out of conditions and passes away.

So, the First Noble Truth, dukkha: suffering exists.