To deeply question the nature of suffering is part of human condition. We may begin to investigate the nature of suffering because of our own experiences or from witnessing suffering around us and in the world at large. Suffering, whether experienced directly or indirectly, can cause us to close our hearts, to shut down in despair, to feel helpless, and ultimately to feel nothing at all and ascribe this to a meaningless world.
The question of suffering should not, and cannot, be glossed over if we are to live deeply and engage in purposeful spiritual work. Individual and collective suffering is used as a reasoning for rejection of God and an ordered and intelligent universe. If there is a benevolent God, why is there so much cruelty and injustice in the world? And why is life itself designed to bring decrepitude and death? We can decide the solution is in ignorance, pursuit of pleasure, or in the mindless destruction of life.
A true religion or philosophy will impart meaning, a context and understanding for our suffering.
That life is permeated with suffering is the First Noble Truth and a core tenant of the teachings the Master Shakyamuni Buddha. No one can escape the suffering of existence, the fragility of life, and on some level the struggle for survival.
The Buddha taught that suffering was the disease of the world, and the medicine was the Eightfold Path, a teaching of upright and balanced living, conduct, and spiritual practice. Christ taught that suffering can be transformed through a deep communion with God and through the mystical power of faith, sacrifice, and absolute and unconditional love.
The Four Noble Truths are foundational teachings of the great master Shakyamuni Buddha.
“I teach suffering, its origin, cessation and path. That’s all I teach.”
The Buddha is often compared to a physician. In the first two Noble Truths he diagnosed the disease and identified its cause. The third Noble Truth is the explanation of the cure, and the fourth Noble Truth is the prescription to be free from suffering.
The truth of suffering. That is, life is permeated with suffering. Every living things grows old, gets sick, and dies. Pain is inherent in life, whether physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual. Life without meaning, without understanding, without the possibility of putting suffering into perspective, is unbearable.
The truth of the origin of suffering. Suffering is caused by desire. Desire is identification and fascination with the illusory world. Desire is both craving such as lust, greed, envy, and aversion such as fear, hatred, and anger. Desire throws us off balance and out of a centered connection to our internal essence (consciousness). Desire squanders our internal energies into egoic patterns of thought, feeling, and action.
The truth of the cessation of suffering. Eliminate desire and you will eliminate suffering. In a state of awakened consciousness, full, undistracted, there is equanimity and strength. There is no craving or aversion. Lack of desire does not indicate lack of love or life, it does not indicate cold disconnection, quite the opposite. Lack of desire allows life and love free in their movement to penetrate and infuse our being. Centered equilibrium is not rigidity but a harmony with the flow of life, and ultimately a state of enlightenment (buddha).
The truth of the path of the cessation of suffering. The path, or prescription for the elimination of desire is the Eightfold Path. The path of upright conduct and spiritual practice. Elimination of complicated karma through upright living, internal transformation, cultivation of virtue, and vigilance against selfishness.
The resolution of suffering within ourselves and within the world
requires constant vigilance and struggle. It requires faith, which
is not merely a blind belief in “the evidence of things not seen”;
“Faith is a knowledge of the meaning of human life in consequence of which man does not destroy himself but lives. Faith is the strength of life. If a man lives he believes in something. If he did not believe that one must live for something, he would not live. If he does not see and recognize the illusory nature of the finite, he believes in the finite; if he understands the illusory nature of the finite, he must believe in the infinite. Without faith he cannot live.”
-Leo Tolstoy, A Confession
Faith is the strength of life, a higher emotional octave that connects to the infinite and imparts meaning in an otherwise meaningless existence.
“Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going? What are
we living for? Why are we living? Unquestionably, the wretched
‘intellectual animal’ mistakenly called a human being, not only ignores,
but furthermore ignores that he ignores. The worst of it is the strange
and difficult situation in which we find ourselves; we ignore the
secret of all our tragedies and yet we are convinced that we know it
-Samael Aun Weor, Treatise of Revolutionary Psychology
We must learn to discover the source of our internal suffering, our lack of faith and love. Our inner meanness, smallness, rigidity. And as we connect more deeply within ourselves we connect with our intimate internal Essence, the true source of faith and love. The possibility of resolution of suffering through transformation, through fearless personal psychological inventory and spiritual action.
The resolution of suffering is not to shut down or ignore the reality, nor to lose hope, but to actively grapple with our inner disconnection. We can discover a deep internal faith through fearless personal inquiry, prayer, and dedication to remembering the infinite within this finite existence.
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