Why Suffer?

Abandoning punishment for all living beings,
not hurting even a single one of them,
one should not wish for a son, not to mention a companion!
one should live alone, like the horn of a rhinoceros.

After refusing to strike-out against another sentient being, thus harming-none, why would you want to inflict injury upon yourself by desiring the worldly path with its plethora of suffering?  Desiring children or an intimate companion appears comforting on the surface, but upon taking the plunge the karmic-cycle kicks in with its wide-array of ignominious associations since time immemorial. You are not just in a relationship with one, but a whole host of familiar others trapped together like a litter of yipping puppies! Scratching and clawing at each other with only brief respites of fleeting joy. At the same time the charnel-house awaits each one as the heavy burden of incessant mourning never ceases, weighed down with illness and crushing anxieties that know no end. A most suffocating existence.

The one who has abandoned all apparent earthly comforts seeks solace in a blessed bath of sweet solitude. The inner-life is now afforded an opportunity to live fresh and free far removed from all outside circumstances and their consequences. One’s sole mission is to now break forever with their karmic-history and expend all energies in the singular spiritual embrace with the Unborn. Time to get off the spinning wheel of samsara and rest in the assurance of no more births to come. Thomas Merton wrote, “The spiritual anguish of man has no cure but mysticism. Here is the only Reality-therapy that will endure, the truth that liberates.” This is the ecstasy of Aloneness vs. feeling lonely. Aloneness means that all separation has ended as one learns to look at the Real and no-thing else. Feeling lonely is a cry of desperation of always depending upon “some other” for comfort and satisfaction. I call it the cry of the loonies, never apart from their gut-wrenching clinginess and incessant neediness and the rabid combustion of emotions. What this gets them in the end is just more misery to come. Heap upon heap of miseries, like being engulfed in cow-manure. Yes, the Aloneness of Solitude releases one from all temporal tyrannies.

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14 Responses to Why Suffer?

  1. Vyartha says:

    Excellent post but this is also excellent:

    In the Pali Canon’s Upaddha Sutta (SN 45.2), there is a conversation between the Buddha and his disciple Ananda in which Ananda enthusiastically declares, ‘This is half of the holy life, lord: admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie.’ The Buddha replies:

    “Don’t say that, Ananda. Don’t say that. Admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life. When a monk has admirable people as friends, companions, & comrades, he can be expected to develop & pursue the noble eightfold path.”

  2. n. yeti says:

    Vyartha:

    It may be observed the verse cited (as well as the similar SN 3.18), point out the virtues of good companionship, but particularly SN 45.2 refers to monks. I may be mistaken but I do not think this fits your case.

    Laypeople are also advised to abandon detrimental friendships, basically, because they interfere with moral development. In other words such matters refer principally to MORAL instruction whether for monks or lay people (i.e. “the holy life”), as we find in the “four qualities” of perfection of faith, morality, charity and wisdom (such as when the Buddha instructed the Kolians in AN 8.54, as the means to favorable rebirth, not necessarily ending birth):

    “And what is meant by admirable friendship? There is the case where a lay person, in whatever town or village he may dwell, spends time with householders or householders’ sons, young or old, who are advanced in virtue. He talks with them, engages them in discussions. He emulates consummate conviction in those who are consummate in conviction, consummate virtue in those who are consummate in virtue, consummate generosity in those who are consummate in generosity, and consummate discernment in those who are consummate in discernment. This is called admirable friendship.”

    Again these practices lead only to future happiness, not unsurpassed enlightenment.

    Furthermore in the Sambodhi Sutta (AN 9.1), the Buddha says “If wanderers who are members of other sects should ask you, ‘What, friend, are the prerequisites for the development of the wings to self-awakening?’ you should answer, ‘There is the case where a monk has admirable friends, admirable companions, admirable comrades. This is the first prerequisite for the development of the wings to self-awakening”. The point here is again this is for monastics, who are expected to train in a community, and this is an INITIAL factor for development only. Whether or not the monastic communities of today offer this kind of good friendship is also debatable.

    To summarize this response, I think the point missed by those who cherish the notion of persons and beings, is that there are really two dimensions of friendship in this when citing The Discourse on the Half – there is the worldly friendship of companions which is the basis of happiness in this and future lives, but there is also the spiritual guidance of the Tathagata that is quite beyond worldly phenomena such as persons who act as friends or teachers. This spiritual friendship is described accordingly in SN 45.2:

    “In this way, too, Ananda, it should be known, in a manner of speaking, how spiritual friendship, good companionship, good comradeship is the whole of the holy life:
    By relying upon me as a spiritual friend, Ananda,
    beings subject to birth are freed from birth,
    beings subject to decay are freed from decay,
    beings subject to death are freed from death,
    beings subject to sorrow, lamentation, bodily pain, mental pain, and despair are freed from them.
    In this way, Ananda, it should be known, in a manner of speaking, how spiritual friendship, good
    companionship, good comradeship is the whole of the holy life.”

    • Vajragoni says:

      n.yeti,

      I have to say that you have developed into a most knowledgeable and resourceful Pratyekabuddha par-excellence

    • Vyartha says:

      Can you give me a TL;DR (= in nuce) of your post, I couldn’t extract the point you were trying to make.

      • Vyartha says:

        Oh, I see now. Yes, spiritual friendship is different from other forms of companionship.
        Obviously!

        • n. yeti says:

          If this is so obvious to you, why do you have so many teachers?

          • Vyartha says:

            Who are my teachers?

          • n. yeti says:

            Vyartha:

            I don’t wish to be rude, but it appears you are looking at spiritual friendship in a highly dualistic way and have become attached to the idea that a teacher or companions are a necessary condition of practice. Pratyekkabuddhas, who are virtually forgotten in today’s Buddhist discourse, do not practice in this way, but take inspiration directly from the Tathagata. So I ask, you have said a companion or teacher is necessary, but for what, exactly? I can think of various ways in which a teacher (or good companions) can be helpful, such as helping people understand they are the heirs to their karma, for example, or for those who are well grounded in proper morality, instructing them in methods of focus that can permit entry into meditative states which, if practiced diligently, lead to spiritual growth and understanding in ways that are not readily available otherwise. But to become attached to scriptures, good and wise friends, teachers or teachings, to the practice of meditation, even to the idea of Buddhas or Buddhism itself, which is not an external thing at all but an independent realization which can be discovered by anyone, with or without teachers (though it may take billions of years), the more and more one relies on such passing external phenomena instead of their own intrinsic perfection (i.e. “Buddha nature”), which itself is the sole liberating agency. This troubles me, not because I doubt the virtue of studying with a knowledgeable guru, or taking refuge in the companionship of noble friends who encourage and inspire you, but because it is astonishing to me that you cannot see how futile it is to go searching around desperately for what has never been lost.

  3. n. yeti says:

    Vajragoni, I do not claim to be any kind of Buddha or anyone’s teacher. To consider me a pratyekabuddha I think would be a grave error, but I do take great inspiration from this path and for this reason I have raised the topic here and elsewhere. In general, I think anyone born into this world seeking spiritual truth has to take that burden on for themselves, to educate themselves by what others have learned, but also in a broader sense to be open and aware of the infinite possibilities for spiritual growth right in the present moment without any kind of condition or narrative at all. I am not talking about merely resting thought in the “here and now”, commonly referred to my some as “mindfulness”, but cultivating a kind of present depth of spirituality, a kind of continuous, and yes, deeply humbling inquiry into what such a thing as spiritual truth might mean, especially in light of so much spiritual confusion as afflicts our present world. I do not see this as a single answer or path. At the same time it is also possible to follow a single path or contemplate a single question in such a way that this also encompasses all paths, if you will. Hence “all dharmas are the Buddhadharma.” But, I think I have said enough. Please do continue with this most excellent series and thank you for sharing your insights with a world filled with beings deeply in need of spiritual relief.

    • Vyartha says:

      Very hard to discuss on this blog, it doesn’t have deeply nested threads like Reddit.
      I will answer here to the post up there, not this one.
      Your post was quite good IMO.

      0) re: “I don’t want to be rude” – don’t worry, you’re very polite! And even if you were rude, it would be quite OK. I’m a Slav, we’re rustic.

      1) re: “Need a Guru” – In Tantra? Absolutely. It’s not my idea, it’s how it is. It’s the rules of the Tantras themselves, and every Tantric teacher who ever existed. In general Mahayana (incl. Zen) – Guru is optional. You seem to think that I am saying one absolutely needs a teacher in order to progress in general, I am not. You list many attachments, such as attachment to Buddhas, attachment to Teachers or Sangha etc. But there is also the attachment to the aversion to speaking with a teacher or meeting with a Sangha. I’m not saying this is your case, but there is such a thing. Buddha himself sought 3 teachers. All I said on Zennist blog is one shouldn’t be attached to the idea of not requiring teachers. Teachers are good. If you want to learn a skill, say archery, is it better to learn from a book, or from an experienced master? When we react very negatively to the idea of teachers we should also analyze the intention behind that negative response. Is it because we perceive it as a critique of our practice? We need to be confident in our practice.

      2) People can certainly make a lot of progress on their own. In most cases though, a breakthrough happens upon encountering a genuine teacher. By teacher, I don’t mean necessarily a dude in a robe. To put it very simply, someone who is enlightened.

      3) Re: “Pratyekabuddhas”:

      Let’s reflect upon this passage from the Lotus Sutra:

      “n the past, the Buddha had taught three paths or “vehicles. […] However, those paths were skillful means. In fact, there is only one path, one vehicle: the path to buddhahood, the buddha vehicle.”

      Re: “Attachment to scriptures” – the very word “pratyekabuddha” comes from scriptures, as does “Buddha-nature”. If I drop my quotes, you drop those words!

      4) Re: ” the more and more one relies on such passing external phenomena instead of their own intrinsic perfection (i.e. “Buddha nature”),”

      That’s OK but there are many people who thought they were relying on their intrinsic perfection (like Sogyal Rinpoche, a recognized Dzogchen teacher) who then sexually abused students etc. The point is, it’s not always easy to distinguish between authentic introspection and self-delusion. We are immersed in our own narcissistic cocoons most of the time and there’s the danger of seeing a mistaken moon, hence the many false enlightenments listed in the Shurangama Sutra.

      5) “This troubles me … ”

      Thank you for taking so much trouble in what you perceive to be my situation, but it’s mostly a projection of your own mind, as these things tend to be! You say there’s no need to seek elsewhere because of your Buddha-Nature is already complete, but again, be careful with that! See how the Nirvana Sutra defines Buddha-Nature: as “having-Buddhahood-in-the-future”. The Lotus Sutra says “you are destined to be a Buddha” (ultimately). It doesn’t mean we are already Buddhas. The sky behind the clouds may be clear, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t need any kind of seeking. In the past, seekers have traveled great lengths by foot, they risked death, today though, people can’t even drive 20 min to meet someone! Excessive seeking disturbs the mind, for beginners śamatha is best, this is what I’m currently focusing on, not on seeking.

      It was seeking that brought you here, and that brought you to Zennist blog etc. not all seeking is bad. Just as not all “attachment” is bad. Attachment to the Dharma is good. Not always, not forever. For now, it is.

      Peace! And good luck with your practice.

      I think there’s no fundamental disagreement.

      • Vyartha says:

        P.S: Forgot to add this quote so that “seeing Buddha-Nature” wont’ be taken too lightly (also from the MMPNS):

        “One who is awakened to all things is called [one who possesses] Buddha-nature. Bodhisattvas of the tenth stage cannot be called all-awakened ones; even if they see Buddha-nature, they cannot see it clearly. Sons of good families, there are two kinds of seeing: seeing with the eyes and seeing through hearing. All Buddhas, World-Honored Ones, see Buddha-nature with their eyes as clearly as if they were looking at a mango in the palms of their hands. Bodhisattvas of the tenth stage see Buddha-nature through hearing but not very clearly. Bodhisattvas of the tenth stage only know that they will definitely attain the highest, perfect Bodhi but do not know that all sentient beings have Buddha-nature.”

    • n. yeti says:

      Vyartha:

      When last we spoke, as I recall, you were talking about Pure Land practice. Now it’s Tantra. Please don’t misunderstand me: each of those vehicles and many other besides are without fault in my view, without any deficiency. I do not and would not fault you for engaging in whatever spiritual exercises you find value in. But if you go from one to another, unable to gain traction (and of course I don’t mean to imply that you are not gaining traction) then perhaps the reason is that you are looking externally. In a way, still looking for a spiritual master to drop a morsel in your begging bowl. If such masters were rare in the past, I am opined they are almost unheard of today.

      Yes, you are right that the Buddha had teachers. But he soon realized that none could teach him. He mastered their doctrines and more, while the third teacher, who taught extreme ascetic practices, nearly killed him. When he abandoned all of that, in addition to realizing he would have to rely on himself, he faced the ire of his fellow ascetics who considered his abandonment of their path as a terrible and unforgivable act. I can only imagine part of their reaction was intolerable doubt that arose in their minds when Gautama gave up on their practices to seek a better way. And so it is that many in today’s Buddhist community, not able to gain traction or great insight themselves, but reassured by the presence of fellow students and their teachers because they are following a traditional school (hence “real” Buddhism), react quite negatively to anyone who walks away from all that and, not only walks away, but challenges the basic premise of what they are doing.

      So indeed, the Buddha had teachers (a point which is often argued by those who insist a teacher is necessary), but he also, after leaving them, remembered a time when he was a baby that he would sit under a tree and watch his father work in the fields. Comfortable, detached, viewing such things from a distance, he wondered, could this be the way to emancipation? And with this insight, he sat down under a tree to became, as we know him, the Buddha. But as Buddhahood is the ending of becoming, it is not correct to say he “became” the Buddha.

      If, as you say the prediction of Buddhahood is not to be considered the same as Buddhahood itself (loosely interpreted), one may also recognize that any kind of mental posture where Buddhahood is seen as something external or obscured by something which must be done, as a condition of Buddhahood, is itself an obscuration. Without this mental posture, there is no such obscuration. I believe this is the last I will comment on this, but I would like to point out that perhaps the greatest error in today’s Buddhist community is not in thinking that Buddhahood is already attained (when there is no attainment), but in believing Buddhahood is impossible.

      Vyartha, if one relies on the notion of beings coming into and out of existence, and perceiving the myriad forms that appear in contact with the senses, and because of this contact with the senses believes such phenomena arise of their own substance and self-nature, and from this belief develop the notion that a being who comes into contact with a Teacher will be the cause of Buddhahood, then I would say such a person has not understood the Tathagata. So instead of entering into a dependent relationship with a teacher, for some, perhaps it is better in solitude to disenchant oneself from such dependencies, as is the way of the Pratyekkabuddha.

      In any case it is worthy of reflection what the Buddha said in the Mahaparinivana Sutra, (found also in the Pali Nikayas): “Monks, be a light unto yourselves”.

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