Overview of this talk.
o Did I suffer because I didn’t understand them or because I am incapable of using and applying the four noble truths?
o Is it possible that some types of sufferings are just part of life and cannot be avoided?
o Is there some suffering that the four noble truths can help us with and some things that they cannot?
o First I want to share with you “my” answer, “my” understanding of what suffering is and what the four noble truths is “really” telling us. I could be wrong about my interpretations. Don’t believe anything because Stan said it but only believe things that make sense to you from your experience.
o Second, I want to encourage you to bring the four noble truths to life for you, by looking honestly at what is happening in your own mind and use that experience to understand the Four Noble Truths. We have different backgrounds, values, beliefs, personality types and different problems that we face. We need a foundation of truths that work for us in our own worlds.
The original Simplistic but powerful view of the four noble truths.
o The First Noble Truth: Life is full of suffering.
o The Second Noble Truth: There is a cause for suffering. The cause of suffering is desire and illusions that are based on ignorance.
o The Third Noble Truth: By stopping the cravings, the suffering is stopped.
o The Fourth Noble Truth: There is a way to end suffering. To end suffering we must end our cravings. The way to ending cravings is the Eightfold Path
o I wanted to be successful and constantly get promotions.
o I wanted a world without flat tires, red lights and spilled milk.
o Unfortunately my career didn’t go as far as I wanted, my life was full of little problems but the teaching has allowed me to “let go” of so many things and to stop myself being dragged down and debilitated by things that I couldn’t change.
o I was so grateful and impressed with the four noble truths that I thought that I was ready to teach them.
This is when the four Noble Truths failed me
The first time that I taught meditation – A resident from a nursing home came and asked me. “My husband died, I am lonely, I am bound to a wheel chair for the rest of my life, I was forced out of my home that I had lived in for 40 years, how will the four noble truths help me? How can I end this suffering?”
I decided to analyze my own experience through the four noble truths.
The situation: I was watching my mother die of Alzheimer’s and day in and out of hearing her yell “Help me, Help me! Where am I? What am I supposed to be doing?” The Noble truths didn’t help me. I didn’t feel that attachment to wanting my mother not to suffer was a “bad” thing. The four noble truths didn’t make sense to me.
I decided to observe my own mind carefully and challenge my understanding of what suffering was.
o Unwanted circumstances occur – (my mother’s disease)
o Fall into Blame / Emotions
o Thoughts, stories and dramatizations that kept going in my head.
o Physiological responses – Heart rate / blood pressure
o Second arrow
I looked at my own suffering and there were two aspects to that “suffering”
o This whole cycle, blame, anger, emotions, blood pressure, dramatizations of mental anguish I label as “unnecessary suffering” is caused by “Fighting reality”.
o The “unnecessary suffering is self-inflicted suffering. It is all going on in my own mind.
o The cause of this suffering is “Fighting reality”. If I can stop “Fighting reality” then I can stop that second part of my suffering.
o It is something that our own mind is doing that hurts us physiologically and psychologically.
o Quote a great Buddhist scholar – Yoda – of the star wars trilogy – “Yes, a Jedi’s strength flows from the Force. But beware of the dark side. Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will, as it did Obi-Wan’s apprentice.” This whole speech was done in the context of teaching a warrior that he must rely on the force (inner wisdom) and not to rely on the cognitive self. It is in fact the cognitive self that does drive the unnecessary suffering.
o It is possible that some people feel to be a good “Buddhist” they shouldn’t cry. I question this. Mourning and grieving are healing and human. We each need to decide what the truth is for ourselves.
o Explicitly, she said that it was helpful to view the suffering as part of life. It is unwanted but is the inevitable flow of life.
o Between the lines of her talk were several powerful messages about the suffering.
o First, Ginger was honest about her feelings despite the fact that one might think that a good Buddhist doesn’t suffer. We all need to be really honest about what is going on in our own minds.
o Two, Ginger was not wallowing, complaining nor angry just empathetic. Ginger clearly was NOT drawn into the unnecessary suffering.
o Ginger used the suffering as a chance to grow and learn what the four noble truths are about. Life can be a teacher and she drew on her experiences and the experiences of the Buddha to understand her suffering and cope with it. Buddha said: “Be lamp unto yourself”
Then this new understanding failed me
o Shame and guilt whenever I made a mistake or felt that failed.
o Righteous indignation – The others are causing great damage and I am better than they and I couldn’t help but to be angry at them and their Righteous indignation at me.
Mantras –another Story – another Experience
o Desire and clinging to a reality that doesn’t exist can be debilitating. Just understanding this fact and seeing it take place in our own mind is extremely powerful.
o We are all human and empathetic suffering is normal and we need to accept our own humanity.
o Our mind can be self-destructive through “unnecessary suffering”. Just developing the consciousness about the process is a powerful ally even if you cannot stop the thought patterns.
o Meditation techniques can help in several ways:
o The bed rock teaching of the four noble truths is a never ending accepting of the unacceptable.
Epilogue – Woman in the Wheel Chair