Suffering in Cyclic Existence
The Disadvantages of the Worldly Life (Samsara)
A very large obstacle to success on the path of enlightenment is our attachment to samsara, to the worldly life. Because we are all so strongly attached to this material world, we need to examine with great care whether worldly activities will benefit us eternally or not. For example, most of us desire possessions, pleasure, comfort, and we also want love and acceptance from others. We work hard to obtain these things, going through much discomfort and even suffering to get them. Ultimately, we will find that clinging to this world as the source of our safety, happiness, and satisfaction is fruitless and futile.
First we must understand and embrace the truth of our stress and suffering. We will then be motivated to identify and finally renounce the causes of this stress and suffering. It is necessary for us to fully understand suffering and its causes so we are able to generate this renunciation and enthusiastically practice the path to liberation.
Most all of us experience some amount of suffering. Not many of us experience permanent happiness. We experience stress and we suffer because of our own ignorance, our selfish attachments, and our negative behavior. However, we cannot attribute our suffering to circumstances outside of ourselves. Happiness and suffering originate within our own mind.
The origins of our suffering begin within our own mind and heart when our perception of reality slips into the delusion of duality, permanence, and selfish desire. We become attached to the things of this world thinking they will bring us happiness and satisfaction. This leads to more clinging, delusion, stress, greed, and hatred. This is the cycle of samsara (suffering). Attachment to this samsaric life can distract us from practicing the Dharma.
In the relative peace and stability of our human existence, it is wise for us to contemplate and deeply reflect upon suffering. In this way, we will develop a deep renunciation of the causes of our suffering and deep compassion for all beings who experience suffering. Birth, old-age, sickness, and death can bring suffering.
Suffering may arise from being associated with people or conditions that are unpleasant, from being separated from people we love or conditions we enjoy, from not being able to satisfy our desire, or from getting what we desire then losing it.
Contemplate human suffering. Allow yourself to feel the tragic, heart-rending experiences of others and your own life as well. Embrace, feel, and truly experience what you and others have felt. Allow deep compassion to arise within your heart. It is wise for us to perceive our suffering as a form of karmic purification, because we learn through our suffering.
For the welfare and benefit of all living beings, we should make a firm commitment to renounce samsara, a firm commitment to study and practice the Dharma until we attain joyous enlightenment; liberation from suffering. Through skillful practice of Dharma, there is an end to suffering (the cycle of samsara) and there is lasting happiness. Therefore, make a firm dedication to Dharma practice, renouncing the suffering of cyclic existence, determined not to be overcome by delusion, and not abandoning other beings.
Source: Cohen, N. (2013) ‘Four Thoughts That Turn the Mind Toward Dharma’, in The Heart of Dharma Collection [Online]. Available at http://sourcepointglobaloutreach.org/what-we-offer/ (Accessed 17 July 2015). [Used with permission.]
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