#8: The path to freedom

3 March 2010 - 4:11am Comments Off

The path to freedom…

Well, not quite yet. We’ve got to get real first.

We discussed earlier that being born as a human is like a prisoner gaining reprieve. However, at times, we continue to act like a prisoner – even though we are given a map, plan or tools to escape, we continue to think that the prison is not such a bad place to live in. This is the sleep of ignorance that Lord Buddha wants to wake us up from. He taught us Four Truths which laid the foundation and revealed the path for eventual freedom from all types of suffering.

If you are not showing any interest right now to want to at least find out more, perhaps you are thinking like the prisoner.

The Buddha would not have spent all his life giving these teachings if we did not need it. These teachings could not have survived, and have been passed down to us since 2600 years ago, if people had not benefited from them.

The first Truth that the Buddha taught was on suffering. We might be thinking, “Is Buddha is really that smart? Hey, who does not know what suffering is?” We might also think Buddha is a party-pooper. “This is the 21st Century, we are going to Mars, this is the age of designer drugs, life is to be enjoyed and the sky’s the limit! The old monk talking about suffering in this age, sounds like dinosaur language. Isn’t it kind of uncool and pessimistic?”

Buddha said to KNOW or UNDERSTAND what suffering is. He did not tell us to make a decision about what he had advised; we can do that afterwards, we should not judge a fruit by its skin.

The Buddhist way to happiness and freedom from suffering is very direct. It aims for a total holistic cure, not temporary symptomatic treatment. The root cause of our suffering is because we are not living in accord with reality due to wrong views. This is equivalent to swimming against the current. Worse, we are not even aware of it. This is bad news because it means we will be very resistant to wanting to change our views and habituations. This situation is compounded by the fact we have been doing this for countless lifetimes, to the extent we have basically accepted being a prisoner as our fate.

Knowing what is suffering is neither pessimistic nor optimistic. It is simply realistic. Yes, Buddha invented the term ‘get real’. We should be paying royalties to him for using this term. No, we should be apologising to him for repeating the term without correct understanding and hence, creating more confusion for everyone and ourselves.

When we fall ill, we go to the doctor. He checks us out and prescribes some medicine. We take the medicine and things seem alright again. We consider this as a cure. But is it? Why do we keep going back to see him, if not for the same illness but other types? Often, the medicine itself introduces more problems than our illness.

A true cure can only be effected if we know its cause. Once the source is eradicated, there will be no recurrence of the same problems.

The ‘sickness’ that we are all experiencing is called suffering. Thank god Buddha found a cure for it. Imagine if we had lived before him, then we will have truly lived in misery and hopelessness. Buddhism would be pessimistic and not much fun if he only talked about suffering without offering a cure.

Our headaches may be Panadol-ed away but not necessarily our fears that it will come back again, or that the headache is a sign of something more serious. Doctors may then prescribe sedatives or anti-depressants but they don’t really work in the long term. Doctors and present medical advancement cannot cure suffering. Their methods only treat symptoms and provide the relief or removal of physical pain and mental anguish, which are only by-products of suffering.

This category of obvious or manifest suffering is what is referred to as the suffering of suffering. This we all know unless you are Superman from Krypton.

Are we aware that suffering is not necessarily always painful?


NEXT: The Suffering of Change

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