#9: Suffering of change

10 March 2010 - 5:56pm Comments Off

When we encounter obvious pain or suffering, there is no issue about us seeking treatment, whether for ourselves or for others.

Human suffering goes beyond our skin. We are aware of its complexity yet cannot pin it down. When suffering is less obvious, more subtle, we begin to think like a prisoner who has no wish to free himself. We begin to tolerate it through denial or avoidance, and not doing anything about it.

One of the characteristics of our existence is impermanence which manifests as change. This means things or situations do not stay the same way forever.

For example, a piece of vacant land is developed. It changes into a piece of property with a house on it. The house gets burned down. Another house is built on the land again. We suffer a cut and it heals. We wake up feeling good and by afternoon, we have a sour face.

These changes are known as gross impermanence, which we understand and often can (and will) respond to it in a satisfactory way.

What escapes us is the subtle impermanence which is a deeper cause of our unhappiness. Although such suffering has no obvious pain, it sticks to us and stays with us.

During our lifetime, we may lose a finger or leg, or sustain some other major physical injury. However, even though the pain from the injury will someday be long gone, we can still be stuck with the suffering of change (from having to not having) for the rest of our life.

Why do we dislike or fear aging? We look at the mirror too much! Even though the mirror doesn’t lie, we want to keep our beauty, wishing it to be permanent. Let’s face it, we spend a lot of time, energy and money to do that.

Why do we think and act this way? When we look in the mirror everyday, it does seem like we have not changed, doesn’t it? This everyday experience deceives us, causing us to believe in its permanence until a friend whom we have not met for many years tells us the truth. We know how that feels.

In fact, we already start deteriorating the day we are born. We are not the same as we were a moment ago. Our thoughts, our cells, movements, position, etc have all changed irreversibly moment by moment.

When we pour cold water onto a burn, we feel happy the pain is gone or reduced. However, that is only temporary relief. If we are to check carefully, we will have to agree that all the so-called happiness in this world does not last. This is a very crucial point to understand.

A sign that what we’ve taken to be happiness all this while is not actually true happiness, but only our notion of happiness, is the fact that if it goes on too long, our suffering will increase.

Initially, our suffering only dropped below a threshold level; later, it will rise above the threshold and that intervening period is our notion of happiness.

For example, we derive happiness from money or food, no debate about that. However, when we have more and more of the same, we will find they begin to give rise to more and more problems. With money, we begin to have worries and fears which did not arise when we had less. With food, we know what happens when we have too much! And with relationships…when the Emperor of China had 3000 concubines, he lost interest in women!

If our view of happiness is correct, is the truth – then the happiness derived from such a correct view would not be subject to change, and hence happiness would be permanent.

Words of wisdom from an Indian saint (Aryadeva)

You can see that no matter how much
Happiness increases, it will end.
Similarly, suffering also increases,
But there is no end to it.

What’s his drift? We have all this while been accepting a reduction of suffering as happiness.

Buddha said we are having a raw deal, having a samsaric prisoner’s mind. Are we happy or satisfied with such a deception?


NEXT: Closing in on the Truth of Suffering

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