It’s painful, I see
-Namila Bajracharya, BA student from Nepal
Having studied three years at RYI, I reflected upon my learnings and here I would like to share one of them which I think is simple yet significant and which I resonate with. It revolves around acknowledging the sufferings that oneself and others go through. The very first truth among the four noble truths that the Buddha taught is the truth of suffering. The question is: how deeply do we understand or accept this? From my limited experience, I think one tends to ignore or resist delving into this subject, as they are so-called “negative” or “dark”. Human suffering includes the pain of birth, sickness, old age, death, losing loved ones, not getting what one wants, encountering the undesired, etc. From gross level to subtle, the suffering comes in various forms— physical, mental, emotional, social, financial—beings suffer, and we can clearly see that if we look around.
I remember in one of the TSTD classes, Lopon la said that beings in samsara are actually never not suffering. Even those who have perfect health, comfort, wealth, fame, happiness, etc., it is not permanent, and they go through suffering of change. According to Buddhist texts, even beings in the god realms have to encounter suffering at some point, let alone beings in other lower realms. While I agree it may not be pleasant to learn about shortcomings of saṃsāra, I also believe that it is a must because just like in order to cure a disease, the acceptance that there is a disease is vital, similarly, to be free from suffering, we need to acknowledge that there is suffering in the first place and pain of not just oneself but of all beings. Contemplating upon beings’ suffering helps one into being more compassionate, understanding and empathetic individual. Moreover, it can serve as a gateway through which once can discover profound gratitude.
The good news is that the Buddha has illuminated the way forward through other three noble truths— the Cause of suffering, the Cessation of suffering, and the Path that leads to it. The greater news is that every being has to potential to transcend suffering. Therefore, it is not a pessimistic endeavor to reflect and acknowledge life’s suffering, rather it is an instrumental step for transformation, guiding oneself and others towards a state of peace.