June 14, 2008

Everything Is Not Suffering

“Is Everything Suffering?” Thich Nhat Hanh asks in the title of Chapter Five. The First Noble Truth and Three Marks of Existence or Three Dharma Seals would seem to indicate that it is. According to the All-knowing God Wikipedia, the Three Marks of Existence are annicca, anatta, and dhukka, or impermanence, non-self, and suffering. It’s interesting to note the first two are more a lack of something than its presence. All things are impermanent. All things lack a separate self. And all things suffer. Or do they?

Does a buddha suffer? I would think not, because isn’t that sort of the point of buddhahood? Or maybe a buddha does suffer, they just don’t mind because they are a buddha, and if they don’t mind (have to aversion/attachment) is it still suffering? Well, for arguments sake, let’s say a buddha does not suffer. Then by the logic of the Three Marks of Existence, neither does the buddha exist, and don’t we know that’s not the case?

As Thich Nhat Hanh points out, that argument “is illogical.”

“To put suffering on the same level of impermanence and non-self is an error. Impermanence and non-self are “universal.” They are a “mark” of all things. Suffering is not. It is not difficult to see that a table is impermanent and does not have a self separate from all non-table elements, like wood, rain, sun, furniture maker, and so on. But is it suffering?”

TNH points out that it is our attachment/aversion to the table which causes us suffering, our mistaken understanding that the table is permanent and separate. And doesn’t the Third Noble Truth tell us that we have the ability to cause the cessation of suffering.

“In several sutras the Buddha taught that nirvana, the joy of completely extinguishing our ideas and concepts, rather than suffering, is one of the Three Dharma Seals.”

This makes much more sense in light of the understanding that nirvana is now. Nirvana is the present moment, the beauty, the basic goodness of every thing and every moment hiding behind the distorted lenses of our attachments, concepts, desires, and ignorance.

Everything is not suffering; rather, everything is nirvana.


Chlirissa said...

Thanks for that :)

TK said...

Tathagata exists or not exists... Existence, a concept to be extinguished.

Some people interpret dukkah as unsatisfactoriness: things are inherently unsatisfactory and empty at the end in this namarupa.

Samantha said...

This is brilliant. Simple, clean and pure. All is indeed nirvana.

Without self and perspective, compassion becomes impossible. Suffering becomes irrelevant, and all life becomes non-life. People, beings, life becomes disposable.

I once took the road to the great path that lead away from self, and found a kind of living death that eventually horrified me. I am back now, very much looking at the middle way, questioning the very foundation on which the 'verse was built.

Feelings, good, bad or somewhere in the middle are vital, all of them. If all was perfect, there would be no growth, and things would stop. Cycles would repeat without meaning, life would be lived without purpose, freedom would become an illusion.

My Mother remains one of the wisest people I know, and while she's still on the other side of life, we still find time together for tea. She once told me that I should embrace the hard times, for without them I would not know to appreciate the good times. "Perfect Moments" of any size could not exist without the "Imperfect" ones.

A new generation of Buddhist's are gently, lovingly re-shaping Buddhism over time. You are one such person. Might I humbly suggest some of David Brazier's works? "The Feeling Buddha" for example is rich with this kind of thought.

Bright Blessings Monica.