December 03, 2010

Be Grateful For Our Suffering

As individuals, we are deeply, deeply flawed. Which means, collectively, as institutions we are deeply, deeply flawed. Which means, further, as society we are deeply, deeply flawed. In Christianity, they would call this sin. The grievousness of one’s sin is measured by one’s distance from God, from perfection. Many have asked if God were perfect, why would he create us, suffering, flawed, imperfect beings? Maybe he didn’t. For Buddhism teaches that although, yes, we are flawed, we are also perfect, each one of us endowed with indestructible, eternal, buddhanature.

I often wonder if God didn’t actually create us perfect (if God created us). If God wanted us to love one another and care for one another and understand the consequences of our actions and the nature of reality, then what better lesson than suffering? What better lesson than change? What better lesson than impermanence? What better lesson than self and nonself?

How can we love without compassion? Compassion means to suffer with. I have been told that suffering breeds kindness. I have seen this to be true. For though all who came to speak and listen were filled with disappointment, dissatisfaction, anger, worry, frustration, and suffering, all showed kindness. ALL showed kindness. The issue was personal and distressing, as we who had come to celebrate, suddenly found ourselves mourning. So we sat in a circle and talked. All listened. All spoke with care and with heart. All gave thanks.

Someone told us to pray. Pray for wisdom, for guidance, for compassion. I will not pray. I have no one to pray to. God is an idea I like to play with, like dark matter or quarks. Buddha is dead. So I will not pray. But I will hope, and I will aspire, and I will be grateful. The spirit is much alike. But I will not pray because I do not believe what we seek is out there. What we seek to cure our flaws, our sinfulness, our suffering, is within.

We are all perfect, or have the capacity to be so. Which means, collectively, as institutions we are all perfect. Which means, further, as society we are all perfect. We are perfect not because we do not suffer, but because we have the capacity to learn from our suffering. No one ever learned to ride without saddle sores. The Buddha did not become the Buddha without first suffering. He became the Buddha because he suffered. They say to be grateful to our enemies for they are our greatest teachers.

Be grateful for our suffering, too, because it just might wake you up.

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