The Gift of Suffering

The Gift of Suffering

OK, before I start I would like to ask you to remember a phrase. There might or might not be a question at the end of this talk and this phrase will be the answer to the question. Here is the phrase:

Infinite Potential (a concept developed by David Bohm)​

We are living in an amazing time–truly historic. We are living through two huge, prolonged events that are both fomenting seismic changes in every aspect of our social fabric; in the way we live, in the way we relate to one another; our basic institutions both physical and social–even how we know ourselves. The experience has made us look at the importance of our reliance on the idea of individualism when containment of the virus is dependant on our understanding of our interconnectedness.

We have all been frightened, confused, saddened, angry, ready to run away, militant in our beliefs, even desperate. And, mostly we just want it to be different than the way it is. Now, that is the very definition of suffering!

All that despair is one way to respond to this unrest, but, it is not the Buddhist way. Our instruction is ‘to be with what is’. To not turn away but to be present with whatever phenomena presents itself. To know it as suffering; to know that it is impermanent–that it will change–and that it is not I, myself or mine. Not an easy thing to do with either the Virus or the fact of Racism in our society.

But, one way of looking at the virus is that it said to one and all STOP. And that pause gave us all time to see some of the terrible things that happen because of our institutionalized racism. Because, although it had been staring us in the face for centuries we had refused to recognize it. So, the virus(a terrible thing) and its attendant quarantine(unpleasant)created enormous, pent up energy and then fear destabilized that energy. We were living in a boiling soup of chaos/entropy.

It was very clear to me that something significant was going to arise; I had no idea what, but all the natural world shows us that entropy is the condition that is necessary for some thing new and creative to show itself. And we had entropy in capital letters.

Of course, the precipitating event, the murder of George Floyd, was horrendous and added to the chaos, but it has given direction to the possibility of change. It is my hope that this change leads to better, more equitable lives for our black brothers and sisters. But that is not the primary topic I want to talk about this morning.

I would like to explore the REACTIONS we have to these events; the suffering we experience. When things like this happen I have seen folks truly despondent even immobilized in their reactions or lashing out as in the rioting we saw. Neither of these reactions are helpful or even healthy.

The instruction we are given in our practice is ‘to be present with what is’. Not to fix the problem but to be quiet; find the feeling in our body; and to(in the words of Chogun Trumpka)hold the feeling(pleasant, unpleasant or neutral)in our cradle of loving kindness; to be with the feeling until it changes or disappears and breath out loving kindness. Pema Chodrun refers to this as Compassionate Abiding.

This can lead to the insight that we know the feeling is just pleasant or unpleasant and is not I, mine or myself. Maybe then we might understand how old karma was influencing our perspective of the situation and widen our view to allow wisdom to arise.

Each and every event is NON DUAL. There are a myriad of possibilities within that one event that could be expressed, and, if through quieting our mind we become aware that our conditioning was obscuring the richness of the event, perhaps we are more able to allow a new and thoughtful RESPONSE to arise. Whether that leads to action or a fresh mind state–either way it is in RESPONSE to the actual present situation, not one tainted by old, essentially irrelevant, attitudes born of old karma. It is equanimous; it is free of suffering, free of wanting things to be different than the way they are.

The Corona Virus has been difficult; i am not into denying its devastating effects, but it has also given energy to a powerful movement that might lead to equality for all. That’s how it is when we recognize and appreciate non duality. Each and every event has a multiplicity of possible outcomes within it. The event itself is neither good nor bad–it is an event from which other events will arise depending on causes and conditions. It is our insights, born of our wisdom and compassion that lead us to right action.

It is also the recognition that non duality embodies our inter connectedness. It is as if a giant net [Indra’s Net] is covering the earth and at each of the nodes there is a beautiful jewel and each time we touch or grasp at the jewel it sends ripples throughout the entire structure of the net. Move one of the connected strings and all the strings are moved in sympathetic harmony.

So, if we can see the Pandemic from a non dualistic point of view, we can see it as an event that has certainly been terrible in its impact but also one that has opened he eyes of one group in our society to the extreme pain that another group in our society experiences repeatedly. The value of that is extraordinary.
It is perfect example of the non dualistic nature of our existence. If we can use our understanding of non duality effectively it can lead to a calm mind that sees clearly and can respond with wisdom and compassion.

Mary Grannan

One event–>Infinite Potential

One comment

  1. Elizabeth Cheslak

    It is such source of calming wisdom to have your words available at all times.
    Thank you for the reminder of non-duality and interconnectedness. With awareness of that so much that is frought and petty simply falls away.

    With Metta, Elizabeth

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