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2023, August, Issue 56
“Unless we become free of conceptual thinking, there is absolutely no way to end samsara and truly awaken to enlightenment.”
~ Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche~
I was very fortunate to know someone for many years who suffered tremendously and did not seem to know it. For the sake of confidentiality, I will refrain from saying who this was.
From time to time, I would call or stop by for a visit. We enjoyed talking about philosophical issues, science, the meaning of life, often getting into heated discussions that gave us tremendous pleasure, laughing that we had started to yell at each other. In time, he became very ill, with many different problems.
About that time, I made a commitment to becoming a Buddhist. I was all in. This was very surprising to my friend, because he did not think of me as religious. I explained that it was not because of religion or wanting religion that I made this decision, it was because I had exhausted all scientific, philosophical and religious approaches to reality. All that was left was the commitment to awaken.
He asked why I would want to go further, and I told him that it was about constant suffering. All of life, my thoughts, this angst running in the background, my sense of dissatisfaction, this rat race I was running, all the promises that life offered had failed me. I wanted to go beyond, and my commitment to that was complete, with absolutely nothing held back.
I explained that this world, which is referred to as samsara, is really nothing but constant suffering. He immediately said to me that he doesn’t suffer, and he laughed about it. This brought tears to my eyes. “Well,” I said, “even if we think that we are not suffering, we don’t really notice what should be obvious. If we investigate our own mind, then we begin to see how greatly we suffer. We begin to understand that everyone suffers, even those living a pleasurable existence, without a care in the world. If we cannot control our mind, then we generate tremendous suffering.”
My friend found this to be tremendously amusing, and I felt a little put off by that. I wasn’t about to give up what I had started; however, I had absolutely no chance of explaining the depth of this error we make, when we ignore our own suffering and the suffering of the world around us. I felt that this was an ominous moment in our discussions, and I was completely helpless to help.
In the days and weeks to come, my friend endured terminal illness. Throughout this time, he became more and more angry, often threatening his caregivers and those who tried to help him. Before I knew it, my friend was dead.
This weighed heavily on me for many years, up until the time that I also died. In that moment that lasted an eternity, I realized that my feeling of helplessness had fueled my own desire to awaken. Bodhicitta became a constant. I had replaced samsara with Bodhicitta, and then I became the light.
My friend is fine. He’s been reborn in the animal realm, but he’s living a good life, learning about the importance of kindness and taking care. I can see him when I sit in contemplation.
The dangers of dying while angry is in that we could be reborn in the realm of mind with the most suffering. Anger does that. Because I had been cultivating Bodhicitta, I asked my friend if it was really necessary to yell at his nurse or do these angry things he was doing in general. I asked if it lowered his suffering. He calmed down when I said this. I think that this helped and that he did not enter deeper suffering. I pray that he finds his own way in this turbulent field of suffering, of ignorance, attraction and aversion, this place we call samsara. This is mind manifesting in all the various ways that we allow it to manifest. We fabricate our very existence.
When we become the light of Dharmakaya, we are no longer governed by our own actions, our thoughts, our imagination, conceptual thinking. We go beyond all suffering. Samsara dissipates. What we’d been experiencing for all eternity suddenly has no sway over us. It’s almost comical when we realize how we had suffered, how we wouldn’t even admit that we suffered. We were helpless, absolutely helpless, as ordinary beings. Humans are almost completely helpless, except that they can choose to awaken. Even gods cannot do that.
If you are human, you are the most blessed of all beings, simply because the pleasure is not too much, and the agony is not constantly overwhelming. We’re in the middle of the six classes of beings, which are simply six ways that mind can manifest for us, creating this illusion of separateness. We have just enough obvious suffering to give us an incentive to develop an aspiration to awaken, and we don’t have so much pleasure that we don’t lose sight of that possibility.
When I died, I could see that all beings suffered. It was very obvious. It was painful to see, especially because we can now awaken. Let us all awaken.
Blessings in Light,