changing flow

No. 3
November 15th, 2001

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Eight Ways of Suffering
  Some say that to live should mean to have fun and enjoy oneself, but is that really always that easy?
   There is a technical Buddhist term, that speaks of "four and eight ways of suffering". The first four are birth, growing older, becoming sick and dying, i.e. all the aspects of life itself. Birth already implies the other three, more obvious sufferings.
   To these another four ways of suffering are added, to make a total of eight: The suffering of being separated from what one wants to be together with,  being together with what one wants to be separated from, not coming true what  one wishes for, and one's present condition being all discomfortable.
   Longing to be with a loved one that is far away, while getting tired of that same person when one has to actually live with him her,  is one common example of this existantial suffering, which we can experience often in love relationships. Generally, we are always looking for something which is not here now, while we wish away the reality with which we are confronted. Therefore, it is said that "all is suffering".
   That does not mean, though, that we are burdened with some special pain or suffering all the time: Sometimes we suffer, other times we enjoy life and ourselves. But still, we will never be satisfied completedly. Just as eating a good meal will never extinguish our hunger completedly, even if all our wishes would come true, more  unfullfilled wishes would spring up the next moment. We are never completedly happy. There remains always something to complain, some feeling of dissatisfaction...
   But that does not need to be something bad. When we become satisfied with ourselves and the world, we stop making an effort to improve. Therefore, we might even say that it is important for a human being to never be completedly satisfied. With out suffering, we would loose our drive to live. The question is if we do understand this mechanism of suffering or not. Life itself is suffering (or better: dissatisfaction), but it is possible and important to accept and be content in suffering.

   Even though we might try to have fun and enjoy ourselves,  if we cannot accept reality and be content with it, we will be rather frustrated and unhappy as a result of our efforts to be happy. If, on the other hand, we learn to accept our present situation, we can be content and calm in even the worst circumstances. Isn't that what happyness really means?

   I have moved into a tent in Osaka castle park in september. Two months have passed swiftly. Less people attend the early morning Zazen sitting everyday than I had originally expected. Often, I am sitting on my own.
   It will get colder now day by day, so there is not much hope that the number of people will increase. I have to worry if I myself will be able to carry on all through the cold of winter. On a dark rainy morning, I might even think of giving it all up...
   If I worry about my present situation, it will become great suffering for me.
   But then, when I ask myself what I really one want to do, what I have come for here, I realize that there is no greater happyness than being able to sit alone or maybe with somebody else out in the open, below the big sky, with really nothing to worry about at all.
   Depending on my own point of view, depending on my attitude of living, life can be hell, or it can be heaven.

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