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When The Wheel Falls Off The Axle

Dr. David Am Koe Su Beighley, Roshi

November 17, 2022

The Buddha speaks often about suffering and his followers, even through today, use it as a central theme of their teachings. The Buddha said, in his first teaching, “Oh, Bhikshus, there are four noble truths. The are the noble truths of suffering, the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the path to the cessation of suffering.” He later emphasized this point when he said, “All I teach is suffering and the cessation of suffering.”

The First Noble Truth is most often—but inaccurately—rendered in English as “life is suffering”. In this case the translation of the text loses something in translation. The Pali word dukkha, usually translated as “suffering” has a more subtle range of meanings. It is sometimes described metaphorically as a wheel that is off its axle. A more literal translation of the first noble truth might be life does not satisfy.

The Buddha taught the three types of suffering:

1. The first kind is physical and mental pain from the inevitable stresses of life, like old age, sickness, and death from this realm.

2. The second is the distress e feel as a result of impermanence and change.

3. The third kind of dukkha is a type of existential suffering, the angst of being human, living a conditioned existence and being subject to ultimate death and removal from this realm.

As we have discussed many times in the past, the root of all suffering is the three poisons; ignorance, greed, and anger…along with the accompanying ramifications of clinging and attachment. We ALL have a tendency to travel through life’s course grasp and clinging to whatever we think or imagine will gratify us and simultaneously attempting to avoid that which we dislike. This very grasping and clinging, or avoidance is the very source of our dukkha. A quote that recently came to my attention is: “We are like drowning people who reach for something floating to save us, then discover that what we’ve latched onto provides only momentary or temporary satisfaction. What we desire is never enough and never lasts.”

We go, in our Buddhist education, to the path out of suffering, the Noble Eightfold Path…our liberation from suffering. As a Dharma Teacher, I have a personal bias that at the end of each segment of the Noble Eightfold Path should be the phrase, “in this very moment”. Right speech, in this very moment. Right effort, in this very moment.

The Buddha has taught us that “direct experience is the only reality”, and IT IS ONLY WHEN WE CAN EMBRACE OUR DIRECT EXPERIENCE, IN EACH AND EVERY MOMENT, THAT WE CAN ACTUALIZE THE Noble Eightfold Path AND BE RELIEVED FROM OUR SUFFERING, That is “relieved”…NOT “eliminated” of our suffering.

Last week, while going to the lower level of my house, I caught my heel on the stair way and plummeted down the last four steps, my Caffeine Free Diet Coke, phone, and things I was carrying, crashed to the floor, scattering everywhere, and making a substantial mess. Why did this happen? I wasn’t being mindful in that very moment. I wasn’t being deliberate and intentional in my actions. My mind was distracted. Not to mention that it hurt like hell!! The night before that, I was mincing fresh garlic and sliced my knuckle with a chef’s knife. I started bleeding all over the garlic. I put on some ointment, bandaged the finger, and started over. Why did this happen? I wasn’t being mindful in the moment. I wasn’t being deliberate and intentional in my actions. My mind was distracted. This morning, when I was getting out of bed, I stubbed my toe on the nightstand. Yowsa…That hurt! Why did that happen? For all of the reasons I mentioned in the other incidents.

When we are mindful and intentional, we will sometimes still suffer. When we are focused, we will still sometimes suffer. When we do five things, we alleviate our suffering significantly.

1. When we are deliberate, intentional, and mindful in each and every moment’ each and every endeavor.

2. When we use every moment as an opportunity to meditatively approach our actions.

3. When we can see the universe beyond our suffering and the suffering of others, to view the splendor and grandeur right in from of us in people, nature, circumstances.

4. When we express gratitude for ALL experiences, knowing growth comes from everything that comes before us.

5. Practice generosity and compassion toward all beings and things.

May we all understand more deeply the nature of our suffering and the suffering of others. May we all understand that while suffering is unavoidable at times, our attitude toward suffering is, perhaps, our best teacher.

And, as we enter the American Thanksgiving Season, may we remember to maintain an attitude of gratitude in ALL things!!

Be well as you make your way through this wonderful realm we have been given.

Happy Thanksgiving to All Sentient Beings

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