The title to this post is such an important mantra to remind ourselves of and here I attempt to discuss my understanding of it in this modern day world.
A brief Buddha teaching: A raft is useful to cross a river. But to use the raft to cross the river and then carry the raft on your back is not so useful as now it is heavy to carry and hurts your back.
The meaning? Pick up things that serve you when useful and drop them when they no longer serve you. In other words do not become attached to any teachings as they can become hindrances.
I have found refuge in the Buddha and his teachings and am being taught this way of life at a local Buddhist centre. I admit I have always been sceptical and critical of holding on to a belief especially one that entails worship to a god or a belief in following a religious pathway so regimented. I don’t understand religion.
BUT Buddhism isn’t worshipping a ‘god’. I, and probably a lot of others, do not label it as a religion, it is a way of living, it simply asks followers to have faith in a program that promises to alleviate human suffering once and for all. In my understanding and teachings thus far it is as close to realism and the stark honest truth of life and suffering, and how to overcome Dukkha, as we can get.
So what is Dukkha? In short, a word in Pali that cannot be fully translated in English. But this is what Buddha teaches us about Dukkha:
Three main categories of dukkha:
- Suffering or pain
- Impermanence or change
- Conditioned states
A visualisation that aids with understanding the meaning of Dukkha is imagine a wooden chariot and one of the wooden wheels is wobbly, it is uncomfortable to ride this chariot on a wobbly wheel and this if the essence of Dukkha that we are always dissatisfied or never completely happy in life. It is a thorn in our hearts.
There is always suffering in life. We cannot stop this. What we can do is alter our mindsets about suffering. We recognize and acknowledge our suffering and heal;
“Let go of the thought that things are not as they should be, particularly the thought that all things, especially us, are permanent and have an inherent, independent, enduring self. Put another way: don’t fight the nature of the universe, change your mind.”
In essence I am practising this detachment, this idea of impermanence from everything. Mostly I am learning to accept that everyone changes and no one ever stays the same. On reflection of my broken marriage- we became two very different people, and neither was willing to sacrifice changing for each other and neither did we evolve together, we didn’t accept change. A further thought that is aiding in my current ‘content’ state is this; everyone is going to die. Much like every plant, tree, insect, animal….they will all die.
Accepting death and to acknowledge the reality of death. Being a reality, it must be accepted. We don’t look for death, but we don’t fear it; we don’t ask for death, but we’re willing to accept it when it comes. Through the understanding that comes from this contemplation of death, we can live meaningful lives with the upmost appreciation.
This has just reminded me to live my life more fully, with more joy, with more gratitude and appreciation. If we live our lives as though we were going to live forever, we don’t appreciate them. We all live in foolish ways, simply because we don’t consciously contemplate the fact of death.
I am going to die one day, and so are you. That I feel connects us and allows me to live a life with more affection and love to everyone. This teaching is not ‘there yet’ but I am persevering and changing my mindset, slowly. It’s all just a process to alleviate my suffering.