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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Pleasure and Pain

The Supreme Reality stands revealed in the consciousness of those who have conquered themselves. They live in peace, alike in cold and heat, pleasure and pain, praise and blame.

-Bhagavad Gita 6:7

James: Suffering and physical pain are not the same thing. Surely one has heard the famous Zen aphorism that, "Pain is inevitable. Suffering is not." As long as we find ourselves in the physical limitations of samara we will experience physical pain. However, whether we suffer emotionally from that pain is up to us.

This from Rev. Mike Young:

Buddha recognized that suffering is the result of our habits of mind in responding to that pain. It is not the pain that causes the suffering. It is our habits of mind in responding to pain that causes the suffering.

The point of Buddhist transcending of suffering is not anaesthesia. Unfortunately, much that passes for a description of Buddhist thought in our culture for years has seen Buddhism as a way being totally indifferent, of not emotionally responding. Buddhism is portrayed as a kind of emotional anaesthesia that avoids all problems by simply not letting yourself become involved in them at all.

It is not a question of getting yourself not to feel pain anymore. Indeed, our usual response to pain, the indulging, wallowing in it, grasping . . . or pushing away, all produce suffering. But these responses also tend to numb us. And, in some ways, this is what we are after in the wallowing, obsessing, the grasping and pushing away. We are seeking the numbing that leaves us not feeling the pain so acutely.

In Buddhism, transcending suffering may well result in our feeling the pain that is inevitable even MORE acutely. Hence, the centrality in Buddhism of compassion, not indifference. But, if it means feeling pain more acutely, it also means feeling JOY more acutely. For, the anaesthesia we have the habit of doing to ourselves to shut off our pain results also in shutting off much--if not all--of the playfulness and joyousness of life.

James: I'll leave you with these words from William Blake:

He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy.
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity's sun rise.

-Peace to all beings-

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4 comments:

dragonflyfilly said...

James, i thought it was: "Pain in enevitable, suffering is optional" ...and my interpretation of this is that we cannot avoid pain, but we can choose how we deal with it, or we can choose to suffer the pain, or flow with it, or ignore it, or get rid of it....that is, we have the option to choose what we DO with the pain...anyway, that was my understanding of this....

????

how's life treating you so far?

cheers for now,
pj

"James" said...

PJ:

I think these two statements are pretty much conveying the same thing. You're right that we CHOOSE to suffer. Yes, life is suffering but that is because we make choices that cause suffering.

Anyway, life is good. I just applied for a scholarship to attend a retreat that will be led by the monks and nuns of Deer Park Monastery.

Other then that, I'm doing well.

Thanks for asking. :)

dragonflyfilly said...

WOW, i am so happy for you...curious about Deer Park...where is this, or have you posted about it before?

nameste,
pj

"James" said...

PJ:

Deer Park is a monastery in California in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh.

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