2021-11-08-Four Noble Truths and Our Contribution to Suffering
4:54AM Nov 9, 2021
second noble truth
Good evening, again, I'm delighted to be meditating with people in the same room, and for the last year and a half are delighted with sitting with people who were on the other side of the camera. And I appreciate and also I see their names and greetings and chat. That was quite lovely. But it's also very nice to be here with you all, thank you for coming. And I think the beginning of, you know, hopefully beginning that will continue now to develop that we could open up and people can start gathering together as a community. So the idea is to, for us to continue on Mondays, being open the way we are with people who are registered and signed up to come. And then Diana, who has been teaching this holding down Mondays throughout the pandemic, thank you, Diana, and the ADF for the text. While they said we'll alternate alternate teaching here. So they will be here next Monday, and I'll be the following, and so on for a while. That's kind of the general plan.
So thinking about a talk for today, I thought that this is kind of a new beginning here, that I thought that a really good place to begin is with it four noble truths. They're considered kind of a core teachings of the Buddha. And it seems pretty symbolic to start with that pretty evocative for me, to kind of start with, as they say that the all of the Buddhist teaching is can be subsumed or held within the Four Noble Truths. The ancient analogy that the Celts from India, just like all the animals in the forest, their footprints can be held inside the footprint of an elephant. This is big enough to hold it all. So the Four Noble Truths are big enough to hold it all. And down through the ages, there's been many understandings or interpretations of the Four Noble Truths. And there isn't like a singular understanding. And in fact, the Buddha suggested that he said, there are numerous innumerable explanations for these four noble truths. They're very rich and, and evocative. And rather than taking them as being a singular thing, that there's only one thing, we learn the basic idea of it. And then we learn to apply it to ourselves into our lives and discover, you know, how it means for us. There's a Mahayana Buddhist teaching that, in this universe of ours, there's lots and lots of kind of world systems with people who live on planets all over the Yukons cosmos. And all of them have the Four Noble Truths, then they go through a long list of what those how they, they talk about the four noble truths in all these different world systems. It's like a long, long, long text. And that's mostly just a list of all the different formulations of these four that could, could exist. And so this idea that there's many, so I'll offer you, you know, one one of them, which is based on the early Buddha's tradition, and, and you'll see if it's nice for you. And as an introduction to it, if if you say you rent an apartment someplace, and you do move in, and everything in park is all good, except in the corner of the living room. There's an old radio that's, that's really grimy, to most of spilled food on it long ago, and it's not very nice, but But you know, someone forgot it or left, he was curious, you said, Oh, what's that doing here? And the thing is, it's on and it's on some really kind of the kind of radio station you'd ever want to listen to. And it's on. And so you look at it and say, Wow, this is not right. And maybe you get angry at the people there before maybe you feel like spread a self righteous letter to the, to the landlords and, and say, you know, this, this, this radio was left here and it's a real problem. Or maybe you should go out and buy a bigger radio to put in front of it to hide it. Or maybe you should find another apartment or all these thoughts. And that goes on for days and weeks. You're trying to figure out what to do about this radio that's on all that time. And then one day you finally decide you realize, you know, I could just turn the radio off. And you don't at least you don't have to hear that terrible radio station all the time. So it's possible to have all kinds see all kinds of things wrong in our world, in our society, or with ourselves, and miss that there's a little button where certain things can be turned off. And maybe that's a little bit too dramatic of a story analogy. But, but maybe it's worth kind of preparing for what I'm going to say that what we're looking for in the Four Noble Truths, we're looking for trying to understand ourselves, to see what what we can do. To stop suffering, to turn off the buttons of our suffering. And what and to do that, we have to understand our contribution to it. What are we doing to contribute to the radio being on? And where can we turn it off.
And there's lots of things that are wrong with having the radio there and they left it there and it's dirty, they didn't clean and it's the wrong station. And you know, what was landlord thinking and you paid a deposit, and this is what you get. So you can do all those things. But the radio still blares, and you can turn it off, the fact that you weren't treated nicely, respectfully by the previous tenants, or someone maybe still true, not to be denied. But if you want to sleep at night, you want to turn the radio off. So the Four Noble Truths are a means it's like a little four, for like a little description of four steps or four areas by which we can understand our life, to help us understand what is our contribution to our suffering, to our distress? What are we doing that's adding to it, not to diminish, you know, necessarily taking care of things in the world. But what is our contribution, and because your contribution to your suffering, that you have some ability to do something about whether you can change the world around you, is maybe you can, maybe you can't, and some people will spend an ordinate amount of time trying to change the world around them, changing their family, changing their work, their boss, their co workers, their friends, trying to get them all to behave just right, and their neighbors or whatever. And sometimes a track record their success record of doing changing the world to accommodate ourselves and make it all right, is not so high. And it isn't that it shouldn't be done. But if it overlooks where we can make a difference, it's a little bit sad. And so the art of it all is to look where can I make a difference? Where can I change something. And this has to do what I call our contribution to our suffering. And so these, this schema of the four are offering perspectives to get us in the territory, so we can begin understanding what our contribution is. So the four are, the first one is a very simple, and it just says that it's the noble truth of suffering. That's how it's translated into English, the ancient language, Buddha's language, the word suffering literally means painful. And so it's saying, there is, there is what is painful. There are painful things in this world. But it's what we're looking at now is where the suffering is. So where is the emotional pain, what's painful, emotionally? Where's the distress. And the second noble truth is state is very simply, it's the arising of this painful thing, the rising of is suffering. The third is the cessation of at the ending of it. And the fourth is that there is a way to the ending of that suffering. The middle to the arising and the seizing are very important to see. Because this is where we understand that our suffering is not hardwired in. It's not like we're born with a suffering and therefore we're gonna can't do anything about it. It's something that comes and goes, appears and disappears. It might seem Like it's constant, and seemed like it's solid and unchanging. But in fact, in its, its essence or something in its own nature, it's actually something that's arising and passing and coming and going. And that's the good news. Because if it was solid and unchanging, then there's no hope. But if it's something that comes and goes, then we have some possibility to do something about it. We have some possibility to, to find another way. So the first Noble Truth is just an acknowledgement, that there is things are painful. And all kinds of things are painful. You know, so they listed the classic tech scare are things like birth is painful. Old age is painful sickness is painful separation from our loved ones is painful, non separate, not being separate from the people who are difficult is painful. There's all these things that are painful.
So there's acknowledgement, yes, there is pain in the world. But the second noble truth says, and then where what is the suffering that is arising that appears? In you? That's the idea, your contribution, whereas the suffering that appears within you, that has its genesis in what you're doing? Or where you were you left the radio on? What is it? What is that, and that, and then that attacks points to that it has to do with the suffering that you can do most about is a suffering that is craving. And the word is usually called it use the classic their original word is thirst, which is meant to kind of like thirst for power or something. This drive is compulsion by which people are not free, we're so driven by something that we have to have it. And this driven is that where we can't put something down. We can't stop but we're behaving is the genesis of what's this suffering that we can do something about. That's where we contribute to our own suffering. So that's what we want to understand. We want to understand the craving the thirst, the drive, not only because it brings about suffering, but it is suffering, it's painful to be caught in the grip of these, of this craving of thirst of things you can't put down. And I think meditators have developed a pretty good sense of this, because it's one thing to kind of just go about your day and feel like you can't put something down, but to sit and meditate. And you see the mind just kind of churning away with its preoccupations, concerns and drives, is I see, wow, this is powerful. This is suffering. Sometimes the promise of getting what we want the imagine in the imagination of imagination of it hides, that it's a that it's actually distressing and uncomfortable to be under the under the yoke of compulsion of craving. Your quiz, but But it's hard to see it, if you're focusing so much on the thing you're going to get. If I can get the only when the California Lottery, I have to win the California Lottery, then everything's gonna be okay. And I just imagine I'm going to build a swim pool, if I get a California Library and be so great, with three temperatures, you know, and it'd be so great. But you don't see that that drive, maybe is a kind of desperation is kind of comes out of maybe loneliness, or even fear, insecurity, all kinds of things that it comes with. As we meditate, we start seeing this. And at some point, we see that it's not solid. It's not fixed. It's something that it has is porous, something that's in constant, something that comes and goes. But in order to see that we have to be somewhat quiet and gathered and collected and have the ability to really see. And that's why I made it one of the functions of meditation is not to sit down and write away just see what's going on at insight in some deep way. But meditation is partly to settle us enough, quiet us enough, just enough not dramatically, but enough so we can really start seeing that the porousness of our suffering, the inconstancy of it coming and going of it. The that that's not it, and as we see that more and more, we see that there is possible to be without it. It is possible to bring it to an end that he can cease. And because we've we taste that very fleetingly, perhaps, but we say, wow, I've had this, this resentment for two years. And I thought it was solid. It's like a mood that I carry around with me everywhere. But now I see there's flickers of times when it's not there. Wow. It's not always there. And to the in the Buddhist practice, the idea is to appreciate those flickers appreciate those moments, it's not there. And that's, that can be hard to do. Because an absence like that doesn't count for much. And because the, the drive, the craving, the wanting, the ideas, the stories, we tell ourselves, come so quickly, that they override the flickering moment of peace, the flickering moment of their something, what got quiet, wasn't there,
though, exactly, the waves are calm, and they come and because they come so much, we don't see the small little gaps, small little pieces go on. But as we start this meditation practice that at some point, we start seeing there are gaps. It's, it's porous, it's not so solid, it's not so constant as I thought. And it can give a lot of hope, a tremendous amount of inspiration comes then, Oh, there's another way. And at some point, those little gaps as flickers, begin showing us that we can be at peace, there's little peace here, a little bit of ease here. Even though it's only there, a flicker, it's there, I know, it's there, I feel it. Now the task is to begin to grow it to recognize it more. And the task, we're doing that with mindfulness meditation, is to just do the same thing over again, just keep settling, keep looking, keeping present, but know where to look. If you're still writing letters to the landlord about the radio, you're looking in the wrong place. You won't see that a switch to turn it off. If you are so Soviet to look, learn how to settle and turn the attention here to yourself. And I like to think of that as turning around to become intimate with yourself. Get really close and intimate get to know yourself, well. Feel yourself, sense yourself. Allow yourself to get collected and gather together. It's like a wonderful thing to do for yourself, to feel yourself gathering together collecting, unified, where the mind and body and the heart are all operating together at the same time in the same place. And primarily, that's the task of the mind, to come into the place where the body is, because the body is always in the present moment. And so divide is often not. And so is a task of the mind to come back here, be here. And it's possible to do that, that had that job of mindfulness of gathering yourself together. It's possible to do it with lots of love, lots of care, lots of compassion, and lots of generosity to oneself, that each of us counts. Each of us is important. And so, so much so important, so valuable, that it's worthwhile. Being here for yourself, gathering together, collecting yourself sidling here, becoming more embodied more present more, more yourself in a sense. In this process that begins quieting the mind and the gaps become longer. The porousness gets bigger. And we start feeling more than just more than more of more than just flickers of peace of well being. But becomes, you know, moments. The moments become minutes, the minutes become ours, and they grow. So life is life is painful and all kinds of ways. Turn the attention to understand where that painfulness is here in yourself. And you'll notice that craving, attachments, clinging so a whole slew of words that Buddhism uses, that that moved those movements, those activities are painful. And it's hard to appreciate that they're painful if we're too focused on what we're clinging to what we want We don't want. So the art of turning attention, either an 80 degrees around to feel and sense here be with yourself and feel like this is where this is where my contribution is to my suffering, this is what I'm adding is a craving that thirst, that resistance, that hatred. And we start out, that's what it is. And then we feel it. And then it's be with it, breathe with it, sense it in body at a certain way. Let the mind get quieter with it. And you start seeing its porous nature, its flickering nature, the gaps, you see that arise and see that appears and disappears. And one of the great moments in this whole process is that you're sitting around minding your own business,
and maybe thought of some intensive and you're very attached to arises, you can feel the attachment come along with a thought. But you didn't have it. And now it comes. And you see it, wait a minute, you watch that happen. Wow, look at that. It wasn't and now it's come into existence. And you are wiser than it, you've now been watching it without identifying with it. And being caught in it, you see it arise, there it is. And then you might also see that it's disappeared. And then if you're interested in that process, interested in extending those gaps, discovering more and more about how to bring this craving, clinging to an end, then you come to the fourth noble truth. And the fourth noble truth is the truth of the way to that cessation, there were not just small little gaps, but a really, you know, qualitatively significant way in which something really drops away. And, and the classic description of that is the eightfold path, which is a set of eight practices that are meant to encompass our whole life, all of our life. Because if you really want to make this four noble truths, really deep, really thorough and complete, to not just flickers or momentary, it should be something that's relates to how you live your whole life. So how you speak you act, what kind of work you do, how you live with your own mind, how you pay attention, you be focused, what attitudes you have as you go through your life and what understandings you have that through which you see how to behave and how to live in this life. So eightfold path is right view, right understanding, right usually says right intention or or right attitude, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right, mindfulness, and right concentration. And so to begin, be it to be inspired. Maybe only if you're inspired, inspired by this possibility of bringing the suffering to an end, right? Make these flickers last longer, than it helps to create a bigger foundation to gather yourself together to be collected and really show up for yourself and be here. And that's what the Eightfold Path is about. To live that eightfold path. So that freedom is not just a flicker, but becomes you know, you know, something that's more regular interacted that's what becomes constant at some point, the sense of the freedom from clinging the freedom from this contribution we make. So a simple way of asking yourself this question is, what am I attached to right now? So if you're suffering, we ask, Where am I attached right now? That's one of the questions that turns their attention around 180 degrees. And then not only what am I attached to, but where is the attachment? Where do I feel in my body and my mind and my heart, that contraction that clinging, that tightness that we can do something about and if you do long term learning, to understand your contribution to your suffering, and learning to end that contribution, is the most reliable thing you can do in the dharma. And it'll it'll, you learn as well. And you're, it's phenomenal how it changes one's life, the confidence it gives the ease, it gives a piece of gives, and the wisdom it gives, for how to navigate and work on this life and live this life. So we're interested in our contribution to our own suffering. And I think it's a very mature thing for human being, to take that take up that interest, and really study that and look at it. And not enough people do it too many people, I think I'm looking outside of themselves, for how the world contributes to our suffering, which is certainly a worthwhile thing to do sometimes. But if that's the only thing we do, then we gonna live for a long, long time. With that terrible radio station blaring.
That ad now it's nice to turn it off. So those are my thoughts for this beginning. And there are other dharma talks to be given the four noble truths that are possible. And now their interpretations other takes on them. But that's what was here today. Hopefully, it was a fit for you to give you something to think about and orientation. So thank you very, very much. And look forward to seeing you more. And I know all of you that are here. So it's seen you before and it's very nice to have you back and be together after all this time. And thank you so much. And for those of you on YouTube, thank you very much for being part of this and and I look forward to having this chance to do this with you again. Thank you