74 Practicing Compassion by Taking Suffering onto the Path

11 May 2016

Alan continues the meditative contemplation of compassion that we may be free of suffering and its causes by describing the aspiration as simple, yet deep and subtle. This is because there are three types of suffering that become deeper and subtler the more we investigate. Firstly, blatant suffering of pain, misery, unhappiness and so on; secondly, suffering of change in that we do not understand that our attachments to people and objects or ways to be happy etc., will change as they are not permanent; and the deepest suffering of the pervasive and basic existential vulnerability to the causes of suffering. Alan says that for our practice of compassion to be wise and effective, then we need to go deep so that we may be free of ALL suffering. The Buddha’s first noble truth is to know the reality of all types of suffering, not just blatant suffering. The second noble truth is to know the reality of the sources of suffering arising from karma and kleshas. The root of the karma is the delusion of mental afflictions themselves which are rooted in hatred, attachment and delusion. Alan says in his experience there is nothing enjoyable about anger, hatred etc. As the Buddha said when the mind is overcome by ill-will, then you are sick, as it is not conducive to your or anyone else’s well-being. The suffering generated by hatred appears more blatant than that generated by the pleasure we experience in craving or attachment. This is more subtle in that if we investigate closely there is always an element of anxiety about change. Underlying this is the pervasive existential uneasiness or restlessness as stressed in the Pali canon or from the viewpoint of the prajnaparamita approach, constant reification. This is the ground state of all mental afflictions and the root of all types of suffering. Gyatrul Rinpoche stresses that for our practice to get off the ground we need to deeply reflect on the four thoughts that turn the mind, namely: the preciousness of human life; impermanence and mortality; the nature of all suffering; and the nature of karma and its consequences. This generates the view that there is no way to be free of suffering and its causes apart from Dharma. Similar to Christian spiritual practices concerning suffering, it is very much a matter of taking suffering onto the path, rather than avoiding, ignoring or anesthetizing it. We each have to understand suffering at all levels in order to develop empathy and to have deep compassion. Similarly we have to understand our mental afflictions as part of taking the path. The meditation is on compassion - taking suffering and mental afflictions onto the path. Following meditation practice, Alan says it is not easy to deal with our reification of objects as we have to investigate how we apprehend an object in the course of the day. However there is a testable assertion that whenever a mental affliction arises it is always rooted in reification.

Meditation starts at 27:47

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