Saturday, April 1, 2006

Suffering can be good

What a "weird" way of looking at things. Am I a nutcase? Most of our lives are like a roller coaster ride with it's ups and downs. We struggle day in and day out to earn a living so that we can have what we want (whatever that may be) and to fulfill our desires. But is that all there is to life: living just to fulfill our desires till we die? Ever wonder why you are who you are? I dunno about you, but I've spent 38 years of my life without contemplating this issue at all. The closest I got was pondering over the existence of God. Why? Coz I was too busy chasing after money, career and trying to fulfill my sensual desires constantly.

The Buddha taught The First Noble Truth of Dukkha. In short, dukkha means suffering. To live means to suffer, because the human nature is not perfect and neither is the world we live in. During our lifetime, we inevitably have to endure physical suffering such as pain, sickness, injury, tiredness, old age, and eventually death; and we have to endure psychological suffering like sadness, fear, frustration, disappointment, and depression. So you can see that human lives are full of suffering. He also taught that human lives are very precious. Of all the planes of existence (Gods, Demigods, Humans, Animals, Ghosts, Hell), human lives are most important because it has the "right" amount of pain and pleasure to inspire us to free ourselves from the cycle of rebirth and suffering. It's in human form that we can train our mind to penetrate our delusion and ignorance to see the ultimate truth. So in this sense, suffering is good. For suffering will be the wake-up call to those of us who are blinded by our daily routines and being totally engrossed in chasing after after sensual pleasure. There is a parable which taught that life is like going down a live volcano in a ladder. Initially when we started climbing down, we would not feel anything. This represent the period when we are young and carefree and thought that we'll live forever. Then as we climb deeper and deeper into the hole, we would feel the heat burning us. Meaning as we encounter more difficulties, troubles and pain in our lives, these are signals for us to do something before we get burned. So what is that "something" that we should do? For me that something is to be a better person, to be kind and benevolent to all living beings. To reduce my selfishness, pride, jealousy, desire, greed, ignorance and anger.

The Buddha also taught that there are 4 kinds of people:
1. Those who change after seeing other people suffered or died
2. Those who change after seeing their friends/relatives suffered or died.
3. Those who change after seeing their loved ones suffered or died.
4. Those who change after going through great suffering (emotionally or physically) themselves.

I belonged to the third category. Pain can be a very good teacher. It taught me not to waste time, to set my priorities more for others and less for self-indulgence. Because when you lost someone dear or when you are about to die, more often than not you will be filled with feelings of guilts and regrets of words not said and deeds not done. That's how suffering can bring us back into focus, back into what really matters, to be a good person so that we live a meaningful, purposeful life.