The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~


Saturday, March 01, 2014

To be Human is to Suffer



I don’t think that it is likely that after you have your enlightenment experience, that your suffering will end. You are not instantly going to find yourself making all the green lights, not having to worry about rotating your tires or flossing your teeth.


To be human is to suffer. You can either be crushed or you can soldier on.


I have excerpts for you from two columns. One is from an opinion piece by Pico Iyer. The other is from Leo Babauta at Zen Habits.


Before getting to the meat of this post, I want to make readers aware of the upcoming Lenten Challenge.

Every year, I throw out the Lenten Challenge to my martial arts buddies. It has nothing to do with Christianity or religion (unless you want it to). We are simply using this time as a convenient reminder to rededicate ourselves to our training. It’s kind of hard to miss either Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras, the last day before Lent, which is also Paczki Day!) or Easter Sunday (Bunnies, candy, colored eggs; that stuff). Several of us have been doing this for years now.
The challenge is this: from Ash Wednesday (Mar 5) until the day before Easter (April 19), train every day, without fail, no excuses; even if you have to move mountains. Simple enough said, a little harder to do.

It's not as easy as it sounds; things come up. Some days, you might only be able to get a few minutes of training in; but the point is to do it everyday, no matter what.

It doesn't have to be martial arts training either. Whatever it is that you need to really rededicate yourself to: studying, practicing an instrument, walking, watching what you eat, immersing yourself in something new; anything - do it every day, without fail.

In the past on some forums, people have posted what they’ve done everyday. I think everyone who’s done that has become tired of writing, and the others get tired of reading it. How about you just post if you’ve had some breakthrough, or you’ve had to overcome some unusual circumstance to continue your training? Maybe just check in every once in a while to let everyone know you’re keeping at it, or to encourage everyone else to keep at it.


If you fail, no one will hate you. If you fall off of the wagon, climb back on board. Start anew.
For those of you who already train everyday anyway, by all means continue and be supportive of the rest of us. For the rest of us who intend to train everyday, but sometimes come up short due to life’s propensity for unraveling even the best laid plans, here is an opportunity to put a stake in the ground and show your resolution.

Won't you join me?
First, from Pico Iyer. The full article may be read here.

September 7, 2013

The Value of Suffering

 ...

MY neighbors in Japan live in a culture that is based, at some invisible level, on the Buddhist precepts that Issa knew: that suffering is reality, even if unhappiness need not be our response to it. This makes for what comes across to us as uncomplaining hard work, stoicism and a constant sense of the ways difficulty binds us together — as Britain knew during the blitz, and other cultures at moments of stress, though doubly acute in a culture based on the idea of interdependence, whereby the suffering of one is the suffering of everyone.

“I’ll do my best!” and “I’ll stick it out!” and “It can’t be helped” are the phrases you hear every hour in Japan; when a tsunami claimed thousands of lives north of Tokyo two years ago, I heard much more lamentation and panic in California than among the people I know around Kyoto. My neighbors aren’t formal philosophers, but much in the texture of the lives they’re used to — the national worship of things falling away in autumn, the blaze of cherry blossoms followed by their very quick departure, the Issa-like poems on which they’re schooled — speaks for an old culture’s training in saying goodbye to things and putting delight and beauty within a frame. Death undoes us less, sometimes, than the hope that it will never come.

As a boy, I’d learned that it’s the Latin, and maybe a Greek, word for “suffering” that gives rise to our word “passion.” Etymologically, the opposite of “suffering” is, therefore, “apathy”; the Passion of the Christ, say, is a reminder, even a proof, that suffering is something that a few high souls embrace to try to lessen the pains of others. Passion with the plight of others makes for “compassion.”

Almost eight months after the Japanese tsunami, I accompanied the Dalai Lama to a fishing village, Ishinomaki, that had been laid waste by the natural disaster. Gravestones lay tilted at crazy angles when they had not collapsed altogether. What once, a year before, had been a thriving network of schools and homes was now just rubble. Three orphans barely out of kindergarten stood in their blue school uniforms to greet him, outside of a temple that had miraculously survived the catastrophe. 

Inside the wooden building, by its altar, were dozens of colored boxes containing the remains of those who had no surviving relatives to claim them, all lined up perfectly in a row, behind framed photographs, of young and old.

As the Dalai Lama got out of his car, he saw hundreds of citizens who had gathered on the street, behind ropes, to greet him. He went over and asked them how they were doing. Many collapsed into sobs. “Please change your hearts, be brave,” he said, while holding some and blessing others. “Please help everyone else and work hard; that is the best offering you can make to the dead.” When he turned round, however, I saw him brush away a tear himself.

Then he went into the temple and spoke to the crowds assembled on seats there. He couldn’t hope to give them anything other than his sympathy and presence, he said; as soon as he heard about the disaster, he knew he had to come here, if only to remind the people of Ishinomaki that they were not alone. He could understand a little of what they were feeling, he went on, because he, as a young man of 23 in his home in Lhasa had been told, one afternoon, to leave his homeland that evening, to try to prevent further fighting between Chinese troops and Tibetans around his palace.

He left his friends, his home, even one small dog, he said, and had never in 52 years been back. Two days after his departure, he heard that his friends were dead. He had tried to see loss as opportunity and to make many innovations in exile that would have been harder had he still been in old Tibet; for 

Buddhists like himself, he pointed out, inexplicable pains are the result of karma, sometimes incurred in previous lives, and for those who believe in God, everything is divinely ordained. And yet, his tear reminded me, we still live in Issa’s world of “And yet.”

The large Japanese audience listened silently and then turned, insofar as its members were able, to putting things back together again the next day. The only thing worse than assuming you could get the better of suffering, I began to think (though I’m no Buddhist), is imagining you could do nothing in its wake. And the tear I’d witnessed made me think that you could be strong enough to witness suffering, and yet human enough not to pretend to be master of it. Sometimes it’s those things we least understand that deserve our deepest trust. Isn’t that what love and wonder tell us, too?

 And now from Leo Babauta at Zen Habits. The full post may be read here.

The Pain & Beauty of Life Changes

By Leo Babauta
The reason for our suffering is our resistance to the changes in life.

And life is all changes.

While I resist change (and suffer) just like anyone else, I have learned to adapt. I’ve learned some flexibility. I’ve realized this:

Everything changes, and this is beautiful.

The Pain of Life’s Changes

What do I mean that our suffering comes from resistance to the changes in life?
...
That’s just a start. Things change all the time, and we resist it. Our day changes, our relationships change, other people don’t act the way they should, we ourselves are changing, constantly, and this is hard to deal with.
So this is the pain of change, of not being in control, of things not meeting our expectations.
How do we cope?

The Beauty of Life Changes

We can cope with the pain in numerous ways: get angry and yell, drink or do drugs, eat junk food, watch TV or find other distractions. We can find positive ways to cope with the stress and hurt and anger: exercise, talking about our problems with a friend, or trying to take control of the situation in some way (planning, taking action, having a difficult conversation to work out differences, etc.).

Or, we can embrace the changes.

If changes are a basic fact of life (actually life is nothing but change), then why resist? Why not embrace and enjoy?

See the beauty of change.

It’s hard, because we’re so used to resisting.

Let’s put aside our resistance and judgments for a few minutes, and look for beauty in life’s changes:
 ...
The possibilities of finding beauty in our struggles with change are endless. And, I believe, that’s beautiful in its own way.



 

2 comments:

Nicola Avery said...

I'm in again - training has been sporadic at best since moving to another part of the country.

Thanks for the inspiration again

Rick Matz said...

Do your best.