"When understood, the Buddha’s universe..is anything but alien and inhibiting. It is a world full of hope, where everything we need to do can be done and everything that matters is within human reach. It is a world where kindness, unselfishness, non-violence, and compassion achieve what self-interest and arrogance cannot. It is a world where any human can be happy in goodness and the fullness of giving." ❦ Eknath Easwara

September 22, 2011

Look at suffering in and of itself—don't ask *who* is suffering

"The Buddha has us focus simply on the problem of suffering without asking who’s causing this, or who you are, or what you have to do to your sense of self to make it better. He says, 'Just look at the suffering in and of itself.'

That’s important: the 'in and of itself.' That helps get you out of the entanglements that come from your clinging to your suffering.

When you can look at these things as events simply on their own terms, simply as a pattern of cause and effect without asking how you’re involved in it, when you can simply see the fact of suffering as it’s being caused, then you see the connection to its cause. You realize that you don’t have to engage in the cause. That helps loosen up your attachment to the suffering.

So it’s important to understand this process: that you’re clinging to, identifying with, the very things that cause you to suffer. Even though that’s what defines you, it’s simply a definition you’ve imposed on things. You don’t really need it to function. You don’t really have to worry about being annihilated if you stop the suffering.

For many people that’s a scary idea, because the connection between their self and their suffering is so strong. This is why the Buddha focuses you back on just the suffering in and of itself.

Don’t ask who’s doing this. Don’t ask how you’re involved in it. Just ask, 'What’s happening here?' Look at things in and of themselves as events, as processes."

Thanissaro Bhikkhu
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