We, humans, have experienced various sufferings throughout history from starvation to warfare to disease. Buddhism categorizes them as follows:
- Living (生苦, Jāti dukkha)
- Aging (老苦, Jarāpi dukha)
- Disease (病苦, Byādhipi dukkha)
- Death (死苦, Maraṇampi dukkha)
- Separating from someone we love (愛別離苦, Appiyehi dukkha)
- Meeting someone we don’t like (怨憎会苦, Piyehi dukkha)
- Can’t get what we want (求不得苦, Yampiccha dukkha)
- Can’t control ourselves (五蘊盛苦, Pañcupādānakkhandhā dukkha)
And the eighth suffering could be the basis of all previous pains. We suffer from them because we can’t control ourselves. Why can’t we control ourselves? It is on the aggregate of the following five factors:
- We face various threats. (色, Rūpa)
- We experience them physically. (受, Vedanā)
- We perceive them mentally. (想, Saññā)
- We label them as negative thoughts (行, Saṅkhāra)
- We indulge them in our mind (識, Viññāṇa)
In our everyday lives, even throughout human history, the aggregate of these five factors have bombarded us ever since ceaselessly. Thus, we can’t control ourselves, and we say, life is suffering. In which the world has shown us the following marks:
- Nothing is permanent. (諸行無常, Anicca)
- Nothing is satisfactory. (一切皆苦, Dukkha)
- Nothing is self-controllable. (諸法無我, Anatta)
If that’s the truth and reality, then do we have to be pessimistic? What’s the meaning of life on earth?
Paradoxically enough, with these realizations, instead of becoming pessimistic, we could find ways to seek real joy and stillness, not suffering from illusory happiness.
What we work hard for happiness in our lives is often the shadow of all those sufferings mentioned above. We are chasing various short-lived bubbles within the foggy imaginary world. Beyond such fog, however, there is the ultimate background that our ego can never notice, where the real joy has eternally rested.
Such a realization is the first step. Now we can set our selfless eyes on this ultimate background. How can we start?
Of course, we don’t have to leave this world and hide ourselves somewhere else. We are still amid various sufferings and face them. The difference is that our primary focus is no longer on them, but on the ultimate background. Our selflessness is aware of it already. As our sense of self vanishes, we forget ourselves. There would be no such a thing as self-indulgent focus. We would live in the realm of selfless awareness.
In Christianity, it is the realm that we see God in everything and everyone.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.Matthew 6:33
In Buddhism, this awareness is articulated as these three categories:
- Higher Virtue (戒, Sīla)
- Higher Mind (定, Samādhi)
- Higher Wisdom (般若, Paññā)
There is nothing special, magical, and esoteric. Our conscience knows the importance of these three in one way or another. It is only our selfishness or ego (the aggregate of five factors) had covered up this simple truth.
What are the details of these three categories? As we know well, the Noble Eightfold Path should be in them:
Higher Virtue (by Five Precepts)
- Right Speech (正語, Sammā-vācā)
- Right Action (正業, Sammā-kammanta)
- Right Livelihood (正命, Sammā-ājīva)
Higher Mind (by Meditation)
- Right Effort (正精進, Sammā-vāyāma)
- Right Mindfulness (正念, Sammā-sati)
- Right Concentration (正定, Sammā-samādhi)
Higher Wisdom (By Four Noble Truths)
- Right View (正見, Samyag-dṛṣṭi)
- Right Intention (正思惟, Sammā-saṅkappa)
Various world sufferings make us panic, which would even selfishly degenerate our values. We have repeated such a cycle ever since throughout human history. Amid such adversity, however, we can always find the way. That is to say, treading the hero’s journey, practicing the noble path, and setting up our eyes to the ultimate background. Then, “all these things shall be added unto you.”
Image by Epic Images