In Buddhism, the first of the Four Noble Truths says life is suffering. Why does it say so? Perhaps, it is the sentiment that most of us feel now and then. And we tend to agree with the “truth” that life is suffering. There are full of difficulties and challenges in our lives. Often, these things overwhelm us.
Some of us even say life is patient and we have to drag ourselves hoping someday in the near or far future, we will be able to gain our peaceful life and finally proclaim life is not suffering, but beautiful and perfect.
Is that so?
We should not see the first truth of the Four Noble Truths separately. It should be complete only when we see all of four as one set.
The second truth says there is a source of suffering, which is our self-consciousness. It is not that life is suffering as one objective fact. More strictly speaking, we feel and think that life is suffering. We are the ones who say life is suffering. It is our subjectivity.
So, if I try to paraphrase these first and second truths, then I could say as follows:
- Life is suffering.
- That is what we think so.
Like the Buddha did thousands of years ago, with the recognition of the first and second, the third and fourth truths would almost naturally come out. That is to say, there must be a solution for suffering, and the answer is the Noble Eightfold Path.
And, if I try to paraphrase these third and fourth truths, then I could say as follows:
- So, the solution should rest on ourselves.
- There are eight ways to make ourselves “right.”
What are those eight ways? As mentioned reportedly in other entries, these are:
- Right view
- Right resolve
- Right speech
- Right conduct
- Right livelihood
- Right effort
- Right mindfulness
- Right concentration
The first two paths are more for our insight and wisdom; the second three are for moral values; and, the third three are for the realm of mind and consciousness.
While these sound methodical, these are the critical components to make ourselves “right.” Moreover, these are the ways for us to see our lives “right.”
Indeed, when we say life is suffering, it means that we don’t see our lives correctly. It is our wrong recognition. We see it wrong. In other words, only if and when we can see our lives “right,” the truth can reveal itself in front of us. That is to say:
- Life is not suffering.
It might sound counterintuitive. But what it means is that life is not suffering if we see it “right.” Let me repeat this phrase:
- Life is not suffering if we see it “right.”
When we say life is suffering, we are indulging ourselves too much with the imaginary surface of what we call our lives. It is the false consciousness that our ego sees ourselves. When we say life is suffering, we see an illusion and delusion of what we call our lives.
If so, what is life on earth? If we see it “right,” what can we call our lives? What can we call life itself. We can say:
- Life is beautiful.
- Life is perfect.
Does it sound deceptive and naively affirmative? Does it seem too good to be true?
In reality, people suffer a lot. Every day we must be strong and brave to face various challenges in our lives. Every day we have to overcome fears and anxieties that overwhelm us. There are numerous cruelties everywhere. How can we say life is beautiful and perfect on earth? In our eyes, life is never fair and complete. In our eyes, life is indeed suffering.
Yes, that is true. In our eyes, life is suffering. That is the bold reality that we see ourselves. That is the reality of our self-consciousness.
Seeing “right” means, therefore, understanding life, not through our eyes, but the eyes of Spirit. It is the eyes of Emptiness and the eyes of God.
Life is suffering in the reality that we see ourselves in our consciousness. That is true. However, life is beautiful and perfect in the “reality” that God sees Himself in His consciousness. We can never see it in our selfish eyes.
Both John the Baptist and Jesus Christ knew it. That is why both of them started their mission with the same statement:
In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.Matthew 3:1-2
From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.Matthew 4:17
Even in their days, sufferings were everywhere. People strongly believed life was suffering. They were consciously and unconsciously in despair. They did not have any hope in their lives. But then, both John the Baptist and Jesus Christ declared the opposite view about life. They said the kingdom of heaven is at hand. I repeat this phrase:
- The kingdom of heaven is at hand.
The kingdom of heaven is the realm that we call life is beautiful and perfect. And according to them, such flawlessness is at hand. It is here with us.
Where is it? We can’t see it. No, we can’t see it with our selfish eyes. We must see it “right.” We must see it without our selfish eyes, but the eyes of God.
For, the kingdom of heaven can never exist in our self-consciousness. It does exist only in God’s consciousness. When we see ourselves, life is suffering. When God sees Himself, life is beautiful and perfect. So, what should we do?
Both John the Baptist and Jesus Christ told us that we must repent. With repentance, we can surrender our selfish eyes and rely on God’s eyes. It is the way for us to see our lives “right.”
In Greek, repentance means metanoia (μετάνοια), which implies the transformative change of heart, mind, and soul. It is not a mere feeling of regret, but more for one’s determination to turn oneself to God.
Only in doing so, we could realize that life we see is an illusion and delusion derived by our desires and selfishness. In doing so, we could see a glimpse of the realm that God sees Himself, that is God’s consciousness.
Only in this realm, we can see the truth that life is beautiful and perfect. Thus, we can never know this truth and locate it in the physical, external realm. Jesus said:
And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.Luke 17:20-21
Stop indulging ourselves with our selfish eyes to see our lives. Otherwise, we can never keep us from the state of the life-is-suffering sentiment. Forget ourselves and seek God and His Kingdom first without our selfish eyes. Only then, we could “see” life is beautiful and perfect.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.Matthew 6:33
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