The Jedi way and Buddhism - Part 3
While pain is inevitable, we don’t need to experience needless suffering
Needless suffering comes from our trying to hang on to life, which is impermanent, ever changing. Even pleasure can cause suffering if we try to hang on to it.
If we could be released from attachment, we would be released from suffering. And our primary attachment is to the concept of a separate, isolated self--from which we derive all other attachments and experience all other sufferings.
The key is this: We are not attached to things. We are attached to our ideas about things.
Life is real. Reality is good. Goodness, gratitude, love and joy are the natural state of the awakened heart.
When the Buddha discovered the middle way, he attained great understanding. Suffering on its own is not enough, it’s just another form of attachment. His self-hate and self-love are two names for the same thing: attachment to self. And what is self? Self is a construct we create to avoid suffering. A separation of our experience from the oneness of life, like seeing the waves but not the ocean.
Recognition of Buddha’s second fact clarifies his first. Life is truly suffering because we try to run away from its inevitability. The ways we try to scheme and bargain with life’s impermanences are all bound to fail – and bring us further needless suffering. We seek alternative illusions building up more of the same under different names, rather than let go of our faulty viewpoint.
Another cause of suffering is craving, maybe for the right things, but in the wrong way, or wanting what’s beyond our grasp. So since we can’t change life, we can change our values, our way of going about the business of living. Instead of trying to hang onto life, why not become one with it instead?
Discovering the conditions that have contributed to our suffering allows for the opportunity of insight – the final step toward transformation. Insight may show us the reason behind our feelings, for example we may have created too much work in our lives and not allowed enough time for other activities. The resulting constraints on our time can cause frustration.
When we fully face, accept, and lighten the self-amplified sufferings of our lives; when we begin to experience life beyond our delusions and confusions, beyond self, beyond culture, beyond knowledge--what we find is not a meaningless universe of alien forces, but our true home.
Sometimes suffering is much more elusive and darker, it can be painful to look at. For many of us there are aspects of ourselves that we do not want to know and would prefer did not exist.
Luke has just finished a training exercise with Master Yoda when he turns to a dark cave beneath a black tree. “There’s something not right here. I feel cold, death.” He says. “That place,” Replies Yoda “Is strong with the dark side of the force. A domain of evil it is. In you must go.”
The dark side represents all the suffering in life. It is frustration, hatred, anger, and all the negative feelings that come from within us. Luke makes the same mistake as many of us; he believes that his suffering originates from outside of himself, and the apparent source is Darth Vader.
Out of the gloom of the cave Vader seems to appear. Luke ignites his lightsaber and after a brief exchange of blows defeats Vader, separating his head from his body.
Despite this apparent victory Master Yoda later calls Luke’s experience a failure. Luke fails because he is unable to recognize that the source of his suffering – Vader – is in fact within himself. Vader’s mask explodes revealing Luke’s own face. He has not defeated Vader; he has attacked himself.
Luke’s experience shows us that when we think the cause of our suffering is something ‘out there’ we are setting ourselves up for failure and greater suffering. If we blame others or attack our suffering as Luke does, we loose the opportunity to take care of it by being mindful.
Luke cannot accept living on Tatooine. He is bored and feels trapped because Uncle Owen will not let him leave to join the academy. He longs to escape the drudgery and find adventure among the stars.
This is an example of desire that leads to suffering. The desire for Now-being or aversion, the act of running away. It is the desire to be rid of a dissatisfying situation. It is an energy that does not accept life in the presence moment. Just as Luke does while living on Tatooine, many of us believe that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, that Tatooine (or specifically, this moment) is the source of all our problems. We look to the future or to another place to find happiness and disregard the present moment and place.
Luke is unhappy because he cannot leave Tatooine. Luke’s dissatisfaction with his life is the result of three conditions; his apparent imprisonment there, his desire to leave, and his attachment to that desire. If we remove one condition, say Luke’s desire to leave – he would no longer be miserable. To build a fire we need certain conditions to be present, fuel, heat, and oxygen. Without all three elements there cannot be fire. The same is true with suffering; certain conditions are necessary for one to suffer.
Master Qui-Gon informs young Anakin “Your focus determines your reality.” Focusing on all the things that are negative will create a reality that is unbearable. Life would become miserable and we would be blind to all the beauty and joy present in it. If we ignore them because we think that our life will be better somewhere else or in the future, we are bound to suffer right now, right here.
Yoda reproaches Luke because his mind is never focused “on where he was, on what he was doing,” but lost in dreams of excitement. “A Jedi craves not these things,” Yoda says. Craving is fine. It is when a Jedi attaches to a craving that he suffers. And this will happen if the Jedi is not practicing living force mindfulness. When doing this, we can choose to act on our cravings if we think they will benefit us, rather than be a slave to them.
The Dark side is part of all of us and so is suffering. The presence of the dark side does not in itself make one evil, and emotions are not in themselves a weakness. Feelings of hatred and envy are not failures. These things are merely aspects of life. The Jedi practice of mindfulness allows us to understand these conditions and understanding eases suffering.
A dying Anakin Skywalker looks on his son for the first time with his un-masked eyes. Then very weakly he says, “Now…go, my son, leave me.” Luke replies, “No. You’re coming with me. I’ll not leave you here. I’ve got to save you.”
“You already have,” answered Anakin.
The idea that we are separate beings with a permanent character that is good or bad, lazy or generous is one of false beliefs that shroud the understanding of reality. Luke does not adhere to that enshrouding belief when he looks upon his father, he does not see failure, Luke sees the good man his father was and still is, he knew that Anakin could redeem himself.
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Garm wrote: The second fact of life; Attachment (trishna)
Luke cannot accept living on Tatooine. He is bored and feels trapped because Uncle Owen will not let him leave to join the academy. He longs to escape the drudgery and find adventure among the stars. This is an example of desire that leads to suffering.
Wow...this really struck me. Now I can't understand how I didn't make this connection between fantasy and suffering, haha. I spent much of my youth feeling miserable, and now I understand why: I was never content with where I was. My mind, like Luke's, was never on what I was doing, rather on where I wanted to be...out among the stars, or simply just away from here. The only way I could bear getting through the days was to dream of being somewhere else, and yet that exact thing was the cause of my suffering. :blink:
Thank you for posting this. I feel like a blinding light just went off in my mind.
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