The First Noble Truth is,
Life is Suffering.
Whether my own or someone else’s I have always been keenly aware of this. I see myself in a small boat cast upon a dark sea of turbulent emotion as I witness the suffering of others. It is out there and it is plentiful. Sometimes I am out to sea, floating on the surface of the water. Tossed about by my own set of life challenges.
At a younger age all suffering was my own. Life experience and introspection have given me the skills to somewhat detach myself. Otherwise I am paralyzed. At times I have cloaked myself in judgement, even ridicule to feel safe. But at this stage of life I tend to feel compassion more than anything else.
The Second Noble Truth is,
Suffering is caused by Desire.
Again true. For me it is the desire for things to be something other than what they are. I want to comfort or ease the suffering of others. Sometimes this is possible. Oftentimes I must be a silent witness and allow them to work their way through the situation on their own.
For some reason I labor under the illusion that there is a state of arrival where there is naught but peace and emotions are still and calm. I have heard of this state. I have visited this state. But I do not live there. I am coming to the awareness that we are not meant to live there. I think only in death are there complete silence and peace. Life is loud and rambunctious. My personal tolerance for loud is less than most so I do what I can to turn the volume down.
The Third Noble Truth is,
Freedom from Suffering is found by relinquishing Desire.
This is something I do every minute of every day. Let go. I think I learned to cling so tightly from my up bringing. When every decision puts your immortal soul in peril, you cling pretty tightly to concepts like right and wrong, good and evil. You are not just responsible for yourself but everyone else too. If you do not fulfill your responsibilities they will suffer an eternity of torment and it is your fault. Your best is never really good enough.
” For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me… Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” Psalm 51:3&5. You know Original Sin and all that.
For some reason, I feel that I must hold it, guard it, keep it, least it not be witnessed and valued. Like it is disrespectful to move on completely. Duality is not really a part of my philosophy anymore but the attachment remains, attachment to people, places, things, outcomes, responsibilities real and imagined.
The Fourth Noble Truth,
The 8 Fold Path.
Although I prefer the word Appropriate to Right, I have found these guiding principles helpful.
This is seeing things as they are. Clearing the filters of your subjectivity and obtaining an objective perspective. Good luck! It is a complex life long goal as are all the Noble Truths. The best I have been able to accomplish in my 40 years is this. I have a “personal” opinion and a “professional” opinion about most issues. One is weighted with all of my emotional baggage. The other is my best stab at a realistic, nuanced understanding of human nature. There are magical moments when they agree. And I have to admit this happens more and more.
Why do I do the things I do? Look within, “Know Thyself”. I realize that this is a choice on my part. Most of the time it is my natural inclination toward good intentions and when it is not I usually choose to be “The Righteous (Wo)Man”.
Do the right thing. Not because I crave reward. Not that I fear punishment. Those days are far behind me. I can do whatever I want but have found it advantageous to long term tranquility to err on the side of compassion. Do my actions bring peace and unity? Or do they feed strife and suffering.
Our words can heal or harm. Be aware of what you say. Your words are a great barometer for your thoughts and our thoughts conscious and unconscious guide behavior.
Do what you love and let your living match your principles and philosophy. Minimize dissonance and maximize harmony in all aspects of your life.
Put your efforts into projects that are worthwhile. Do not fritter away your time and energy on things that do not edify you and others. Worry comes to mind.
Meditation, prayer without ceasing, focus. Maintaining our awareness not just in quiet times but while we go about our daily activities.
Detachment, maintaining composure in the hustle and bustle of Life.
The 8 fold path seems to lead us out of ourselves and give us ways to contribute to our communities. Ultimately I can only be responsible for myself. And if I take this responsibility seriously it not only makes my life better but it ripples out touching the lives of everyone with which I interact.
I have been asked if I am a Buddhist and never tire of the shocked looks I get when I answer no. From my studies it seems antithetical to the precepts of Buddhism to actually be a Buddhist. But I do embrace him like a brother on the path and thank him kindly for sharing his Wisdom with us.