How to Spend the Day Without Experiencing Suffering

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Athula Sibera

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  • How to spend the day without experiencing suffering (part 1)

    All of us wish to spend each day without experiencing any sorts of suffering. Even, animals feel the same

    way in this respect. Man or animal stops at nothing to achieve this.

    What is suffering (dukkha)?

    A mango ripens and rots subsequently due to its inherent nature of dukkha. A child grows to a youth,

    an adult and an old man and finally dies due to nature of dukkha associated with the life. In this

    circumstance, dukkha could be identified as the incidence of constant change of the present status of

    phenomena and taking up a different form at the same time.

    The pain resulting from an injury, hunger is also known as dukkha. In the ultimate sense, this is a

    feeling of pain resulting from the phenomenon referred to as dukkha. Dukkha is the cause and the

    feeling of pain (also referred to as duka in Sinhala) is the result. In the case of hunger, an individual

    feels the pain of hunger (duka in Sinhala) as a result of changes that take place in his physical body

    (process of dukkha) due to the lack of food. So, the pain of hunger is the result of the phenomenon of

    dukkha. However, we tend to view the cause (dukkha) and effect (feeling of pain) as one thing at

    present. The ultimate meaning of dukkha has lost its original sense in the present society.

    As mentioned earlier, feelings or sensations are the results of the phenomenon of dukkha. Feelings

    could be categorised in to three parts; feelings of happiness (sukha), feelings of unhappiness (dukkha)

    and feelings of equanimity (upekkha). Depending on the type of change or transformation, feelings of

    happiness, unhappiness or equanimity would ensue. This means that every sensation is a result of a

    certain change or transformation (dukkha). Everything in the world is subject to constant change or

    transformation, according to the teachings of the Buddha. Everything is in a constant state of flux. This is

    the universal truth.

    The universal truth of constant change cannot be altered or reversed at all. However, the sensations,

    which are caused by this constant change and prevalent in the world, could be managed to a great

    extent by the way the mind accepts these changes. We need to explore this possibility in depth. The

    mind could accept an object with an intense attachment. Also, the mind could accept an object from a

    perspective of detachment. The degree of attachment or detachment would cause corresponding

    degree of sensations in the mind. For example, if one attaches to an object intensely, that causes

    intense, painful sensations in the mind.

    If one understands the impermanent nature of phenomena, then, one does not cling to objects with an

    intense degree of attachment. When this nature is not comprehended by individuals, then, they

    experience mental distress when the objects they attached to undergo natural changes. They struggle

    mentally to keep in touch with the objects they like on a permanent basis, even though those objects

    are in a constant state of flux. This is the primary cause of unsatisfactory, stressful mental sensations.

  • The suffering caused by non-awareness and inability to accept the reality of constant change has

    brought about misery to our lives and our surroundings. If there is a methodology for us to get rid of this

    stressful way of life and convert it to a pleasant one, we need to direct our attention to this particular

    methodology constantly.

    The Supreme Buddha has pointed out that whenever a stress or pain arises in the mind, it is caused by a

    combination of five mental qualities (dhammas). First, a thought of clinging, I need this, causes mental

    pain. Intense desire is the underlying cause of mental pain in all the cases. This nature in the mind is

    referred to as passion (raga). We know that everything is in a constant state of flux. However, we are

    always preoccupied with the thought that a particular change should not have happened and wish the

    opposite to happen at all times.

    The second tendency is mind becoming irritated when things do not happen the way one wants. This

    leads to causing aversion (dosa) in an individual. Then, an individual acts based on the aversion through

    non-awareness of his state of mind mixed with aversion. This would aggravate his aversion further. The

    non-awareness of this whole process is identified as delusion (moha), which is the third tendency of the

    mind. Next stage would be the arising of conceit (mana) in this individual. He begins to think of his self-

    esteem, social status, wealth, power etc. in the context of his anger. Then he plans to get out of this

    situation and find peace through various means. This mental planning process id identified as wrongful

    view (ditthi).

    When the mind is made up with above mentioned five negative qualities, that leads to further

    aggravates the momentum of the mind and creates an immense burning situation in the mind. Every

    time a painful feeling arises in the mind, these five negative qualities appear as integral parts of the

    mind.

    We need to understand that our mind which goes through painful, stressful situations most of the time

    during a day consists of these five negative qualities.