Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Suffering has many good qualities

(6.21) Moreover, suffering has many good qualities.
Through experiencing it, we can dispel pride,
Develop compassion for those trapped in samsara,
Abandon non-virtue, and delight in virtue.

Suffering has good qualities for those intent on following and completing a spiritual path.  If our motivation is worldly, in other words our main goal is to secure for ourselves worldly happiness in this life, then suffering is an unambiguous bad.  If, however, our intention is to follow and complete a spiritual path leading to permanent liberation and enlightenment, then suffering is spiritual fuel.  Just as a car cannot go forward without gasoline, so too a spiritual life cannot progress without suffering.  The truth is simple:  we are lazy.  When life is good, we feel no need to practice Dharma.  But when we are confronted with real suffering, then we realize ordinary solutions don’t work and our desire to practice Dharma becomes intense.  We see it as the only real solution to our problems, both temporarily and ultimately.

People whose primary motivation is spiritual are not afraid of suffering.  When suffering arises, they welcome it because they appreciate its usefulness and many good qualities.  Geshe-la said “we should learn to enjoy our suffering” because so many good things arise from it.  We must try and learn from suffering, not to run away from it.  This does not mean we should seek out suffering.  Suffering will come naturally because we are in samsara.  Obviously if we can avoid the suffering that arises, we should do so and there is no fault in doing so.  But for all unavoidable suffering, we should wholeheartedly welcome it as a gift from our Spiritual Guide and our Dharma Protector.  They are providing for us the conditions we need to make the next step on the spiritual path.

At present we worry about suffering.  We worry about what may happen to us.  In particular, we are very attached to certainty of knowing what is going to happen to us, and so we stress and we plan.  We think certain possibilities are good and others are to be avoided at all costs.  Why?  Every situation is equally empty, so every situation is equally transformable.  No one situation, one place, one job, one partner is better than any other.  Most of the time we go through life trying to manage our attachments and aversions.  True freedom is learning how to equally enjoy any possibility that may arise.  When we are forced to confront unavoidable suffering, we are given the opportunity to expand our mind in this way.  When we believe all of our suffering is emanated for us by Dorje Shugden then we know even though it is unpleasant, it is exactly what we need.  This doesn’t mean Dorje Shugden causes our suffering, rather it means we have the karma to suffer, but he gives us the wisdom blessings necessary to transform it into something useful.  Somebody who has the mind of patience is comfortable with uncertainty, in fact they embrace it, because they know it will be the fuel of their practice.

If we run away from our suffering and not accept it, then we’re going to be stuck in samsara forever.  That’s definite.  We will still grasp at some set of karmic appearances being good and others being inherently bad.  Samsara is not our external world.  Samsara is our delusions.  Our delusions wrongly grasp at external good and bad, and therefore they trap us.  Wisdom realizes every situation is equally good, just in different ways.  Freedom is being able to go anywhere with anybody experiencing anything and finding it all equally useful for our spiritual development.  I am not saying we run towards our suffering, but we stop running away from it and avoiding it and worrying what may happen to us.  Running away from it is not just a physical action, in fact it is primarily mental.  We mentally do not “welcome” the suffering in our life, rather we use all of our mental energy to try push it away and figure out how we can avoid it all while grasping at it as being inherently bad.  Such thinking misses the point of why these situations are being emanated.  We need to put all that to one side and stop worrying.

We can’t run away from suffering because it’s going to come our way anyway. That’s what we’ve got to accept about samsara.  We’re still not accepting life in samsara is the nature of suffering. We can’t change that fact. Suffering will never come to an end within samsara.  If we’re in samsara that is what we have to experience. We can’t change that. So we accept it, whatever comes our way, we accept, and then we use it, we use it to enhance our progress along the spiritual path, for example by dispelling our pride, developing renunciation, compassion, and so forth.

There is no meaning in rejecting suffering.  For ordinary people, when suffering arises they just try to avoid it, but then more comes and more and it is endless.  If instead we develop the courage to welcome it, confront it, then we can use it and we can finally bring suffering to an end.  We can do this if we recognize the good qualities of suffering.  It does require a tremendous amount of familiarity, starting off by voluntarily enduring or accepting minor sufferings, and then increasing our capacity until we can endure major ones.  But if we persevere in this practice, we will eventually succeed.  Then we will know true freedom.


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