So this guy gives up the luxuries of a royal prince and being heir to the throne for a life of a moneyless, homeless tramp. Then after years of self induced hardship he finally discovers Enlightenment and the path to happiness.
Yet when he first speaks about this momentous achievement he doesn’t describe the delights of what he has now or the ecstasies of what he has uncovered. Instead Buddha opens his first ever teaching with
“There is suffering”
If that was today, his TV show ratings would immediately drop and anyone online would be off surfing elsewhere for happiness and joy. People don’t want to hear that, we just want happiness and nothing else.
But there is comfort in what at first appears to be a dreary sentence. He didn’t say “you are suffering” or even “we all suffer” but “there is suffering”.
“There is….” means that the pain and sadness isn’t mine or yours; the universe isn’t out to get me. In some ways the suffering isn’t even my fault (but I don’t properly understand that yet), it’s just there
If that is the case, then those dark times when my mind turns inward and can only see negatives and a lack of any self worth (“cant do my job”, “I am a terrible husband and an awful father”, “everyone can see through my sellotape thin layer of self confidence”) is just wrong.
It’s not my fault or someone else’s. THIS IS JUST HOW IT IS and looking for fault in a person or system won’t solve anything.
There is a freedom in seeing it in that way; a freedom from hating myself, from raging against the decisions of government, from slagging off my boss(es) for their decisions and policies; from bemoaning my friends and family for their way of living. Because doing any of that won’t solve anything, because they didn’t cause this suffering, this dukkha, it is just there.
And if I can return accurately and gently to that idea and just let go of my perception of suffering then progress is possible.