Sciamachy (sciamachy) wrote in sangha,

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I think some of my thoughts on the subject of dukkha (suffering, disappointment, the unsatisfactory nature of life) that I've posted previously were somewhat coloured by depression I was going through last year or thereabouts.

I've since been reading Thich Nhat Hanh's "The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching". Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist cleric who, aged 16 iirc, went on a peace mission to the US at the height of the Vietnam war. As a result he was exiled from Vietnam by the communist authorities there and he currently lives in the South of France.

Hanh's book concentrates a lot on suffering, particularly the first few chapters. He takes great pains to explain Buddhism's view of it, and he says suffering is not universal and unavoidable at all. He says that the Buddha gets us to look at our suffering carefully, break down the problem and work at finding solutions. Much of what causes our suffering is down to bad habits - which might be drinking too much, being snappy at people without thinking, driving aggressively, not getting enough sleep, not eating right, or whatever - or lack of good habits like not meditating regularly, not doing nice things for other people, not telling your partner you love them, or maybe not backing that up with actions. There are 1001 causes and more of suffering. BUT the reason Buddhism concentrates so much on these things is kind of like a driving instructor.

A what? Bear with me on this a moment. When you take driving lessons, it's all "Watch out for the kerb!" "Slow down!" "You're too close to those parked cars!" - an endless stream of what-ifs and admonishments because of potential dangers. They're trying to get you into good habits, and one of those good habits is predicting what might happen, being aware of the dangers or potential dangers around you. If you're aware of the child playing behind that parked car, you can slow down to 20mph as you pass the car, in case she darts out into the road after a ball. You can take steps to avoid things becoming a problem.

When you've passed your test and become a good driver, driving ceases to be the nightmare of endless hazards that it used to be. It becomes fun. The natural state of humanity is one of joy - it's only when we bash into things or fail to maintain ourselves that we cease to feel that joy. Buddhism gives us a kind of combined Roadcraft Police Driver's Manual and Haynes Workshop Manual for our lives. You keep to the service and maintenance schedule, and drive according to the defensive rules, and you get back to just enjoying existence in its joyful natural state.

Anyway, that's my interpretation of it - feel free to criticise as long as it's constructive.
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