Ain’t no thing


BuddhaIn the last few days I’ve had a few things go wrong with this body – none of them worth writing home about, but, added together, annoying enough. Bad allergies, stomach pains, an infected finger, a fever, and less of my taken-for-granted ability to dive into my heart and stay there.

High time to transform this physical suffering because that is what Kadampa Buddhists do – we love suffering! Don’t we?! Hmmm. Maybe. Or at least we try not to mind it too much, and use it to make spiritual progress. Eventually, yes, we love it, for I have met lots of practitioners who love quite major suffering already. I admire them and aspire to their attainments, for then suffering will hold no fear. The end goal is to put a stop to our own and others’ suffering forever, and we use the appearance of suffering to help us get there. So this is a short tale of what I tried today.

(Look, admittedly, this is not going to be an inspiring account of how I transformed cancer. A few minor ailments are nothing in the grand scheme of things, I know that, in fact it is sort of the point; but you have to start somewhere and the important thing is to deal with whatever is arising for you.)

The tale of a sore finger

So this story starts first thing this morning with my finger, or, more precisely, the top inch of my finger. Who knew that such a small area of the body could throb so much! It makes me realize that there is not an inch of my body that is not ready to hurt me, that inevitably will hurt me if I insist on identifying myself with meat and nerve endings.

finger

Yuk.

I made the mistake of looking up infected fingers on Google, to discover the horrible truth that, left untreated, I was about to lose my whole finger… and that the infection could spread to other fingers and (left unsaid but I could see where this was going) I would soon lose my entire hand!!! Aarggh! My finger is now the most important finger in the whole wide world! It has to be saved! Moral of the tale: stop surfing the internet while under the influence of self-cherishing, it doesn’t help. To be fair, Google was useful on the home remedies front, and I’ve been dutifully dipping said finger into a mixture of warm water and apple cider vinegar for 15 minutes several times a day, during which times it is interesting to see how little else gets done.

kitten

Jampa the Kitten

Between finger-soaking and nose-blowing and stomach clutching and general woe-is-me’ness, early this morning I decided to be nice and wash some of the soiled litter off the tiny soft paws of this harmless-looking round kitten. But appearances are deceptive, I discovered not for the first time, when he yowled and sunk his nasty scratchy sharp nails right into my poor swollen finger. I allowed myself a little optimism as the blood spurted, “Perhaps he has lanced this wound, saving me a visit to the doctor for surgery and amputation!”, but alternatively, I then thought, he might have added cat scratch fever to my list of ailments. I’m never going to foster horrible little kittens again …

Aarrghh! self-cherishing feeling sorry for itself and blaming others again … Clearly it was time for some contemplation on all of this, or my day was going to get away from me.

Lesson #1 ~ renunciation

Samsara throws up one problem after another, waves on an ocean. No sooner have we dealt with one thing — the thing we thought was all that was standing in the way of us and unbounded happiness – then something else comes up.

“There’s always something”, as my friend M said to me last week, “until there isn’t.”

And that “isn’t” time will only come when we recognize, reduce, and abandon permanently our self-grasping ignorance, destroying the ocean of samsaric suffering once and for all.

If we think about our suffering out of self-grasping and self-cherishing, we suffer. If we think about it to inspire us to overcome true sufferings and true origins, we have the liberating thought of renunciation, not suffering.lotus 1

This sore finger ain’t no thing — doesn’t matter — as they say, compared with the sufferings of my countless future lives.

We blame others, even kittens, whining away like “childish ones”, as Buddha described us; but all the blame can rightfully be laid on our own self-grasping. Not understanding that the things we normally see do not exist, grasping at a world outside of the mind, we develop self-cherishing, anger, and attachment, which in turn create the contaminated karma that cause our endless problems to appear. Other living beings and situations can only ever be conditions for our own karma to ripen.

Lesson # 2 ~ no self, no problem

To destroy the whole of our samsara with its literally endless problems, we only need to re-think the way we are viewing things. How hard is that, given that we currently have access to all the teachings on how to do it? As the great Yogi Saraha says, in one of my favorite quotes:

lotus 2If your mind is released permanently from self-grasping, there is no doubt that you will be released permanently from suffering.

Or, put this way:

No self, no problem.

The things we normally see do not exist, and that includes ourself, sore fingers, and everything else.

I cannot be found anywhere in my body or mind, and nor can I be found anywhere else. I hurt because I mush my sense of I up with my finger, but I am not my finger. You cannot find me in there, even though I say “Ow, I hurt”, or “This is hurting me,” or even “My finger hurts”. Where is the I that owns the finger? 
Geshe-la

Also, Geshe Kelsang says:

It is true that our body that we normally see does not exist, and there is no body other than this; but we mistakenly believe that our body that we normally see actually exists and, because of this, we experience sufferings of the body such as sickness as a hallucination, as a mistaken appearance, as like a dream. ~ How to Understand the Mind, p. 311

My finger cannot be found in its parts or anywhere else — try pointing to your finger without pointing at its parts.

So the suffering finger that I normally see is not really there — it is like an hallucination, like the suffering in a dream.

This sore finger ain’t no thing, for it cannot be found anywhere.

Lesson # 3 ~ compassion

I decided that my finger was like a portal into the lives of others — those, for example, who have lost limbs in fighting, or those not born with any limbs to begin with, or burn victims with large parts of their skin in agony. Let alone all those in the lower realms. I wouldn’t necessarily think about these people if I didn’t have to transform this paltry finger pain, and so my compassion would not develop.

Similar to renunciation, if we think about our own suffering out of self-cherishing we suffer, but if we use it to think about others’ suffering we develop the wish to free them, which is the peaceful mind of compassion, not suffering. 

Just as I was thinking this, the kittens climbed up onto my shoulders, where they are now as well, and started snuffling into my ears. (Sometime in their journey to safety from the kill shelter in Pampa, Texas they developed upper respiratory problems). It was not hard to see that my suffering is NOTHING compared with theirs, and all I want is for them to be out of those kitten bodies and into human bodies or better, ASAP. How is that going to happen if I don’t make it happen?

This sore finger ain’t no thing compared with the sufferings of countless other living beings.

Lesson # 4 ~ Tantra

There is no suffering in the Pure Land. If out of renunciation and compassion I dissolve everything into bliss and the wisdom realizing that all the things I normally see do not exist — including my entire meaty body, self, mind, and world — I can then appear myself Buddha's handsas Buddha Vajrayogini in the Pure Land, and the basis of suffering has gone for ever. Buddhas’ fingers give rise to nothing but endless bliss and benefit.

So my sore finger is reminding me to go straight away, now, to the Pure Land — why hang out any longer in a meaty body that can hurt all over, and sooner or later no doubt will, especially given my increasing age? Let alone all the bodies I’ll have to keep taking in all my future lives. Nasty stuff. It has to stop now, I have to stop ordinary conceptions and appearances.

I am switching to Keajra channel and staying there, resisting any temptation to flick back to samsara channel on the frankly remote chance that something better might be on. That hasn’t happened yet.

This sore finger ain’t no thing in the Pure Land.

Conclusion

Having had quite some success with this contemplation despite my fever, and feeling pretty darned good by now, I then applied these lines of thought to my running nose and my stomach ache, and threw in a few emotional issues too while I was at it. And, just as Buddha promised, I felt better and better the more grist I threw to the mill.

rainbow swingI even came to the conclusion that I’m loving me some suffering! (However, lets not push it … )

The ability to transform our everyday appearances of suffering into something immensely meaningful and joyful is HUGE, and a major hallmark of a genuine Kadampa. So I’d like to open this conversation up to you — inspire us, have you used Buddha’s teachings to transform your suffering?

Ps, My finger miraculously cured itself while I was writing this.

 

Comments

  1. Michele Thorsen says:

    I’ve had insomnia and other sleeping problems for 20 years which have prevented me from sleeping through the night for, well, 20 years!

    Until I met Dharma, I felt very sorry for myself and couldn’t transform any of it. However, once I learned about the 4 Noble Truths, renunciation, compassion and Tantra, it was spiritual alchemy: I was given the ability to transform all of it into the spiritual path.

    The fact that if I accept this chronic fatigue patiently, I am purifying aeons of negative karma is immensely gratifying. The fact that my fatigue and resultant physical pain enable me to tune into the fatigue and pain of others lessens my myopia. And the fact that my sleeping problems have probably been emanated by Guru Buddha in order for me to make quick spiritual progress is indescribably kind. As Gen-la Dekyong said at the US Festival last week, “Our suffering is the quick path to enlightenment.”

    • Beautifully expressed! Plus I know you do all this so well, it’s inspiring how cheerful and patient you remain on no sleep. In fact i’d like to testify that you are one of the most fantastic Kadampas in the world🙂

  2. Hi Luna, all, this article reminded me of a poem that I wrote a few months ago, when contemplating the benefits of suffering. I hope it adds value to this thread..I called it:
    ‘Something’ –
    I feel I must write something down. Something that I can return to. Something to remind me of the true balance of existence.
    It is only when existence seems truly fragile that I know the real light of reality will appear. It is only then that the veil of my delusions are truly lifted – exposed. There is no question, no question of the power of delusions at this time. All from my mind that is born of ego lies at my feet begging for forgiveness. Even the passing of earth air upon my face overwhelms the value of any desire. The only desire that remains is to feel that air. The past and the future roll into one and the present moment becomes the whole.
    The day dreams of grandeur, the images of worldly success, the barriers that must be torn down – all diverge away into emptiness. When reality is harvested, the crop is thin, bright and weightless, but stretches to infinity. The souls that I have touched closest are of concern now, but the colour and lightness of their spirit dissolves into the mist. Something beautiful resides. Something pure. Something free of human convention. Something real. The something of reality – pure timeless consciousness, the mirror of my mind.
    As the mist fades, I hold on to its peace for as long as I can. Until the next time…

  3. Franco says:

    I’m inspired –
    I, myself have been suffering from a crazy rash ‘Hives’ all over my body for 2 weeks. They say rashes are ‘idiopathic’ which largely means – with no knowable source. ‘Idio’ is the root word in Greek for ‘individual’ like idiosyncratic. So… PERFECT! I have and idio ‘problem’! manifesting as a maddeningly itchy and unsightly emblem on the whole external fascia of my being. It is a billboard that announces shameful secrets that are terribly untrue when I dissolve it away into Quick Path and painfully true when I emerge into Ordinary. The secret (maybe not so secret) is my disordered mind!
    The hives sadly – have not disappeared –
    but neither has my faith!

  4. I’d say “Sorry to hear you’re not feeling well”, but it sounds like it’s done you some good! I so enjoy the explanations of how to deal with things that pop up in samsara!
    I had to get an epidural in my neck & I figured since I was enduring this pain, I might as well take it on for every other person who had to have that same procedure that day. It made me happy to help others!
    I also thought about how I would accept any outcome of this procedure. If I was better, ok. If I was paralyzed or died, ok. The outcome was my karma & I would patiently accept it.
    I think I have more of an understanding of why we do this, every time I practice it.
    Peace, Luna. And thank you for appearing to me! 😊💗

    • That’s a great example, good job. I know what you mean about getting a deeper understanding of why we do it every time we practice it. Sometimes you just got to do something to understand the benefits.

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