Methods for Ending Suffering

Methods for Ending Suffering

1.Right Understanding and Right View

The Buddhadharma points out that the reality of life is suffering so that we can free ourselves from all suffering. How can this be achieved?

The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism─suffering, the origin of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the path to the cessation of suffering─is the path by which ordinary people can transform themselves into sages. The truth of suffering explains the essence of life; the truth of the path to cessation details methods of spiritual cultivation. The path to cessation had eight components, collectively known as the eightfold noble path; right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. If one has perfected the eightfold noble path, one will realize the liberated state which transcends all suffering. Right view is extremely important. It entails understanding and believing in the law of karma throughout past, present and future lives.

With the right understanding and right view, one will realize that all the suffering he experiences in this life results from the karma he created in innumerable past kalpas, or eons, since beginningless time. People often exclaim, “I have never harmed anyone in my whole life. Why am I being hurt like this?” We need to realize that our present karmic results are derived from the karmic causes we created in previous lives.

Since beginningless time, we have been wandering in samsara, the cycle of birth and death, and have in countless lives created both positive and negative karmic ties with other beings. Positive karmic ties bring us rewards, whereas negative karmic ties bring us retribution. Therefore, we shouldn’t look at the fruition of past karma only in terms of our current lifetime. Many people see evil go unpunished in the current life, so they think that the karmic law doesn’t exist. In fact, even if one who creates evil karma doesn’t receive karmic retribution in the current life, he will not be able to escape from the law of cause and effect in future lives.

2.Refrain from Unwholesome Deeds; Accept Karmic Retribution with Equanimity

How can we cease suffering and attain happiness? First of all, we should stop creating the cause of suffering. That means abstaining from performing unwholesome deeds. We should also accept our karmic retributions with equanimity, while at the same time seeking to save others from suffering. Even when others are causing us to suffer, we should not take it to heart. Instead, we should put ourselves in their shoes and seek to benefit them. This is the spirit of a bodhisattva. If we can follow the bidhisattva path, we will not feel we are being wronged even amid suffering and injustice.

One of my lay disciple was sold away by his parents when he was barely three days old. In his fifties, after his foster parents had passed away, he still had to take up the burden of looking after his biological parents, who were aged and frail. While others felt that this was unfair to him, he simply said to me, “Shifu, I am really blessed. Other people only have two parents. I have four.”

Thinking this way, his mind was calm and happy. On the other hand, he would have felt great pain if he had complained bitterly: “My biological parents were cruel, selling me away when I was barely three days old. How on earth can they expect me to look after them because they are old? This is just is not fare!”

Cases where children make more sacrifices than their parents are rare. Most of the time, it’s the other way around. Is this fair, or not? We shouldn’t cling to ideas of unfairness or injustice. As long as we are able to keep a calm mind, our life will be happier.

In modern societies, everyone talks about fairness and justice, but are they really achievable? With certain things, seeking to be mutually complementary might be the natural course to follow, rather than seeking to be fair. So I think the true meaning of fairness lies in everyone’s fulfilling their own duties and playing their own part, each from their respective position in society.

Especially if one has acquired the right understanding and right view of Buddhism, the, based on the law of karma, he will realize that each individual’s situation is unique in terms of blessings, causes, conditions, and intelligence. Holding this view, we will no longer care if things are fair or not. This way, our minds will be peace and free of vexations, and we won’t be prone to view other people as enemies.

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