Oh, Darkness

The fundamental teaching of Buddhism is The Four Noble Truths. The First Noble Truth is that all humans will experience suffering. The Second Noble Truth is that the cause of this suffering is our ignorance. One must become aware of this ignorance to overcome suffering.

Often, people will confuse pain with suffering. Some will ask, ”If I break my leg I suffer, what does that have to do with ignorance?” Suffering differs from pain. Pain is a natural sensation. Injury or illness causes pain. Pain is a signal that something is wrong with your body. Treat the problem and the pain will usually disappear. However, suffering caused by ignorance goes much deeper. Recently, I heard a Zen minister tell a story on this topic.

This minister told of his pet cat. The cat became ill and for the last four years of its life had to receive daily injections. Each day, upon getting this injection, the cat would give a short yelp and then begin to purr. The events leading up to the disease did not concern the cat, nor did the future consequences. He did not think, “My Uncle Tomcat had this same disease. I wonder if it is hereditary? Maybe my children will get it also. If I had taken better care of myself maybe I wouldn’t be sick.” Nor did he think, “My owner is an idiot, he doesn’t know how to give a shot.” The cat reacted to the pain and then forgot it. How often in your life have you been unable to do the same?

Buddhism teaches that ignorance is not a lack of intellectual knowledge. Rather, it is our resistance to accepting things as they are. We view the world through the looking glass of our personal expectations. We expect others to act as we want, when they do not we suffer. Expecting events to have only positive results, failure brings suffering. We wish for pleasure to last and misfortune to never occur. This self centered approach can only lead to suffering.

Legend says that at the moment of his enlightenment Shakyamuni Buddha cried, “Avidya!” A common translation is, “Oh, darkness!” He was not speaking of a physical darkness. He was exclaiming his realization of the depth of his ignorance. After years of various practices, while meditating under the pippal tree, he became aware the cause of all suffering lies within. External forces or devils did not exist. In his personal hell of suffering the devil was his ignorance. His enlightenment was his acceptance of his ignorance. Accepting his ignorance as the cause of his suffering, he was able to follow a path leading to overcoming this suffering.

The term “Buddha” means “Enlightened One.” All humans have the capacity to become a Buddha. Move beyond a self centered view of the world. Understand the common thread, the Oneness, of all things. Accept your ignorance. Overcome your suffering.

For more information about Buddhism and Zen meditation in Kenosha contact me at BASEWI@aol.com.