The Four Noble truths – Chap 9: The Causes of Suffering


-The Causes of Suffering-

These are the causes of suffering.

In the Four Noble Truths, the Buddha first talked about the effect, then later He talked about the cause.

First, He talked about the Suffering.
Second, He talked about the Causes of Suffering.
Third, He talked about the Enlightenment, the Nirvana, which is the Extinction of Suffering. Fourth, He talked about the Path that guide people to the Enlightenment.

In the argument of the Four Noble Truths, the Buddha presented a counter-order. He stated the matter of suffering and then He showed us the causes of suffering.

By nature, suffering is people’s life in the Circle of Birth. If people practice Buddhism and they can achieve their high wisdoms and thoroughly perceive the Truth in the Buddha’s teachings, and they can have a little happiness in the Circle of Birth.

Anyhow, the Circle of Birth is suffering. The human’s life is suffering. In the Circle of Birth, some people might have a little luck, a little happiness thanks to their previous accumulating merit and good cause. This means those people did live a life of practice the Eight Fold-Path, did good deeds, and now they can receive a little happiness. However, this is only temporary happiness. This is not eternal happiness since they hadn’t completed their practice of the Eight Fold-Path.

Besides the root of suffering being selfishness, the additional causes of suffering include greed, anger, stupidity, arrogance, doubt, and annoyance. Before selfishness, there is ignorance and clinging to ego in human’s mind.

We only use an understandable word “selfishness” to simplify the cause of suffering. In fact, in Sutta the literal word “love” is the cause of suffering. The meaning of love in that context is selfish love. Because of its selfishness, it causes the suffering. If we said that love is the cause of suffering, we will be confused. Love by itself has many kinds. Only selfish love can cause people to suffer. In brief, selfishness is the cause of suffering.

One argument supposes that ignorance is the cause of suffering. The argument is absolutely correct, because ignorance is the root of selfishness. However, true ignorance is something too abstract, too contemplative in religious philosophy for new Buddhists to understand. So new comers find it hard to accept. We are only human beings, we can hardly understand what ignorance is. Only Arhats can fully understand what ignorance is.

When a practitioner goes deep into meditation, his intuitive cognition immediately goes deeper and deeper through many layers. His mind will be wiped cleaned of all his errors and fetters. His last layer is as light as a tiny white cloud, and then he obtains individually each reward of various stages of saintly attainment. His mind had been packed with greed, anger, stupidity, arrogance, doubt, and annoyance. But when he reaches deep concentration, he can gradually destroy all the bonds, until he can see the last light layer. This last layer is called ignorance. People who practice meditation in a basic level can’t see the last light layer, because they haven’t reached the deep concentration. Some practitioners could stay in the deep concentration in seven days, and their minds are completely peaceful and purified, yet they haven’t seen the last layer of ignorance. They can perceive the eternal peace, the tranquility of space and time, they can’t see yet the last layer of ignorance since their mind haven’t sufficiently reached the deepest concentration.

Therefore, only the Buddha and Arhats could state they attained Enlightenment and destroyed their ignorance. They were only the persons who could see how human beings go around and around the Circle of Birth, go around in the transmigration, and where a life starts to come, but They couldn’t tell us how the Enlightenment is. Words can hardly describe the state of Nirvana.

While ignorance is too vague to see, it is a start of all human beings’ mistakes, annoyance, and the Circle of Birth. From ignorance, the cling to one’s ego comes. According to philosophy, because human beings are ignorant, they believe there is a real ego existing in their minds. If we know there is no real ego existing in the mind, then we can tell ourselves we should no longer believe in its existence. However, we can never release ourselves from the Circle of Birth or attain Enlightenment. The ignorance is not only a concept, yet a state of thinking that is formed with packed mistakes in intuitive cognition.

The ignorance eventually becomes clinging to ego. In the deep of intuitive cognition, there is always present ego that people can’t recognize. Human beings can’t realize their ignorance or ego; whereas, it is the ego that secretly controls all human beings’ thinking and actions. When people diligently practice Dharma, they can well understand the Truth, so they try against their egos. Without practicing, people are always controlled by their egos.

Although, we practice and understand Dharma, yet we can find it hard to win against our egos. It deceives us every single moment. If we know that our egos always control us even when we are practicing the Buddha’s sayings, or doing good deeds, we will have a chance to release ourselves from our egos.

To cling to the ego is to accept the existence of ego, which is too vague for people to recognize, or to be conscious of. Practitioners who are intelligent, have strong intuition and deep perceiving can understand it; while other practitioners attain deep concentration close to what Arhats did, they can see their egos. After being conscious of their egos, they prepare to win their earthly egos to become Arhat.

Practitioners who have purified and tranquil minds, strong intuition, deep perception and high wisdom can be conscious of what ego is. People without practicing Buddhism can never be aware of it, because ego is something unclear, formless, blurred too much to be understood.

People consider themselves different from others, different from everything, different from persons whom even they love most. People have different point of views, different minds, different hearts, so they are different from each other.

This is different from some cases of zen masters who have the same perception when they are together in deep concentration while taking meditation. At that time, their minds are out their bodies and beyond this world. They understand each other, see each other through their minds. Their concentration is so deep. Their minds are so tranquil. Their thoughts are stopped. In that moment, they have a feeling of harmony with the universe. They can easily compose zen poems since their feelings for surroundings are so poetic.

The ego divides us into individuals. Only when we take profound meditation and attain deep concentration, can we stop its division, break the line between ourselves and others, so that our minds and our souls can be harmonious together. This point requires us to have deep concentration, bottomless empathy, and great compassion.

If we face to a person while we have the great compassion and profound wisdom, and our minds are purified, we can feel himself/herself as if he/she were ourselves. Then, the feeling of profound empathy arisen in ourselves can pass across our egos to reach his/her mind. This can be called “understanding mind one another”. We need to be careful with this point as it is likely to cause mistakes for us. Ego is like an individual fence of each person. It parts one’s mind from another’s mind. It separates one’s heart from another’s heart. In fact, some people can pass across the ego to reach another’s mind for a short while. This case can happen to people who have the strong intuition and spirit. Or it can happen to the minds between two lovers. They love each other from far away. They miss each other too much that they can reach their minds, theirs heart for a moment to understand one another. This is telepathy.
However, it almost happens to practitioners who love all human beings rather than only one person. Their minds are deeply penetrated with Dharma, they accumulate labor of great practice, they attain strong concentration, and they have spiritual power. They can understand anyone facing them if they want.

Clearly, the ego separates people from one another. It makes us feel different than and apart from others. It prevents our mind from understanding others. Whereas, Arhats can destroy their egos so their minds can be harmonious with ours. They can feel themselves and all human beings as one.


Authorized by Thích Chân Quang

Source Facebook Buddha Everywhere

Chánh niệm (Phần 3) - Sơ quả Tu đà hoàn
The Four Noble truths - Chap 10: Selfishness and Ego

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