Thursday, September 14, 2017

Concluding thoughts on the suffering of samsaric existence

Article connected to this collection of teachings:
of the suffering of the six realms of samsaric existence 


As we have seen in the description of the six realms, there is absolutely no place in samsara without suffering. Everything is a cause for suffering, everything is multyplying suffering, and everything, even the intoxicating pleasures of the gods, contain the seed of suffering.

"Beings in hell suffer from hell-fire,
Pretas suffer from hunger and thirst,
Animals suffer from being eaten by each other,
Humans suffer from having a short life,
Asuras suffer from wars and quarrels,
And the gods suffer from their own mindlessness.
In samsara there is never a pinpoint of happiness."[1]

Some say that life in the gods realm is more desirable because of the immense pleasure we can find there. However, I would like to ask you, what if somebody offers you the most intense party with the best drinks, women or men, on a luxurious yacht, for three days, on the condition that after the party you will be burnt to death? Would you accept the deal? Would the pain you'll suffer by being burnt to death worth the sweet and transient pleasure of three nights? This is similar with the various distractions of the gods realms. When their time come, gods themselves suffer intensely, as I aleady described above, in the section dedicated to them. If one reaches the highest point of the wheel of samsara, one will surely fall from there to the lower part after spending one's karmic merits in intoxicating pleasures. Just like a rich guy enters a casino with the attitude of a great lord, and is treated well by everybody, if he looses all his wealth at gambling, he will be thrown away like a beggar at the end of the programe.

There is a signficant story of the monk Nanda who was very much attached to his wife and had no aspiration to renounce the world. Seeing this, Shakyamuni Buddha miraculously took him to a mountain where he showed him a one-eyed monkey. He asked him: "Tell me Nanda, who do you find more beautiful, this monkey or your wife?" Nanda replied immediately, "My wife, of course!"

Then the Buddha transported him to a realm of the gods where He showed him many beautiful mansions where each god lived together with his assembly of young godesses and enjoyed many pleasures and abundance. Then he took him to a palace where there were many goddesses but no god. When Nanda asked why, a godess answered, "there is a person in the human world, a disciple of the Buddha whose name is Nanda and who practices the Way. The karma he thus accumulates will make him reborn in this palace where we will serve him faithfully." Nanda was very joyful and when asked by the Buddha who he now thinks is more beautiful, his wife or the goddesses, he answered without any hesitation: "the goddesses are  far more beautiful! My wife cannot even compare herself with them."
Then, when he returned to the human world, Nanda practiced the Way even more seriously so that he does not lose the chance to be reborn together with the beautiful godesses.

After some time the Buddha asked him if he wants to take him to visit the hells. Nanda agreed and he was transported there by the Buddha's miraculus power. While visiting the various hells and seeing the horror and pain of the beings born there, he came across an empty pot filled with blazing fire and a number of hells tormentors arround it. When he asked why is the pot empty, a hell tormentor answered: "we are waiting for a person called Nanda, who is now practicing the Way in the human realm in order to be born among the gods. After he will enjoy many hundreds of years in that celestial place, when his merits will run out, he will be reborn here."
This terrified Nanda so much that he pondered more deeply on the characteristics of samsara. Then, after realizing that there is no sense to aspire for a happiness that ends in the flame of hells, he awoke the aspiration to escape from all samsaric existence.

We should really take to heart the story of Nanda and contemplate deeply the nature of samsara. Even if we did not see with our own eyes the lower or higher realms, a picture or the many descriptions made by Shakyamuni Buddha and the masters of various lineages should be enough to scare the hell out of us and make us wish to escape from it

Thus, let us never forget that in samsara 1) there is no certainty, 2) we can never find satisfaction, 3) we are born and we die repeatedly, changing bodies after bodies ad infinitum, 4) on the wheel of samsara we will always go down after we go high, and 5) we have no true companions. All samsaric beings meet with these five general types of suffering.

1) What does it mean to have no certainty in samsara?
It means for example, that we are never certain our dear ones from today we'll reman dear to us in the next lives. Of course, we would like to be able to meet again with our good friends, parents, children or wife after we die. But if we meet again with them in another life and still we are not Buddhas, then this meeting might be of no real benefit to them or to us. It can even become a meeting of pain and sorrow, in which we will surely don’t recognize them. Because of our deluded minds, we might harm them or make them run from us.

We and our loved ones have different karma and after this life we will take different forms, but because of attachments to one another we can still be close in space and time. For example, one of us might be born in the next life as a human being, while the other (wife, husband, parent, friend) can be born as an animal. Due to attachment he (or she) can live around our house, but because we cannot see our previous lives, we are not able to recognize him. We can think of him as just a close dog or cow, but we cannot really benefit him much.

It can even be worse than this. In time our feelings for him/her or his feelings towards us may change and because of various circumstances love can turn into hate. People who are now in a love relation can hate each others after a few lives, or even in this life. So, until we become Buddhas, not only can we not benefit our closed ones, but we can actually make them sink even more in the ocean of suffering.

Bodhisattva Nagarjuna said:

"For those in cyclic existence there are no certainties
Because fathers become sons, mothers become wives,
Enemies become friends,
And the converse happens as well."[2]

Thus, if we truly care about them, we should make a commitment not to lose this life in vain, but to listen to the teaching again and again and receive faith in Amida Buddha. Only in this way, our aspiration to save all beings, especially those with whom we have karmic connections, will be fulfilled.

2) We can never find satisfaction in samsara
Bodhisattva Nagarjuna said:

"Each of us has drunk more milk
Than would fill the four oceans; yet
Those in cyclic existence who act as ordinary beings
Are intent on drinking still more than that."[3]

Since the beginingless past we have tried many ways to satisfy our desires. We worked hard, fought hard, even killed or hurt others in order to find hapiness, but still never found it. Our unfulfilled desires and attachements needed a new vehicle with every new life, and so we continued to run into an endless variety of forms (bodies), trying desperately to satisfy them. This is why we must ask ourselves - when we'll finaly learn that there is no real satisfaction in samsara and in our samsaric pursuits? When we'll be finaly able to say - STOP! Why don't we get sick of this never ending sorrow?

"Just as a leper tormented by maggots
Turns to fire for relief, but finds no peace,
So should you understand
Attachment to sensual pleasures."[4]

Candragomin said in his Letter to a Student (Sisya-lekha):

"What being has not come into the world hundreds of times?
What pleasure has not already been experienced countless
times?
What luxury, such as splendid white yak-tail fans, have they
not owned?
Yet, even when they possess something, their attachment
continues to grow.

There is no suffering they have not experienced many times.
The things they desire do not satisfy them.
There is no living being that has not slept in their bellies.
So why do they not rid themselves of attachment to cyclic
existence?"[5]

Master Asvagosha said:

"Again and again in hells
You drank boiling liquid copper -
So much that even the water in the ocean
Does not compare.

The filth you have eaten
As a dog and as a pig
Would make a pile far more vast
Than Meru, the king of mountains.
On account of losing loved ones and friends
You have shed so many tears
In the realms of cyclic existence
That the ocean could not contain them.

The heads that have been severed
From fighting one another,
If piled up, would
Reach beyond Brahma's heaven.

You have been a worm
And, having been ravenous, you ate so much sludge
That if it were poured into the great ocean
It would fill it completely."[6]

Shakyamuni Buddha said:

"Remember the infinite bodies which, in the past,
You wasted senselessly on account of desire;
As many times as there are grains of sand in the Ganges
You failed to please the Buddhas and ignored their teachings."[7]

Shinran Shonin also said:

"Under the guidance of Buddhas who appeared in this world,

Three times the sands of the Ganges in number,

We awakened the aspiration for supreme Enlightenment,

But our self-power failed, and we continued to transmigrate."[8]

"Were it not for the ship of Amida's Vow,
How could I cross the ocean of painful existence?



With minds full of malice and cunning, like snakes and scorpions,
We cannot accomplish good acts through self-power;
And unless we entrust ourselves to Amida's directing of virtue,
We will end without knowing shame or self-reproach".[9]


3) In samsara we are born and we die repeatedly, changing bodies after bodies ad infinitum
Bodhisattva Nagarjuna said:

"Each of us has left a pile of bones
That would dwarf Mount Meru."[10]

Shakyamuni Buddha also said:

"The bones of a single person wandering in Samsara would be a cairn, a pile, a heap as Mount Vepulla, were there a collector of these bones and were the collections not destroyed.
Longtime have you suffered the death of father and mother, of sons, daughters, brothers and sisters, and while you were thus suffering, you have verily shed tears upon this long way, more than there is water in the four oceans.
Long time did your blood flow by the loss of your heads when you were born as oxen, buffaloes. rams, goats, etc.
Long time have you been caught as dacoits or highwaymen or adulterers, and through your being beheaded, verily more blood has flowed upon this long way than there is water in the four oceans.
And thus have you for long time undergone sufferings, undergone torment, undergone misfortune, and filled the graveyards full, verily long enough to be dissatisfied with every form of existence, long enough to turn away and free yourself from them all."[11]

"If someone took from this vast earth pellets the size of juniper berries and set them aside, saying, 'This is my mother, and this is my mother's mother,' then, monks, the clay of this vast earth would be exhausted, yet the line of matrilineal predecessors would not."[12]

In the Anguttara Nikaya it is said:

"On one occasion the Venerable Sariputta was dwelling in Magadha, in the village Nalaka. On that occasion, Samandakani, a wandering ascetic, approached him and asked:
'What, friend Sariputta, is happiness, and what is suffering?'
'To be reborn, friend, is suffering; not to be reborn is happiness.'"[13]

4) On the wheel of samsara we will always go down after we go high
Bodhisattva Nagarjuna said:

"Having become Indra, worthy of the world's honor, you will
still fall
Once again to the earth because of the force of past karma.
Even having become a universal monarch,
You will once again become a slave for other beings in cyclic
existence.

Though you have long experienced the pleasures
Of caressing the breasts and waists of divine women,
You will once again encounter the unbearable sensations
Of the grinding, cutting, and flesh-tearing hell-devices.

Having dwelled long on the peak of Mount Meru,
Enjoying the pleasant touch of soft ground on your feet,
Imagine undergoing the unbearable pain
Of walking once again over hot coals and rotting corpses in hell.

Having frolicked in beautiful groves
And enjoyed the embraces of divine women,
You will arrive once again in the forests of hell, where the
leaves
Are swords that slice off ears, nose, hands, and legs.

Though you have entered the Gently Flowing River
With beautiful goddesses and golden lotuses,
You will plunge once more in hell into scalding water -
The unbearable waters of the Impassable River.

Having gained the great pleasures of a deity
In the realrn of desire, or the detached happiness of Brahma,
You will once again become fuel for the fires
Of the Unrelenting Hell, suffering pain without respite.

Having been a deity of the sun or the moon,
Illuminating all the world with the light of your body,
You will return once more to dense, black darkness,
Where you cannot see even your own outstretched hand."[14]

It is said in the Vinaya-vastu:

"The end of accumulated things is depletion.
The end of things that are high is a fall.
The end of meetings is separation.
The end of life is death."[15]

 5) In samsara we have no true companions
In Bodhisattvacaryavatara it is said:

"This body comes forth whole, yet
The bones and flesh that accompany it
Will break apart and disperse. As this is so,
Why mention others, such as loved ones?

You are born alone.
Also you die alone.
As others cannot share your suffering,
Of what use is the hindrance of loved ones?"[16]

Friends, family and loved ones are as fleeting as a crowd on market day. Now they are here with us, and the next time they are gone. Also, who can really take our pain when we are ill, when we get old or when we die? Even if they have empathy for us, they cannot suffer, get old or die in our place. Also, they cannot go to the samsaric destinations where we deserve to be reborn due to our karma. Please meditate on this!

*

            After deeply contemplating the general sufferings of samsara and the specific sufferings of each of the six realms of samsaric existence, our minds should naturaly turn toward Amida Dharma, the only path that affords passage in this dark world of the five defilements:

"To awaken aspiration and perform practices in this world
Is the Path of Sages and is termed self-power.

The present is the last Dharma-age; it is the world of the five defilements;

The Pure Land way alone affords passage."[17]

Then, we should make this promise to ourselves and to all mother sentient beings:

“I wish to abandon the body enclosed in the womb
And attain birth in the Land of Peace and Bliss,
Where I will quickly behold Amida Buddha’s
Body of boundless merits and virtues
And see many Tathagathas
And holy sages as well.
Having acquired the six supernatural powers,
I will continue to save suffering sentient beings
Until all their worlds throughout the universe are exhausted.
Such will be my vow.
After having thus made a vow, I take refuge in Amida Buddha
with sincerity of heart”.[18]

It is impossible to escape the evil that dwells witthin the unenlightened minds of sentient beings and the karmic environment they manifest, without the salvific Power of Amida Buddha. Until we reach His Pure Land we are never safe, and only after arriving there are we able to really benefit others:

"The City of Bliss, tranquil and uncreated, in the West,
Is ultimately free and peaceful, far removed from being and nonbeing;
Transforming oneself into various bodies[19], one benefits all beings equally, without discrimination.

Let us return ! Do not abide
In this homeland of maras.

Since innumerable kalpas ago

We have been transmigrating

Passing through all the six courses.
Nowhere has there been any pleasure;

We hear only the voices of grief and sorrow.

After this present lifetime has ended,
Let us enter the city of Nirvana![20]"[21]








[1] Shakyamuni Buddha, Saddharma Smrity-upasthana Sutra (Sutra of Sublime Dharma of Clear Recollection) as quoted in Words of My Perfect Teacher, by Patrul Rinpoche, revised edition, Padmakara Translation Group, Shambhala, Boston, 1998, p.94 
[2] Letter to a Friend, as quoted in The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, volume I, by Tsong-kha-pa, Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca, New York, p. 281
[3] Letter to a Friend, as quoted in The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, volume I, by Tsong-kha-pa, Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca, New York, p. 282
[4] Letter to a Friend by Nagarjuna, as quoted in The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, volume I, by Tsong-kha-pa, Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca, New York, p. 282
[5] The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, volume I, by Tsong-kha-pa, Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca, New York, p. 283
[6] Sokavinodana (Alleviating Sorrow) by Asvagosha, as quoted in The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, volume I, by Tsong-kha-pa, Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca, New York, p. 283
[7] Ganda-vyuha Sutra (Array of Stalks Sutra), as quoted in The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, volume I, by Tsong-kha-pa, Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca, New York, p. 284
[8] Pure Land Hymns on the Right, Semblance and Last Dharma Ages, The Collected Works of Shinran, http://shinranworks.com/hymns-in-japanese/hymns-of-the-dharma-ages/pure-land-hymns-on-the-right-semblance-and-last-dharma-ages
[9] Shozomatsu Wasan, The Collected Works of Shinran, Shin Buddhism Translation Series, Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, Kyoto, 1997, p.421-422
[10] Letter to a Friend, as quoted in The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, volume I, by Tsong-kha-pa, Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca, New York, p. 284
[11] Anguttara Nikaya  as translated by Venerable Narada Mahathera in his book, The Buddha and His Teachings, http://www.buddhism.org/Sutras/BuddhaTeachings/page_31.html
[12] Buddha Shakyamuni, as quoted in The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, volume I, by Tsong-kha-pa, Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca, New York, p. 285
[13] Anguttara Nikaya - Discourses of the Buddha, selected and translated from Pali by Nyanaponika Thera and Bhikku Bodhi, Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, Sri Lanka, volume 3, page 19, https://www.urbandharma.org/pdf1/wh238AnguttaraNikaya3.pdf

[14] Letter to a Friend, as quoted in The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, volume I, by Tsong-kha-pa, Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca, New York, p. 285-286
[15] Vinaya-vastu (The Bases of Discipline) as quoted in The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, volume I, by Tsong-kha-pa, Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca, New York, p. 286
[16] Bodhisattvacaryavatara (Engaging in the Bodhisattva Deeds), as quoted in The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, volume I, by Tsong-kha-pa, Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca, New York, p. 287
[17] Shinran Shonin, Hymn of the Two Gateways of Entrance and Emergence, The Collected Works of Shinran, Shin Buddhism Translation Series, Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, Kyoto, 1997, p.628
[18] Shan-tao’s Liturgy for Birth – Ojoraisan, compiled by Master Shan-tao, annotated translation by Zuio Hisao Inagaki, edited by Doyi Tan, Singapore, 2009, p.68
[19] After we attain Buddhahood in the Pure Land, we’ll have access to the ultimate reality beyond forms (Dharmakaya), we’ll dwell forever in transcendent form (Sambhogakaya) in Amida’s Pure Land, and in the same time we’ll go in all the places of the universe in various Bodies of Accomodation or Transformation (Nirmanakayas) to save all beings. 
[20] Shinran Shonin explained, in his Notes on the Inscriptions on Sacred Scrolls: "'The city of Nirvana' is the Pure Land of peace. [...] Know that shinjin (faith in Amida Buddha) is the seed of Enlightenment, the seed for realizing the supreme Nirvana." The Collected Works of Shinran, Shin Buddhism Translation Series, Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, Kyoto, 1997, p.513
[21] Master Shan-tao as quoted by Shinran Shonin in his Kyogyoshinsho, chapter V, The Collected Works of Shinran, Shin BuVddhism Translation Series, Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha, Kyoto, 1997, p.200-201

0 comentarii: