Dukkha: Our Truest Spiritual Friend
Kyong Ho Zen Master (1849-1912) once said “Don’t expect your practice to be always clear of obstacles. Without hindrances the mind that seeks enlightenment may be burnt out. So an ancient once said, “Attain deliverance in disturbances.””
Difficulty arising in our lives is a precious opportunity for authentic spiritual practice, and transformation. So often, our practice rests firmly in the realm of past time, and otherwise we tend to view times of difficulty and suffering with a degree of woe and seemimgly entitled self-pity.
As avowed Buddhist practitioners, our job is to fully embrace the reality of each and every moment, especially in times when we might feel apt to lay down our fair weather resolve, forgetting that without the friction of the road, a vehicle cannot propel itself in any direction, forward or backward.
Dissatisfaction affords us the opportunity to behold our minds, moreso than perhaps any other state of being, and that is because of our aversion, our pushing it away from our tendency for full, dichotomy shattering immersion. In times of joy, we don’t struggle to experience either the underlying phenomenon fully, nor the filter of joy through which that experience is digested, however in times of sadness, anger, despair, and even mere irritation the inverse is true. We find ourselves especially removed from the still, and always inescapable reality unfolding before and through us, at which time we might be able to inquire “what is this” really? What is seperating my heaven from hell? At those times, we might be afforded an objective glimpse into the play of mind, wherein when clearly beheld, we can even pull a smile from the furthest depths of our despair. That is, a free step in any direction from our previously predetermined-by-conditioning lives.
Again, Master Kyong Ho said “Without hindrances the mind that seeks enlightenment may be burnt out.” Indeed in joy, without aversion, it is difficult to behold the mind, to play in the field of consciousness. This was the motivation for the ancient’s instructions toward world weariness and asceticism. Yet, in my view and that of many modern people, why pull tears from the well of elation? And yet, wading in that well, we’re liable to lose our way to the full vest of our experience. It’s suffering that propels us to seek truth, and indeed, suffering happens, regardless.
Thus, the adage continues, “Attain deliverance in disturbances.“ Dukkha, that is, suffering and dissatisfaction in all of its many varied shades and degrees is the real realm of cultivation, and when it appears we must be vigilantly prepared to meet it enthusiastically with the transformative and wisdom rendering light of awareness and great questioning, as the truest spiritual friend we’ll ever encounter.