This past week, I’ve been noting how the desire to be this or that, the desire to have this or that. I’ve been noting what the Buddha called ignorance. The Buddha gave a teaching on how suffering arises and is perpetuated. It is called “dependent origination,” and it describes the factors that condition and drive our heart and mind. Ignorance is the first link in the chain, and it is always activated by a conscious or unconscious desire. In other words, our craving blots out the sun (or Son, for my Christian friends) by placing an imaginary self smack in the center of the solar system. Out of ignorance comes volition, the impulse to do. We are vessels of the life force and we are always creating, but as we are conditioned to be we are not participating in Creation but preoccupied with creating a self in our own or another’s mind, puffing ourselves up or tearing ourselves down. What if instead we chose to create a better, wiser attention. What if we chose to stop and look at ourselves and the world around us? But what really conditions–limits–the way we see? According to the Buddhists, as we ordinarily are, we take in impressions and have feelings that are not just based on sensory data, but on craving and clinging–and ultimately on the willful ignorance it takes to insist on being an imaginary someone or becoming someone. This craving and clinging leads us to take birth in one state or another (I must be with this person, have that car, etc.) and all births inevitably lead to aging, death, sorrow, and the rest.
BUT! BUT! BUT! There is a way to stop the blind bus driver from driving us mad. There is a way to just stop and see the sun (Son) and all the rest of life without our own huge imaginary selves blotting out the view. I used to think that “cessation” meant something very nihilistic–barely living, being a wandering sadhu. But now I think it means holding an activity or impulse so it can be known–touched, even for a nanosecond. In English to suffer means to hold, to bear, and the promise in Buddhism is that we can hold our thoughts, feelings, desires, etc. in the light of attention. What I’m learning to appreciate more and more is what it means to know, to suffer intentionally or voluntarily. I hope I’ll have more to say about this, but one thing I know already: love and compassion–towards what we see and experience–are essential. Compassion is a saving grace. It invites us to be part of a greater Whole. We wake up with the help of something greater than ourselves.