Monday, December 28, 2009

Do You Suffer?

I experience 'Dukkha' a lot. Dukkha is roughly translated as "suffering."

The head words from Wikipedia explain that Dukkha (Pāli दुक्ख; Sanskrit दुःख duḥkha; "uneasy", "unsteady, disquieted") is a term roughly corresponding to a number of English words including suffering, pain, unsatisfactoriness, sorrow, affliction, anxiety, dissatisfaction, discomfort, anguish, stress, misery, and frustration.

If I consider something as benign as "dissatisfaction" rather than the full raveges of "suffering", I live nearly entirely in dukkha. It's scores of times during a single day that I find "I can't get no ... sat-tis-fact-tion." (ref: Rolling Stones' discography).

I worry that I should be embarassed about writing this (a dukkha in itself). It feels like I am saying I am a poser Buddhist. I certainly am not someone who has it all together with a knowing, gentle smile, wearing lots of earth colors and black, drinking tea and meditating twice every day.

But if you find you suffer, or are dissatisfied, or occasionally bitch, or even bitch a lot about this or that. If you are anxious during the day; If you find you are pissed of because your significant other left the coffee can on the counter instead of putting it back in the cupboard; If you lose your temper when your kid asks you for the third time to watch a stupid cartoon with them when you need to balance your checkbook.... If you notice all these 'assalts' on your peace of mind as I do in the course of a day, then I think you are ripe, well suited, and could benifit from Buddhist practice.

I'm sure I could find many stories from the patri- and matri-archs of Buddhism that say if you think you've arrived, you are farther away than a rank beginner.

Do not fret about how you live your day. The worst poser is the one that feigns contentment. Embrace your suffering. Notice it. Let it be. Suffering is not the problem, it is the symptom.

I don't have exact words for the problem. Perhaps "problem" is too harsh a word. It may simply be the human condition. The animal with the frontal cortex that has afforded so much survival gets wrapped around the axle of picking and choosing (engaging in dis-satisfaction) quite naturally. It was quite appropriate (and still is) to be dis-satisfied to be in the company of approaching lions, or stampeding rhino's. We have evloved into a species that carries these life preserving concerns far beyond their beneficial ends.

The practice to improve this? Zazen (poorly translated as "meditation" but that's a whole 'nother blog entry). But do it with a little care. Do zazen only for the sake of zazen, not for improvement. Having "goals" messes quite dreadfully with the concept of dis-satisfaction. Do zazen as often as you can with no express need to exceed two doses of 30min each day, and you are a "Buddhist". In fact, while you do zazen you are the Buddha, you are all Buddha's, you are snap dab the whole universe realizing itself.

See you there....

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Suffering not Fact

Buddhism is the investigation/observation of how we experience suffering. It is not the investigation of fact. The reality we hope to live directly within is not that of faultless perception. Faultless perception is, of course, impossible. Our biological instrument is not so well strung. The import of my previous post is really naught. Yes... brains and eyes and ears and touch and even conception are all faulty. Old news. Not important. The really interesting bit is how we engage judgment, picking and choosing, to turn what ever it is we are getting with these channels to the world into a moment of suffering. Actually, there is no hindrance even now. The reality we hope to live in is just that it is. Turn and look. There it is.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Brain Chemistry

Imagine a large jar. In it, water. In the water a video camera, a cord, and a video monitor. Put red in the water, the camera sees things tainted red. Blue dye gives a blue picture. If the water is salty, it corrodes the cable and the signal gets all sporadic. Run a blender near the cable and it picks up the interference.

Our brains are not much different. Subject to the "dyes" of neurotransmitters in our brains and the chemicals we ingest (caffeine, alcohol, various food impacts). Stress can affect the transmissions. Activity (concepts, thoughts) in one part of the brain can affect the chemistry bathing another.

We use this tenuous system to "perceive reality". We really never have a chance of seeing it as it is. We can come to accept we are limited by this thought/sense system and that the real world is beyond direct perception, but I don't think we can ever perceive it as it is. Heck, because of the finite speed of light, at best we can perceive it as it was a few billionths of a second ago.

Trapped forever in this jail of faulty perception? We are the jail.