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Nonduality Highlights: Issue #3506, Saturday, April 18, 2009, Editor: Mark

There is difficulty in practice, but in anything we undertake, we have to pass through difficulty to reach ease. In Dharma practice, we begin with the truth of dukkha, the pervasive unsatisfactoriness of existence. But as soon as we experience this, we lose heart. We don't want to look at it. Dukkha is really the truth, but we want to get around it somehow.

It's similar to the way we don't like to look at old people, but prefer to look at those who are young. If we don't want to look at dukkha, we will never understand dukkha, no matter how many births we go through. Dukkha is noble truth. If we allow ourselves to face it, then we will start to seek a way out of it. If we are trying to go somewhere and the road is blocked, we will think about how to make a pathway. Working at it day after day, we can get through. When we encounter problems, we develop wisdom like this. Without seeing dukkha, we don't really look into and resolve our problems; we just pass them by indifferently.

My way of training people involves some suffering, because suffering is the Buddha's path to enlightenment. He wanted us to see suffering, and to see origination, cessation, and the path. This is the way out for all the aryas, the awakened ones. If you don't go this way, there is no way out. The only way is knowing suffering, knowing the cause of suffering, knowing the cessation of suffering, and knowing the path of practice leading to the cessation of suffering. This is the way that the aryas, beginning with stream entry, were able to escape. It's necessary to know suffering.

If we know, we will see it in everything we experience. Some people feel that they don't really suffer much. But practice in Buddhism is for the purpose of freeing ourselves from suffering. What should we do not to suffer anymore? When dukkha arises, we should investigate to see the causes of its arising. Then once we know that, we can practice to remove those causes. Suffering, origination, cessation - in order to bring it to cessation, we have to understand the path of practice. Then once we travel the path to fulfillment, dukkha will no longer arise. In Buddhism, this is the way out.

- Achan Chah

When we come into the present, we begin to feel the life around us again, but we also encounter whatever we have been avoiding. We must have the courage to face whatever is present - our pain, our desires, our grief, our loss, our secret hopes, our love - everything that moves us most deeply.

- Jack Kornfield

Interviewer: Turning toward pain instead of avoiding it is a common theme in your books.

Pema: Yes, because I realized what a source of happiness turning toward pain actually is. Our avoidance of pain keeps us locked in a cycle of suffering. The Buddha said that what we take to be solid isn't really solid. It's fluid. It's dynamic energy. And not only do we take our opponents and obstacles to be solid; we also believe ourselves to be solid or permanent. In the West, we add the belief that the self is bad. That night I spent meditating, I discovered that there is no solid, bad me. It's all just ineffable experience.

Interviewer: Is this experience what Buddhists would call "emptiness"?

Pema: I don't use Buddhist language very much, but yes, Buddhists would call it "emptiness" or "shunyata" or "egolessness." I would say I experienced the fluidity of what I once thought of as a solid self. And I actually experienced it in a traditional Buddhist way, by staying with the immediacy of my experience and not going off on story lines, as we are always doing. These stories we make up about ourselves distance us from the rawness of our immediate experience.

What we think of as our worst nightmares are what spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle would call "portals." They are doorways that can take you to a different state of mind. Typically what happens when we experience pain is that our habit of avoiding pain gets stronger, or the pain gives birth to other sorrow-producing habits based on the fiction that there's something wrong. But when you taste experience fully the way I did that night, the doorway opens into what I would call "a timeless now."

There's nothing wrong with our thoughts and emotions except that we identify with them and make them seem solid. But if you don't identify with them, you begin to see life as a sort of movie in which you are the main character. It still has plot and conflict-there's no other way it could be - but you don't have this tight grip on it all. We need to let the story line go and have an immediate experience of what's actually happening, without blaming ourselves or anyone else.

This is an important message for Westerners, because we get hooked on a story about a problem. In Tibetan Buddhism this hooked feeling is called shenpa. It's an urge, a knee-jerk response that we keep repeating over and over again. We lose our balance and intelligence. But you can notice when it happens. You can acknowledge it. You can catch yourself. You can do something different, choose a fresh alternative. Because if you do what you've always done, you're never going to get unhooked.

- Pema Chodron

It makes no difference how deeply seated may be the trouble, how hopeless the outlook, how muddled the tangle, how great the mistake. A sufficient realization of love will dissolve it all.

Emmet Fox, posted to The_Now2

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