Truth of Suffering
May 28, 2014 09:49PM
By Seijaku Roshi
Ego is constantly attempting to acquire or apply spirituality for its own benefit… we can deceive ourselves into thinking we are developing spiritually when instead we are strengthening our egocentricity through spiritual techniques.”~ Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
Many believe that much of what is accepted as “spiritual” these days has very little to do with “spirituality”, and if living spiritually is going to impact real change in the world other than the acquisition of a new automobile or more personal wealth and security, there needs to be a more serious inquiry about the nature of the “spiritual but not religious culture” of modern-day life.
Zen-like “spirituality” pertains to a specific way of life with clear markings which identify it as spiritual, not having to do with a philosophy or dogma but rather a response to what is needed in the world for what Buddhists refer to as the “cessation of suffering”. Zen spirituality is by nature relational. It does not exist apart from others or the truth about suffering. The Buddhist reference to suffering is this insatiable internal dissatisfaction which requires an endless pursuit of gratification in its myriad forms, whether through the acquisition of material wealth and security, or yoga or meditation.
For Moses, Jesus or the Buddha, spirituality had to do with the “matter of suffering”. Buddhist spirituality has to do with three primary questions: “What is the nature of suffering?” “What is causing the suffering?” “Is there a solution, or cessation, from the suffering?” These questions as well as the answers are imperative when addressing both personal suffering and global suffering, and are markings for any “authentic spiritual practice”. In order to answer them, real work is involved and a relationship is required.
Relationship involves a deep awareness of the truth of suffering (dissatisfaction) and its cause, suffering in the world. Then the real work of ending suffering and the causes of suffering, both personal and globally, are possible. Students of Zen are often reminded that, “The validity of our spiritual practice comes after we leave the cushion.” If spirituality is not relational, and does not contribute to the cessation of suffering and its causes, then it’s what Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche called “spiritual materialism”. Same stuff, just different packaging.
The global condition grows increasingly uncertain. The future is literally shaped in the present. There is no time to waste or squander precious moments now in life. Each individual is the missing link! Wake up! If not now, when? I saw a sign on the road the other day which read, “Drive as if your children live here.” Here’s another one, “Live as if your children’s future depends entirely on what you do now.”
Seijaku Roshi is the founder and spiritual director of the Zen Society. 863 McKendimen Rd., Shamong NJ 08088 609.268.9151. TheZenSociety.org