As the Divinyls’ late great frontwoman Chrissy Amphlett famously sang, “It’s a fine line between pleasure and pain”. (She also wrote a book by that title too)
If you, like most of us, have had enough of the latter and are seeking more of the former, listen in. I have a secret.
Well, it’s not a BIG secret seeing its truth was revealed 2,500 years ago by Buddha Shakyamuni, but I’ll at least try to relay it to you quietly.
And ‘truth’ might be hard to swallow for some too. For instance…
If I look at a flower and you look at a flower – it is obvious that we are both looking at a flower, but your perspective will be different. So let’s just use the word truth in a loose sort of subjective kind of way, Okay? Phew.
happiness, delight, joy, gladness, rapture, glee, satisfaction, gratification, fulfilment, contentment, contentedness, enjoyment, amusement;
“What’s your pleasure?”
Happiness? Satisfaction? Fulfilment?
For the most part, it’s the absence of pain that is pleasure. Buddha’s first Noble Truth is that we must know suffering. He wasn’t insisting that we spend our lives in pain…it’s a directive to find out that all of life involves suffering.
There are the seven stages of suffering that we all must endure. The sufferings of
- Encountering those we despise,
- Losing those that we love, and
- Having unfulfilled desire
Let me know if you manage to ‘skip’ one of those!
Geshe Kelsang Gyatso in “How To Transform Your Life: A Blissful Journey, tells us that happiness and suffering are different parts of mind.
Therefore we need to understand ‘mind’ to get to the bottom of this duality.
There are endless books and teachings about this so may I briefly consider that:
- Mind is separate from body
- Mind is not the brain
- There are several states of Mind
The body has been described in Buddhism as a guesthouse, and the mind is the guest. When we die the mind leaves the guesthouse and move on.
Similarly, when we are asleep, the mind is not aware of the surroundings of our body but moves around separate from the body. When we dream of an elephant and then wake up, we don’t think “Where is that elephant?” We know it was just a dream.
Therefore we have a gross mind that we use during the day and we usually call this ‘our mind’.
We also have the subtle mind, which we experience dreams with during sleep.
And we have the very subtle mind, that, upon death, travels from the guesthouse of our current body and moves on. This is a very concise and simplistic view of Buddhist ideas on the mind and body, but you get the drift.
When Pema Chodron said, “It isn’t what happens to us that causes us to suffer…It’s what we say to ourselves about what happens”, she was describing the suffering that we cause ourselves when something unpleasant occurs.
So, in our gross mind, when we are awake, we have the power to avert suffering if we have the understanding and mindfulness to do so.
Part 2 will go into further detail. I hope you’ll come back and read some more tomorrow.
Until then, consider Eckhart Tolle…
“The greater part of the human pain is unnecessary. It is self-created as long as the unobserved mind runs your life”.
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