Buddhist Wisdom for Difficult Times (Part III)

We should find the truth in this world through our difficulties, through our suffering. This is the basic teaching of Buddhism. Pleasure is not different from difficulty. Good is not different from bad. Bad is good; good is bad.
                    –Shunryu Suzuki Roshi

The first part of the quote seems to say that the through the tough times we can find what is real, and what is true. Roshi indicates that this sentiment is the fundamental principle of Buddhism. Though I don’t know that it is the basic teaching of Buddhism, it is certainly an important pillar thereof. It is an interesting idea in that many people don’t see anything positive stemming from periods of suffering. I have to wonder if it is a culturally / environmentally-inspired negativity that inhibits one from seeing anything good during tragedy, or if it is more of an aspect of human nature.

The most interesting part to me, though, is the next part of the statement. Pleasure and difficulty being one and the same is an idea that I don’t believe one is willing to readily accept. Put concretely, if one was given a choice of something pleasurable (e.g. an exquisitely prepared meal) or something inherently difficult (e.g. financial struggles), it is strange to think that he or she would view the two options as being the same. However, Roshi might be trying say that we should view the positivity or negativity of either situation as pivoting on the same aspect–our perception of the event. This encourages an active and dynamic approach to truth-seeking and perception; one cannot simply sit back and watch a tragedy or great time happen. In order to fully understand our circumstances, we need complete immersion in not only our situation, but also in our perception of the situation. Then, maybe we can see the truth and the greater meaning in what is happening to us. Then, we can fully appreciate the pleasure from one moment, and the pain from another. In the end, is life a huge and continuing juxtaposition of pleasure and pain, or as Roshi indicates, are they the same steady stream?

|:| Zach |:|

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