The freedom from suffering the Buddha talked about isn’t in itself an end to pain and stress. Instead, it’s a matter of creating a choice. I can either get caught up in the pain that comes to me, attach to it and be overwhelmed by it, or I can embrace it, and through acceptance and understanding, not add more suffering to the existing pain, the unfair experiences, the criticisms or the misery that I face. As with the Buddha: even after his enlightenment, he had to experience all kinds of horrendous things. His cousin tried to murder him, people tried to frame him, blame him and criticize him. He experienced severe physical illness. But the Buddha didn’t create suffering around those experiences. His response was never one of anger, resentment, hatred or blame, but one of acknowledgment.
This has been a really valuable thing for me to know. It’s taught me not to ask for favours in life, or to hope that if I meditate a lot, I can avoid unpleasant experiences. ‘God, I’ve been a monk for thirty-three years. Please reward me for being a good boy.’ I’ve tried that and it doesn’t work. To accept life without making any pleas is liberating, because I no longer feel a need to control or manipulate conditions for my own benefit. I don’t need to worry or feel anxious about my future. There’s a sense of confidence, a fearlessness that comes through learning to trust, to relax, to open to life, and to investigate experience rather than to resist or be frightened by it. If you’re willing to learn from the suffering in life, you’ll find the unshakability of your own mind.
This reflection from Ajahn Sumedho is from the book, Intuitive Awareness, (pdf) pp. 136-137.