How Is Suffering Understood?

อาจารย์ วีรธัมโม

How Is Suffering Understood?

How is suffering to be understood then? Well, you have to be in the midst of suffering to understand it.

Take aversion, for instance. Let’s say that someone walks into the room and they proceed to do something that annoys you. That annoyance then leads to thoughts like “This person is so irritating. Why can’t they be different? They need to stop doing that. I don’t like this person.” Or, if they’re coming into the room a second time, you might think, “Oh gosh, I don’t want to be with this annoying person.”

So you naturally conclude that it’s the person who’s creating the difficult mood. But in reality, it’s the mood that’s creating the person. They’re interdependent, aren’t they? The more I buy into the mood of annoyance, the more I see the person in that negative light.

Thus the mood gives rise to the person, and then that person’s conduct (as I perceive it) feeds back into the mood. It’s actually one thing. However, our perception can get deluded and we can think, “I’m here and the person I dislike is over there. They’re doing that, but if they weren’t doing that, I’d be OK.” Or we might think, “I shouldn’t be thinking like this.” That’s the same delusion: I am someone.

But if you’re able to see the aversion you’re experiencing as stemming from a particular mood of the mind that comes and goes, then that entire storyline of “self and other” falls away. They fall away and you fall away, because that person is ultimately pointing back to the mood. Hence that whole scenario is dependently originated.

In its most basic formulation, the law of dependent origination states that with this as condition, there is that; when this isn’t, that isn’t. It’s quite simple.

So with the mood of aversion as condition, there is that person (whom you perceive as annoying). When aversion is not present as a condition, there isn’t that annoying person. It’s not that the other person doesn’t exist. It’s just that the drama in your mind is actually one piece; it’s not comprised of “you and them.”

When these constructs of “self and other” dissolve, you’re left with silence, with emptiness, with a timeless and radiant knowing. In Buddhism, we call this the realization of the cessation of craving and self-identity.

This reflection by Ajahn Viradhammo is from the book The Contemplative’s Craft, pp. 164-165.