dharma monkey

embrace the monkey

Suffering as a teacher; my suffering as my own teacher


As I continue to reflect this weekend on my current mental state, another “ah-ha!” moment, courtesy once again of the May 2008 Shambhala Sun. Well, not really an ah-ha, but more of a, “Duh, you already knew that, so put it in to practice” moment.

Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche writes about suffering, or more specifically, dukkha, which isn’t easily translated from Sanskrit to English, but for me at least describes the mental states that lead to mankind’s suffering, while also describing the suffering itself. Rinpoche reminded me of something I’ve been saying over and over again these last couple of weeks — that I must learn from my individual and collectively shared mistakes, both personal and professional.

Even though we suffer as human beings, we do not have to suffer without purpose or meaning. The First Noble Truth reveals to us the meaning of suffering. Painful experiences can teach us a lot. Buddhism treats life as a school where we learn from our painful experiences. This is not about the childish approach of going deeper and deeper into our painful experiences and dwelling on them and complaining about them to the point that they become deeply personal emotional concerns. It is about utilizing our painful experiences, the truth of suffering, with fortitude and dignity, and thereby making ourselves stronger and more mature.

I am, thankfully, using recent experiences as opportunities to learn, and am gradually finding optimism in those opportunities rather than despair or frustration, which only serves to further exacerbate the problem, at least in my opinion. I feel as though I need to take a giant step backward in my practice to revisit the Four Noble Truths.

I had the good fortune of studying under a program developed by Geshe Tashi Tsering at the Jamyang Centre in London, and there were times during that two years of study where his voice, with that particular inflection that native Tibetans have when speaking English, was warm, inviting and calming. I may very well go back through Geshe-la’s module on the Four Noble Truths to see what else I can learn from the most basic of Buddha’s teachings, now that I’m more than five years down the path…

Author: Sean

I am Sean, a writer/PR guy originally from the Rural South who grew up and settled down in Washington, D.C. My interests include local politics, Eastern philosophy, languages and reality television.

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