“Believe nothing merely because you have been told it.
Do not believe what your teacher tells you merely out of respect for the teacher.
But whatsoever, after due examination and analysis,
you find to be kind, conducive to the good, the benefit, the welfare of all beings
that doctrine believe and cling to,
and take it as your guide. ” -Buddha
In Buddha’s teachings, he talks a lot about suffering and desire. He graphed these two aspects of life into categories containing the cause of suffering, the reality of suffering, and the escape from suffering. The escape from suffering is broken up into the Three Trainings, the cause of sufferings is explained as the Five Hindrances and the reality of suffering is listed as the Three Characteristics.
The Three Trainings
The first and last training is morality. By following what we believe is morally right and turning away from what we know is wrong, we strengthen our ability to be happy. To be morally correct means to be a good and generous person. When making choices throughout the day and looking at the whole picture of the situation, and determining whether the decision we are making is the right one determines the peace that is brought into our lives. The more wrong actions we perform, the worst we are going to feel about who we are. Part of the reason we are stuck in suffering is because we are trained to think about ourselves. The more good deeds we do out of selflessness, the better we feel about ourselves. To work and focus on improving and our physical, mental and emotional well being is training in morality.
Concentration and focus is the second training in insight practice. To be aware of what arises and what passes away is training in concentration. Concentration helps improve the ability to be apart of the present moment. This is a very important aspect of Buddha’s teachings, because with concentration we can become connected with the here and now. Which is what the Buddha’s goal was.
The third training the Buddha addressed was wisdom. Using wisdom to connect with our true selves and the reality of the present moment. Once wisdom is used in insight practice we begin to realize that thinking about the past, what could have been and should have been, and thinking about the future, what might happen and could happen, is a completely useless.
The Five Hindrances
There are five hindrances that influence our lives and hold us back from true happiness. The first hindrance is desire; desire is an obsession to find pleasure in such things as physical attachment, cravings for certain foods, and greed when it comes to money, power, and fame. When desire is transcended, the undertaking of pleasure or even comfort with the body becomes impractical. The body becomes obsolete and the mind becomes calm and free to experience the important aspect of life; the here and now.
Ill will or aversion is the second hindrance, and consists of the acts and decisions we make in life. When we let go of aversion and begin to accept the three trainings we begin to progress into a reality that people have been so out of touch with. We find that doing good for the people around us and for ourselves will lead us to a better state of mind. Aversion ties into the first and final training of morality. To practice not having aversion helps us become a just and righteous person.
Anxiety or worrying has a huge part in all of our lives. We think anxiety is normal and that it is gonna be permanent. While this may be true, it is also incorrect. Anxiety will always be apart of our lives, but we do not have to be attached to it. It is possible to let anxiety be there, and not let it control who we are and how we respond to it. Realizing that it is a hindrance and letting go of the attachment towards it will bring peace into our lives.
Doubt and sloth, or laziness, are the last of the hindrances. To doubt what we can or cannot do, will prevent us from progressing in life. We are capable of anything and we need to realize this and take control of our lives. When we are lazy, it easy to doubt, and not progress. In order to be productive we need to stop doubting ourselves and what is possible for us to do. To overcome these five hindrances we must use the meditation techniques that the Buddha taught us.
The Three Characteristics
The three characteristics are the most important factors to pay attention to when it comes to insight practice. These are the three ultimate truths of life. They give us perspective, rationality and logic by breaking life down into three aspects that run and base our actions by our thoughts. The way we perceive life, the things we experience and the way we deal with emotional problems are all rooted from our mind. Until we separate who and what we think we are from the attachments we have towards the issues we deal with such as thoughts, emotions or feelings, we will always be trapped in an illusion that these things make up who we are.
The first characteristic, which is no self, is the most complicated one. What we perceive as who we are, is merely just a title or idea that we place upon ourselves. Our bodily sensations, our emotions, and our thoughts can easily stray us off of what our true self is, which is the no self, or the I that we believe exists. An example of the no self goes as follows, “The mind is angry” rather than “I am angry.” We state that the mind is angry because that is what the mind is telling us, and that emotion is going to arise and pass away, it is not a permanent feeling. Permanence does not exist, and this is the the second characteristic.
Impermanence is not real, it is an illusion that the mind tells us to make us believe that we do not have control. Everything that happens to us is happening for the first time in our lives. Once we realize that nothing is permanent in this world; that our thoughts, our emotions, our sensations are all new to us and are going to pass away and end at a certain point, and that this is guaranteed, we gain a new type of control of ourselves. This characteristic is the most relieving truth there is in life, because no matter what your going through, there is going to be an end.
The third and final characteristic is suffering. Suffering is inevitable. There is no escaping it, but there is a way to face it. We need to accept that suffering is apart of our lives in order to take control of our lives and look at the painful aspects we experience and stop letting them control what we do or see.
All three of these characteristics should be looked at and practiced together. See that suffering is inevitable and face it. Accept that nothing in life is permanent and embrace it. Realize that there is no self and that the I that we perceive as us does not exist. That everything we experience is really a false reality created by the perspective of who we are and where we go in lives. When we realize that all three of these characteristics are true and accurate then our attachment towards people, towards suffering, and towards desire will decrease greatly and happiness and peace in our lives will become more vivid. It is like having a great weight lifted off our shoulders so we can stand tall, proud, and in control.