Friday, September 2, 2011

Suffering and the End of Suffering

The central teaching of Buddhism is that to the unenlightened being life is suffering, that there are specific causes of suffering, that there is an end to suffering if these causes are overcome, and that there is a specific path to the working out of these root causes and thus to the ending of suffering. Called the Four Noble Truths, this teaching of the Buddha is perhaps the earliest and most explicit teaching of how suffering works as the soil and water that nourishes spiritual growth. As one famous spiritual writer put it: 'When we are suffering we are really being blessed, but we do not recognize it at the time.'

"You won't be able to surrender," notes preeminent spiritual teacher, Eckhart Tolle (in the video, below), "unless you are completely fed up with suffering, (unless) you have had enough suffering, and at some level you recognize that most of your suffering is self created."

"Suffering is a wonderful teacher; (it) is most people's only teacher," he points out. "Suffering deepens you. It gradually erodes the mind-made sense of self, the ego. And for some people the point arises where they realize, "I have suffered enough.""

Not only is the message of suffering and the end of suffering the central tenet of Buddhism, Tolle notes, it is also a central teaching of Christianity. "Finding the Pearl of Great Price, finding the Kingdom of Heaven that is within you, here and now, as Jesus says, is of course the ending of suffering. So one could say that you need suffering for you to realize, to come to point of realization, that you do not need to suffer anymore."

That one needs to suffer in order to come to the realization that one no longer needs to suffer, is as Tolle puts it, the "great paradox" that drives spiritual growth. One finds in time, however, that one can sincerely strive to live a life of the spirit without the necessity of constantly being bludgeoned into that position by painful struggle. That, Tolle would probably agree, is the beginning of the end of the small, ego-self.

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