A blogger friend asks the question, "Is suffering optional?"
"Yes" resounds from some place. But yes is a partial truth, too. It not being optional works also. I'll talk about that next time. For now, this post is about how it's optional.
Suffering is extra, it's sneaky, and it's hard to pass up, just like getting your meal super sized. Maybe that's not relevant for you because you don't like McDonalds, but if I go to McDonalds it's very hard to pass up the super sizing. You're paying just a little extra. Sometimes you feel like you deserve the super size option because you have pay at all, and you go for it. Suffering is the same, especially if we keep taking the drive through in Samsara.
How do I know this? Because I suffer! I managed to suffer through a Dharma talk last night. I suffered when I was teaching in the public school system. That's besides the point, since everyone is suffering from their two-eye view of the world on a spectrum that is only as wide as their perception. I'm not going to say who's suffering is greater, yours or someone in the third world, because pissing contests produce piss. I'm in a tradition that says there is suffering and there is an end to suffering. This post is for those who are sincerely investigating this.
I suffer when I'm ignorant to, clinging to, or averting from reality.
The Buddha said that life is this broken axle and the wheels go bumpity bump. When the wheels start really going bumpity bump, one of the Three Poisons appears: Ignorance, attachment, or aversion. We talk about aversion a lot, so I won't talk about the pain of sitting through a Dharma talk full of partial truths, self building, and bull shit. I'll talk about attachment, or something that feels good to do, at least at first.
I've just returned to Green Gulch Farm from Austin Zen Center, where I attended a salon of sorts with a group of my teacher's senior students. We were in his temple, which is a very nice experience; at Green Gulch, i'm considered pre-novice- this means small rooms, shit jobs, 20 dollars a month, alienation, and a general keep your mouth shut if you know what's good for you. This isn't written anywhere and I don't disagree with it, but it is hard. However, at Austin Zen Center, the 150 strong sangha is very curious about us who have been or come through the larger training temples for our lineage. They have lots of questions and they like seeing new priests walking about. I got to grill for them:
Not to mention, I was able to spend time with my teacher, dharma brothers (and sister) and bask in a glow of cooperation and love. We went for walks around Town Lake. We went grocery shopping, all 8 of us, and our teacher picked up the bill. Our teacher picked up the bill for all of us for the entire time- even flights. Why? I have no idea how Kosho Zenrei's heart opened so wide, and this is why I study with him. But then, we had to get back on our planes, fly away from his warm embrace, and show up for our lives.
Funny, I didn't think of my wonderful life at Green Gulch as something I had to show up for before I left. Honestly, I didn't want to leave it the farm to go to Texas. I didn't want change!
Now I'm back, and guess what I'm clinging to: Kosho's warm embrace, his humor, his GOOD dharma talks, that Texas dry heat, and the very comfortable Austin Zen Center.
And this is: Klesha, Bonno, Illusions, or general disturbance to my peace of mind. It's wanting things to be different they are; it's ignoring how they really are right now, and it's making unfair demands on phenomena, and the demands defy emptiness.
What does this feel like? It's back and forth. It's staring at the Zen teacher last night and wishing to free him from my view; It didn't work. I think to free him from my view I had to free myself that I was indeed viewing him as such, and that's okay. But that's not what came to mind.
Suffering not being optional is really important to look at, too. It's just like enlightenment isn't optional. More on that next time, though no promise, because I've been reading a lot about dream yoga, and it might interrupt.