Himalaya: Listen. Learn. Grow.

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Against The Stream

Noah Levine

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Against The Stream
88 min2020 DEC 17
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The Buddha had a really, really radical proposal for humanity. And that is, that all living beings have the power, the potential, the ability to free themselves from suffering through their own actions – through our own efforts – in this lifetime, no matter where you come from, what you've done.

All living beings – even the worst of us – even the best of us – regardless of the circumstances of our birth or our life experience so far, no matter how traumatized, no matter how privileged.

I want to reflect on worthiness and ability.

So, there's this really radical proposal that says everyone has the “ability”. So that means all of us. And I'd imagine that a whole bunch of people's minds are thinking, “I don't think I can do it. I don't I don't think I have the ability to free myself from all forms of suffering.”

Maybe before I go too far into this, I should define what I think the dude meant by, “freedom from suffering”, because so often we think it's going to mean life is easy and pleasant all of the time, because it's the lack of these things and the lack of pleasantness that makes me suffer, right?

That's not what the Buddha was talking about. He was talking about developing the skill, the ability, to meet all of the difficulties that are going to continue to happen in our lives with compassion, with understanding, with forgiveness. Not the end of pain, not the end of difficulties, not the end of death and loss and drama, not a drama free existence, but a suffering free relationship to all of the drama that our own mind’s create, and with relationships in the world, politics, environmental devastation and the reality of the world that we live in. Responding with compassion and forgiveness; the wise response which also is non-clinging, that we can – in this lifetime – develop these skill, these wise responses.

We can become non-reactive.

All of our suffering is created out of reactivity, aversion to the unpleasant, judgment, resentment, anger, rage, frustration, rather than response.

Is your reaction ever non-attachment? Is your reaction ever compassionate?

I want to make this distinction between that reactivity which almost always causes suffering and the wise response which we develop. The skill. We have the power. We have the potential. We have the instructions. We have the map.

This is how you end suffering; by accepting pain, by learning to care about pain.

This is how you end suffering; by understanding that it's all impermanent and learning to meet in permanence with non-attachment.

It's simple to say but this is ******* radical, so radical that the Buddha was a little hesitant. He said, “how many people are going to really take on? This is completely counter instinctual”, because our human instinct is to suffer. Our human instinct is to be reactive. If you're suffering; normal, totally ordinary. Not suffering is a really radical proposal. Letting go rather than clinging, caring rather than hating – both internally and externally.

I hope that makes sense? What we're talking about is not the end of pain, just the end of suffering. Also, not the complete avoidance of pleasure. Learning to enjoy pleasure without clinging to it, not suffering about it. Take it or leave it when it's appropriate, when it's available, but not suffering about it.

Now I ask you to reflect on ‘worthiness’, because I feel like so many people come with these stories. We believe our minds that question, “am I worthy of this? Can I really do this?” Some of the questions are about, “do I have the ability to do this?”

Everyone has the ability, and if you don't believe you have the ability, you're wrong you are mistaken my friend. You actually do have the ability, whether you have the willingness, whether you have the willingness to apply the instructions and follow through long term with applying the instructions, that maybe is another issue, but the ability is here. Human beings have the ability to wake up, to see clearly, and to learn to respond in this incredibly radical counter instinctual subversive rebellious way; with kindness rather than anger and hatred.