Let go of suffering – Buddhistdoor Global

Every year fall comes to my little corner of the world and I watch my neighbors go through the strange ritual of raking and bagging the leaves in their garden. I say strange because it’s a useless exercise. In fact, it can be downright harmful in some contexts. There are a host of insects and earthworms that depend on leaf matter to keep soil temperatures warm in winter, and trees depend on decaying and fallen leaves to fertilize the soil.

When we remove dead leaves from our gardens, it can lead to soil malnutrition, poorer tree health, and the death of much of the soil microbiome. Plus, more trash ends up in landfills and we’re creating a lot of unnecessary work for ourselves with all the time and energy it takes to rake and bag leaves. And more than that, we create a lot of unnecessary suffering for ourselves and for other sentient beings.

The reason we do this can be found in the teaching of the five aggregates. Simply put, our experience of reality can be broken down into five aggregates:

1. Form

2. Perception

3. Feelings

4. Mental Transformation

5. Consciousness

At the most basic level, we suffer because of our attachment to the five aggregates. For example, if we are sitting in our living room and our neighbor across the street is playing loud music, we can feel three of the five aggregates:

Perception: loud music

Feeling: unpleasant

Mental transformation: “Why can’t he play his music at a reasonable volume like a normal person?”

At that time, we experience suffering. However, it is important to note that suffering does not come from loud music. The suffering comes from our attachment to the aggregates that have been generated by the loud music.

Buddhist practices, such as meditation and chanting, help us break our attachment to the aggregates and the suffering that accompanies them by bringing our attention to a single point of concentration. During sitting meditation, it could be the breath. During chanting, it may be an image of the Buddha or the sound of chanting in our ears. But as we engage in these practices, our attachment to the aggregates fades and our suffering fades with it.

So what does this have to do with raking leaves?

The aggregate of consciousness is created by the fusion of the other four aggregates. That is, our thoughts, feelings, and perceptions of the world around us give us a sense of ourselves. They make us feel real.

In order to maintain the aggregate of consciousness and the sense of individuality that comes with it, it is not uncommon for people to consciously or unconsciously create problems for themselves. That’s why we do things like rake the leaves in the fall when nature can take care of it without our intervention. It gives us something to do. It is a problem that needs to be solved, and only by maintaining our list of problems can we maintain our sense of self.

It is for this reason that we often cling to the causes of our suffering. We don’t want to suffer in itself. But neither do we want to give up the feeling that has just been at the center of the drama. So we are looking for him. Sometimes it will look like yard work. But it could just as easily be a catastrophic social media scroll or a political row with a colleague. The goal is not to solve a problem. The goal is to have a problem to solve.

This is why the Buddhist practice of sitting meditation is so difficult. In theory, this should be the easiest thing in the world. We just need to sit quietly on our cushions without moving until our practice period is over. But there are no issues that require our attention when we are sitting. Thus, our mind is deprived of the necessary inputs to maintain our illusory sense of self. So he starts looking for trouble.

It could replay the conversations we had earlier in the day, bringing up all the emotions involved. Or the mind might create a long list of other things we could do if only we weren’t sitting on the cushion. The key thing to remember in these times is that if we try to “solve” the problem of our thoughts by making them disappear, we only increase our attachments to the aggregates. And we increase our suffering in the process.

However, we box just learn to sit quietly, bringing our focus back to our breathing again and again. As we do so, our attachment to form, perception, sensation, and mental transformations will slowly fade until our attachment to consciousness also fades. At that time, the mind/body will collapse and only Buddha will remain.

Namu Amida Butsu

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