The third Noble Truth is the truth of cessation. Not only do we let go of suffering and desire, we know when those things are not there. And this is a most important part of meditation practice, to really know when there is no suffering. Suffering ceases, and you are still alive, still aware, still breathing. It doesn’t mean that the world has ended, that everything has become blank; it means that the suffering has ceased. The suffering ends, and there is knowledge of the end of suffering.
If we don’t notice, we never know when there is no suffering. We only know when there is suffering — ‘I’m suffering.’ We react to it. Our memories tend to be about the extremely pleasant experiences, great successes, and so on, or great misery. We remember when we were very happy, successful, ecstatic, and when we were really down, and life was really painful. But we don’t remember when life wasn’t up or down; we don’t remember when there wasn’t any extreme. So memory itself tends to be the perceptions we form about extreme experiences. As we let go more and more of the heedless reactions, the grasping, then we find the mind that isn’t extreme. When we allow the world to be as it is — the sense world and so forth — we feel a sense of ease and peace. Even if things are not very nice, we can be at ease, and we can respond in an intelligent, gentle, kindly way, an appropriate way.
This is an example of the life of Gotama the Buddha. His response to the world after his enlightenment was — what? Compassion — tremendous compassion for other beings. He dedicated the remainder of his life, over forty years, solely to the welfare of other beings.
Cessation, then, is to be fully realized. In meditation, more and more one really sees what suffering is, its arousal, and the cessation of it. There is the knowing of it, what we call insight-knowledge. It’s not theoretical knowledge; it’s not symbolic knowledge; it’s a real insight — knowing from experience, from a clear understanding of the real thing.
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First published in the February 1990 Buddhism Now.
Photograph from the British Library #endangeredarchives project.
Thanks to @bl_eap
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Categories: Ajahn Sumedho, Buddhism, Theravada
If a person does bad things — sabotages a loving relationship, betrays trust, lies, cheats — can there possibly be an end to THAT suffering, both of the betrayer and those betrayed?
If, through one’s actions, one has destroyed everything they hold dear … even if that person is genuinely remorseful (yet devoid of a reasonable explanation for the precipitating behavior), knowing the damage they have wrought, will there ever be a way to end their suffering? Or are they completely unredeemable?
And what of the people left damaged and betrayed by that person? How do they find a way out of their pain? Their suffering? How do they mend shattered trust, broken hearts and indelibly altered lives?
What steps are needed to manifest the cessation of suffering for ALL involved?
‘Completely unredeemable’ isn’t a Buddhist view, no one’s doomed. Sometimes karma looks simple, but it’s deep. The thing is to see our own role, that’s the most important thing.
Can you elaborate a bit? I do not completely understand.
Look at your own actions, don’t suffer from events. That’s the Buddhist way.
It is a hard thing for a non-Buddhist to understand but karma is a kind of spiritual objective truth a bit like a scientific truth such as gravity.. If we act from a grasping sort of attitude; what can I get out of you – unpleasant consequences will be created. Speaking from personal experience the ‘mistakes’ I’ve made throughout life had the consequence of causing discontent and anxiety; I coulndt be relaxed and content on my own. That is an example of karmic consequence rebounding on myself.
A Buddhist way of life can easily be described as, ‘watching our karma unfold’.
Cessation completed, suffering ceases, but still breathing, still living, and attending to the routine, but no more suffering. The beauty of the Dhamma, is that it does not occur with the death, but before that, when realization becomes the main activity.