In the time of Buddha, a woman suffered the death of her only child. Unable to accept it, she ran from person to person, desperately seeking a medicine to restore her child to life. She was directed to approach the Buddha.
She asked for a medicine to restore her child to life. The Buddha told her that to make this medicine he would need special ingredients. He told her that he needed a handful of mustard seeds from a household where no child, spouse, parent, or servant had died.
The woman ran from house to house in search of the mustard seed. The houses she went to were happy to give her the seed. When she asked if death had ever visited their home, they all acknowledged that they had lost loved ones. The woman was unable to find a home free from the suffering of death. Seeing that she was not alone in her grief, the mother let go of her child’s lifeless body, and returned to the Buddha. He said, with great compassion, “You thought that you alone had lost a son; the law of death is that among all living creatures there is no permanence.”
Suffering is something that we all experience; none of us will escape this law.
We of the western society tend to believe that if we are suffering, we have somehow done some thing ‘wrong’, or that something must be ‘fixed’ in order to restore happiness. We have a tendency to not want to face our suffering, so we look for ways to escape from it. External escapes, such as addictions, entertaining a myriad of distractions, and chemicals; internal escapes such as denying or blaming; will in the long run, fail, and often times will cause the suffering to be greater. We can not escape the law that we will suffer in our lifetimes, but how we react to it, what we do when it is in our midst, is entirely up to us. And in this way, we can not only face our suffering, accept its inevitability, but perhaps learn some thing important in its wake.
The Dalai Lama entertains a way to make this a little easier for ourselves. If we contemplate suffering in all its forms, then when it comes to us, it will be easier for us to face it, and easier for us to respond to it in a productive manner. This does not alleviate the suffering in the least bit, but it will help us to mentally prepare and not be blind-sided by it. Since it is a fact, a law, that suffering does occur; and since we see that there is more suffering in the world than contentment and happiness, we begin to understand that we will have to deal with it as a reality. Our attitude toward suffering can help us greatly in dealing with these issues as they arise.
‘I think that how you perceive life as a whole plays a role in your attitude about suffering. For instance, if your basic outlook is that suffering is negative and must be avoided at all costs, and in some sense is a sign of failure, this will add a distinct psychological component of anxiety and intolerance when you encounter difficult circumstances, a feeling of being overwhelmed. On the other hand, if your basic outlook accepts that suffering is a natural part of your existence, this will undoubtedly make you more tolerant towards the adversities of life.’ -Dalai Lama
In accepting our lives in this place, it is important to not take an overall pessimistic view. The reason that all societies in the world have religion is that it stabilizes our place here, gives us a purpose and reason to exist at all, and gives us strength and sanity. If you can find your inner spirituality, no matter what your doctrine, than you can find the underlying objective to your life, and take the altruistic path. With this basis, you can see that every one is here to learn, not how to suffer, but how to live well in spite of suffering. We can learn to grow and progress through the teachings that are rooted in suffering. And we can better our spirits, since once we leave this world, our spirit is the only thing that we will be taking with us.
In my mind, we are here to learn, to grow, to love, and to one day progress to the next step, or to find out way back to God-Home. Either way, this is my path, and it causes me to feel at peace. I am hoping that this will also give you a sense of hope and peace as well.