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The Cause of Suffering - Reflecting Generations of Ignorance

The Buddha taught that ignorance is the cause of suffering, so what did he mean by that?

We all know that the fire is hot and therefore we do not put our hands too close because we know that the fire will cause pain and physical damage. We know that if we drive our cars ridiculously, then we are likely to crash causing pain and suffering to one's self and others.

Some of us learned from our parents and avoided putting our hands into the fire and therefore avoided that unpleasant suffering. Some of us however had to learn the hard way and experienced that pain - but we learned. Similarly some of us drove carefully and had avoided such suffering whereas others have not and of course many of them have paid with their lives.

At a physical level, once one has understood a some basic physical principles, suffering can be avoided. Yet we suffer in so many other ways which dramatically affects our behaviour and as a consequence the nature of our society and civilisation.

The person who always believes that they are always right is generally a tyrant who inflicts suffering on others in order to be happy and happiness is something that we all aspire to.

We need to understand that most of our actions are about achieving some kind of peace and happiness, but if we look at our world and our own lives, we often see that our peace and happiness is dependent on the behaviour of other people.

Because we are physical beings we have a certain degree of interdependency upon our physical environment as well as other people. We depend on our environment for food and shelter, and we depend on other people to assist us in the process of survival.

This need for others is a fundamental aspect of our reality because in today's world there are none of us who could live in complete isolation. Therefore we have conjured up systems of living and political arrangements to manage those systems. We have tried tyranny, fascism, communism, socialism, capitalism and democracy. All of these systems have worked to some degree and all the populations have adjusted to living under these systems.

We forget the fundamental truth that all our life experiences take place in our minds.
Hence we are ignorant.

Before going any further we must consider what is happiness?

If we think about how we scale our life experience, we can see that happiness grows from peace and joy grows from happiness. From there we can progress to bliss and ecstasy. But if there is no peace, there can be no happiness, joy, bliss or ecstasy because without peace one is trapped in suffering.

Suffering includes poor health and diseases of body and mind. In the Western world we tend to think that we are 'kind of okay' because we have had some kind of education and some training to make our way or survive in the world which passes off as a kind of quasi-happiness, but in reality this is a fantasy.

Knowledge of the world is no substitute for knowing one's self. Knowledge of the world is a good thing because such knowledge means we are less likely to put our hand in the fire or step off the edge of a cliff. Or perhaps I should say in more modern terms 'one may avoid gambling' so as not to have one's life regulated by the toss of the dice or the fluctuations of the stock markets.

Knowing one's self is a controversial topic in the English speaking world because the main thrust of western civilisation has been about manipulating life and seeking temporary happiness at any cost. If we look back to the British East India company and others like it, they used slavery, genocide and blatant theft to acquire various kinds of profits in order to give themselves the means of acquiring short-term pleasure.

People who seek a short-term pleasure have yet to rise from suffering and find that fundamental level of peacefulness in their lives from which happiness and other boons can emerge.

Therefore it is my contention that the majority of people in the world who have for generations been afflicted by imperialism and colonialism are trapped in suffering because their rationale for happiness is dependent on events outside of themselves. This includes the populations of capitalist and imperialist nations.

To help understand this, please realise that there are only two directions in life.

One direction is looking outwards which involves involvement in the life outside of yourself from which you partake in activities for your well-being and potential happiness.

The other direction is to turn and look inwards. This is a spiritual journey where by looking inwards, the individual comes to know the nature of their own existence and is enabled to take responsibility for one's self. Then the individual can relieve their own suffering and find peace. It is from that position which some Buddhists refer to as 'calm abiding', that the foundations are laid for the boons of happiness and joy.

However, in the Western world this activity has been discouraged because to take time to examine one's own nature, one must detach a little from the activities of the world which means that when you detach, you are not contributing to the happiness of the corporate masters. Remember the thrust of western civilisation is that life is all about profit and although capitalism has been democratised to a certain extent, the system is still dependent on slavery for it to function.

The other obstacle to internal exploration is religion. There is a version of Christianity that says that God made heaven and earth some six or seven thousand years ago whereas scientists would have you believe that there was a big bang some 4.5 billion years ago and that we are just a chance happening. Christianity would have us believe that God made us in his own image, but where does that leave women?

While there are two directions in life, there are allso two aspects to life and those are masculine and feminine. Although you may identify yourself as being a man or a woman, every man contains the feminine aspect and every woman contains the male aspect of life. This is sometimes referred to as 'the human shadow".

This is true not only of all species, but even of the stars and planets. Within our own solar system the earth is recognised as being feminine because it produces life and the masculine is referred to as the sun because it provides the energy to nourish life. One could go into a very long metaphysical debate here, but this is not my purpose.

The purpose here is to remind you that when you look inside there is both a feminine and masculine aspect to what we call as 'myself'.

Now let's return to the nature of our societies. Our societies and even our civilisation, the way it is at present is outward looking and we can see around us that it is highly destructive. We live in a world that is continually at war, but even if you live outside of a war zone then you have to deal with petty crime and the risk of someone whacking you on the head to take your money or even your mobile phone. So under all the political regimes that have occurred over the world in the past few thousand years, populations have lived in a state of fear and today the leaderships of all Western countries use fear as a tool to motivate their populations to acquiesce to their demands.

Now let's reconsider something of what I said. We live under capitalism and that is governed by fear that is also supported by patriarchal religions and patriarchal thinking. So where is the female element in all of this?

From a Western standpoint, we know very little of our history and yet we know that within early Judaism from which Christianity evolved, the name of God was El and his wife was named Asherah. Do you get that? God had a wife which in spiritual terms recognises the concept of the divine masculine and feminine as being an aspect of our ultimate nature.

Where did this idea come from? Lets first look back at the Christian view that there was only the one God without a wife all without a female companion and he alone created heaven and earth. But, if we look back at ancient India and the spirituality that Judaism emerged from, we see that Indian spirituality has always included the Divine Masculine and Divine feminine aspects inherent within our nature.

If we look at Indian civilisation before it was 'discovered' by Europeans, it was a flourishing and peaceful society with a good education system and good health care. They had a deep spiritual understanding and a relationship with the masculine and feminine aspects of their nature which meant that they did not have too look outside of themselves for their peace and happiness.

The ancient Indians recognised that suffering was something self-created from ignorance and over thousands of years almost the entire population of the entirety of Asia knew a period of peace and prosperity that has never been seen since then. I am not claiming that there was absolutely no suffering because there were segments of the population who preferred to look outwards, so there were some cut-throats and thieves as well as the occasional tyrant deluded by glamour and his own ignorance.

"Once one realizes that all beings are "cut from the same cloth," involved in the same predicament-opportunity, experiencing suffering, one gains a deep empathy for the condition of all sentient life. One does not wish to inflict harm upon any living being." ~ Jordan Bates

Image: Shiva, Parvatti and the sacredness of life by Yogendra Rastogi.

The balanced appreciation of the divine masculine and feminine with an appreciation of the two fundamental directions in life sounds like a science-fiction fantasy to today's so-called civilised people who are entirely dependent on external circumstances for their well-being.

Yet the modern system of medicine that has swept over the world claiming to be the most effective and the only valid form of medicine fails to take into account the value of introspection and the basic nature of what it is to be a human being.

In our haste to seek happiness beyond ourselves we fail to realise that this human body that we possess is made of about 70% water and the remainder is soil that has been converted through several creative processes into the substance of the remaining 30% of our body.

Modern medicine and the purely physical understanding of life tells us that our health is all about external factors and yet of all the actual diseases that we suffer, 70% of those begin within our own mind and the other 30% are about getting in the way of someone else's accident or being affected with an unfriendly virus or bacteria.

By not looking inwards and understanding our own internal nature we are also failing to take care of our health and well-being. Because of this we are bound to our delusions about life and unfortunately none of this is going to change until those stronger public influences such as church and state take note.

If you read thus far, you'll know that probably won't happen before hell freezes over and all life on this planet will be extinguished. Therefore, you really have to save yourself and to do that you will find that by moving towards a natural, organic, vegetarian and chemical free diet without alcohol and strong stimulants that you will be able to relax.

Relaxation is key and that is all that is required to get to know yourself more intimately. You can also practice various forms of yoga and meditation to help this process and you can expect to pass through some healing crises to help release the pain that you have endured over your lifetime.

Recapping; it is our wrong thinking and wrong actions that produce suffering for ourselves and for others. Wrong thinking and wrong action arise from our ignorance and occasionally plain stupidity.

Our wrong thinking produces delusions and hallucinations because in effect our mind is in charge of our life instead of being a tool for life as it is designed to be.

Wrong thinking is from ignorance because we have no idea what life is, at present all we do is manipulate life and pretend that everything is okay when really everything hurts like hell.

We are surprisingly adaptable to pain and able to endure great misery, yet life was never designed to be like that. Have you seen or heard of any other species that deliberately makes itself as miserable as what human beings do to themselves? Have you ever seen or heard of any other species that is working so hard to destroy its environment just to find temporary happiness?

Like me, you may be concerned and want to save the planet, but first you have to save yourself. Like on an aircraft in distress, you put on your own gas mask and then tend to those around you. The denial of the feminine under patriarchy blocks perception of life and reduces intuition, it is time to open to and reinstate the Mothers of Gods.

Living Wisdom
A Better World
Nature of Suffering
Cause of Suffering
Dharma or Adharma
Possible Extinction
Price of progress

A Sanskrit Glossary

The Amazing
History of India

Amazing India



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