The Four Noble Truths are:
1) All life is suffering
2) All suffering is caused by clinging
3) All clinging may be released
4) There is a method by which released may be accomplished
I had set this aside for a time to work on repair of a relationship that had been foundering upon the rocks of self and issues pertaining to such. Recently, having arrived at a point of peace, I had decided to float a small while longer and simply delight in that such a thing was possible.
And so I did. For many days. smiling to see a number of things remedied and becoming very happy indeed with the manner in which all seemed to flow back to harmony and contentment.
Today, through a curiosity indulged in a moment of being all too human, I stumbled upon a hidden place, and because I found it, I found as well many deeply hurtful things; Things which, even now, are like glass shards, or perhaps splinters.
What relevance does this have to the topic? Well… it occurs to me that the nature of these new wounds are not of deliberate infliction, but by my clinging to a desire/need to have something be other than as it is. And here, a small insight to the nature of what it is to cling.
The nature of ‘clinging’ is defined by several words, first is ‘anitya’ which loosely translates to an awareness of all things of the world being impermanent in nature. Including people. Including myself.
Second is ‘anatman’, which loosely translates to being without a soul, and, in this context, speaks to the reality that all things are connected and thus, no ‘one thing’ exists independently of any other. There is no ‘one soul’, there is only ‘all soul’, not plural, and probably best rendered into English simply to say ‘all’.
Third is ‘trishna’, which is translated as desire, but which I think might be better said as ‘wanting’… that which is to reach for a thing as if to have it will create a state of permanence or a point of anchoring (e.g., ‘if I have this job, all will be well.’ or ‘if only I had that person as my partner, life would be good.’, or ‘if only I had more money, then life would be manageable.’).
Fourth is ‘dvesha’, which is hatred or avoidance of something. Many times, a person will avoid a thing that causes them to remember an uncomfortable truth, or they will hate a thing that makes it impossible to continue that avoidance. Or they may actually hate one another, which is just as much to cling as if they loved one another (often moreso, given that many will nourish hate far longer than they would endeavor to nourish love).
Fifth, there is ‘avidya’, which is translated to something akin to blindness, or lack of awareness, or refusal to see, or ignorance. The shield between us and one another, or us and some seemingly horrifying truth, or between us and a fear… between.
From here, I return briefly to my tale… initially, that people I thought to be friends were sitting about denigrating and judging and condemning me hurt because it was done in secret, and because it felt something of a betrayal that they smiled publicly and said such things privately.
I let this flow over me and in the doing, found it somewhat transmuted. From the above hurt, it turned to a hurt that these people, who I trusted as friends, not only hid their real thoughts behind a curtain, but didn’t think enough of me to so much as try to help me find ways to be other than as they judged me. This seeming to be a statement of profound lack of care that wounded even more deeply for the fear of it being true.
From here, it once more changed, becoming a wound for the insight that they were not wrong in their opinions, even if the judgments rendered were of a moment, and not the totality of who I strive to be. They were not wrong, and I felt a certain despair that no matter what I do, or how hard I try, inevitably, this would be the outcome. It felt like a burden I could not lose and it is here that the second of these Fourth Noble Truths is fuzzily seen…
I know myself to be striving and trying to overcome. And I know myself to be imperfect and so very often incapable of managing it. And I know that, to the extent this is ever the result, it is likely a thing I will continue to fail in.
So what purpose may be known that is mindful and progressive toward becoming to linger upon the hurt of it? Or to set my hands on the feeling of injustice and clutch it to my chest? Or to float on angry waves for the same imperfection and ignorance with which I continue to struggle?
Should I anger and hurt and be lost simply because I will not let loose of these things?
I think one of the most beautiful things about The Dharma, and about all things I find as I stumble about and stub my toes and hope against hope to become is that, no matter what happens, no matter how bad it seems, and no matter how much my reflexes and instincts flinch and spasm and seek old ways… all that ever needs be done is to take a long, slow, quiet, mindful look at the wisdom and insights found in The Dharma, The Three Jewels, The Four Noble Truths, and the soft, tender urgings of others who struggle as I do… because we are, quite literally, all in it together.
Perhaps the only pitiful expression I can manage is to say that, in this moment, that thought helps… It makes a difference. Perhaps it will seem a humble thing, and not me being yet again like a braying jackass. Perhaps it doesn’t matter how it seems at all, only that it is.
But it proves the point… all suffering is caused by clinging. To dissect any suffering and discover one’s hands set to it, clenched and spasming, is to begin to see it is possible to loose the grip.
It is a deeply beautiful and hopeful thing to so much as begin to see such a thing whatever. All the moreso for how, even at distance and fuzzily, it brings a profound relief and permits a slackening of the grip.
I am thankful as well that that it is possible to not only loose suffering but to smile to and for those who deliver insights and opportunities to learn.
I am thankful as well to have any degree of ability to tenderly forgive myself for moments of humanity and instead, thank myself for even that foolish delving… as without it, this moment of contemplation and release and possibility of learning could not exist.
The lesson of The Fourth Noble Truth is simply that any instance of suffering can be slowly, carefully traced to our own clinging. The beauty of this rests in the realization that because it is something we are doing ourselves, we have the power to change it.