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
Of the four, this third seems to me the more difficult to embrace and truly assimilate into life. Initially, I had thought to see the truth of the second was hardest. But seeing something is true and acting upon the acceptance/acknowledgment of it are two entirely different things.
Add to this, there are some things to which I cling (and to which I now know I cling) that I simply do not want to let go of… for reasons that vary from pride to fear to stubbornness to combinations of the three that stretch the width, breadth, and depth of ‘myself’.
It is easy to see clinging in others and much harder to admit it in myself; All the moreso for knowing that to admit it is to undertake to insist upon releasing it. I have a great deal to let go of in life, but take some small comfort in the sense that I am not actively adding to the list these days.
But I’m supposed to be talking about how/why I find this third of The Four Noble Truths is ‘true’ and I suppose using myself as an example is hardly objective, eh?
I think the reason I start with myself is that we all seem to start there/here. I look to myself for confirmation or negation and, only if I’m unable to find it, do I look externally.
I do not think myself alone in this process/method, and it seems to me a confirmation of many things, most of which will have to keep for another time. Suffice to say, it is not uncommon, unknown, or unexpected that I look first inside for answers. This is yet another insight to truth in The Dharma revealed, I think.
I suppose the simplest validation of the truth in this third of The Four Noble Truths is:
a soul has choice.
Every day, every moment, I look into infinity and choose where to place my foot. As I walk the path I have selected or which life sets before me, I choose where my eye lands, where my hand touches, and I receive or reject the things that arrive.
I choose where my hand touches. I choose to pick up an item. I choose to select one thought over another. I choose to think of one event or memory or not.
Every moment of my existence is choice and the ugliest crime against life and becoming is denial of it. This denial is often dressed very sweetly, very sweetly indeed. It is offered to me in many ways, under many guises… and often, thinking perhaps the weary burden of choice may be set aside, I reach, I touch, and I choose denial.
But it becomes clearer that to deny is to set me up for lifelong suffering. How is it that I make the same mistake over and over? Always so willing to hope to avoid the struggle. It seems a sadness.
How many times have I met someone who is obviously and overtly suffering? Who is horizontal and being pulled slowly in half by the strain of suffering? Who is holding onto something, hands and fingers buried deeply in it, all their attention turned to it, while the strain of that holding in the face of time and life moving along is creating the suffering that is slowly pulling them apart?
What does one do? To speak of it is to anger them. They are in denial and they become angry with me for daring to point at what they fear to see for how it reveals them to themselves.
The very act of attempting to speak of it is to create more clinging in them, for then they not only cling all the tighter to denial, they also cling to dislike or hatred of me for the ‘rudeness’ of mentioning it. Etiquette as a means of enforcing suffering. We do such strange obeisance to pain.
And of course, all this speaking of others avoids speaking of the many ways in which I am, even now, horizontal and stretched, hoisted upon my own petard. The admission is, I hear, required… lest you read my words and convince yourself I am somehow not aware of my own, many shortcomings (how could I possibly be so when to be able to see them in others is only possible by first seeing them in myself?).
This grows long and it need not be so – all criteria to suppose the truth of it is here…. a mind has choice. Because a mind has choice, all clinging may be released. It is the embrace of this which is the difficulty — first, the overcoming of pride and fear and avoidance. Then to begin the process.
The lesson of this Third of the Four Noble Truths is that suffering may be relieved, clinging may be relieved, and we have within us the power and ability to do both.