Dr. Larry Cohen (856) 352-5428
Buddhism teaches that human suffering is an unavoidable part of being human. Pain and misery, like death and taxes, are two more of life’s nasty guarantees. We may do our best to hide our pain, but we no doubt feel it. Pain is in fact, just another part of the human experience.Buddhism teaches that human suffering is caused by our own selfish cravings and personal desires. And, once we gain mastery over our cravings and desires, our human suffering can be overcome.
Tragically, the pain we so desperately try to avoid throughout our lives can eventually cause 'complex post-traumatic stress disorder.' Unlike PTSD, which can develop following exposure to a single traumatic event (a war, for example), complex PTSD takes hold and builds over time. If we live in an abusive environment, for example, the impact of that abuse grows greater over time. Is it possible for us to learn a new way of coping with our pain? Pain impacts different individuals in different ways. Does harboring negative perceptions of the world, of those around us, and of ourselves make life more painful? Well, reality is reality! Right? Or, is reality subjective, different for each of us? What if reality is dependent on the eyes, attitudes, and beliefs of the beholder? People who harbor resentments, hold on to anger, and share negative attitudes are likely in more pain than those who don't.
Take a moment to reflect on your own life - moment by moment, how aware are you of the Buddha's truth? Are you someone how pushes away pain, or worse, buries it inside? Do you recognize when you're in pain? and do you recognize when others are in pain??
In the final analysis, most of us don't live as the Buddha recommends. But, when we dismiss the Buddha's wisdom, we suffer, and continue living in pain. Sadly, the human ability to disconnect from the self and others is linked to selfish cravings and desires. Every day we are bombarded, tempted, and told to believe that we are the true centers of the universe. How can we expect to alleviate our pain when what is causing it is swirling around us daily, sold as a human right, and preached as a virtue? Instead of addressing our pain and learning to overcome it, we mask the pain, spending our lives chasing immediate gratification. Immersing oneself in immediate gratification may be a lazy waste of time when we could be putting our time to much greater use - perhaps time is better spent in self-reflection. We all need to learn more about ourselves, to take time to accept our humanity and admit how fragile we truly are. Perhaps more time should be spent contemplating our death, the nature of god, and the role of spirituality.
Every day, I catch myself paying little attention to what causes my pain. Am I that out of touch? Upon reflection, I wonder if all the time and energy I spent pursuing selfish cravings and personal desires lead to anywhere at all. How much of our lives have we wasted soothing our ego, while we could have been pursuing something meaningful, such as helping those in need, lending an ear to a friend, or caring enough about ourselves to devote time and energy toward healing and fixing ourselves - so that we become better people, and in time, transform into our best selves.
What if suffering was optional? What would life be like if we all toned down our egocentrism and focused instead on the needs of others? I once knew a man who had these words hanging on his wall for all to see,
“G-d is first, you are second, and I am last.”
The happiest and most content people I know are what I call ‘other-centric’. They always find time for other people, regardless of how busy (or poor) they are. Some call them backward, nonsensical, and even idiotic. Yet, when I help others, I feel absolutely certain that I have found my purpose - and a sense of grace and gratitude always overcomes me.