Life is only as unkind
as we are unkind in life
(including to ourselves).
Hi Dr Lee Wei Ling, thank you for sharing about your Mother’s illness in ‘The Straits Times’. Below, I quote the most poignant parts of your article ‘Difficult to Accept a Loved One’s Suffering’, with some added comments. I hope they are helpful. Re: ‘It is easy… to conclude that being born, growing old, falling sick and eventually dying is what happens to all of us. I accept these facts with no resentment that life is unkind. I have more than my fair share of bad luck, but I have never resented it, for I think suffering built up my resilience.’ Comments: Could it be that you repeated the word ‘resent/ment’ due to some denial of underlying resentment from being long-suffering, such that you conclude that ‘life is unkind’? Life just is; it is not always kind; or unkind. Perhaps your ‘resilience’ is still inadequate, if you have yet to accept the reality of suffering? It’s not very wise to think suffering is due to ‘bad luck’, which contradicts ‘fair share’. If suffering is based on ‘luck’, life is equally (un)fair to all. It is more rational to believe there is cause and effect (karma – from this and/or a past life). As there is no ‘chance’ in the ‘mechanics’ of everything, there is no ‘luck’ in suffering too.
Re: ‘But I find it difficult to accept my mother’s suffering. The Buddhist principle of feeling compassion but with detachment is wise, but it is not an attitude that I find humanly possible to adopt when it comes to Mama. I cannot see her suffering with detachment.’ Comments: Compassion with detachment seems impossible only when we continue to deny the reality of suffering. The First Noble Truth taught by the Buddha is about the reality of suffering, before advancing to the other three Truths, which help us to overcome suffering, to realise True Happiness. With enough reflection, we can learn to accept suffering, while doing our best to transform it, and with less attachment to results too. It is good to remember that out of love, your Mother would not wish you to be attached to your suffering or hers, but to simply do the best for both of you. To remain heartbroken would break your Mother’s heart even more.
If something similar happens to my Mother, I would talk to her, hoping she can hear, to share about the Buddha’s teachings, and urge her to nianfo (be mindful of Amituofo; Amitabha Buddha) by practising it with her. I would share this too – ‘By the blessings of Amituofo, if you can recover, may you swiftly recover. By the blessings of Amituofo, if you cannot recover, may you swiftly be reborn in his Pure Land, where there is no suffering, where you will attain Enlightenment.’ I would also do good to create merits in her name, and let her know this to rejoice and thus create merits herself too. On compassion with detachment, ‘The Buddha is the best example of exemplifying unconditional compassion without any unhealthy attachment. For example, when a disciple passes away before him, he does not suffer from attachment. He just ensures that he does his best to help his disciples while they are alive.’ (Please see https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2010/07/is-there-tension-between-compassion-detachment for the complete article.) May all be well and happy! – Shen Shi’an
What the Buddha Really Taught
If even suffering has the potential to enlighten,
there is no such thing as a useless experience.
If I understand it correctly, the suffering of a person is not merely related to the person’s own karma but also to the karma of those who are closely related to him or her. For example, a saint or master would voluntarily suffer to alleviate the karma of his or her disciples. By improving our own karma, I believe that we also lessen the karmic burdens of those closely connected with us.
One’s karma is related to another in the sense that if they share collective common karma to some extent. If someone appears to be able to alleviate another’s negative karma, it’s the latter’s positive karma at play too.
Do you have an example to share for the master case?
When we improve our karma, we can share merits with others.
Karma is karma. Everything is what is.
Thinking arises, judgment/discrimination arises. Then there is good karma, there is bad karma.
Good karma leads to attachment to the good situation, bad karma brings resentment to the bad situation.
When we perceive our situation correctly; without resentment, without judgment and without attachment, then we can use our karma (good or bad) to help the world.
Correct situation, correct truth, correct function/life.
In many religious and moral systems, there are notions similar to that of “karma” – for example, in Christianity: “as you sow, so shall you reap”. What is harder to understand is the web of karmic connections. Those born into the same family must surely share some common “karma”. Karmic connections may be extended from family to community to nation. In some sense, all sentient beings existing on this planet at a given time share some “karma” – it’s only a matter of degree.
A classic example of the suffering of a spiritual master to take on the “karma” of his disciples must surely be that of Jesus Christ himself. Christians, of course, do not see it as such because their theological interpretation and terminology are different, but this may be interpreted within the framework of “karma”.
I believe that many religions have traditions in which masters and acknowledged practitioners have agonized and undergone physical hardships for the sake of others and have touched on and improved the lives of others (in other words, change the “karma” of others).
Simply, my mind’s still not tamed – for when things/ events in life doesn’t flow according to my wishes, there is resentment, and of course a whole bout of sufferings that strings along in the heart…
there is also this hasty and habitual reaction to blame everything on “bad luck” – for often it is hard to see/ comprehend the direct cause and effect of karma.
Without deep practice and contemplation of the precious Dharma – life’s suffering is really not easy to understand for true acceptance of the reality.
Contrary to what many of us think;
Happiness does not come from the things we see; happiness comes from how we see things.
Likewise, anger/resentment/good or bad luck does not come from situation that arises; they come from how we relate to the situation that arises.
Practicing the Dharma is more than contemplation, it is our everyday life; from moment to moment how we see and relate to our situation as it is and to use them correctly for the benefit of everyone.
Thank you for wisely reminding that practicing the Dharma is more than contemplation; for it is also how we perceive and relate to our everyday situations moment to moment.
Many blessings for a Dharma friend and guidance. Sadhu 🙂
But how can Jesus take upon the suffering of his disciples? If there is an all-loving creator god, he would take upon all of his creations’ suffering away once and for all, starting from Adam and Eve. But it never happened. Even today, not that there is an all-loving creator god, innocent children (though they are really victims of their karma too) die everyday.
Agreed with dharmafellow. The teaching “as you sow, so shall you reap” clearly tells no one else can take upon the suffering on behalf. To believe an all loving creator (the Almighty God/Jesus)can take away one’s suffering simply contradicts the teaching itself. We are solely responsible for our karma -good/bad, when it ripens. Feeling of resentment (consumed by attachment, hatred and ignorance) does help alleviate sufferrings. The wise understand sufferrings and knows the path to free his/her sufferring.
On the second last line, think it should be ‘Feeling of resentment (consumed by attachment, hatred and ignorance) does NOT help alleviate suffering’?
thank you dharmafellow. you are right.. should read “feeling of resentment… does not help alleviate sufferring. my apology for the error.Thank you for sharing.
I think it’s easier to accept a loved one’s suffering if we are able to lessen their pain, such as by being more sensitive to their needs and offering kind words to pacify their minds.
Not long ago there was a news report on zealous Christians hanging around Hospitals’ bedrooms in order to be near patients who are terminally ill. They try to do ‘last minute conversion’ for non-christian patients to Chriatianity, thinking it is a good thing to do.
I think it’s better to leave the patients alone to find solace in whatever religion they believe in.
To counter preachy preachers, perhaps this card can be used, printed big as a poster for the hospital bed if needed:
Re: ‘But I find it difficult to accept my mother’s suffering. The Buddhist principle of feeling compassion but with detachment is wise, but it is not an attitude that I find humanly possible to adopt when it comes to Mama. I cannot see her suffering with detachment.’
Comments: every mama loves their child, it will be more affliction for them to see their child’s suffer in front of them. It does not help to being over attached with compassion. Buddha states of mind means to know the suffering of others and stay sensibly that showing suffering in front of a sufferer like mama will induce much more suffering. Compassion with detachment means sensibly accepting suffering, containing it and walk together in a reasonable disposition, such as her likings to uplift her gracious memories in life. This will indirectly/directly lead her for a better and prosperous rebirth.
Most favourable is to introduce Pure Land Amitabha where she could become buddha and will never be departing their child forever. They have the ability and wisdom and in the opportune time to be with Buddha Amitabha to receive their child to pure land. Is a much more pleasant and wonderful family eternal gathering instead. Namo Amitabha
Good day dhammafarers, brothers & sisters in the dhamma,Thank you Daily Enlightenment for providing this platform for discussion & sharing the eternal bliss of the truth. Let me take this example of Maya Maya who delivered Prince Siddhartha and passed away after 7 days. Great is the sacrifice she made to carry the child in the womb for 9.5 months. If not for her selflessness to delivered the last life of the future fully enlighten lord, where do we gain such a rare opportunity to share the teachings only to “do good, avoid evil, purify one’s mind”. Like wise, Mary did the same to deliver Jesus Christ in the stable. It is not a horse, but the future saviour of mankind. Both gone through self realisation in depth before achieving the ultimate truth. It is via their teachings that generations after generations carry on the cultivation to realise the enlightenment.It is often say ” God would help those who help themselves”. It is SALEMCUT i.e. abbreviation for the eightfold pathway to liberalise oneself from the samsara cycle.With metta, I’m penning off.
Buddhists don’t see Jesus to be a ‘saviour of mankind’… partly due to these reasons: http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/beyond-belief02.pdf (Check out the link for why Buddhists don’t believe in the existence of an almighty, all-good and wll-wise creator God too)
If these teachings are by Jesus, it’s hard to see him as realised: http://www.evilbible.com/what_would_jesus_do.htm
It’s not right to equate a line to represent the Noble Eightfold Path. Here is why: https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2010/11/are-all-religions-the-same There are many differences between the essential teachings of the two schoold of thought.
One of the most potent ways to alleviate the suffering of loved ones (be it illness, wars, poverty or the like) is to create merit through life liberation.
Of the Buddha’s Five Precepts, the precept against killing is the most important. While most people will never take the life of another human being, almost everyone eats meat at least three times a day. Moreover, many hunt, fish or participate in the meat packing industry.
According to the ADAPTT, 150 billion animals are slaughtered every year just to gratify the desires of a few billion humans.
In fact, if you visit their animal kill counter (http://www.adaptt.org/killcounter.html), which calculates how many animals had been killed since you visited the website, you will find that within a minute, over 100,000 animals would have been slaughtered.
Furthermore, animals and livestock are often caged in inhumane or crowded conditions ; according to the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua, those who cage birds will be deprived of liberty in the future as karmic retribution.
Thus, it is without doubt that the evil karma being created by eating meat is extremely heavy. Thus it is no wonder illness, short lifespans and so forth trouble our world and our lives unceasingly. The karma of killing is to strong.
Thus, I wish to follow up on the Blog author’s excellent post by exhorting the importance of abstaining from eating meat, hunting, fishing, trapping, raising livestock for slaughter, selling meat or participating in the meat packing industry. Furthermore, liberating life is also important. The merits from liberating life and veganism are among most potent and speedily eradicates the evil karma that causes death, misfortune and wars.