Refuge only in the worldly and material,
in clothing, food, lodging, wealth…
eventually leads to suffering,
when one is forced to part from them in death,
when one has no greater refuge in the spiritual.
An example of Suffering within Suffering is to be penniless and also without any food to eat or any place to live. This suffering is experienced by poor people. Lacking the very necessities of life, they cannot even find work. This kind of suffering is not easy to bear. But wealthy people suffer even more. They experience the Suffering of Decay.
Having money, they have to continuously calculate about it. “I’ll put this much in the bank. I’ll take this much out and put it into a business venture. I’ll take that much…” and on it goes like that all day long. They keep on counting their money until their hair turns white, their teeth fall out, their eyes stop working, and their ears go deaf. But then trouble comes. The robbers get their number. They break in at night and pick the safe clean. [Editor: Wealth can lead to welfare of one and many too, but becomes problematic when clung to without generosity or used without wisdom.]
People in poverty get accustomed to their suffering, but when the Suffering of Decay hits wealthy people, they can’t take it. It’s very bitter. Well, then, if you’re neither rich nor poor, there’s no suffering, right? There’s still suffering: the Suffering of Process. Everyone goes through the process of ageing. From youth, people pass into middle age, and then become old. Once they’re old, they die. This process never stops. It continues with every passing thought.
The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra (Volume 15)
Chapter 25: The Universal Door of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva
A Simple Explanation by Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
The Universal Door of Guanyin Bodhisattva