Turning Happiness and Suffering into the Path of Enlightenment
In Tibet in 1926, Dodrup Chen Rinpoche III wrote a small booklet called “Turning Happiness and Suffering into the Path of Enlightenment.” In his Introduction, he says,
“In these troubled days, not only ordinary people but even spiritual practitioners experience happiness and sorrow in an ordinary way, beset by hopes and fears. They don’t know how to make these situations work towards their own development. Many people try to get as much happiness as they can from worldly pleasures, but forget the true aim of life and fritter away their time in endless egocentric goals. On the other hand, many people are oppressed by intolerable suffering, and sometimes find no escape other than by taking their own life. Buddhism teaches us to make use of suffering, to recognize it and use it to spur us to develop world-weariness and turn towards spiritual values. If we perfect our training in bringing both suffering and happiness into the spiritual path, then no matter what we experience, our mind will remain calm and at ease, unperturbed, and we will experience inner peace, nirvana.”
How do we accept suffering as a path to enlightenment?
First, by seeing everything as an illusion, and by dwelling in the unshakable nature of luminous awareness. Second, by reflecting on not just the uselessness of that illusion, but the great harm of considering suffering and undesirable things as always and only unfavorable. Third, by developing the attitude of being content while sufferings arise — remaining happy amidst suffering.
By acting in this way, misfortune and difficulties support us in training ourselves to turn away from samsara, from delusion, from dualism, from illusion; through recognizing the defects and shortcomings of worldliness, suffering inspires renunciation, as well as the arising of certainty in deeper spiritual principles, practices and values.
Fourth, suffering can help purify our defilements and bad karma as we scrutinize the causes and origins of our particular suffering. By doing this we can realize how to relinquish those unfulfilling behavioral patterns and help others who similarly suffer by doing likewise. Fifth, suffering is a support for turning away from unwholesomeness and vice, its cause, and thus becoming attracted to virtue and helpfulness.
Sixth, suffering sensitizes us and helps us recognize the sufferings of others that we never felt before. This empathy becomes the root of compassion, for until we have been touched by the suffering of others it is difficult to really feel for them and with them. Then we begin to experience the equality between our self and others, and the possibility of unconditional love and oneness.
With love & joyful spirit,
Lama Surya Das
Dzogchen Center, Dzogchen Retreats
1770 Massachusetts Ave., #127
Cambridge, Mass. 02140
Photos by Chris Ensey and Jamie Templeton on Unsplash