When there is understanding and a set of values that encourage sharing, then the limitations, the needs, and the lacks of any given life can be acknowledged and effort can be put into using material supports with compassion. This is also true in cases of deprivation; surely a major contributor to this is the greed and exploitation of others, which has its source in identification with material prosperity. If we could all accept the experience of limitation on our resources and comforts, if affluent people’s standard of living were not so high, there would be fewer people who felt, and actually were, “poor.” Maybe with more sharing, there would be less severe physical deprivation. Instead of creating golf courses in the desert, or seeing air-conditioning, two cars, and countless television channels as necessities of life, we could try to accept limitations to our material circumstances and acknowledge that there is suffering.
This acknowledgment doesn’t require that everyone should feel wretched; rather, it’s a matter of learning to know and accept that this earthly realm is one of limitation. When we wake up to how human life on this planet actually is, and stop running away or building walls in our heart, then we develop a wiser motivation for our life. And we keep waking up as the natural dukkha [suffering] touches us. This means that we sharpen our attention to catch our instinctive reactions of blaming ourselves, blaming our parents, or blaming society; we meditate and access our suffering at its root; and consequently we learn to open and be still in our heart. And even on a small scale in daily life situations, such as when we feel bored or ill at ease, instead of trying to avoid these feelings by staying busy or buying another fancy gadget, we learn to look more clearly at our impulses, attitudes, and defenses. In this way dukkha guides and deepens our motivation to the point where we’ll say, “Enough running, enough walls, I’ll grow through handling my blocks and lost places.”
Excerpted from Turning the Wheel of Truth: Commentary on the Buddha’s First Teaching by Ajahn Sucitto, © 2010. Published by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc., Boston. www.shambhala.com.
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