Greed, Hatred and Delusion

The Second Noble Truth is that the clinging mind—grasping, hatred and ignorance—protecting what we think is “ours” from loss—are the cause of suffering, individual and worldwide, internally and externally.

The ground of the clinging mind is ignorance—taking what is unsatisfactory, impermanent and insubstantial to be satisfactory, permanent and substantial, despite mountains of life evidence to the contrary.  It is the delusion that what we keep, guard, possess and cling to will win the mythical race to happiness.  Out of grasping, possessiveness and aggression come wars, racism, tribalism, “us and them,” and much of the misery in the world.  There is enough medicine and food.  We just don’t think it’s our responsibility to see it gets to the “other.”  Ignorant of our interconnectedness, we believe there really is “us and them,” and ignore that how we treat each other may be a more effective measure of global happiness or suffering than how much we have accumulated.

We grasp at “how it should be,” ignoring how things lawfully unfold, and that everything is dependent on causes and conditions. Our own response to experience makes the difference between suffering and contentment. Instead of attending to our thoughts, words and actions, we place blame externally, trying to fix circumstances without attention to the quality of our relationship to them.

Considering this, I invite you, when you’re suffering, to intimately understand attachment, aggression and ignorance—see whether the more we cling, the more we suffer.  Is there an opportunity to unclench—even a little?

Let Freedom Ring

The Buddha saw suffering and shed tears of compassion. Seeing the genuine possibility of freedom for every single being, he taught that the heart can be free and loving in any and every circumstance. This is the Third Noble Truth – that there is an end to suffering–freedom– and it must be realized. This liberation is sometimes called Nibbana. Nibbana isn’t somewhere else like Burma or Tibet or at the end of your life. Nibbana is freedom in the midst of the 10,000 joys and the 10,000 sorrows that make up our life.

What is the definition for Nibbana? It is the end of greed, hatred and delusion–the putting out or cooling of the fires that rage in our hearts from clinging and grasping. Seeing the world for what it is–pleasure and pain, light and dark, gain and loss, praise and blame, all appearing for a time and changing from its own karmic momentum. We see: my thoughts are appearing and disappearing, my feelings change, my body transforms, shifts, moves. We say “Oh, this is how it is–no solid self, nothing we can say is permanent, irretrievably, unchageably me or mine.” This understanding points to the way of not clinging inwardly or outwardly, a letting go, freedom.

It is important that the notion of Nibbana not be made some kind of thing that one gets to at some point. If you’ve “got it,” it’s not Nibbana. Because, at that point, there’s it, and you, and clinging. Disconnection, not freedom.

True liberation is simply profound opening in any moment. Just to be fully where we are with how it is. Liberation — the sole purpose of the teachings and practice. Just as the great oceans of the world have but one taste, the taste of salt, so the purpose of all the words, all the teachings, all the practices, is freedom– what is sometimes called in the texts, ” the sure heart’s release.” In any moment we can know this freedom, right now. This is the essence of the Third Noble Truth–the profound realization that freedom is possible. In the words of Martin Luther King, “Let freedom ring.”