Do we have to suffer to become enlightened?
No, but it helps.
Some take up the Dharma because it’s an intellectual or cultural pastime, while for others, it is experiential. The first noble truth is, in fact, the recognition that we are suffering. The word ‘suffering’ conjures up an image of massive woes, but in the Dharma, it’s a feeling of things not being ‘right’, of dissatisfaction – of annoying grit in the mind!
We are all suffering from gritty, mental contaminants, which create confusion and chaos. Most of us cover up the grit by working excessively or playing excessively in order to keep distracted, and then dwell in a mental vacancy, too exhausted to consider why we are here. This only results in more grit and more suffering; more hope and more fear.
If there is grit in our shoe, we start to walk in a funny way because we’re accommodating the discomfort. This starts to cling and accumulate, and we find we are going nowhere because of a covering of thick mud.
When we get to a point of saying to ourselves, “I’ve got to do something about this”, we are on our way to enlightenment. No one can do this for us – not God, not the Buddha – we decide. Having decided, we look for the cause of all this grit.
The grit is more important than an intellectual, cultural understanding: the grit is the real thing. It’s the energy – the catalyst – for change. Catalyst: a substance that increases the rate of a chemical reaction without itself undergoing any permanent chemical change. A person or thing that precipitates an event.
The more awareness is aware of space and clarity, the more it notices the contaminants. And the more we notice suffering! Grit is a constant reminder. That is the action of the two truths in unison: they cannot be separated.
The grit is our way home…it’s true!
Not the cultural grit, but true grit.