An Antidote to Suffering

“Plum blossoms overcome the suffering cold Giving off pure fragrance.” Japanese poem





Today is Winter Solstice, the shortest day and the longest night of the year. This means that the cycle of days will grow longer and the nights shorter, beginning the renewal of the year to come.  Of all the things that have happened in 2012, perhaps one of the most poignant and perplexing is the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. What does Buddhism say in response to this event?

In Buddhism there is no guarantee that we will go through life without suffering. The Buddha’s first Noble Truth is ‘in this world, there is suffering.’ Much of his teaching was about how we live in an imperfect world in such a way that we alleviate suffering for ourselves and others. Our practice is to be the antidote to suffering, by living a life of sanity, generosity and compassionate wisdom. When we take on this practice we are plopped down right in the middle of life, which can be messy. Our  activity includes everything, even the parts we don’t like or find painful.

By deeply exploring the nature of our life as a force for good, we do make a difference. This is why it is so important to pay attention to how we respond to difficult situations in our daily life. Our practice and realized response is predicated upon the situations life offers. These events – pleasant and unpleasant – are the source of our wisdom and compassion. They are the activity of our life. Right now, in this time in our history, in this very moment, our task is to realize goodness, to the best of our ability. Sometimes we fail and sometimes we succeed. But we must never lose faith that our actions make a difference.

This is why we are here. This is the activity of a buddha. May we all go forward and find generosity toward others and toward ourselves in the faith that we too can be a source of healing. In these difficult times we can each help by relating to each other with generosity. Generosity includes patience when times are hard or with people who do not share our views.

Jaku and I hope that each of you enjoys the holidays. I urge you to reflect upon the meaning of the darkest night transforming into the morning star.

Best wishes, Shinshu

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