Saturday, October 17, 2009


It's a long, irrelevant story as to why I was there, so suffice it to say - I was at a huge national interfaith conference that focused on the religions of the world. I spent some time in the small room where the guy representing buddhism was. He explained that it wasn't really a religion. They don't focus on the God idea. It's more of a philosophy about how to live and focuses on kindness.

The representative for Buddhism said there were seven things that every human being experiences, and yet we seem to think that if we do things just right, we'll avoid them. Our effort to avoid these truths causes us endless suffering. Instead, we can accept them since it's a foregone truth that we are all in the same boat and there's no escape. We can, through acceptance, avoid suffering and help each other.

The seven truths:
1) Pain (begins at birth - we all suffer pain as we are born and throughout our lives)
2) Illness (so far no one has escaped being sick)
3) Old age (almost everyone experiences this if we're lucky enough to live long enough, that is)
4) Death (sorry, but we are all going to die)
5) Bereavement (everyone will lose a person or people that we love)

These first five are the main ones but there are two more lesser ones:
6) Violated expectations (we are disappointed nearly every day of our lives when something doesn't go the way we hoped)
7) Failure of happy moments to last (it's one of our grand illusions that in the moments we're happy that there's some way to make them last forever. Not going to happen)

I know people who believe that not thinking about these truths will make your life more positive. Unfortunately, when these people come face to face with one of these truths in their own lives, they usually completely come apart and suffer badly. Just to be clear, I'm not suggesting that it's a good idea to keep thinking about these truths every minute of every day. I don't believe acceptance requires that. But as the world goes on and I see these truths reflected in my life and other people's lives, I can say to myself, "there it is again." I certainly have not escaped grief by accepting that death is a part of life, but I have escaped the unnecessary suffering caused by believing that it shouldn't have happened, or that I've been singled out by the Universe for special torture, etc. Plus, the acceptance and the awareness I have help me prioritize my life. In the end, love and compassion are all that really matter. I don't remember this all the time, but often enough to have a lot of peace.

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