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Lions Roar : March 2018
of reducing or stopping it. When we look into the causes of dhukka, we do not simply search for the source of palpable, tangible suffering. We also must look closely at the mental states, habits, and attitudes that produce what we consider to be our moments of joy, happiness, or satisfaction. One of the profound insights offered by Buddhism is that we cannot rely on our own immediate experiences to tell us whether we are experiencing well-being or misery. Just because on the surface we feel we are happy or satisfied, or just because everything seems to lead to doom and gloom, these impressions may not necessarily reflect the true state of affairs. We need to look deeper. We may discover, as the Buddha tells us, that the lack of substantiality or permanence in all that surrounds us gives rise to unhappiness and pain. This does not mean, however, that the experience of impermanence or non-substantiality is itself suffering or the direct cause of suffering. We misconstrue the Buddha’s message if we think it is the fact that all things are impermanent or non-substantial or without a solid self that generates suffering. These basic facts are not the truth of the origin of suffering. Dhukka is produced not by things themselves or by their insubstantial nature. Rather, our mind has been conditioned by ignorance into thinking that eternal happiness can be obtained through things that are ephemeral and transient. That is why we are instructed to seek enlightenment or attain nirvana. We are asked to settle our mind on that which is unchanging. Set- tling the mind on the unchanging has a calming effect on the mind generally, but it also leads to a state that allows us to relate to what is transient and ephemeral with a mental attitude born of a more enlightened view, one that does not seek permanent joy and happiness from things that are impermanent and non- substantial in nature. In so doing, you can transform yourself into a noble being. Without the truth of suffering and the truth of the cause of suffering, there would be no truth of cessation, nor would there be the truth of the path. Far from highlighting the negative fea- tures of human existence, Buddhism presents a very complete picture of the human condition. It sheds light on both the perils and promises of human nature. Buddhism in all its forms, in all its traditions, has singled out human life as the most precious. Human embodiment is seen as the optimal vehicle that we could employ and deploy on the journey toward enlightenment. According to the sublime teach- ings of the Buddha, our destiny lies in our own hands. That is what we come to see when we truly appreciate the truth of suf- fering and the truth of the cause of suffering. ♦ TRALEG KYABGON RINPOCHE (1955–2012) was a teacher in the Kagyu lineage and founder of the E-Vam Institute. His books include Mind at Ease, Moonbeams of Mahamudra, and The Essence of Buddhism. PHOTOBYSTEVEROTMAN LION’S ROAR | MARCH 2018 47