“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” - Haruki Murakami
If you would like to live a life with at least some contentment and at most happiness, which can be elusive and unsustainable, you need to understand the origins of why we are continually reaching for happiness but can never consistently grab hold of it. We have moments but they are fleeting, and we return to searching for the next thing to temporarily fill the void. There are three reasons for this. You should understand these three causes to get a hold of contentment and face whatever comes your way in life with equanimity.
The Three Roots
They are three simple causes of our discontentment. They are simple yet until they are realized we continue to repeat the same pattern. Even when we intellectually know the roots of our suffering, it will continue until we establish the habits, both mental and physical, to transcend our suffering. The three causes or roots are craving, aversion, and ignorance. Craving means to long for, want greatly or desire something eagerly. When it comes to our lives, there are many things that we desire, mainly to feel good. We seek the sensations in our body that give us a good feeling, which is the release of certain hormones that coat our brain and give us pleasure. In ignorance, the third root of suffering, we seek things outside ourselves that we believe will provide that pleasure. Pleasure is not the problem. The problem is continually wanting something that doesn’t continue. Something that is impermanent or annica which is the Pali word for impermanent. The same is true with aversion which is a strong feeling of dislike and opposition. We want to avoid pain both mentally and physically. Any reasonable person would want that. The trouble is pain is inevitable. At some point in a human life, pain both mentally and physically will be experienced. We try to avoid it at all costs which is unrealistic. The good thing is that pain does not last. It is temporary. It is annica. It might not feel temporary at times, but it is.
On a deeper level what we are experiencing is sensations. Sensations that our body is aware of, but consciously we are not. What we do is we become addicted to the sensations. We spend our days oscillating between craving and aversion on an unconscious level. Due to this occurring on an unconscious we are ignorant of this process. This is why it is the third leg of our suffering. We do not realize this, yet we continually seek things outside ourselves to cure us of suffering. You must find the cure within you. You must detach from these sensations and resulting addictions. This is why the yogi’s, sage’s, and wise men and women throughout the ages have taught the wisdom of non-attachment. Non-attachment to the continual feelings of craving and aversion and the eventual sensations that our unconscious mind recognizes but the majority of us for the majority of their lives fail to acknowledge consciously.
The saving grace or the reality that saves us from this trap is that nothing lasts. Everything is impermanent. All things eventually pass. All things must pass. On a subatomic level, the electrons and protons that form atoms are continually phasing in and out of existence. How then can anything last? Life throughout the universe is in a constant flux. A constant flow. We need to teach ourselves to be in the flow. Not to fight against the current. Each feeling of craving and avoidance will pass regardless of how much you want it to last or never to return. The name of the game is change. Constant and continual change. When we get addicted to the sensations of craving and aversion we are acting as if this is not the case as if things will last. We need to understand that things do not last. It is always flowing. We should create the mental habits that free us. Then we see that there is nothing to hold on to and nothing to grasp. There is only the present moment. The eternal now. We should understand that on an intellectual level, and we need to embed it into our psyche on an unconscious level to be free. In the next post, I will discuss some various methods to get free.