This morning I received a call that a work colleague of twenty-five years died last night. I have noticed that upon hearing of a death, the first reaction is shock. “How could that happen? How could a person just stop existing? Just disappear?” Of course, we know that everyone dies. We know the fundamental impermanence of life.
But I wonder if some of us don’t see spiritual practice as a way of transcending the suffering brought by loving others, by living itself. It seems that Buddhism teaches that suffering is transcended when we let go of “grasping” – a common word in Buddhist parlance. Grasping connotes a selfish grabbing, a wish to control another (or life) for our own personal gratification. But no, I think, grasping means the very human, deep involvement in the lives of those we love – parents, spouses, children, and friends. Grasping, or attachment, is good. It is normal. We want to ensure the well-being of those we love. We suffer when they suffer.
We accept suffering because there is no escape.
The Buddha did speak of the suffering of witnessing the suffering of others. We make a vow to “end all suffering,” and we know that this is not as hopeless and ridiculous as it might sound. Slowly, over years of practice, over years of sitting on our meditation cushions, our hearts open to the longing to remove suffering. And this longing to bring happiness and end all suffering itself becomes a source of joy.
So I am not denying the beauty of opening yourself to the Great Heart of the World. For me there is joy in offering myself, my gifts –whatever they may be – to the great loving presence.
I am just reminded over and over that love hurts. And this is good and human and necessary. There is no escape from this kind of suffering, and we don’t even want to escape.
Here we are: just this person who suffers and loves.