The Buddha said enlightenment is “the end of suffering.” Sounds simple enough. Just stop suffering and you will reach enlightenment. Then a whole slew of things are thrown at us, not only by Buddhists but by all religions, telling us of the multitude of exacting things we must do to end our suffering. Most of them involve a lot of suffering along the way.
Suffering appears to be that condition of being human. It’s the nagging thoughts, the fierce and crippling emotions, the wants and needs, the jealousies and anger, the fear of the future, the regret of the past, and the loss of our freedom. All those things that go into making us complex beings seem to cause so much suffering. It’s hard to be enlightened when you’re worried about what flag your neighbor is flying.
|Enlightenment is just around the bend.|
Into the woods, then. It was so hot today anyhow that going into the woods seemed to be the perfect cure. The ocean might be refreshing with the crashing cool waves, but the sun is too fierce. I’ll save the ocean for nighttime and the woods for the day. That’s where I went again, as always. This picture shows the nice wide path I took. Not all of the paths in the woods are this easy, but I was too tired for anything else. Can you tell by looking at the photo if the path indicates where I was going or where I had been? Luckily, I couldn’t tell either, even when I was walking it.
A deer ran out in front of me. I tried to get a photo, but she ran like lightning. She was so close I could almost touch her. I guess she knew I didn’t pose too much of a threat at this time of year. She got me thinking again, though, about enlightenment. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating often. What if we humans are not the most complex and evolved creatures on the planet but instead one of the least? Perhaps the animals are patiently waiting for us to play catch up. In the meantime, we continue to destroy things, enslave ourselves, and suffer greatly.
The animals don’t suffer. Oh, they have their physical aches and pains and difficulties. They have much shorter life spans, too. But they don’t suffer. That’s something uniquely human. Enlightenment, the Buddha says, is the end of suffering. The woods are filled with enlightened beings waiting for us to finally “get it.” The trick is hidden there in plain sight.