A Buddhist Sutta on Your Desires and Suffering
This post is about the Buddhist Sutta called The Gilana Sutta (SN 35:74). It is a touching story about a young monk, who became very ill. Another monk informed The Buddha of the young monk’s health conditions. Buddha visited and hoped he had improved and held on to some comfort. The ill monk replied that he had not improved and was not at all comfortable. The Buddha replied, then I hope you have no anxiety or remorse. To which the ill monk replied, that he did have anxiety and remorse. Buddha inquired about the nature of the monk’s anxiety and remorse; the ill monk noted that he understood the Damma (Dharma teaching) included the fading of passions. When Buddha asked about the monk’s sensory desires, all were reported as stressfully inconsistent. The Buddha reminded the monk that all experiences of senses and mind were subject to change, and change was impermanence – sometimes cessation leading to dissatisfaction. In his current situation, this was the monk’s own experiences of the self – who and what I am now.
Now the ill monk realized that liberation from pain and suffering was related to him becoming disenchanted from sensory desires and intellectual/mental understanding related to sensory desires. Attachments to what the monk desired. The ill monk worked on his own dispassion from sensory desires, and eventually entered a state of being released, liberated from the suffering of sensory desires and related thoughts about them. Their meeting ended with the monk feeling liberated from his sensory desires and related thoughts – all about pain and suffering. The Buddha ended the conversation noting that all experiences are subject to dependent origination, and that all such experiences are subject to cessation – thus impermanence. In his newfound realization and liberation, the monk was neither anxious or remorseful. He was just a being, being in an impermanent experience.
How are you doing with you sensory desires and related thoughts about them? Do you realize that your energy in pursuing sensory desires and related thoughts simply may add to your own suffering? Can you be comfortable being alone with yourself, or not having what you desire? This is not nihilism; this is being in “The Middle Way” about your life experience. This is about radically accepting that which you do not desire but cannot change, and appreciating that which you enjoy but cannot hold on to. It is about releasing and reducing your own ego involvement with your life experiences. Egolessness is a hard goal to achieve in practice. May you be safe, healthy, free from suffering, happy, and be at ease with life.
For more information refer to https//www.dammatalks.org/suttas/SN/SN35 74html. See also Okawa, R. (2018). The Challenge of the Mind: An Essential Guide to Buddha’s Teachings in Zen, Karma, and Enlightenment. New York: IRH Press, pp. 104-129.
Anthony R. Quintiliani, PhD., LADC
From the Eleanor R. Liebman Center for Secular Meditation in Monkton, Vermont and the Home of The Monkton Sangha
Author of Mindful Happiness