The three sufferings are: the suffering within suffering, the suffering of decay, and the suffering of process. What is the suffering within suffering? This is suffering on top of suffering. For example, someone is already poor and has no clothes to wear and lives in an old shack. Then a rainstorm comes up and damages his house! To begin with he had nothing to wear, nothing to eat, and no place to live. This is suffering, but it's not suffering on top of suffering. But now that his house has been wrecked as well, and he also lacks the three basic necessities of clothing, food, and shelter, it can be called suffering on top of suffering. So this is the hardship and suffering of poverty, called the suffering on top of suffering.
Someone might be born wealthy and noble, and not suffer, for he has plenty of clothes and food and lives in a splendid mansion, a big, fine place. Everything seems great. But then a fire burns up all his possessions in his home. That's called the suffering of decay.
The wealthy experience the suffering of decay, and the poor experience the suffering of poverty. You say, "Well, I'm not poor and I'm not rich and noble either. So I'm free from suffering, right?" If you have no suffering, then I also have no suffering anymore. But even if you don't have the suffering of poverty or the suffering of decay, you cannot avoid the suffering of process. What is the suffering of process? As one goes from youth to middle age, from middle age to old age, and from old age to death, in every thought there is change, thought after thought without cease, and you are not in control of it at all. You are completely passive, controlled by others. Fate rules. When you are a child, fate tells you to grow up quickly, and once you grow up, it says you should get old, and ah, you obediently grow old. Once old, it says you should die! Therefore, you again listen, more obedient than the disciple is to his teacher. The teacher tells his disciple, "Don't smoke," and the disciple sneaks off and smokes a cigarette on the sly. The teacher says not to drink, but he drinks on the sly, too. The teacher says, "You may not take drugs," so since it's not convenient to do so in the Buddha Hall, he runs out onto the streets to take the drug and then hurries back. Oh, he's really disobedient! But when you get old, King Yama of Fate tells you, "You're old now, and it's time to die. Hurry and come!" Then you very obediently die. That's the suffering of process. This goes from youth to middle age, to old age, and then to death. If one just died in old age without any illness, it wouldn't be that bad. Unfortunately, it's not that easy. Most people get sick first before they die. If they are only sick for three or five days before dying, that's not bad, for there isn't a great deal of suffering. But what illness do you suppose some people get? Half their body gets paralyzed--one half listens to your commands, but the other half says, "Oh, I should die first. I'll die one half at a time, starting with this half." How does it die? It refuses to listen to orders. You want to raise your arm, but it doesn't listen. You want your leg to take a step, but it cannot. This is being paralyzed in half of the body; that half of the body dies first. It's hard for you to sit up or turn over or walk. How much pain do you think that is? This is called the suffering of process.
These are the three sufferings. There are also the eight sufferings. They are the sufferings of: birth, old age, sickness, death, being separated from what one loves, being near those one hates, not getting what one wants, and the raging blaze of the five skandhas. The suffering of birth-although we have all been through birth, we don't know how much suffering it is! When a child is born it undergoes a lot of suffering, and so it cries, "Ku, ku, ku!" (Ku means suffering in Chinese.) Once we are born, we will grow old. In old age, a person's eyes go bad and no longer see clearly; his ears grow deaf and cannot hear clearly. Someone says, "Would you like a cookie?" and he says, "No thanks, I don't want any tea." Or "Would you like some tea?" and he says, "I'm full!" That elderly person is deaf. You ask one thing, and he replies something else altogether, not answering what you asked. Someone says, "How are your children?" and she says, "My husband died long ago." You see? She gave an irrelevant reply. Why? Because she is going deaf, and cannot hear clearly. When you ask her a question, she sees your lips moving, and thinks she knows what you said. Someone says, "How are your children?" and she says, "My husband died long ago." You see? She gave an irrelevant reply. Why? Because she is going deaf, and cannot hear clearly. When you ask her a question, she sees your lips moving, and thinks she knows what you said. Although she cannot hear, she thinks she's very clever, and answers what she thought you asked. Their eyes get blurry and their ears go deaf, but that's not the worst. What's hardest to take is when their teeth start hurting and fall out and then nothing tastes good when they eat it. No matter what they eat, it doesn't taste good. Wouldn't you say this old age is suffering?
The suffering of sickness is truly painful, and when you die it's even more painful, especially at the point when your breath stops. So it's said that birth is as painful as ripping the shell off of a live turtle, and death is as painful as skinning a live cow! This is the suffering of birth, old age, sickness and death.
The suffering of being separated from what one loves: When the person you love most leaves you, it is very painful. The suffering of being near those one hates: The person you detest the most is always close by. The more you detest him, the more you run into him. You may move somewhere else hoping to get away from him and sure enough you meet someone even worse that he is! This is the suffering of being near those you hate. The suffering of not getting what one wants: You wish for wealth, but fail to get it. You seek fame, but cannot attain it. You want profit and cannot get it. You seek a job, and cannot find one. Whatever you seek, you fail to obtain. This is also a kind of suffering, the suffering of not getting what you want. The suffering of the raging blaze of the five skandhas: Wealth, sex, fame, food and sleep, these five
yin are like a raging fire, and also like dense vegetation. They order you around and turn you upside down. No one can escape the fiery blaze of the five
yin. These are the eight sufferings. If we want to talk about suffering, there are limitless kinds of suffering. There is so much suffering in the Saha World, so it is called "endurable." Basically, it's unbearable, but you can endure it, and you have real patience, so it's called the endurable world.
(to be continued)