The Saha World is the place where a myriad sufferings intermingle and a myriad evils abound. As to sufferings, there are three, eight and limitless sufferings. There is no way to discuss them all, for they could never be fully described. The three sufferings are:
1. The suffering within suffering
2. The suffering of deterioration
3. The suffering of process
The topic is “Pleasure Is the Cause of Suffering.” We feel that the things we experience are pleasurable, but actually they are very bitter. If you don’t understand, then you mistake suffering to be happiness. If you understand, then you know that happiness will turn into suffering in the future or even right now. That’s the Saha World, the world where beings are “able to endure.” What is meant by “Saha”? Saha is a Sanskrit word that means “able to endure.” Living beings are able to endure this kind of suffering. “It’s so much suffering; how can they endure it?” you might ask. Even though the suffering is basically unbearable, they still manage to bear it.
The Saha World is the place where a myriad sufferings intermingle. There are many kinds of suffering in this world, not just one kind, and they all intermingle and cause mutual torment. Each suffering is connected to the others, and it’s as if one is being fried in a pot of oil--fried by the dharmas of suffering and a myriad evils abound. As to sufferings, there are three, eight and limitless sufferings. There is no way to discuss them all, for they could never be fully described. The three sufferings are:
1. The suffering within suffering. This is suffering added on top of suffering. The person may already be poor, have no clothes to wear, and live in a run-down old shack. Then a tornado comes and blows down his shack, so he has nowhere to live. That’s the suffering within suffering. Or maybe his shack gets burned down, or gets ruined by heavy rains. That’s also suffering within suffering. Or maybe his shack leaks, and on top of that it rains all night. That’s suffering within suffering as well.
2. The suffering of deterioration. This is when a person is rich and is basically getting along pretty well, but then there’s a fire, a flood, a tornado, or some other kind of calamity or accident that causes him to lose his wealth. His wealth deteriorates.
3. The suffering of process. You might not experience the suffering of poverty or the suffering of losing your wealth, but there’s the suffering of process. From your youth to the prime of life, and then on to old age and death, your thoughts follow one another in continual succession, never stopping. As there is really no happiness to be found, this is known as the suffering of process.
The eight sufferings are: birth, old age, sickness, death, the suffering of being separated from objects of love, the suffering of encountering objects of hate, the suffering of not getting what one seeks, and the suffering of the raging blaze of the five skandhas.
The eight sufferings are:
Birth: We are not aware of how painful the birth process is. Actually when a person is born, he feels as much pain as a cow being flayed alive, or as a live turtle getting its shell pulled off. When a baby is born, the first thing it does is cry, “Ku, ku, ku!” [In Chinese, the word ku for ‘crying’ (哭) sounds similar to the word ku for ‘suffering’ (苦).] So children experience suffering when they are first born. But after a few days, they forget about the suffering and mistake it to be happiness. So children will also smile and laugh. They think it’s pretty nice, that there’s no more suffering. But as they get older—passing from youth into the prime of life, and then onto old age—they experience suffering again. When they are old, they don’t have the strength to chew their food or to walk, and everything becomes a hassle. That’s the suffering of old age. Sickness is also a kind of suffering. When one is sick, everything one eats loses its flavor. But there is no suffering greater than that of death. The Buddha observed these four sufferings and it prompted him to leave the home-life and cultivate. There are four additional kinds of suffering: the suffering of being separated from objects of love. When you are separated from the person you love most dearly, that is this kind of suffering. When you lose your most treasured possession, you also experience this kind of suffering. If someone sets fire to your house, which you love to live in, you have this suffering. If someone steals your favorite outfit, you also have this suffering. In general, this suffering is experienced when something or someone that you are very attached to and cannot let go of is taken away from you. The suffering of encountering objects of hate. There may be someone you absolutely detest, so you decide to go somewhere else to get away from the person. But when you go to another place, you meet the same kind of person there. You hate him and loathe him, but as things turn out, you keep running into him.
The suffering of not getting what one seeks. There is something you really wish to have, but you just can’t obtain it. That’s also a kind of suffering. The suffering of the raging blaze of the five skandhas. The five skandhas are form, feeling, thought, formations, and consciousness. They are like a roaring fire, and they also constitute a kind of suffering, although no one considers it to be suffering. Once you awaken to this kind of suffering, you’ll know that it’s worse than anything.
Wearing beautiful new clothes is a great pleasure, but before long the clothes become a yoke. When they get dirty or stained, worry arises. Would you call this pleasure or suffering? Fine eating is foremost among pleasures, but even when served the most delicious gourmet food, one can only eat three meals a day; more brings on vomiting and diarrhea. Would you call this pleasure or suffering?
Wearing beautiful new clothes is a great pleasure. People love nothing better than putting on new clothes. But now there’s a new twist. In America the young people like to cut patches out of their new clothes. That’s a very carefree and clever way to do things. However, it does take a bit of work. You have to take a pair of scissors and cut up your new clothes. That’s to ruin clothes on purpose.
Suppose you don’t do that, and you put on a very expensive outfit. But before long the clothes become a yoke. When you put on that outfit for the first time, you’re afraid to move or touch anything, lest you get it dirty. So you are very, very careful. When you walk, you walk like a piece of wood, and you dare not lean against anything. You really take good care of your clothes. But suppose you go to a party, or a banquet, or out for a drink, and you accidentally spill something on your clothes. “Oh no! I paid $5000 for this outfit, and now it’s messed up.” You start berating yourself, “How could I be so careless? I’ve ruined my clothes.” You fight with yourself, because you made the mess yourself. If someone else gets your outfit dirty, you fight with them: “How dare you mess up my clothes like this?” When they get dirty or stained, worry arises. The stains will never wash out, and your expensive outfit is ruined. Then you become afflicted in everything you do, all because of this one outfit. Would you call this pleasure or suffering?
To be continued