The Noble Truth of Suffering

The truth of nama-rupa is, conventionally speaking, one of birth as beginning, ageing as middle and death at the end. Consider the origin of the physical body and the mind joining it as the mental group to form this living body, which all of us possess. This period of origination is known as birth (jati). There is then the process of change and development: the body grows and matures through the various ages and reaches the present one, of old age (jara). This is a process which will continue right up until the final episode, which is death.
However, such thinking may give rise to some apprehension and alarm. We have all passed through birth, are at present ageing and in the future lies death. So why should we be only afraid of old age and death? It's because we feel that we are mixed up and involved in all this too; that 'I am born,' 'I grow old' and 'I die.' To experience oneself as participating in this way is indeed likely to cause apprehension.
Whenever one comes up against bodily pain or mental suffering --one is ill for example, or mentally distressed-- then one detests and doesn't want anything to do with it. It is completely unwished for. Generally speaking, everyone hates suffering and when 'growing old' is seen as suffering one therefore hates old age. Similarly, one hates death, sickness and ill health as all being suffering. Everyone has had to experience some such suffering, either much or little. We have all felt bodily pain, we are in the midst of ageing and though we have not yet died we fear death and don't want to die. Therefore, it can't be said that we haven't seen suffering, for every one of us has come up against it. But because this brings only upset and anxiety, dislike and loathing, it cannot be what is called the Noble Truth of Suffering. The Lord Buddha wished for us to see the Noble Truth of Suffering (Dukkha Ariya Sacca) which on experiencing does not bring hatred, old age, sickness or death. The worldly understanding of suffering brings only loathing, ageing, illness and death, which are all unwished for and unwanted. This certainly is not the Noble Truth of the Lord Buddha which on realization means a going beyond ageing, sickness and death.
Now then, how should we go about seeing this? According to the Lord Buddha's way as expounded in the Great Discourse on the Foundations of Mindfulness, one must establish mindfulness to keep up with the arising of nama-rupa. Look and see these in your mind until you know their arising and disappearing every moment without break. The inclining-out of the mind (which is nama) as consciousness, for example, after arising and knowing a certain affair, then disappears. It then arises again with another affair and again disappears. During a single hour the mind inclines-out as consciousness (for example) to receive and know of countless affairs.
Rupa which is the connection or communicating channel for the outward inclining of the mind is much the same. One moment it's a form for the eyes to see, the next it's a sound for the ears to hear; all coming together in a complex unremitting concatenation. Nama-rupa is therefore always arising and disappearing. It arises in birth, develops and changes with age and finally passes away in death. The person who is looking --namely oneself-- at this arising and disappearing can't say that he also arises and disappears together with them because he is there seeing them in their constant arising and disappearing. This being the case, one can practise separating what is seen from that which sees. Separate inside yourself. Practise this separation until you know those things which must arise and cease. That which sees this knows according to the truth of their arising and ceasing, yet does not itself arise and cease. When this knowledge arises then one has certainly practised to realize the Noble Truth of Suffering of the Lord Buddha. Seeing this Truth, one has happiness and comfort, without suffering along with those things that must arise and disappear. One need not age, nor be ill or die because that which is born, ages and dies is in the nama-rupa which is seen, whereas that which sees is something else.
This much alone will bring a happiness without any feeling of suffering and there will be a letting-go and a release within. The Noble Truth of Suffering of the Lord Buddha is not therefore anything to be detested or feared as is sometimes thought. It is something which when realized --or even only examined as to its condition-- brings happiness.

18th September 2504 B.E. (1961)

* * *


'Ordinary' Suffering and Mind-made Suffering

I will now present some Dhamma which comes from the section on the Truth of Suffering (Dukkha-Sacca). May all of you focus and centre your minds on your own nama-rupa. This fathom-long and span-wide body sitting here now is the rupa or bodily group (rupa-kaya). Nama is the condition of the mind as it inclines-out to know sights and sounds (for example), which is called consciousness; to feel pleasure, pain or intermediate feeling; to perceive; and to think and process, which is mental-formations. With such concocting goes an experiencing or 'knowing' which is back to consciousness again. Set up the seeing into this nama-rupa so as to see their properties inside you and especially to discern the mind's outward-inclining to know about various affairs. The sound of my speaking and your ear make contact and the mind inclines-out to know hearing; the mind inclines-out to the noise outside and there is consciousness and then feeling, perception and mental formations. Notice and be quick to catch all of this Ordinary' Suffering.

After clearly seeing the nama-rupa within you, think back into the past to its conception in the very beginning, which is called birth (jati). This is termed 'knowing the past'. There is then the continuing process of growth and change. That development and change up until now is called 'the past part' while that which is currently taking place is called 'the present part'. Future change will carry on until finally this nama-rupa breaks up and disperses. This continuing change is ageing (jara) while the ultimate breaking up is death (marana). This death ahead is called 'the future'. Reflect upon and see death, the final end, and know the future.
This seeing of the past and future is still only a thought process and not yet (true) knowledge (nyana). Thinking in this way may also give rise to aversion and apprehension about these inevitable events. One must therefore consider birth, death and the present (old-) ageing as being 'ordinary'(11) and inevitable. However much aversion and fear of ageing and death one has indicates the extent of one's misapprehension of this truth. But properly seeing this inevitable norm will stop such negative feeling.
An appreciation of the inevitable course of things allows the truths of birth, ageing and death to be integrated into one truth. This truth can be seen in the present by an inward-seeing to the 'beginning', the 'middle' and the 'end' -- much as on opening one's eyes one views the whole of a certain thing. One sees that thing in its entirety; one views the whole course of events from the beginning at birth, the middle in ageing to the end in death. The seeing-in-the-present of all of this is knowledge which penetrates to the whole truth of the inevitable course of things.
The seeing here and now of nama-rupa in its entirety will stop the arising of any aversion or fear concerning these conditions, because one knows them to be normal and inevitable. They aren't anything strange or extraordinary, nor are they anything to be liked or despised. This is one type of suffering, that of the 'Ordinary'.

Suffering which the Outward-inclining Mind Contrives

To see another type of suffering, focus on your mind inclining-out, becoming nama, as I've already explained. Reflect and think back to the time just before its inclining-out to know a sight or sound (for example). Seeing that form or hearing that sound is consciousness, followed by feeling --pleasant, painful or intermediate.

Sorrow (Soka)

Suffering manifests on some occasions as sorrow (soka). For example, separating from a loved one, either by going far away or through death, or hearing of such a separation will, with consciousness, lead to painful feeling and appears as sorrow (soka).

Lamentation (Parideva)

Sometimes one's thought-processes proliferate under the power of that sorrow and fill the mind with lamentation. If it is strong then it will appear as crying and bewailing one thing or another. This is called lamentation (parideva).

Pain (dukkha) Mental Suffering (Domanassa)

Some suffering does not directly concern the mind, for instance, when the body is ill and in pain. This is called bodily pain. However, such bodily pain can also force suffering onto the mind. On being ill, one may worry about its severity and one's chances of recovery. There are also many other ways for the mind to be afflicted, including mental distress and regret, and these can all be summarized as mental suffering.

Despair (Upayasa)

On some occasions, one may encounter difficult and needy circumstances; feeling stifled and oppressed which will preclude any happiness. Wherever one feels such oppression, one will struggle to escape. Thus, we have the saying: 'A confined body is bearable, but not a stifled mind.'
All these forms of suffering --sorrow, lamentation, bodily-pain, mental suffering and despair-- are each a condition of painful feeling (dukkha vedana) and arise when the mind inclines-out to see a form, or hear a sound (for example). That form and sound are the seed for the subsequent arising of feeling and various forms of suffering. Perception is then a perceiving or remembering of suffering, and mental formations are the processing and fabricating of suffering.
Thinking back, one should be able to see that all this suffering originated from the mind's inclining-out as nama. Sorrow, for example, is also a type of nama for it is painful feeling. By considering one's past experience one knows that suffering arose dependant on nama-rupa. Now examine the present situation --how is the mind? Is it inclining-out to see forms and to hear sounds or to consider about all those issues stored away? Is there any suffering present? Any sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress or despair?
If you do find suffering, then see and understand that it all arose from some issue or other --and that such issues can only come in through the eyes or ears (etc.) as I have already explained, and not from anywhere else. The mind's inclining-out to know which is nama, or consciousness, feeling, perception and mental-formations, then puts together suffering, sorrow, and lamentation (etc.). Should the mind not incline-out to receive and process the sights and sounds, then suffering cannot arise. You must set yourself to see and understand how such suffering --this second type of suffering--can arise in your mind.
This presentation about suffering is in two parts. Firstly, there is the 'ordinary and inevitable' type of suffering and then there is the suffering arising dependant on the mind's inclining-out to receive and process. In coming to understand these two parts you must initially focus on and understand the nama-rupa within yourself, Seeing its natural and inevitable course, with its beginning, middle and end all seen together at one point. Look at nama as the mind inclines-out to receive and process various issues.
Will you all now please apply yourselves to listen(12) and investigate so as to know about this suffering which the mind receives and processes, as I have been explaining.

24th September 2504 B.E. (1961)