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There are endless conditions and variables that throw us off our beam/course as we move through each moment. Life is what happens when we are making plans. Indeed, there seems to be a constant feeling of inconvenience/discontent of varying degrees of intensity that whirls about.

Each moment life unfolds and we respond as millions of moments come and go in our lifetime. Shakyamuni Buddha said this unfolding is impermanence and interconnectivity at the same time, or cause and effect. Siddhartha had come to know, when he was a young man that living a life of sensual pleasures did not produce contentment. He then spent six years moving to the other end of the sensory continuum-mortification. This action professes that the closer to death we come that a breakthrough of knowing the essence of life will arrive. Yet, he saw that neither extreme produced an end to the undercurrent of uneasiness that erupts in dozens of degrees of suffering. Our life is a string of pleasure and pain that pitch us hither and yon. What are we to do?

In many ways the Buddha said, try the scientific method. That is, lets analyze this thing called Dukkha. First, it seems to affect all people. Second, it can be exacerbated by volitional acts of body, speech and mind. Third, it can come and go in waves. Fourth, it creates different degrees of debilitation. Five, there seem to be ways to loosen our attachment to suffering. Overall, this is saying we can take steps that can prevent, reduce and eliminate the causes of Dukkha. This speaks to the root of Dukkha being ignorance of impermanence, co-arising, and no abiding-self.

Siddhartha’s awaking to these understandings took six years of experiential learning and culminated after his legendary eight days of meditation (j.zazen). For us today, as we wrestle with the crisis of being alive, he left a set of teachings that show us how to look at life (The Four Noble Truths) and the actions to take (The Noble Eight-Fold Path) that can liberate us from the shackles of our mind stuck or attached to sensory overload. This is known as The Middle-Way, an unfolding path driven by steps we can take that help to address flairs of Dukkha.

I think the most helpful of all prayers is “Please.” To me it is a heartfelt readiness to allow, accept,and take steps that can be beneficial, noble, and right. The Buddha said near the end of his life that for forty-five years he only taught one thing, the nature of suffering and the way to end its debilitation of mind. Buddhism is a 2500 year-old response to this prayer…“Thank-You.”

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