Friday, April 13, 2012

relief ... the woo-hoo and the oh-dear

One of the greatest incentives and greatest barriers in spiritual adventure (sometimes more simply referred to as "this life") is the longing for relief. There are gazillions of examples, but using Buddhism as one example, a person would have to look no further than one of its cornerstones, The Four Noble Truths.

The Four Noble Truths are:

There is suffering.
There is a cause of suffering.
There is an end to suffering.
There is a way to end suffering.

Nobody needs to be a Buddhist to feel such observations reverberating in their lives, so Buddhism is just a format within which to state what is obvious to mugwump or holy man. And within that four-part observation, the cockteaser that may really stand out is, "there is an end to suffering." Anyone who is alive might like a piece of that action: Gimme some relief!

What a promise! What a hope! What a bright light in a dark hole!

No kidding ... who wouldn't like a little relief, be s/he Buddhist or bawdy house musician? When I am honest, you bet your boots I would like some of that!

And it's a great inspiration. Suffering, even by the most mundane of definitions, seeks surcease and in that surcease, relief.

The fly in the ointment is that seeking for relief from one situation or another never quite pans out. Today's relief leads to tomorrow's search for relief. Don't believe me -- check it out: See if it's true. But the habit of seeking relief is so normal, so human, and so compelling that it seldom occurs to the relief-seeking mind that seeking for relief doesn't seem to supply the relief that is sought ... something that will honestly create an "end to suffering."

Since old habits die hard, such a recognition may creep up slowly, in actual-factual experience or in something called "spiritual endeavor" ... same stuff, different day. Slowly, imagining that relief is merely the opposite of suffering or sorrow (eg. peace is the absence of war) just doesn't pan out. It may inspire some very healthy actions, but an end to suffering? Forgetaboutit!

And so, perhaps, the question/assertion may pose itself: What are things like when the frantic search for relief is laid to rest? Without relief, what need for relief? If there is no need to flee the inescapable, gussy up the unpleasant, praise what is praise-worthy, camouflage the obvious ... well, what might that be like?

Maybe it would be something of a relief.


This, to my mind, is the true promise of spiritual practice: Relief is neither necessary nor the point.

1 comment:

  1. "Relief is neither necessary nor the point."

    Yay!!! What a relief someone has finally pointed this out!