It’s hardly a secret that the global community today faces significant challenges. We witness a volatile global economy, a pandemic, climate disasters and other forms of environmental destruction, endless warfare, sudden and radical increases in fuel prices and a rise of authoritarian governments. These crises are escalating out of control and increasingly threatening our collective sanity and even our long-term survival. A confluence of these circumstances has created an opening for anxiety, stress, depression, insecurity, a feeling of helplessness and fear.
Unrighteous rulership and the continuous struggle for power is a major reflection of this massive chaos. The Blessed One proclaimed that “when Kings are unrighteous, the royal vassals become unrighteous. When the royal vassals are unrighteous, brahmins and householders become unrighteous. When brahmins and householders are unrighteous, the people of the town and countryside become unrighteous. When the people of the town and countryside are unrighteous, the sun and moon proceed off course. When the sun and moon proceed off course, the constellations and the stars proceed off course. When the constellations and the stars proceed off course, day and night proceed off course. When the day and night proceed off course, the months and fortnights proceed off course. When the months and fortnights proceed off course, the seasons and years proceed off course. When the seasons and years proceed off course, the winds blow off course and at random. When the winds blow off course and at random, the deities become upset. When the deities are upset, sufficient rain does not fall. When sufficient rain does not fall, the crops ripen irregularly. When people eat crops that ripen irregularly, they become short-lived, ugly, weak, and sickly” (AN 4.70)
The lust for power leads to one’s own affliction and the affliction of others. In the Mahānidana Sutta on causation, the Buddha states: “…And so, Ānanda, that feeling is a cause of craving. Craving is a cause of seeking. Seeking is a cause of gaining material possessions. Gaining material possessions is a cause of assessing. Assessing is a cause of desire and lust. Desire and lust is a cause of attachment. Attachment is a cause of ownership. Ownership is a cause of stinginess. Stinginess is a cause of safeguarding. Owing to safeguarding, many bad, unskillful things come to be: taking upon clubs and weapons, conflicts, quarrels and disputes, insulting speech, divisive speech and falsehoods (DN 15).
As the Perfectly Enlightened One profoundly describes in the Second Noble Truth, this craving gives rise to suffering. The Buddha explains that the First Noble Truth of suffering, which we experience daily, is to be fully realized. The Second Noble Truth of the origin of suffering to be eradicated. The Third Noble Truth of the cessation of suffering to be attained. The Fourth Noble Truth of the path leading to the cessation of suffering is to be practiced and developed. These Four Noble Truths are an amazing, remarkable, marvelous realization of the Buddha which is actual (thathāni), unerring (avithathāni), not otherwise (aññathāni). By using vivid similes, the Buddha accentuates the importance of realizing these Four Noble Truths. He states, “Bhikkhus, it is because of not understanding and not penetrating the Four Noble Truths that you and I have roamed and wandered through this long course of samsara”. The Blessed One explains that “Bhikkhus, if one’s clothes or head were ablaze, what should be done about it?” “Venerable Sir, to extinguish one’s blazing clothes or head, one should arouse extraordinary desire and effort”. “Bhikkhus, one might look on equanimously at one’s blazing clothes or head, paying no attention to them, but so long as one has not made the breakthrough to the Four Noble Truths as they really are, in order to make the breakthrough one should arouse extraordinary desire, make an extraordinary effort, stir up zeal and enthusiasm, be unremitting, and exercise mindfulness and clear comprehension” (SN 56:34).
Moreover, the Blessed One explains: “Bhikkhus, suppose a man would throw a yoke with a single hole into the great ocean, and there was a blind turtle which would come to the surface once every hundred years. What do you think, bhikkhus, would that blind turtle, coming to the surface once every hundred years, insert its neck into that yoke with a single hole?” “If it would ever do so, Venerable Sir, it would be only after a very long time”. “Sooner, I say, would that blind turtle, coming to the surface once every hundred years, insert its neck into that yoke with a single hole than the fool who has gone once to the lower world would regain the human state. For what reason? Because here, bhikkhus, there is no conduct guided by the Dhamma, no righteous conduct, no wholesome activity, no meritorious activity. Here there prevails mutual devouring, the devouring of the weak. For what reason? Because bhikkhus, they have not seen the Four Noble Truths” (SN 56:47).
The Blessed One sheds light on the solace gained by realizing the Four Noble Truths. “Bhikkhus, suppose that a man would place on the base of the Himalayas, the king of mountains, seven grains of gravel the size of mustard seeds. What do you think, bhikkhus, which is more: the seven grains of gravel the size of mustard seeds that have been placed there or the Himalayas, the king of mountains?” “Venerable sir, the Himalayas, the king of mountains is more, the seven grains of gravel the size of mustard seeds are trifling. Compared to the Himalayas, the seven grains of gravel the size of mustard seeds are not calculable, do not bear comparison, do not amount even to a fraction”. So too, bhikkhus, for a noble disciple, a person accomplished in view who has made the breakthrough to the Four Noble Truths, the suffering that has been destroyed and eliminated is more, while that which remains is trifling. Compared to the former mass of suffering that has been destroyed and eliminated, the latter is not calculable, does not bear comparison, does not amount even to a fraction, as there is a maximum of seven more lives. He is one who understands as they really are The Four Noble Truths” (SN 56:59).
So, what path must one tread to end the stark reality of perpetual conflict and endless frustration and suffering? The answer simply lies in the Fourth Noble Truth, the path leading to the cessation of suffering, namely, the Noble Eightfold Path: right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. By properly developing this path, one is freed from all suffering.
Written by a Venerable Nun Of
Buddhist Nuns of Mahamevnawa