Who wants to have hardships and sufferings? We like “fun” and want to have a good time. If something is difficult, we say that it’s not fun. But what do we learn when we are having fun? Are we not born to learn the lessons of life, and to be continuously tested by life? According to Buddhism, everything is temporary, and only sufferings are everlasting. Even happiness is defined as a temporary absence of suffering. If the vast majority of life is colored with suffering, rather than its absence, should suffering be the best time in our lives?
Most of the difficulties in my life I met with tears and despair. Fears would grip me and I would paint scary pictures in my head. Driven by the need to survive, I would still continue struggling and would overcome those difficulties in the long run. However, I would live through so much stress and suffering that my final outcome would feel more a Pyrrhic victory than a reward.
Fifteen years ago, I had difficulties in my marriage and was looking for a solution. While on the phone, my dear mother advised me to read a certain book. It was a self-help book based on Buddhist teachings. I learned about greed, anger and ignorance as causes of suffering; I applied the law of karma to myself and was able to see my mistakes. It was how my spiritual journey began. I discovered that the self-improvement section was the largest one in the bookstore. I started my quest by non-stop reading of all kinds of spiritual books, connecting with spiritual people and going to divine places, many of which unluckily turned out to be businesses. Still, that did not discourage me from seeking out guidance.
Buddhism has remained my accepted philosophy so far. I have been replacing my ignorance with knowledge, I understand more things now and I have gradually been changing myself to be a happier person. I am especially happy because I found a solution for all my difficult times: practicing spirituality.
I know this wisdom now. Spirituality is the starting point and the basis for self-improvement. Now I can see that my problems, frustrations, and disappointments come from my own mistakes, wrong words, poor lifestyle choices, unnecessary desires, attachments and putting faith in objects, careers, money, relatives, and even myself. My faith in forgiving, love, and sacred life of saints is getting stronger. I meditate before my small home altar, my own sacred space, with its statuette of the Buddha, paintings of Jesus and of Mother Theresa–whose teachings compel me with their shared message, just spoken in different ways. I believe in compassion and in wishing all of us to be happy.
I believe that spiritual growth helps in replacing suffering for a peace of mind because it becomes more open, understanding and disciplined. Sacred teachers say that with continuous spiritual practice, greed can be replaced with generosity, anger with compassion, and ignorance with wisdom. Is there anything valuable in life than achieving this?
If only I had known this before, I feel I could have spared myself from all those sufferings and fearful living. But perhaps those struggles were not so meaningless: I don’t know if I would have started consciously looking inside myself, if I would have searched for that spiritual sparkle in my heart, had my life had been filled with “fun.” All I know is that I am grateful for those difficult times in my life that lead me to spiritual “awakening.”
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Photo: Larisa Tazmin