In the last post, Ven. Pannavaddho said it was our defilements that cloud our wisdom, that prevent us from seeing the causes of our discontent clearly.
The defilements (kilesas in Pali) are the roots of unwholesome action within each of us: greed, hatred and delusion in all their various (sometimes disguised) forms. When these roots are completely eliminated, that is one definition of nibbana (Pali) or nirvana (Sanskrit). The process of recognizing and countering our defilements forms a central part of our spiritual work in the world. The causes of our discontent are not to be found anywhere other than within our own hearts, and no one other than we ourselves have the power to uproot them.
The Buddha’s teachings (I have recently learned) are more directive and exemplary than prescriptive and comprehensive; they point us in the right direction for practice, but they don’t describe every possible situation. In a particular moment in time, it’s up to us to figure out which way lies freedom, and which way lies more suffering.
From SN 56.31, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu:
Once the Blessed One was staying at Kosambi in the simsapa forest. Then, picking up a few simsapa leaves with his hand, he asked the monks, “What do you think, monks: Which are more numerous, the few simsapa leaves in my hand or those overhead in the simsapa forest?”
“The leaves in the hand of the Blessed One are few in number, lord. Those overhead in the simsapa forest are more numerous.”
“In the same way, monks, those things that I have known with direct knowledge but have not taught are far more numerous [than what I have taught]. And why haven’t I taught them? Because they are not connected with the goal, do not relate to the rudiments of the holy life, and do not lead to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding. That is why I have not taught them.
“And what have I taught? ‘This is stress [dukkha]… This is the origination of stress… This is the cessation of stress… This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress’: This is what I have taught. And why have I taught these things? Because they are connected with the goal, relate to the rudiments of the holy life, and lead to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding. This is why I have taught them.
Our duty with respect to dukkha (the first noble truth) is to recognize, acknowledge and comprehend it. Can we discover and see clearly the causes of our discontent? Today, in this body and mind? This is where real change can begin.