What is it that we run from? What is it that takes up almost all of our waking moments? It must be very important, otherwise we wouldn't devote an entire lifetime trying to escape it.

The interesting, and at the same time depressing, thing is that all the running in the world won't distance ourselves from this incorrigible anomaly that permeates our lives like water seeps into a sponge. We just don't get it, and the reason we don't get it is because we are running so hard that we never stop to look around and figure out what's what.

When your last activity ends and the next hasn't begun, what happens? Isn't there a moment of subconscious discontent where the mind frantically searches its data banks to engage itself in something else? The only time this discontent becomes conscious is when we are unable to immediately engage in something else, like when we were a kid visiting old auntie with our parents and we were trapped in her living room with nothing to do. Then boredom comes up and the discontent becomes unbearable - our only escape to count the flowers on her wallpaper.

We are constantly running from our discontent - this human suffering - that immediately arises the first moment our minds are not engaged, so in order to avoid its horrible clutches, we endlessly look for distractions, regardless of whether they are evil or honorable, as long as they do the job. As long as the mind keeps occupied.

When the mind is forced to remain unoccupied, it faces truth, and truth is far too scary for a mind that has been running from it for an entire lifetime. Being forced to remain unoccupied causes depression, which is another form of discontent, and it seems as if we just can't win!

When a tragedy occurs, all of our escapes suddenly come to a screeching halt. We must face reality then. But if we are not accustomed to facing reality, the tragedy becomes a great shock, sometimes even changing our lives. Many stories are told of people who change completely after an accident or serious illness, a shock of some kind. What happened? What happened is that for just a moment, they saw what's what! And what's what is that we live in illusion constantly, the illusion that we somehow are escaping reality when in fact we are only postponing it. Realty hangs over our heads like a guillotine with the executioner's hand (fate) on the ax handle.

The Buddha became enlightened when he was thirty-five years old and went on to teach until he was eighty. That's a long time, time enough to completely explain illusion and reality from an enlightened point of view. His first sermon reflected the key to it all; The Four Noble Truths. And the first of those Four Noble Truths was all about human suffering.

This doesn't sound too prophetic compared to biblical predictions of Armageddon etc., however this simple truth of human suffering is the very key to what we spend our every moment of our entire lives engaged in, which is the attempted escape from human suffering.

What is education all about? Is it about the innate quest for knowledge and understanding? No. It's all about getting a good job. If we get a good job, we will have money, enough money to buy distractions for ourselves so that the mind remains occupied. Isn't that the way it works?

Think about education itself; it keeps the mind busy. A job/career; the same thing. And all the other things that money can buy, the homes, cars, TVs, vacations, its all about one thing after another to stay busy and entertained. So What's wrong with this? Ask anyone totally involved in things such as family, career, entertainments, etc., and they will tell you that they are completely happy.

And on the surface it would appear that they are, but underneath we find the same, endless struggle to keep the mind busy evey moment, the struggle that eventually turns to discontent.

When we are forced to lose those things that have kept us occupied and busy; when the kids leave home or our excellent health begins to falter or the family pet dies, that's when discontent raises it's ugly head as if it‘s just been waiting for the right moment to strike.

The Buddha indicated, however, that discontent, or suffering, is the natural way of life. That happiness is only intervals between, when the discontent is temporarily overridden. If this is the truth, then we can test it.

Make two columns on a piece of paper: (A) - Discontented (B) - Happy. Then beginning early in the morning before you even get out of bed, check your mood and make a check mark; (A) Discontented or (B) Happy, and do this for the rest of the day. Do this for a month or so, checking your mood as often as possible, by the minute if you can. Then you can find out for yourself if suffering is human nature or not.

If you find yourself worrying about something, that would be in column A - Discontent. Solving the worry, that would be in column B - happiness. Consider how much time you might spend worrying about that little bump in your breast, including all the treatments that might be involved, and whether or not they will be effective, compared to the happiness when the doctor says everything looks good.

Have to pee? That would be in column A. Peeing? That would be in column B. Unless of course you have a prostate problem, which would then take it into column A. Get the idea?

To save you some time, you will discover that discontent, and the attempted escape from discontent, is the entire focus of life. Becoming religious is both an acknowledgment of our human suffering, and an attempt to escape it by psychological transference of our problems to a deity. Let Him handle it, I give up!

The Buddha, going against the grain of almost all religions, took the exact reverse psychology: It is a fact that you have been born as a human being, and human beings will suffer, you can't escape it. Therefore, don‘t be reborn in the human realm again! If you continue to run away from discontent instead of solving it; then it will never register as a natural human condition.

If instead of seeing directly that there is no self inside this human being, we insist on indulging an ego, then that's where we will be reborn time after time - as a human being. This of course assumes rebirth and karma instead of an angel at the gate letting you in or turning you away for eternity based on the one, quick, dizzying lifetime you have spent on earth!

But for starters, post your A B list and check it twice. Then see for yourself if the First Noble Truth is true or not. Oh; and don't fool yourself. Be honest!

Author's Bio: 

E. Raymond Rock (anagarika addie) is a meditation teacher at:

http://www.dhammarocksprings.org/ and author of “A Year to Enlightenment:


His 30 years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Theravada Buddhist monk.

He lived at Wat Pah Nanachat under Ajahn Chah, at Wat Pah Baan Taad under Ajahn Maha Boowa, and at Wat Pah Daan Wi Weg under Ajahn Tui. He had been a postulant at Shasta Abbey, a Zen Buddhist monastery in northern California under Roshi Kennett; and a Theravada Buddhist anagarika at both Amaravati Monastery in the UK and Bodhinyanarama Monastery in New Zealand, both under Ajahn Sumedho. The author has meditated with the Korean Master Sueng Sahn Sunim; with Bhante Gunaratana at the Bhavana Society in West Virginia; and with the Tibetan Master Trungpa Rinpoche in Boulder, Colorado. He has also practiced at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, and the Zen Center in San Francisco.