We have seen how widespread dissatisfaction and conflict are in our lives. We have also considered the possibility that dissatisfaction and conflict (dukkha in the language of early Buddhism) arise as a consequence of our reactive tendency to cling, grasp or push away at what is presented moment by moment through our senses.
The Third Noble truth states that there is the very real alternative to this push/ pull life: a conflict free mode, unencumbered, free, the end of suffering in which the mind no longer creates problems.
Sometimes our life is so filled with worry, preoccupation, and chatter that even reading a line or two about a “conflict free mode” strikes us as peculiar or irrelevant. Or perhaps it sounds like a pipedream. So we file it away under nice idea.
The conflict free mode the third noble truth points out can sound even more outlandish when you read some of the dialogues in the early Buddhist texts about it. There is one exchange, between Sariputta (one of the Buddha’s most advanced follower) and a group of monks, in which Sariputta make reference to one of the Buddha’s statements that the conflict free mode (Nirvana) is happiness but not experiential happiness. One of the monks then asks Sariputta “How can something that is not experienced be called happiness?”
Sariputta replies, “That is why it is called happiness.” (Anguttara Nikaya)
Ven. Henepola Gunaratana has commented on this line that “happiness consists of what is not experienced.”
OK, like that helps …
One way to approach this is to consider that the conflict free mode is best described as what is does not have, in other words, of what is not experienced.
Ask yourself this—the next time you are caught in some way, what is there when you let go? What is there when you truly let go?
Let’s consider this daring pronouncement by Ajahn Cha:
“If you let go a little, you will have a little peace; if you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace; if you let go completely, you will have complete peace.”
What does it mean to let go, not partially but totally, as Ajahn Cha suggests?
Does it mean giving up your stance with someone or something – what you wanted from it, out of it, with it, and even who you were in relationship to it?
As you go through your week, practice letting go.
Practice with little things: let go of taking your habitual stand in a futile argument when you see it poking its head, for example. You will easily come up with several hundred invitations to let go in one day, if you pay close attention (mindfulness!).
Ask yourself this question:
Does letting go have to be practiced?
See if you can spot how you get in your own way by thinking that letting go is some long process you master though time. Consider this pure folly.
Instead of trying to understand everything, or figure things out, simply let go. Let go of your wants, preferences, expectations, and fears. Let go of your concerns, preoccupations, compulsions and remorse.
Letting go is releasing everything to be just as it is, with nothing extra–nothing special to be, no purification project, no sins to atone for, no wounds to heal, and no past or future.
Consider this line (I forgot who wrote or spoke it):
“Sacredness is revealed when there are no alternatives to here and now.”
This moment –now—is full, alive, and nourishing just as it is.
Consider this simple practice– when you are emotionally reactive or imposing you views and judgments stop and simply say, “Add nothing to this.”
Allow the possibility that when nothing is added, peace is already there, or rather—here and now.
Ask: “where is there conflict when nothing is added?”