“Trevor, will you be a speaker on the subject of Overcoming pain and suffering?”

I have been asked to speak on the subject of overcoming pain and suffering.

Is this a joke? No, it’s my life! My patterns. My karma.

I was joking about it at a dinner party on a ski trip in Austria a few weeks ago (get me). ‘So, I’ve been asked to be a guest speaker on the subject of overcoming pain and suffering! How funny is that! There’s only one reason why someone gets asked to talk on that subject!!’

Laughter all round. Sudden pangs of deep unforgettable pain inside. Continued laughter outside. Slightly desperate looks around the table. Are people laughing with me still? Oh good. They’re finding the funny side.

Pain…my pain anyway…the things we carry with us, never completely goes away. Our karma hangs around. But it’s possible to stop it controlling my life, to stop being ‘possessed’ by pain. Then when it comes back, it’s felt but its power is largely gone.

The zen teacher I have the closest relationship with suggests I prepare something on the four noble truths and keep it at that.

Certainly wise advice. Buddha’s teaching on suffering has been the kernel of inspiration for thousands of self help books, and has psychologists catching up with it 2.5 thousand years on.

We ‘snuff out the flame of passion’ which is what nirvana means. We snuff out our desire for things to be a different way and accept what Is. Then we learn to accept what we can’t change, and become free to adapt and respond situationally and with supple character.

Life is getting much harder for all earth humans, and will continue to do so for decades. If we recall that we are One, we will still be able to reduce all suffering. But we must be quick now.

The status quo is just the prevailing shared karma. We know we must shake it off, but we don’t know how or what to replace it with. It will only become clear if we do not look for replacements, and instead remember our Oneness; that all other beings matter equally to ‘I’.


Each Moment Is the Universe (book review)

This is the title of a book by Dainin Katagiri. (The subtitle is ‘Zen and the Way of Being Time’.) Published by Shambhala and available from the International Zen Association UK (IZAUK) Zen Boutique, and elsewhere.

Here are some parts of it that leapt out at me when I read the book.

p.116 ‘When egolessness comes up simultaneously with practice, practice is free from suffering. You become free from your own body and mind and experience complete spiritual security, stability, and imperturbability. THis is called emancipation. Emancipation – the individual, direct experience of human life – is the culmination of the quest. Sometimes we say this is realization, or actualization. Actualization is not just the manifestation of your individual experience of the truth; it us your life interconnected with a tree’s life, a bird’s life, water’s life, spring’s life, autumn’s life, and the life of the whole universe.

Buddhism teaches that all things – those we can see and those we cannot see, those we can think of an d those we cannot think of, those we can imagine and those we cannot imagine – must be accepted as beings in Buddha’s world. We should accept all beings and understand them: see where they come from, look at their face” and at the same time we should be ffee from all things. So just accept all aspects of human life, whatever they are. This is called freedom. Freedom is not escape from suffering or any of the various aspects of human life but acceptance of the ir true nature as beings in Buddha’s world.’


p.163 ‘Within each single problem there is an important opportunity to make the depth of your life mature. To realize this opportunity, first you have to throw away the usual sense of suffering and touch the heart of suffering. Deal with suffering right in the middle of suffering. Then suffering gives you lots of instruction. Whether you have a problem, pain, or pleasant feeling in zazen, please sit. That’s it! You must be tranquil and calm down. Otherwise you can’t see the panoramic picture of how existence is functioning every day.

Sit in zazen, calm your six sense consciousness, and then quiet the egoistic manas consciousness. At that time, basic consciousness touches all things, without exception – the whole universe. That is alayavijnana, the serene and tranquil state of consiousness that is the original nature of human life. This mind of tranquillity is called bodhi-mind, universal consciousness, or the Buddha Way.’


p.171 ‘Real spiritual power is the power behind power. The power behind power is the true meaning of effort. It is pure action without needing a particular goal. Instead of expecting to get a result from our effort, we give quality to our effort. This is a very important practice for us. That’s why spiritual life is very calm, very quiet, and very stable. That’s why you can be very stable and very calm’.


p.211 ‘We have to live within the law of causation, but we also have to turn the results of causation into eternal possibility. Eternal possibility is life with no limitation, no separation.’ p.222 ‘People don’t believe in a long-range life and always see life in the short-range. They want to do something; they want to finish something in this lifetime. Then they become nervous, irritated and cold. They experience stress and have a nervous breakdown. If you don’t take a long-range view of life in the human world, you become crazy. So you have to take care of your life with a long-range hope and just keep going. Every day form a habit of doing small things without expecting any satisfaction of your individual desire. Then your life is just going, in peace and harmony. …Most people get out of temper the more they practice meditation. This is not the real spiritual way of life. So even though you don’t like your busy life, let’s find small things that you can do right in the middle of that busy life. Just light a candle around you, one by one, day by day.’


If you want to read books, this one will do.