… As an Awakened person, the Buddha no longer had any attachments or G.A.S. (greed, anger/hatred and stupidity). At the same time, “attachments” also refer to the gadgets that are attached to the end of the vacuum cleaner for reaching narrow spaces such as under the sofa. This is why the Buddha had no attachments to get to the narrow spaces! I hope you got it.
This second truth emphasizes the fact that our suffering is caused by G.A.S. This was obvious in the case of the greedy dog, for it was because of his greed and stupidity that he suffered the loss of his bone. His greed also brought great suffering and misery to the puppy.
In the case of Prince Siddhartha, before he became the Buddha, he experienced extreme suffering upon witnessing a dead person. And his pain-and-suffering was due to his desire (or greed) to want to live, or in his own words, due to his “craving for existence.” And this was compounded by his ignorance (or stupidity) about the truth of impermanence, that is, that everything including our body changes and eventually ceases to exist.
Now, we can certainly empathize with Prince Siddhartha, because everyone desires to live a long time and to be in good health. However, no matter how common and universal the thirst for life is, it is still greed, nevertheless. This truth (that desire to live is, indeed, greed) discovered by the Buddha will probably be hard to swallow for many of us.
It certainly was for me, when I was rudely awakened in my sophomore year in high school that we all have to die. I vividly recall feeling that it was unfair, and that it wasn’t how it was supposed to be. In the Buddhist teaching wasn’t much of a consolation initially when it reminded me that my discomfort with death was due to my greed and attachment to life.
However, the teaching has since helped me to see that the roots of my suffering regarding death lie within myself. It was my greed and stupidity (or ignorance) that were preventing me from having the wisdom to see and live in accord with the truth: everything changes and comes to an end, including my body.
So, my suffering was due to my failure to develop the wisdom or awaken to the truth. This may differ a bit from Christianity, where suffering stems from our “sin,” due to our failure to keep our promise or covenant with God. Buddhism values wisdom to see truth, while it seems to me that Christianity values humans’ relationship to God. However, in the end, the values of the two religions can be seen to be similar, since God for Christians is truth, and wisdom from Buddhists is to awaken to the truth.
Third truth: Our suffering ceases when Awakening is realized
Now, let’s move to the third truth, which states that are suffering ceases when Awakening is realized. Awakening is the state realized by the Buddha under the Bodhi tree, and is also known as “nirvana.”
“Nirvana” literally means “blown out.” So it is the state when the fire of attachments or G.A.S. has been blown out. You can now find “nirvana” in your dictionary as an English word and has come to mean “extreme happiness, bliss, freedom and/or liberation.”
In the 1980s and 1990s, there was, as previously mentioned, and internationally famous American rock band call “Nirvana.” When asked why they settle on that name for his band, the singer and guitarist Kurt Cobain answered that he “wanted a name that was kind of beautiful or nice and pretty instead of mean, raunchy punk name…” In that same article of the interview Nirvana is described as “transformed state of personality characterized by compassion, peace, deep spiritual joy and an absence of negative mental states and emotions such as doubt, worry, and fear.”
To better understand the state of Awakening or nirvana, I wish to share another well-known American Buddhist joke
A Buddhist monk wanted a hot dog so he walked over to a hot dog vendor on a busy street corner. The vendor asked, “What would you like, sir?” The monk answered, “Make me one with everything!”
To make sure you got it, let me explain. The conversational meaning is that he wanted one hotdog will all the condiments, which include mustard, ketchup, diced onion, pickle relish, and sauerkraut: in other words, “make me one [hot dog] with everything [on it].”
But the deeper meaning points to a religious experience where a person feels at “unity with” or “one with” other people, nature and the universe (“everything”), associated with the state of Awakening: so in other words, “make me one with everything.”
The Buddha experienced a profound realization in which he no longer saw himself as being separate and alone but connected to everything around him as in our metaphor of Indra’s Net of Jewels. Within this experience of interconnectedness, the Buddha now saw clearly
1) the nature suffering,
2) the cause of suffering, and
3) the past to overcome suffering.
This Awakening revealed that a change had to come from within himself.
Now here comes the follow-up to joke, about the lung in the hotdog, which directly illustrates the present topic. Well, after getting a hot dog, the monk gave the vendor a $20 bill, with even though a minute passed, he did not get the change back.
The monk waited patiently for a while but when it was not forthcoming, the monk became a bit flustered and finally asked, “Well, where’s my change?” The vendor squarely face the monk and replying with confidence, “Sir, the change must come from within you,” as he pointed his index finger toward the Buddhist monk!