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Cleveland Buddhist Temple Newsletter

Dharma from the Forest City

Supervising Minister Rev. Ron Miyamura, 
Midwest Buddhist Temple

Contact Rev. Anita, Resident Tokudo Minister, CBT at:

September 26, 2020 Edition

Wasan 37

Amida’s self-benefit and

benefit of others have been
perfectly fulfilled as the
Pure Land.
The compassionate means
skillfully adorned to lead us
to take refuge.
It cannot be grasped by the
mind or by words,
So take refuge in the
Honored-one beyond
conceptual understanding.

(Excerpt from A Pure Land Teaching Jōdo Shinshū Song of True Shinjin… Compiled by Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii 1999.)

Suffering is Optional ↔ Happiness is a Choice

Suffering is optional and happiness is a choice, really? After all, who wants to suffer and who doesn’t want to be happy? We come to Buddhism searching for a way out, a way that will get our mindset out of the rut it thrives in, suffering and anxiety. 

The Buddha taught us the way out, making suffering optional. Ken Tanaka, in his book Jewels, explains the teaching of the Four Noble Truths using Aesop’s fable of “The Greedy Dog.”*After reading this short bit, think about the statement again, suffering is optional, happiness is a choice.

Namo Amida Butsu.

In Gassho,
Rev. Anita
*Aesop’s fable of “The Greedy Dog” is in the excerpt below

Namo Amida Butsu.

In Gassho,
Rev. Anita

Please email me at Would really like to hear from you, your comments, thoughts, or just to say “Hi.”

Jewels: An Introduction to American Buddhism for Youth, Scouts, and the Young at Heart by Kenneth Kenshin Tanaka BKD American, 2020.



Kenneth Kenshin Tanaka

Excerpts from Chapter 5 – Four Noble Truths

Four Noble Truths and the Greedy Dog

Among the Buddha’s teachings, the most basic and important are the Four Noble Truths. That is the reason why they were the topic of the Buddha’s first sermon, which, if you recall, he gave to the five monks.

And we are told that soon after the Buddha’s sermon ended, all five of the monks had attained Awakening. So, the Four Noble Truths were the very teaching that would to the Awakening of his first disciples. This was significant because it proved that his teaching was effective not only for himself but for other people as well.

The Four Noble Truths also give us the birds eye view or the roadmap of the Buddha’s overall teachings. In other words, it’s a great place to start. The Noble Truths are usually expressed as:

  • The first truth of suffering
  • The second truth of the cause of suffering
  • The third truth of cessation
  • The fourth truth of the path

However, I would like to restate these truths in a way that are easier to understand:

  • First truth: We all experience suffering,
  • Second truth: The cause of our suffering lies in our attachments.
  • Third truth: Our suffering ceases when awakening is realized.
  • Fourth truth: There Is the Eightfold Noble Path for realizing Awakening.

Now, let us see if we can make The Four Noble Truths, especially the first two, more understandable. I find that stories are very effective for that. There are many traditional Buddhist stories, but I shall utilize this story that many of you are more familiar with.1 Plus, the story is in keeping with the tone of this book to be as lighthearted and humorous as possible

Aesop’s fable of “The Greedy Dog”

The famous Aesop’s fable of “The Greedy Dog” is a great way to understand the Four Noble Truths. Once upon a time, a hungry old dog saw a puppy carrying a juicy bone in its mouth. Greedy for the puppies treat, the old dog barked and growled until the poor puppy got scared, dropped the bone, and ran away. The old dog carried the juicy bone in its mouth and look to find a quiet place to eat it.

On his way to a quiet place, he walked over bridge, and as he looked over its side he saw another dog with a bone in its mouth. Not realizing that the other dog he saw was actually him reflected in the water, he became greedy for another bone and barked at the other dog. As he did, “splash” went his own bone as it fell into the river, leaving the dog with no bone, hungry once again. No doubt, the greedy dog was suffering.

First truth: We all experience suffering

Buddhism is sometimes accused of being too “pessimistic” precisely because there is much talk about suffering, as is seen here. But isn’t it the role of any true religion to face up to and overcome suffering? The overall purpose of Buddhism has been “to eliminate suffering and to bring about true happiness

The first of the Four Noble Truths states, “We all experience suffering.” Isn’t that the truth! Even teenagers can agree with this, for while there is much happiness in life, there is also much suffering.

The Buddha specified eight kinds of suffering, which are:

  1. birth
  2. aging
  3. illness
  4. death
  5. having to meet up with people and situations we don’t like
  6. having to separate from people and situations we like
  7. not getting what we want
  8. being attached to the five physical – psychological components that make up our experience

Now, let us look at each of these sufferings. As we do this you, you might ask, “Why is birth a form of suffering?” After all, when the baby is born the family and friends all celebrate the arrival of new life. The answer to this requires more space, so we will come back to this a bit later. Having said so, I’d like to ask you to begin thinking why “birth” is considered suffering and Buddhism.

Compared to birth, it is easy to see how aging, illness and death are considered suffering. Remember, it was seeing an old person, a sick person and a deceased person that shocked and pained the Prince who later became the Buddha. These experiences motivated him to leave his family and comfortable life to seek the spiritual path.

As for the 5th suffering of “having to face people and situations we don’t like,” we saw a perfect example of it within The Story of the Greedy Dog. There the puppy experienced this suffering when he faced the greedy dog that frightened him and ended up taking his bone. In our lives, examples of this 5th suffering include having to do that dreaded homework, losing a close sports match, and having to be in the same class or team with people we don’t like or whom we might even hate.

The 6th suffering of “having to separate from people and situations we like” also takes place often in our lives. For example, it includes having to say goodbye to our loved ones. We have done that when our grandparents passed away or when we parted ways from our girlfriend or boyfriend always still cared for him or her. Also, some of us had to leave the school or neighborhood that we love on account of our family moving far away.

Next, the greedy dog’s plight applies to the seventh suffering, “not getting what we want.” He wanted the bone so badly that he went so far as to steal the bone from a puppy. However, he lost even that belong to the river, leaving him with the state of suffering, for he was again “without what he wanted.”

Finally, let us look at the 8th suffering, that of “attachment to the five physical-psychological functions (or aggregates).” This one is a bit harder to understand for it looks at suffering from a more objective and psychological perspective.

These five functions that make up our experiences are the 1) body and five senses, 2) feelings, 3) thoughts, 4) intention, and 5) consciousness. According to the Buddha, we suffer because our five functions are tainted by our attachment or G. A. S. (greed, anger/hatred and stupidity).

For example, when the greedy dog saw and smelled the juicy bone through his senses of sight and smell, it was followed by pleasant feelings about the bone, which generated a desire for it. This feeling that led to his thoughts of determining that he could easily overpower the tiny puppy in order to snatch its bone. And then he raised the intention of taking it away from the puppy. Finally, the fifth function, consciousness, includes the decision he made to take the bone away based on his awareness of the previous four functions.

It was the self-centered attachments of greed and stupidity (two of G. A. S.) that led to the greedy dog wanting the bone (feelings), knowing that he could overpower the puppy (thoughts), then wanting to scaring and snatching away the bone from the puppy (intention), and finally making the decision (consciousness). While the greedy dog was experiencing all this, he was not at all at peace are happy; is greed and aggressive actions made him very anxious and agitated.

 Certainly, he ended up suffering a lot when he dropped the bone into the river. He suffered a great deal because he became greatly agitated, frustrated and regretful.

We must remember that it wasn’t only the greedy dog that suffered, for the poor puppy also suffered. The puppy became terrified and upset when the greedy dog growled at him and stole the bone the puppy had looked forward to chewing. This goes to show that our action impacts not only our own happiness but also that of others.

(Chapter on Four Noble Truths with the next truth to be continued)

Cleveland Buddhist Temple

21600 Shaker Blvd, Shaker Heights
Ohio 44122 United States

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