Where is our emotional suffering?

where is our suffering

Where is our sadness?

When a strong feeling arises, like sadness, fear, anger, or any other strong emotion. If we were to ask ourselves: where is this unhappy feeling? Where is our mental suffering?

Where is the sadness? Where is the anger? Where is the fear? When we search for the feeling, where is it? When we are under the grip of a disturbing emotion, our suffering appears so unbearable. But where is it?

Where in the body or mind is the suffering? Where can we find our mental suffering? Where can we find our sadness? Where can we find our anger? Oftentimes, It feels so unbearably strong, but when we search for it, where can our suffering be found?

“When ‘his mind is unhappy’ is sought, it is utterly unfindable. Happy and unhappy minds are designated to a mere collection of their own former and latter moments.”

His Holiness Dalai Lama, in ‘The Key to the Middle Way.’

Having not being able to utterly find my own unhappiness, similarly where is the person?

When Martha is unhappy, where is Martha? Where is the person who feels unhappy?

Where is the person who is unhappy? Is Martha her body, is Martha her mind? Where in the body or mind is she?

When a person is sought, it is also utterly unfindable. A person is designated upon the collection of a body and mind complex. So where is the person? How does a person exist?

If that is so, that both suffering and persons are utterly unfindable, why is that we suffer so much?

What makes our suffering feel so unbearable?  Why do we hold on to our suffering so tightly, as if it was this autonomous, solid, lasting object?

When we search for our suffering, our mental suffering is utterly unfindable. But our unhappiness does exist. It would be silly to say that mental suffering does not exist. Because we know in our own experience that undoubtedly suffering does exist. So the main question here is, how does suffering exist?

If suffering is not this solid, autonomous, lasting entity, how does suffering exist? How does suffering come about?

Mental suffering, just like any other functional thing, comes about as a result of a collection of many causes and conditions. Thus, mental suffering is not an independent, autonomous and solid object, but it is created upon a collection of causes and conditions. In addition, mental suffering is also not an everlasting, permanent entity. But it is momentary, emotional suffering changes moment by moment.

Similarly, how does a person exist?

How does Martha exist? Typically, we take our ‘I’ to be a solid, autonomous, lasting, and unique entity. Undoubtedly, the ‘I’ exists, it would be silly to say that Martha does not exist. But how does the ‘I’ exist?  As Rinpoche mentioned, we go through so many hardships for this ‘I’, but we do not even know how the ‘I’ exists.

When we search for the ‘I’, the ‘I’ is utterly unfindable. If Martha was her body, what part of her body would Martha be? Her hands, her head, her legs? Likewise, if Martha was her mind, what part of her mind would Martha be? Would Martha be her sense consciousness or mental consciousness? Would Martha be a main mind or a mental factor? Would Martha be the former or latter moments of her consciousness? Where in the body and mind complex is Martha?

So, how does the ‘I’ exist?

If the ‘I’ is not a solid, autonomous, lasting and unique entity, how does a person exist? How does Martha exist?

A person, this ‘I’, or Martha, just like any other functional thing, comes about as a result of a collection of many causes and conditions. Thus, Martha depends on both her body and mind to exist. A person is created upon a collection of causes and conditions. In addition, Martha is also not an everlasting, permanent entity. But Martha is momentary. A person, being an impermanent entity, changes moment by moment.

Oftentimes during our studies, Rinpoche has given us this instruction. Whenever a strong feeling arises in our minds, we can ask ourselves: Where is our suffering? Where is our unhappy feeling?

Likewise, whenever we experience suffering, we can ask ourselves: Where is the ‘I’?  Where is this ‘I’ that suffers so much? 

As Rinpoche constantly reminds us, we should not grasp our suffering so strongly. Because when we search for it, it is utterly unfindable. Suffering exists as mere appearance.

“All suffering is like the death of your child in a dream.
To take such delusive appearances as true, how exhausting!”

Gyalse Thomay Sangpo, in 37 Practices of a Boddhisattva.’
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