Although at first sight it may be surprising, to stop suffering is not especially difficult. And the recipes to do it are the most logical and simple to do.
Suffering occurs when things do not go the way we wanted them to. This happens because things are conditioned by their own causes.
Not understanding this, that everything is conditioned, is the root of the problem.
I mean, if we treat reality as objects that we have in our minds, we can give these objects the properties we want and we can imagine that they will behave as they please us. This way of acting is typical of people asleep in their own conceptual dream, in their nightmare of dreams that can be fulfilled just by imagining and desiring it.
Living with closed eyes means that when we imagine how things will be in the future, we can compare them with a previous perspective that will seem “nice”. It is obvious that if we do not imagine the future, nothing is pleasant or unpleasant, just as if we do not expect anything from it, or if we already know previously what will happen.
If we know how the film ends, we will not be disappointed if the protagonist dies, because we already know it. Similarly, if the film is seen as what it is, a movie, something that is not real will not disappoint the future of the hero. It will give us the same. If the film bores us and, directly, we pass from it, what happens to the protagonist will be indifferent to us.
That is, those who wake up from the dream of concepts do not suffer because they have nothing to suffer for. In short, the ultimate root of the end of suffering is what we call “wisdom” which is nothing more than seeing reality as it is, not as we imagine it or dreams of us.
Even if we do not fully awaken, we can stop suffering in more accessible, though more laborious ways.
The second recipe is less radical, but very effective.
It consists in not identifying any phenomenon as pleasant or unpleasant, the end of what traditional Buddhism calls “the sensation”.
As it turns out that we define something as “pleasant” to that which makes us happy, and “unpleasant” to what takes away happiness, it turns out that, if we subtract the happiness from the equation, nothing can make us happy or unhappy, that is, nothing It must be pleasant or unpleasant.
Happiness is the reaction of the brain to the generation of a neurotransmitter called serotonin, and unhappiness to its withdrawal. In other words, wanting to be happy is the same as an alcoholic who wants to be drunk. If he succeeds then the hangover or raw comes. And the same with serotonin.
The addiction to happiness is as perverse as the addiction to any hard drug, with the aggravating factor that society promotes this addiction and its effects are terrible because we talk about suffering. And suffering is terrible, we would say that it is the most terrible thing.
Serotonin can be generated in two ways, one bad and the other not bad. If it is triggered indirectly because the brain rewards a behavior based on the senses, it reinforces this ancestral mechanism and hooks it up, so that, if we do not have those pleasurable stimuli, the brain protests by recapitulating serotonin and making us suffer. In addition, the behaviors that the brain, which is blind, rewards does not do so by analyzing reality but by genetic mechanisms that reward the immediacy of getting what is related to well-being, sex or food. It is clear that rewarding the immediate can lead us to really unpleasant situations in the medium and long term.Something that these prehistoric mechanisms are not designed to value.
The pleasant and the unpleasant fall within the scope of the reptilian brain, which underlies the mammal and the human neocortex. To behave with respect to the immediate gratification of happiness is to act with the intelligence of a primitive lizard.
The “good” way is to directly generate the serotonin when and how much we want to just concentrate minimally. This shot, not being conditioned by anything, does not hook, does not condition and does not force us to act in any irrational way. In fact, the easier it is to shoot it the less you want to do it.
The way to attack this dependency has two steps.
The first is to learn how to shoot serotonin at will. This is something that can be learned in a few minutes and is done right away. With this we will have a free replacement and no side effects available.
If for two or three months we maintain very high levels of serotonin in the brain, it will be very difficult for us to convince ourselves to do nonsense in exchange for happiness. That is, we will provoke a hyperinflation of happiness.
Here, you can resort to three Buddhist exercises to increase the serotonin rate, although this is not especially very orthodox to recommend. It is what is called Mettā, Karuṇā and Muditā. That is, the unconditional love that makes us happy, the compassion that makes us happy and the happiness that gives us the happiness of others.
This cocktail of entrances of happiness ends up overflowing the limbic system so that when happiness is not worth anything, the border between the pleasant and the unpleasant fades. Nothing unpleasant can take away happiness and nothing pleasant can give us happiness if we are already saturated with happiness.
Once in this state, it is only necessary to conduct a behavioral process of deprogramming. We will analyze moment to moment with full attention every thing that makes us happy and we will simply avoid it, until the tendency to generate happiness is gradually dissipating. In the same way, we will grasp the unpleasant with the confidence that it can not make us suffer. Based on doing it for 66 or 90 days, it depends on the people, the time comes that nothing is pleasant or unpleasant because it no longer makes us happy at all.
If nothing makes us happy nothing can make us happy, likewise if nothing makes us unhappy, nothing can make us suffer.
The third method is more painful, complicated and arduous, although it also works. It is the so-called “Noble Eightfold Path” and it was a discovery of the Buddha.
It is a much less radical method, and, therefore, is not as elegant as the previous two.
It is based on eradicating desire.
And what is desire?
Desire is a behavior that occurs when imagining a situation and adhering to it as if it were real, gives us happiness.
It is evident that desire needs ignorance and addiction to happiness. If we see reality as it is and understand it, we do not think of imagining improbable situations, let alone adhering to it because we know that it does not condition them, because we are not victims of magical thinking.It also needs happiness because nobody adheres to something indifferent.What is indifferent does not move us. And without happiness everything is indifferent.
Well, if we are not able to see reality as it is and have not even disengaged from the addiction to the drug called serotonin, there is still the way to not suffer attacking desire.
I repeat that this is the least efficient and elegant method. But it works.
The “Noble Eightfold Path” is summarized as a behavioral treatment that aims to eradicate desire. And we already know that without desire there is no suffering.
This method was very clearly described by the Buddha in the Sutta of the Forty Factors, a sutta forgotten or misinterpreted for thousands of years by the Buddhist clergy.
This method consists of a consecutive group of eight (rather nine) cyclical actions, so it is represented as an eight-spoke wheel. The cyclical scheme is because it is a process of continuous improvement where each round what we get is to know better what is “right” and what is not “right”.
The first radio is the correct understanding. Initially we propose a certain behavior as “correct” and, after completing the cycle, we will check whether it was or not.
The next step is the correct intention that consists of getting to do the exercise. The Noble Eightfold Path needs about 90 days of uninterrupted and continuous action to deprogram the brain against desire.
The third step is simple, the correct action. We avoid those behaviors that are always performed by attachment and / or aversion, and never without being motivated by this. Killing, stealing, having wrong sexual relationships are the three things that we will directly avoid without having to value anything else.
The fourth step is more subtle and needs more effort: the right word. Lying is done by attachment or aversion, as well as using the word to hurt with the intention of hurting. The gossip, the slander, the lie are only motivated by attachment or aversion. And they simply identify and avoid each other.
The fifth step is the truly complicated one. It is the correct way of life, consisting in assessing if what we do that is not any of the above, we do it really because it is convenient and not moved by attachment or aversion.Buying a bag of potato chips is an example. If we intend to buy it by desire, it is easily identified by imagining if not doing so causes us aversion. If so, the purchase is immediately inhibited. It resembles educating a capricious child. He is only given what he really needs or is convenient and he is firmly forbidden any silly whim.
For this step two other spokes of the wheel are necessary: the correct attention, sixth radius, and the correct effort, seventh radius. This is evident: attention serves so that we do not miss any stimulus that induces us to behave. If we do not use attention, the brain will continue to be capricious just by distracting us with other things. It is evident that the use of alcohol or other intoxicants that inhibit attention should be totally avoided. And since this exercise is constant and should last those 90 days, the right effort is vital. Without it we get tired and the brain does not decondition it.
All these radios, together, are what constitutes the correct concentration.They all have to be given simultaneously, and not in parts, as some people suggest.
Here we can, if we want, introduce the meditation called concentration or Jhānas, because these inhibit unwanted thinking, so that we can do the exercise correctly without the mind taking us from one side to another by thoughts that resemble mental viruses and that only seek to offer us desire or aversion.
Any “meditation” whose purpose is not to stop thinking if you do not want to think all day to stop suffering, simply does not work.
Finally, the whole group leads us to the correct wisdom that is to know better than at the beginning what is working for us or not. And back to start the correct understanding.
With this system, we decondition the brain to not react to desire, or attachment or aversion, so nothing will make us suffer.
These three ways are, in short, three ways to stop suffering, and only depend on you want to put them into practice. Now that, if you prefer to keep sleeping in your stupid nightmare, or choose to remain hooked like a zombie of happiness or spending all your time, energy and money in wanting everything as a capricious child, it is your choice: you will be suffering because you want, by idiot, by drug addict or by pure whim.
So you do not want me to treat you with compassion.
The most you’ll get from me is a good kick to see if you wake up.