FOR Marelise, ON A SAD OCCASION IN HER LIFE…
Marelise McClean and Thomas Minnaar are two South African friends I have had for ages, long before I met Buddhism, when I was still deeply inmersed onto worldly life, but good friends are to be kept for as long as life goes on. Marelise is a commited protector of animal life – not just pets but also wild animals that are abundant in her country.
Now, she's been very sad because of the death of one of the pets she has at home. One of the core Buddha's Teaching is about the reality of life. For most people, moreover those who do not folow Buddhism, it's hard to understand what life really is and, even buddhists sometimes fail to accept facts that happen in our daily life. The point is that the Buddha taught us that life is an inevitable source of suffering, as he explained: “Being born, getting sick, getting old, dying… That's suffering. Wanting what we don't have, losing what we have, being far from the beloved ones, being close to the ones we don't like… All that is suffering!” In short, that's all life is about, even so most people are still so attached to life that this strong feeling does not let them see clearly, to see life as it really is, that terrible source of suffering with its ups and downs, being the “ups” those moments of temporary happiness that people take for granted and refuse to let them go.
Now, let's analyse Marelise's words: “I lost my very special kitty, Ella, on thursday. It is very difficult for me to think beyond my sadness and heartache at this time.” - The very first part of the sentence – I LOST MY VERY SPECIAL KITTY… Although the Buddha proved us without any doubt that there is no “I”, nothing that can be called “I” or “me”, nor “my”, let's suppose there is an “I”, a real “Marelise” instead of something (just like all of us!) conventionally called a person, named Marelise. That's already a lot of pieces of information to observe deeply, but let's move ahead! Something conventionally called a woman, named Marelise, made contact with another something… Fluffy, cute, defenceless and lacking in affection little creature! At first sight, Marelise, just like most people would do, fell in love with that conventionally called “KITTY”. She took the little creature home and, gave her the name “Ella” and immediately became ATTACHED to the little cat! THIS IS NOW MY CAT! In her mind, conventionally called Marelise, now has a conventionally called cat… That BELONGS to her… That's her cat and she wants the cat to be with her for as long as possible!
Now, here we have a sequence of events that are inevitably leading anyone to suffer! This attachement based situation, taking as permanent and ever lasting things that, because of their own nature, are bound to cease is an error, a mistake, a distorted point of view… According to Buddhism, no matter who or what, absolutely nothing will stay with us forever. Life itself is as subtle and unpredictable that it is wise to be aware of that at all times. “IT IS VERY DIFFICULT FOR ME TO THINK BEYOND MY SADNESS AND HEARTACHE AT THIS TIME.” Here, once again, in a short sentence, we can see how much of an “I” is expressed. It's very difficult for ME… beyond MY sadness… The more we understand there is no “I”, “me”, “mine”, the easier our lives become! By thinking that there was a LOSS, we make a mistake. There is no "I", hence there can not be "mine". If there is no one to own something, there can not be a “loss”… Thinking this way, things become less difficult and surely less painful!
Conventionally called a person, got attached to a conventionally called kitten and, because of a wrong point of view, now that the temporary existence of the creature is finished, there is pain and sorrow and it's hard to let these misleading feelings go! By now, the deceased kitten has already started a new life, still as an animal, or perhaps as a human being – that no one knows, the fact is that only Marelise and the friends around her – because of her – are suffering and worried and nurturing sadness in their minds and hearts! Should Marelise understand the reality of life, things are they really are, instead of how she thinks they should be, her deep feelings of sadness would quickly diminish. That's the buddhist way of seeing life! When we understand that there is nothing worthy of our attachment because nothing will be with us forever, as not even we are real or permanent. Life becomes less difficult because our moments of pleasure and happiness turn out to be more enjoyable and whatever we have around us, even not belonging to us, can be truly appreciated.
I hope this teaching can help you, my friend, to overcome your sadness and let your kitten become just a good memory of the times you spent together!
Ajahn Sunantho Thero