arrow of suffering

Once when the Buddha was staying near Jeta Grove, a woman came to him with a troubled mind. She was plagued with questions about the nature of ultimate reality: Does the universe have a purpose or does everything exist by chance? Was the universe created by a supreme being or did it come into existence randomly, on its own? Will the world go on forever, or will it have a definite end? What happens when we die? What is the ultimate purpose of life? These questions obsessed her to the point where she found daily life difficult, so she came to the Buddha for advice. Aren’t we sometimes like this woman, obsessed with metaphysical speculations about the nature of ultimate reality? Do these speculations sometimes cloud our minds, filling us with doubts and fears, making life difficult for us at times? Every day, people argue about the existence of God, and whether or not He exists, offering all kinds of “proof” one way or the other. There’s nothing wrong with this. Humans have been speculating about God since the beginning of time. But to the Buddha’s way of thinking, none of this speculation can ever ease our suffering right here, right now. Even if we could find the answers to these questions, we still will not have solved the problem of suffering. The Buddha neither affirmed nor denied the existence of a god. For him, the question was irrelevant. Instead, imagine you are hit with an arrow, the Buddha taught. Would you spend your time wondering who made the arrow, what the arrow-maker’s name was, in what country the arrow was made, or what kind of metal the arrow was made from? No. You’d pull that arrow out as quickly as you could. Our suffering is like that arrow, but instead of pulling the arrow out by following the path of mindfulness, loving-kindness and compassion, we ask ourselves all kinds of metaphysical questions, while our suffering continues. Why not pull that arrow out, right now?


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