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We Always Have Joy

The Sun doesn’t stop shining just because there are clouds in the sky. Our buddhanature is always present and available, even when life gets difficult. In his book, Joyful Wisdom, YONGEY MINGYUR RINPOCHE shows us how to discover the joy and awareness that are never affected by life’s ups and downs.

When I’m teaching in front of large groups, I often confront a rather embarrassing problem. My throat gets dry as I talk, so I tend to drain my glass of water pretty early on in the teaching session. Invariably, people notice that my glass is empty and they very kindly refill it. As I continue to speak, my throat gets dry, I drink the entire glass of water, and sooner or later, someone refills my glass again. I go on talking or answering questions, and again someone refills my glass.

After some time—usually before the teaching period is scheduled to end—I become aware of a rather uncomfortable feeling, and a thought crosses my mind: Oh dear, there’s an hour left for this session and I have to pee.

I talk a little bit more, answer some questions, and glance at my watch.

Now there’s forty-five minutes left and I really have to pee.

Half an hour passes and the urge to pee really becomes intense. Someone raises his hand and asks, “What is the difference between pure awareness and conditioned awareness?”

And now I really have to pee.

The question goes to the heart of the Buddha’s teaching about the third noble truth. Often translated as “the truth of cessation,” this third insight into the nature of experience tells us that the various forms of suffering we experience can be brought to an end.

But by now I REALLY, REALLY have to pee.

So I tell him, “This is a great secret, which I’ll tell you after a short break.”

With all the dignity I can summon, I get up off the chair where I’ve been sitting, slowly pass through rows of people bowing, and finally get to a bathroom.

Now, peeing may not be anyone’s idea of an enlightening experience, but I can tell you that once I empty my bladder, I recognize that the deep sense of relief I feel in that moment is a good analogy for the third noble truth: that relief was with me all the time as what you might call a basic condition. I just didn’t recognize it because it was temporarily obscured by all that water. But afterwards, I was able to recognize it and appreciate it.

The Buddha referred to this dilemma with a somewhat more dignified analogy in which he compared this basic nature to the sun. Though it’s always shining, the sun is often obscured by clouds. Yet we can only really see the clouds because the sun is illuminating them. In the same way, our basic nature is always present. It is, in fact, what allows us to discern even those things that obscure it: an insight that may be best understood by returning to the question raised just before I left for the bathroom.


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