Saturday, October 6, 2012

Dark Mind is the Root Cause of Suffering

                 Pure Land Buddhism clearly teaches that the root cause of suffering is dark mind.

                 But what is dark mind?

                Dark mind refers to a mind that is unclear or has uncertainty about the afterlife.

                Death casts a shadow over our entire life. Because we can't see through the darkness beyond our own death, doubt toward the unknown future keeps us suffering from deep within.

Original Photo by Darco TT available on
  Let's understand the concept of dark mind by first looking at the idea of death...   

Death will definitely occur in our future.

             Birth -------------------------------> Death

               The longer we live, the closer we get to death. This fact makes death the most common and most important reality that all people have to face. And this issue will never change for us. Even if all the clocks in the world suddenly stop, time will keep counting down our life up until our very last moment.

               Though our death is 100% guaranteed, not so many people think about it for too long. It's really something nobody ever wants to even think about at all. We're just overly obsessed with daily life such as studying, working, or having fun.

Original Photo by kimberlykv available at

               We are firmly assuming that death is an event too far away in the future and nothing really to worry about right now.

               But even if we try to imagine what the experience of death will be, we cannot grasp at what it truly is. While we're alive, death is impossible for our minds to visualize. It would only be our imagination at work.

               This is because our perception of death and the reality of death are totally different.

               Imagine a deadly predator from the animal kingdom like a tiger or a shark...

   Our Perception of Death

The death we can imagine... is just like coming upon a tiger caged in a zoo...

Original Photo by Harlequeen available on

...or seeing a shark from behind the glass of an aquarium.

Original Photo by brainware3000 available on

Death in Actuality

The real experience of death is more like... meeting the hungry tiger's gaze in a jungle face-to-face...

Original Photo by Rennett Stowe available on

...or encountering the shark's sharp teeth while swimming in the ocean.

Original Photo by travelbagltd available on
We do know that the moment of our own death will come...
...but what exactly will happen to us after death?

               This is the most serious question everyone must face one day, and yet nearly all of us remain clouded and unclear on this issue.

               There are those who claim that we just become nothing when we die. However, when a friend or family member passes away, they quickly pay respect and pray for the person's soul. Their actions don't really support their beliefs, and there's still no way they can prove for sure that nothing becomes of us when we die.

               Then there are some who believe they will go to heaven after death. That being the case, wouldn't it be better to die sooner since our life can be so full of suffering at times? If heaven is a state to be granted to us after death, we cannot savor peace of mind until we're in the grave.

Original Photo by Damek available on

                Have you ever thought that to believe indicates that you have doubt?

                A person who was been burned does not say they believe fire is hot. They know it from experience. If one day you believe you are going to heaven but the next day you are not so sure, this demonstrates a belief. In Buddhism, true faith comes from knowing.

                So does life after death exist or not? Can it be known with certainty? And if it does exist, is it a happy world or a sad world? What kind of world could it be?

               Most of us have no clear answers to these questions. We remain in total darkness about what's in store for us after this life, and that's why this troubling, unsettled state is known as dark mind.

               Sakyamuni Buddha taught that the root cause of our suffering is having to leave behind everything in this world at death and still not knowing for sure where we go in the afterlife.

Let's say you have an exam in three days, 
and it will determine your entire career's future.

How would you feel about it?

Original Photo by Jeff Pioquinto available at

Your present state of mind would be in the dark because of anxiety 
or worry about the outcome of the test.

What if you had to undergo a major surgery in five days?
What would go through your mind?

Original Photo by Army Medicine available on

Your present state would be shrouded in darkness because of either doubt
or uncertainty toward the outcome of your procedure.

               Can you still have fun or be carefree knowing that big exam or that life-or-death surgery is just around the corner?

                When the future is dark, the present moment becomes dark as well.

               Many philosophers have compared this life to a journey. And the most important part of any journey is arriving to the destination safely and successfully.

               Let's say you're flying over a vast, seemingly-endless mountainous range. You enjoy zipping around through clouds, carefree of all the rocky terrain below. However, you begin to see that your fuel supply is dwindling and there appears to be nothing but perilous conditions below. Your flight becomes uneasy when you realize there is nowhere safe to land your plane.

Original Photo by Seattle Municipal Archives available on

                      This metaphor reflects our own present uneasiness and uncertainty while living toward an afterlife that's covered in darkness.

               The purpose of life is to have our dark mind eliminated. It is impossible to truly enjoy the present moment without having first solved the nagging, great question of our afterlife.

               Pure Land Buddhism boldly declares that the root cause of suffering is this mind in darkness about its future. Eliminating darkness of mind and gaining everlasting happiness is the true purpose of human life. Future posts will show you the way it can be solved. 

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