The Truth of Suffering and the Path of Liberation

Reading and enjoying Chogyam Trungpa’s The Truth of Suffering and the Path of Liberation requires a certain faith in Buddhism. To take something positive from the text doesn’t necessarily mean we must adhere to the Buddhist religion, but at least give way to some of the treatments it proposes, such as meditation, which are at the center of the book.

There is much to be unhappy about in life, but the opposite can be said: there is much to celebrate…if we choose to find. We find both contentment and discontentment at the same time, but on which do we focus?

Chogyam Trungpa writes, “Sometimes we have good food, but we are thirsty.” We know that conditions are always changing in our lives, but so often we refuse to look at it that way. Instead, we go about life subconsciously convincing ourselves of permanence in situations. This can bring about a sense of claustrophobia, like we can’t escape a situation, and we particularly focus our thoughts of permanence on the difficult. The opposite is also true: when we experience a joyful situation, we become upset at the mere thought of losing it.

The reality is that no matter what we’re going through, the situation is impermanent. This is largely the theme in The Truth of Suffering and the Path of Liberation.

Accepting the good along with the bad is key to liberating our lives from despair. But the practice of these ideas, making a point to focus throughout our days on the truth of situations – their impermanence, the ever-changing nature – is the only way to – to use a harsh term – beat the truth into our psyches, and thus make life more enjoyable on every level. Supposedly, the small things are then that much more enjoyable, such as witnessing the steam rise from a hot cup of coffee or tea.

If one is looking for specifics from Chogyam Trungpa, he only gets specific when he uses Buddhist terminology for the different paths to liberation. We aren’t given parables like many Buddhist writers prefer to give…at least not many.

The Truth of Suffering and the Path of Liberation can be read as a crash course in becoming liberated the Buddhist way. Don’t pick this book up if you want “familiar” therapy. By this, I mean in the book you’re given specific Buddhist terms and somewhat general descriptions of what they mean. By no means useless, but to the western world that carries only a loose conception of Buddhism, the book is more of a launching pad for deeper Buddhist studies.

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