Dharma for Non-Buddhists

Every Buddhist should recognize Buddha’s four noble truths that there is suffering, there is a cause of suffering, there is a cure for suffering and there is a path to that cure. With that in mind, any Buddhist who finds themselves suffering knows that they have the ability to transcend their suffering. If a Buddhist is suffering, they can be consoled and comforted by the Dharma. If a non-Buddhist is suffering, they can also be consoled and comforted by the Dharma. It is just a bit more challenging, because  words like Buddha and Dharma have no meaning. Everybody understands suffering though.

Just like the Buddhist path, the non-Buddhist path to end suffering is mindfulness. Mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment. If the present moment is full of suffering, then mindfulness is paying attention to suffering. Mindfulness is not pretending that things are other than they are, but also knowing that things are not exactly what they seem. Mindfulness uses the mind to see how things seem and how they are.

How things are is your direct experience. You can feel hot, cold, hungry, tired, sad, happy, or scared. Those are all reactions to how things seem. How things seem depends on what you believe. If you believe that suffering is just awful and needs to be avoided or endured, then suffering will be extra painful. If you believe that suffering is a passing feeling that is teaching you about the path to end suffering, then suffering becomes somewhat interesting and a little less painful. Mindfulness is staying with each of your experiences, whether they are pleasurable or not. It’s what we routinely do in the dentist’s chair.

Buddhists and non-Buddhists all learn from suffering. When you become a student of suffering and open your mind to your suffering and other people’s suffering, then you can see suffering and the end to suffering all around you. When you learn to see suffering, you learn to feel compassion. Compassion transforms suffering. Mindfulness breeds compassion. Believing in Buddha has nothing to do with it. Buddha was just good at mindfulness.


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