If you were asked what the biggest problem in your life is, what would you say?
Of course, with more than six billion people on the planet, there are lots of answers to that question. But they all boil down into a small, and universal number of categories.
In many parts of the world, people have problems getting the basics of life: clean water, enough food, reliable shelter, decent health care. People have emotional problems – in their own minds – in their family lives. Tribal, ethnic and religious groups don’t get along – and often slaughter one another brutally. And people in prosperous, stable societies suffer from sadness, anger and fear – from loneliness and confusion – from a sense of existential despair.
But the one we call the Buddha Shakyamuni – a man who lived 2500 years ago and became fully and finally enlightened – had a bigger understanding. It was an understanding that both transcended and included the experience of everyone on the planet, alive back then and alive today, too.
Shakyamuni Buddha, speaking from a place of enlightened omniscience that is impossible for us to fully comprehend, declared that our biggest problem is that we were each and all stuck in a terrible cycle of repeated birth, life, suffering and death.
Yes, the problems that you have are real and important. But as Shakyamuni Buddha explained, we are all seeing our lives from an ant’s eye view. We think that our biggest problem is that we are suffering from THIS particular issue in THIS particular life. But (Shakyamuni explained gently but firmly), this life is brief, and at some point will be over. And then we will awaken to another life, in another form, and the cycle will start over again.