“The seed of suffering in you may be strong, but don’t wait until you have no more suffering before allowing yourself to be happy.”
He is not saying that people don’t suffer. In fact, one of the fundamental observations of Buddhism is: Desire for and craving pleasure, material goods, and immortality is the root cause of all suffering. These desires are all wants that can never be satisfied. As a result, desiring them can only bring suffering.
Suffering means that we do not like what is happening in the present moment. We are not satisfied with it. It brings us emotional pain. Suffering is emotional and is a choice. Pain is inevitable and sometimes even a blessing when it lets us know that we need to take care of the issue. But suffering is chewing over in our minds the fears and anxieties that are merely add-ons and don’t help us at all.
He’s saying suffering may be a strong pull for us. We may want to wallow in it. And bask in feeling sorry for ourselves. We can ask, “Why me?”, as if this is something personal the Universe is inflicting on us, when we feel entitled to be happy every moment of the day and night. And furthermore, we never want our bodies to die. But because we know these bodies will go, we can’t allow ourselves to be happy because we will all end in death anyway.
Hanh says, stop this miserable cycle of anxiety. Don’t put off your happiness until the day when everything is picture perfect and your body won’t die. Be happy now. Even if your toe hurts and you just bit your tongue. Experience the pain fully and when it is divorced from suffering, it is just one more strong physical sensation.
Zen’s primary focus in on mindfulness in the present moment. It is not about the wild hurricane of the whirlwind mind. It is finding peace in every minute, joy in the kernel of timelessness, and gratitude for it. Suffering gets transmuted, through this awareness, into a profound revelation of perfection right now.