Not easy is it, to find any living being that upon this long cycle of suffering has not yet, some time or other, been related to you in some way. And how is this possible?
Inconceivable, is the beginning of this samsára; not to be discovered is a first beginning of beings who, obstructed by ignorance and ensnared by craving, are hurrying and hastening through this cycle of suffering.
As I continue to look at and contemplate the Buddha's Dhamma in a systematic way and, for now, his words relating to the First Truth – The Noble Truth of Suffering, I come to this short and profound discourse. Suffering has been going on for a very long time and I am related to all of that suffering through my relationship with all of those who have suffered.
We are all connected and we all share in all of the suffering that has been experienced in the past, in all of the suffering that is going on in the world right now, and in all of the suffering that will be experienced in the future. It's hard not to be humbled a bit by that understanding. It's hard not to feel compassion for all of my relatives, everyone - past, present, and future.
When I think of this connection, I feel it in a couple different ways and it extends beyond the obvious human connection. All life on this planet comes from the same chemically charged primordial soup some 4 billion years ago - we're all from the same source, all life. I am certainly connected to all of life in this way. My connection to animals sometimes feels stronger than my connection with people, but that's probably just me. In any case, I know that I am connected to all life and, therefore, to all suffering, whether I personally experience it or not.
Besides the material connection, I believe I have an immaterial connection to all life and that this may actually be more relevant. I recognize a mental connection, a connection of consciousness, that exists across all higher life forms. I think of it as a pool of consciousness that we all are a part of, even if we don't recognize it. When that pool is overflowing with suffering (fear, anxiety, hate, whatever), we all experience it at some level, like it or not.
When I remove suffering from my life, I am no longer adding suffering to the pool of consciousness, I am no longer part of the problem. When I fill my life with peace and an abiding happiness, I am contributing to the good of the pool of consciousness and I am then part of the solution.
I recognize that the numbers are against me - 1 vs. 7,400,000,000 - and that's just the people. Ugh. The Buddha said that walking the path was 'going against the stream' and so it clearly is, but 'going with the stream', a stream so full of suffering, is not a path I want to walk.