I first learned about the Four Noble Truths in my sophomore (it had to be my second and not first) year of High School. I know this as a fact because I distinctly remember being yelled at my a fellow classmate when I raised my hand to recite the first truth.
I remember the moment clearly because he reacted to my answer with such anger and force that he not only revealed that he had not completed his homework assignment, but also made it seem as if I were the one who had first discovered and shared the understanding with our group.
I assume now, reflecting back at his response, that maybe the knowledge of this great understanding was a bit too much for his teenage mind to grasp, since he had just barely started his life’s journey and may have had some hope that things would only get better and better from where he stood, or, maybe, he was simply in denial like most people tend to be.
“Often times we avoid challenges, discomfort, and certain experiences in life because we are afraid of the pain that they will bring. But if we look at our difficult conversations, experiences, and encounters as powerful opportunities for us to grow and express our greatest selves in any given moment, we can transform any seemly painful or catastrophic experiences into opportunities to truly shine our light, become expert alchemists, and to be our best and most powerful selves in the world.”
*Please be sure to note that the use of the term karma here, and in all of my work, is in the literal, and neutral, translation of the word as actions that have a cause and effect in the world. Please further note that I do not refer to karma in the context of it’s place in ideological beliefs in supernatural curses, past lives, or future existences (in the same way that I do not believe in the existence of literal Gods and Goddesses), since this phenomena has never been proven.
If past lives are ever referenced in the context of my work (which it rarely ever is), it is only to serve as a metaphor for the different stages and transformations that we experience throughout the one life that we have. All actions have an effect, this is clear, but once our life has ended, there is no evidence to prove that we come back in any other form. In fact, I feel that it is imperative that we honor this truth, and one life that we have within us, in order to value it to the fullest of our abilities so that we can make the most out of it and never rely on the illusion of a past or future existence to excuse any behaviors of the past, present, or future (either on a personal or historical scale).
There is only one life for each of us, and victims of crimes such as slavery, the holocaust, rape, abuse of any kind, and other atrocities never did anything in a past life to deserve their fate in their present one other than exist in a world in which they were the unfortunate recipients of other people’s bad actions (or karma) guided by ignorance or hatred. This is important to always emphasize because this word is often overly misused and is an area of yogic philosophy that I feel is often shrouded in mythology and false ideology.