congratulations on your wild ride! Wild rides are always useful if used wisely to reflect as you are doing.
I do agree that the emphasis on the end of the Path can make for difficulties. Personally I think that teaching the Path offers huge challenges. This is precisely because it is a Path of transformation. The views and perspectives, and capacity to see certain points, develop over time. There is an expectation in our culture that intellect alone can surmount this and that if knowledge and logic are powerful enough everything can be understood. Now the Buddha explicitly said that this did not apply to the Dhamma. This is because it is about conditionally or dependently arisen states - that certain causes need to be in place for certain results. This includes Right View.
So there is a dilemma between the expectations and desires of people to be able to understand, that goes against the nature of progression in the dhamma. As an easy example, as a 5 year old, can you know the perspective of a 20 year old? as a 20 year old can you know the perspective of a 60 year old? You really can’t… you can imagine it, speculate about it but you can’t know it. When I reflect back on myself, I was so mistaken in what I imagined the experience of older people was LOL! This is a very simple and superficial example - when it comes to the Dhamma the issues are immeasurably more profound.
The Buddha gives a great simile of this transformation. From milk comes curds, from curds comes butter, from butter comes ghee. The curds are no longer milk… curds perspective is no longer ‘milk’ perspective.
So there is that part of it - the challenge of how people approach the Path and their desire to know the end, which in my opinion can really get in the way - if all the focus is on trying to just get enough knowledge and logic to solve the riddle and get the answer. The answer will come naturally as part of the process if the Path is followed and one undergoes the transformation. In that case the results are inevitable - a natural process
Note: of course it is good to have an idea of the overall map, but it is a question of where one focuses most energy and not to get tangled in what is unhelpful.
So with regards to the pragmatic alleviation of suffering in the here and now.
This is my favourite part of the Path. The results are immediately visible! I can’t quote you a percentage, but so much of the teachings are about exactly this. It is just that people tend to focus on those other unreachable things at the very end and get caught up in trying to solve the problems (First Noble Truth) as an intellectual problem.
In a nutshell, the way to alleviate suffering comes from changing the focus in life from what one can get for oneself at the cost of others, to operating from a position of win-win for everyone. The underlying principle is kindness and restraint of greed and ill will. It is easy to see the immediate positive effect this can have. Just reflect on how you feel after recieving a random act of kindness… on how it feels after doing a random act of kindness… and compare it to the opposite. Immediately visible.
The Buddha shows in so many suttas how behaving this way is for the benefit of oneself and others, that it leads to a happy life right here and now, and also for future rebirths. The suttas abound with concrete examples of this, illustrating particular problems that cause suffering and also the specific methods, actions and thoughts that resolve it
As one goes about living in this way, one becomes transformed and begins to see the world in a different way - this is the beginning of the transformation - milk to curds. From this new vantage point other aspects of the Buddhas teaching start to become clearer. I’ve found that the further along one goes, the greater the momentum to keep going along.
Now there is no need what-so-ever to go further than this! I want to emphasise this… it is enough to live a happy fulfilling life where suffering is reduced and happiness and mutual caring is increased.
Again it is this, dare I say it, competitive aspect to people who are not satisfied unless they have reached the ultimate, the pinnacle, the bestest!! LOL this is quite a negative aspect of craving and desire that causes a whole heap of suffering unnecessarily. Contentment, is the key.
As one lives in this manner, one can’t help but progress along the Path.
The Truth of life though is that there will always be suffering of some degree at different times. It is just nature. To want what is impossible - to expect it - is a recipe for suffering.
We as humans with bodies and minds are just a part of nature, there is illness, catastrophe etc etc… it is impossible to live life without being subject to the vicissitudes of life. Life is not fair or just etc etc - The Disneyland myth is really very harmful as it bears no relation to reality. To expect that life should somehow be ‘perfect’ is just ensuring we have mental suffering. To expect the impossible is totally unrealistic and doomed to disappointment.
However, even though this is the case, it doesn’t mean that living the Path doesn’t reduce the inherent suffering. There is also joy In cases of tragedy we are there to offer compassion and care. We learn to focus on the positive things. We learn how to make things better not worse through developing skillful means of dealing with the challenges in life The way the Buddha teaches these skillful means is an absolute treasure. I have a background in Psych and have worked for a long time in the service of helping people overcome difficulties and I don’t know of a better set of tools.
It is wonderful
So there are a few rambling thoughts for you this morning.
With a whole heap of metta and best wishes. May you be happy and well and content