My dear friend Nagy died in June.
I’m broken up by it.
Still. Months later.
When I learned about it, I recorded a raw video about the stages of acceptance.
Finally, I’m able to write about what he meant and taught me. Nagy was a role model and friend.
You might remember that Nagy’s wisdom helped me in my quest to make sense of Easter.
…I also talked with Nagy about Easter. Nagy was born Daniel Buckley, a good Catholic boy. He later became a Vietnamese Buddhist monk with a Jewish wife. He’s also an old cooter to whom I am very much attached. (And, yes, I get the joke about being attached to a Buddhist monk.)
“Nagy, are Buddhists afraid of Easter?”
“Nah,” he tells me. He is in a talkative mood. Often he just wants to have a 30-second phone call. We do that probably once or twice a week. Today I’m in luck. He is in the mood for a chat.
“The problem with Easter,” he continues and then pauses, “is how the resurrection is used.”
He repeats “how the resurrection is used” a few times as he gathers his thoughts.
He tells me about how he teaches the story of Siddhartha’s enlightenment and the resurrection as the same story. Then he restates what he just said, but now as a question. “How is it used? How is it used?”
“What I want to know,” he continues, having found the wisdom in his musings, “is what do you do now that you’ve been reborn?”
I love that question. “What do you do now that you’ve been reborn?”
I would like this article to pay tribute to Nagy, my beloved, inspirational friend. Here is the biggest lesson he taught me: there is a big difference between pain and suffering. Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.
I referenced this quote by Haruki Murakami in the article about Discernment and Judgment. There is physical pain – that which is discerned, sensed, noticed. And there is also suffering – the story and judgment you have about it.
According to Nagy, we will all encounter pain in our lives. Of course we will. The experience of pain is part of being alive. About that there are no options. Everyone experiences pain.
But, Nagy taught, suffering is optional.
He taught that we could surrender, accept the pain, or we could fight against it and add to our suffering. As it is written in Matthew 6:27, “Who can add a single hour to his lifespan by worrying?”
Nagy was in the hospital for the fifth attempt to correct a botched surgery on his knee.
He told me that he couldn’t control his body, but he could train his mind.
He told me – one of the last times we spoke – how many nurses recognized and commented on his positive, upbeat attitude.
If he was in pain, I never knew it.
A well-known tale in the Talmud (500 CE) contains a meaning similar to Nagy’s philosophy. In this thrice-repeated story, one rabbi asks another, “Is your suffering so dear to you that you persist in it?”
While it might sound like a ridiculous question, let me ask it of you: Do you get a certain something – pleasure, comfort, attention, joy – from your suffering?
I’d like us to stop that – both publicly and privately.
Do you have the willingness to not suffer?
Let us commit to not complaining, to not increasing our suffering.
We will have pain.
Things will not go the way we want.
Let us not add discomfort and suffering.
#wisdom_biscuit: Love suffering, less.