Jesus is born, Buddha is enlightened, not in the bright days of Summer but in the darkest nights of Winter. It is human nature to avoid suffering, to cherish the summer sun. But, inevitably, what we like encounters what we dislike; what we know will encounter what we don’t know. Summer warmth meets winter cold. Summer sun meets winter dark. The year we have known meets the year we do not yet know in a moment of reckoning.
The first of Buddhism’s noble truths is suffering. Try as we might, suffering happens. To contemplate suffering reveals something other than self-affirmation, something other than the preferences that define who ‘I am”.
As with in-breath and out-breath, what ’I like’ is already present in what ‘I dislike’. Pleasant and unpleasant depend on each other. Light and dark, friend and enemy, knowledge and mystery; all are partners in one dance.
To know the dance is to loosen the grip on partiality. To abandon partiality is to recognize a world larger than the categories imposed by personal preference; a reality ‘true’ because beyond self-centered-ness, ‘love’ because all embracing.
To act on the basis of true love is virtue, both the fruit and resolution of suffering. Virtue manifests in many ways and one of them is generosity.