Monday, 2 August 2010

Second Noble Truth (Interactive): why does life suck sometimes?

The Four Noble Truths form the basis of Buddha's philosophy. The purpose is purely ethical, grounded in subjective experience, so instead of studying the nature of life and reality objectively (in terms of scientific laws, random phenomena, natural selection etc.), we study our experience.

The First Noble Truth (discussed earlier here) is about understanding imperfection and suffering. The Second Noble Truth asks us to look into the causes of imperfection and suffering… So let us explore the roots of suffering. I've included my answers, and am continuing to investigate... The hope is that we can arrive at our own understanding independently of our knowledge of what the Second Noble Truth says and then compare and drill deeper. 

1. What makes you mad?
What makes me mad is human stupidity and lack of consideration for the lives of others. Thoughtless selfishness I can forgive because we all need to become more mindful, learn from our mistakes and do our best not to repeat them, but at least the intention must be there to be acting for the best. They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions, but I’ve always believed that every road is. Ok, so we need to learn to be more mindful, but also forgive ourselves and others when we err. What makes me mad though is the intentional setting up of “us and them” which is a betrayal of the belief in equality, often motivated by power and greed, and accompanied by the restrictions of people’s freedoms and the treatment of individuals as statistics to be labelled and quantified and their approval maximized. Yes, what makes me mad is the betrayal of the three cornerstones of the democratic ideal, of equality, freedom and compassion, and of those who sow seeds of fear and hate that contribute to their degradation.

2. What makes you sad?
What makes me sad is that through the prolonged exposure of things that make us mad, we have developed a tolerance for them, almost become immune. This would make me mad also if it weren’t for the fact that I see it in myself and I find it completely understandable. What makes me sad is how children always have such high ideals and when they become adults they betray those ideals. What makes me sad is the powerlessness of the individual in the face of cruel reality, the short-sightedness of collective humanity, the inevitability of death and the loss of that which we hold dear.

3. What makes you frustrated?
What makes me frustrated is lack of “flow”. When life flows, what does that word “frustration” mean? It doesn’t exist! What obstructs the flow? It is difficulty, tiredness, uncertainty, confusion, helplessness, shame, distraction. And what keeps the river of life flowing over and around these obstacles of frustration with harmonious music. It is calm, energy, wisdom, understanding, power, love, intent. With greater mindfulness, perhaps we can catch the frustration before it arises. With less mindfulness, perhaps we can catch it after it arises. But if we do not catch it, then in time it sets and becomes a tributary of the river of life itself. I don’t even know why I’m frustrated this very instant, but I know that I am! It is my frustration of not understanding the Second Noble Truth, wanting to understand it better, that has driven me to write this blog. So perhaps frustration serves a purpose after all… 

4. What is your response to frustration?
Avoidance! Escape into thinking about something else without frustration, listening to music, reading, sleep, in the hope that the mind can rest, and return to find the state of flow that was lost. Sometimes this can work. Resting too long, the frustration can be forgotten, but it hasn’t necessarily gone away. Sooner rather than later, it must be actively addressed or it will become like a silent sadness never spoken or a gnawing pain whose cause of suffering to our life we fail to even recognize.

5. What is bothering you that you do not want to talk about?
I don’t want to talk about it! For sure there are plenty of things, but what is the fundamental issue at the core, not something external, but something which lies within, something perhaps deeply buried about which everything revolves? What is the source of your shame and your pain? What do you not want to talk about? Do you even have a clue? Perhaps this is something to meditate on, in stillness find the answer and contemplate how to address it. It would sure be useful to know…

6. What should the next question be?

I hand the blog over to you! You can answer any way you like, but let it be an expression of "desire"... oops, did I spill the beans there? I want it to come from you!