Buddhism’s First Noble Truth: Everything is broken…

IMG_1559So now that I’ve self-identified as Buddhist for almost a year, I figure I know pretty well the heart and mind of the Buddha, and so should begin second-guessing him, in order to clarify a few points that remain confusing after 2560 years (cue snickers). Okay, so here goes: everybody knows the Four Noble Truths, right? 1) The prevalence of suffering; 2) the cause of suffering: craving; 3) the cure for suffering: don’t do that, and 4) the way to accomplish that: follow the Middle Path, avoidance of extremes…

So let’s do the math, and I’ll go Buddha one-up: If the cause of suffering is craving, which is normal, then suffering is normal—at least in this world, in this lifetime. And indeed many potential students of Buddhism never get past the ‘First Noble Truth’: That this world is full of suffering, first and foremost. Now deal with it. And Buddhism does—deal with it. But a lot of people find it depressing, seeing suffering before all else, when many people consider themselves quite happy, thank you…

And indeed the world is probably better off materially than it has ever been—materially, I repeat. But it hasn’t always been that way, and it is likely headed downhill again soon, since our current social paradigms are not sustainable. And were your great-great-great grandparents happy as they crowded into the cargo hold for the Middle Passage to Amerika? Such concerns of the moment are not so much the concerns of Buddhism anyway. First and foremost, this is a world of limitations, if my math is correct, i.e. no one gets out of here alive…

The quest for cryogenics is pathetic. We are subjects here, not even actors on a stage, or just barely. The hand we’re dealt is much larger than the hand we play, which is only a fraction thereof. We are small compared to the world around us, tiny infinitesimals on a great big stage. This is a game of numbers, and the odds are against us: the fix is in. “It’s a rigged election, folks,” and “the economy is rigged,” to quote two of the major Presidential candidates of the 2016 US elections…

And it is, but not totally. There is plenty of free will to go around, enough to demand morality of you on your own free time. But it is far from absolute. For lack of hard facts and exact figures, let’s call it 60/40 in favor of the Matrix, the Mother, our received knowledge, the world as given. The rest is ours—win, lose or draw. And don’t think that I’m just making all this up. I firmly believe that this is exactly what the Buddha meant…

The World is a dangerous place…

…but there is nothing to fear, it simply comes with the turf, sound and fury, and the ties that bind them, emotional ties of love and forgiveness, hate and vengeance. Danger may be an equation reducible to the objective premises of uncertain promises, but fear is your choice, and subject to your training, and your fitness to do battle with the armies of the night…

My guest house owner, just last week, in trying to apologize for all the rain at this time of year in southern Thailand, allowed that, “It doesn’t rain that hard,” and then we both look at each other, finishing the sentence in unison, “but it rains all the time.” That’s Buddhism (but it should be a light spring rain, green and fresh, not gray and stormy). Only a fun fun fun-loving American might see that as negative, or worse–pessimistic, that the parade might be canceled. But look at the garden! 

Or if you’re an American football fan, think of it like this: the best offense is a good defense. That’s the opposite of what we’re instilled with as Americans, of course, but how’s that working for us in the world at large? Don’t answer. Every corner of the globe is in a more-or-less permanent state of war, with no end in sight. Ever wonder why?

We go around causing problems under the guise of solving them, promoting our own self-centered ideals to the detriment of others, unwilling to leave well enough alone. Wouldn’t Buddhism be a better model for international politics than “onward Christian soldiers” or ‘Jihadi John’ with his dagger and his dry humor?

The idea of ‘defense only’ as representative of Buddhism, and Eastern thought in general, is well borne out by Eastern martial arts, in theory almost the exact opposite of Western boxing, in which the basic idea is to beat the pulp out of the opponent. But if you see somebody wailing on somebody’s head in a match of judo, or karate, or kung fu, then that’s bad form, and most likely a Western perversion of it. The first thing my kung fu teacher taught me was, “run away.” The next thing you learn is: “keep coming back.”

A recent social media blurb congratulates POTUS 45 for his determination to actually win the war in Afghanistan, rather than just ‘not lose’ as had supposedly been the case for the last four years under Obama and Kerry, which would be analogous to the Buddhist position. And now DJT supposedly will give it the “good ol’ college try” at winning? Want to make any bets on how that will turn out?

“History repeats the old conceits…” (Costello/McManus), but this is not a political blog, fortunately, not partisan, anyway. Dems do the same, all too often…

Advertisements