#Buddhism, #Bizarro World, and the 4 Noble Truths of #Christianity…

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Statue of Buddha in Kandy, Sri Lanka

We all know the Four Noble (Aryan) Truths of Buddhism, of course, indoctrinated in us since birth: 1) the prevalence of suffering in this world, 2) the cause of suffering—desire, 3) the way to reduce suffering—reduce desire, and 4) the way to do that: the Eightfold Middle Path—do not lie, cheat, steal, etc…

But did you know that Christianity also has Four Noble Truths? Okay, so they’re not exactly called that, but it’s easy enough to interpolate and extrapolate, so here goes: 1) this world is fun!, 2) the cause of fun is desire, 3) the way to increase fun is to increase desire—more bigger richer sexier, and 4) the way to do that: the Ten Commandments: do not lie, cheat, steal, etc. Ha! Gotcha!

So Buddhism is the opposite of the ‘real’ world, the Western world, in which the goal is for all good citizens to accumulate as much as they can as fast as they can, as if there were no tomorrow. This is a doctrine derivative of materialism, which posits the seemingly obvious ‘fact’ that we are all solid entities, composed of stuff, and so therefore somehow equally buff, i.e. boeuf

But the Buddhist viewpoint is that we are not so obviously ‘stuff’, but definitely consciousness, and that conscious ‘mind-stuff’ is better off without so much other stuff attached to it, dragging it down, down to the ground, the less the better, in fact, so as not to take our impermanent insubstantial so-called ‘selves’ quite so seriously, when in fact there is little or nothing really there, just a collection, however well-curated, of not-so-random conditions more-or-less equally dependent on each other…

And in the West, we celebrate the very thing that the (traditional) East abhors: craving and attachment. We even lecture the rest of the world if, God forbid, they don’t agree with our version of love, mindless foolish and head-over-heels—sounds lovely. So if another culture favors arranged marriages, clean neat and orderly, we lecture them about human rights, the right to serial monogamy, apparently, screwed-up marriages and multiple divorces, children scattered hither and yon…

In the real world, the ‘Western’ world, plenipotentiary for the last 500 years or so (but who’s counting?), the implicit life suggestion, from birth until (you know…), is to “go, go, go” out there and “get it, get it”, ASAP, toute de suite, tres vite, enseguida, ahorita…

But in the Buddhist Bizarro world, we’re in no such big hurry, so more like “jai yen yen”, take it easy, “dtahm sabai, mai bpen rai”. Stay right where you are, safe and sound. If it’s worth having, then let it come to you. If it doesn’t come, then something else will, if you let it, if you wait long enough…

And while the ‘superior’ Western world often has seen the need to reinforce its positon as professor emeritus with guns or proxy, the Eastern position, whether Hindu, Taoist, Confucian or Buddhist, usually prefers to wait you out, during which time you will eventually come along willingly or you may eventually realize that the ground has shifted beneath you and you no longer ‘hold’ the ground upon which you stand…

Yes, the Western superiority complex has its advantages, mostly in ego fulfillment packages, but the Eastern position more than makes up the difference with increased longevity, i.e. average life expectancy, and the reduction in stress and suffering that is inherent in that position…

But how do you argue with an American whose motto is: “Give me liberty or give me death?”

The Buddhist answer to that is easy: “You don’t.” (period)

The challenge is to not respond to that superiority complex with an inferiority complex, in which one person, or one nation, sees itself as helpless before the power of the West, or before life itself, in which the lowest common denominator rules the day, and the average bloke has little say…

This is much the historical position of the countries which are arguably the ‘most’ Buddhist, i.e. Theravada Buddhist—Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, and Laos, in order of population, and hardly an example to the world of what can be accomplished. The standard answer to that criticism, of course, is that, “we are very pragmatic,” but that is the lowest-commonly-denominated position…

I prefer highest common denominators, that highest thing that unites us, e.g. intellect, not the lowest, e.g. sex. Japan and Korea do better in that category, where the Buddhism is Zen, and the question is: “If not now, then when?”

Fortunately Buddhism has the perfect answer for that, too—the Middle Path, neither too aggressive nor too passive, neither too intellectual nor too ignorant, neither too possessive nor too renunciative. So I guess that Buddhism is not really the Bizarro world at all, but more like the Goldilocks world: just right…

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