Up until now I have been dealing with the existence and nature of God. In some ways, it’s not really important what God is like. When I was first searching for God, I came up with this whole mythology out of whole cloth. It wasn’t a mythology that fit the facts, it was a mythology that fit what I wanted to believe in. It wasn’t long before I realized how empty and hollow that mythology was, and the whole experience left me with a distrust of metaphysics. I used to say (and still do) that you don’t do the right thing because people will like us for it, and you don’t do the right thing because some old guy will let you live in his garden forever, you do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do.
However, the nature of God informs what the right thing to do is. And eventually I will get around to explaining what I think the right thing to do is. The nature of people also informs what the right thing to do is, so I need to talk about that first.
Those of you who know anything about Buddhism will realize I’m pretty much pulling this from the Four Truths of the Buddha. That is commonly translated as The Four Noble Truths. I was always confused as to what was supposed to be noble about them, so I looked into the translation of the phrase. What I learned was that the phrase is really The Four Truths of the Noble One, the Noble One being Buddha. A lot of Buddhism was translated into a sort of King James dialect, which I don’t speak, so I try to find more vernacular ways to say things. I make no bones about cribbing from the Buddha. I am a Zen Quaker after all. I’ll crib from Jesus later.
Principle 5: We Suffer (The Suffering Principle)
We suffer. We are not satisfied with our lives. Our lives are out of balance.
This is pretty basic. I’ve certainly had plenty of pain in my life, from my old man to Tall Needle. As no one of consequence once said “Life is pain. Anyone who tells you different is selling something.” Of course, it’s also a wonderful life. The two statements are not as contradictory as you might think.
Principle 6: Desire is the Cause of Suffering (The Cause Principle)
We suffer because reality is not what we want it to be, because we desire reality to be something else. We want things to be the way they were in the past, or at least the way we remember them to have been in the past. We want the past to be different, so that the things that pain us would not have come to be. We want the future to be here now, so we can get what we are waiting for. We cannot accept the present as it is, so we suffer.
Even when we finally get what we want, it isn’t what we expected it would be. So we suffer.
This to me is an incredibly important part of what the Buddha taught. The pain of life is not external to us, it is something we bring to life. We are in pain because we cannot accept life as it is. That is how life can be wonderful and painful at the same time.