Friday, October 06, 2006
What is life?
Same person? This is extraordinary. Had I known as a child what I know now, I would have avoided much suffering. From this I conclude that suffering is not knowing.
There have been so many gurus, priests, preachers, theologians, philosophers, psychotherapists and life coaches who have tried to fill the gap and help deliver whatever knowledge that removes suffering.
When I became seriously interested in Buddhism in 1963, and met Christmas Humphreys, President of the Buddhist Society in London, and listened to the discourse of a certain Zen abbot, the most important thing to know was about their own experience. If I seek Nirvana, let me see someone who has achieved it already. If I seek the experience of satori, whatever that is, let me see someone who has experienced that. Neither Mr Humphreys nor the abbot had what I was looking for. They were jolly people, certainly not unhappy in any obvious sense, but they did not instil in me any hope, or sense of vocation. A girlfriend at that time introduced me to the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita, just as I introduced her to Zen. But we were both “lost souls” and for her, suicide seemed the only way out.
I see now that it wasn’t Buddhism that could have helped deal with my unhappiness (dukkha, suffering) at the time. According to the Four Noble Truths, suffering is caused by desire, so desire must be let go of. This aspect of Buddhism makes no sense to me. Desire may leave me, but I cannot leave desire. Desiring life is my essence.
I never wanted riches or fame anyhow. I was full of desire for women, but that was an expression of a genuine need for love. I smoked tobacco, but that was a habit. I tried to be like other people and conform to the ways of society as I saw them. That certainly led to much suffering, but its cause was ignorance, not desire.
When ignorance went, things fell into place. When I look into the eyes of my four-year-old grandson (pictured) I fancy that he already knows much that I've only recently learned.
Posted by Vincent at 1:02 am