Friday, January 17, 2014

A Word about Buddhism

My previous post concluded with a question: Are we left with Buddhism? This question suggests that it would be unfortunate if we were to be left with Buddhism as the only possible means of dealing with one’s own pain and suffering. I did not mean it as a slander, but my knowledge of Buddhism is limited leaving much to be desired. What little I know is that one of the sacred catechisms begins with “Existence is suffering.” This I agree with. The Eightfold Path provides the bare bones of Buddhist ethics. It presents the causes and remedy to suffering. As I understand it Buddhist teaching and ethics revolve around the analysis of the causes of suffering and minimizing suffering. The cause of suffering is attachment to feelings, things, thoughts, and other objects. Attachment is a willful blindness to the role one has in one’s own suffering.

I am unclear as to the role of compassion in all this. My best guess is that it is a means of overcoming one’s attachments. I really am unclear about this. It may be that concern and attention to the suffering and well-being of others allows one to detach oneself from one’s own attachments. I am uncomfortable with this formulation because it makes others into instrument of one’s own salvation instead of others being an end in themselves.

Even if my meager understanding of Buddhism is completely wrong in particulars and in general, the question from my last post remains: is the best we can hope for is to minimize suffering? To turn away and try to hide from despair? Is suicide the only answer to despair, great or otherwise? Does this explain materialism’s attractions: beautiful women, fast cars, the latest and best? Running from death, despair and the humiliation suffering begets?

Is despair the great secret of life?

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