I’m a massive proponent of diversification – spread yourself thin and explore the many options available to you.
This may be why I’ve had a little trouble with Buddhism, in recent times.
I’ve spent the last 5 years studying Buddhism, and studying the mind respectively – which Buddhism claims not to be a religion but a study of the mind.
However, through my own personal experiences have come some of my own philosophical questions about life and I feel as though I may have come to a road block in respect to Buddhism.
To say that the philosophy of Buddhism, along with its esoteric practices like mindfulness meditation have aided me in many facets of life would be a major understatement. It inspired me to go down many paths, both spiritual and scientific.
However, remaining firm to one philosophy or one practice goes against my value for diversity and this is starting to reveal itself in my world.
I have two issues with Buddhism, and I am trying to work out whether it’s a flaw in its system, or a flaw in my own thinking – perhaps, many misinterpretations as a result of my naivety.
The number one pillar of Buddhism states that – life is suffering.
I’ve struggled with this lately, as I feel like it’s a huge blanket statement. It’s not that I disagree with the statement, it’s that I think it’s overly generalised in many senses.
To say that life is suffering is to rule out any other possibility or description of life. While there is a lot of suffering, there is also an equal amount of progress being made in the world.
If I make a reference to the Chinese proverb of the vinegar tasters – Lao Tzu, Confucius and the Buddha are all tasting vinegar from a pot. Their reactions to the vinegar is a representation of the respective philosophy.
In the story, the Buddha tastes the vinegar and reacts as if the vinegar is bitter or sour – as if to say life is bitter and there is suffering everywhere due to our desires.
Lao Tzu seems to be the only one of the bunch to taste the vinegar and react as if it’s sweet, implying that life is perfect in its natural state.
Again, this general blanket statement that “life is suffering” is not something that I necessarily contest with, however I think it has the potential to cast a bitter view on the world.
When the Buddha went on his journey of enlightenment, he was sitting under a tree when he came to the realisation that all suffering occurs due to our desires.
When you think about that sense of dissatisfaction we all feel, and that longing for things to be different to the way they are, you can see how some of our desires can lead to mental and emotional suffering. When you desire for things to be different to the way they are, you are resisting what is before you. This causes tension – mental and emotional suffering.
However, can we say that all desire causes suffering?
You are a life form, just like the other forms of life that surround you in the environment. Every life form wants to be full fledged lives. Every life form wants to reach its full potential. With this comes the desire to live and to thrive.
How can suffering be a product of life’s desire to survive and thrive? It’s when our desires become compulsive where we find suffering, but if we desire for things consciously, then this is not suffering, this is life trying to reach its full potential.
Does this mean it’s the end of the road for me and my study of Buddhism – of course not. However, it supports my value of diversifying yourself. You want to be able to take away good things, and reject the things that don’t work for you and then find things that can be of a better fit.
What this means is, my intrigue with other philosophies will deepen, as I attempt to find answers to the questions that fit best for me.
To conclude, I will state that I advocate for no one philosophy, religion or esoteric practice. I advocate for diversity, openness and curiosity.
There are both golden nuggets and flaws in every system. It’s up to your own sense of curiosity and openness to find those things and then decide for yourself.