A lot of people agree with the Buddha. Life mostly sucks, they say. Now and then you may bump into an oasis of pleasure, but you can only stay there so long, and then it’s back to crossing the desert of suffering. Maybe heaven is on the other side, or maybe the world just drops off into nothingness. It doesn’t matter. For now you’re crossing the desert.
Trudi Lee Richards
Trudi, with respect, this is a very, very common misread of the Buddha’s teachings. While I am no monk, I do study Buddhism. Like most spiritual leaders, his teachings were being misread and misinterpreted within about one generation of his death. This is how dogma gets started.
A great many folks who say they ascribe to Buddhism,which is a practice as opposed to a faith per se, are completely sold on this notion of life is pain, life is suffering, ALL of life is suffering. Nothing could be further from the truth, if you really delve deeply into the teachings.
Hey, if folks are into self-flaggellation, have at it. To me, Trudi, it’s no different from people who are utterly sold on the idea in Christianity, which is also pure bullshit, that we suffer like mad here and go to our “reward” in some magical place called Heaven. What if we’re in heaven right now? What then?
While there are plenty of texts, my favorites include The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation by the aging, great Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh. He takes this very set of beliefs to task at length and does a lovely, kind job of explaining the role of suffering as a way to peace and joy.
I study religious history every so often, and am fascinated by how dogma is created, how it’s used to manipulate people. Dogma to me is right evil. Buddhists have their dogma, otherwise 1) in Myanmar, Buddhists wouldn’t be rampaging against ethnic minorities 2) women wouldn’t be kept out of temples. Buddhism is just as susceptible to frail human interpretation, which means that such and such influential monk can hold sway over a group of people, rather than humbly teach them how to have sway over themselves and their proclivities, which might lead them to peace.
Here is my response to the issue of suffering:
I offer this with respect. If you are going to write about Buddhism, my gentle suggestion is to get to know it a bit better than you seem to at this point. This is not a slam. Just a recommendation. Buddhism at its deepest heart is a way out of the suffering. As are most religions, at their hearts. But humans, who love to exert control over others, are happy to interpret texts their own way, for their own purposes. My favorite: Thou Shalt Not Kill. Loosely interpreted to mean, well, kinda, unless the other guy doesn’t believe in the same invisible man in the sky as I do, AND unless the person grows up to be a doctor who provides abortion services, AND unless the other guy is brown/yellow/red and I want his land. I could go on but you see my drift here.
As a very serious writer, a prize winning journalist, I do my level best to not misrepresent where I can. I’m not always the best at it, particularly if I am opining. You have every right to your opinion, but your read of Buddhism is a touch off the mark. For those of us who study it and take it seriously as I do it is a supremely peaceful, joyful practice of the mind. A way out of suffering as it were. That’s the whole point.