[This week I am reprinting a short article I wrote on the basics of Buddhism. It was quick, short and blunt; without (at least I tried) a large amount of language that would be unfamiliar to readers with no experience in the Dharma. Enjoy and feel free to comment]
It takes very little imagination to view the world as being defined largely by our own painful and frustrating experiences. Many, when they hear this aspect of Buddhist practice immediately state that it is pessimistic or nihilistic. Nothing could be farther from the truth. By accepting that the world we are in is full of pain, is impermanent (in a constant state of flux and change) and that we are not defined by our perceptions (egolessness) we free ourselves from those illusions and instead focus on the root cause of all this suffering. These three things: suffering, impermanence and egolessness are known as the three marks of existence and form an important foundation for the core Buddhist beliefs.
“Accept your life and then face it.”—Dainin Katagiri
Buddhists admit that suffering exists in the world and search for the root of that suffering. This searching can be a personal event where we find the basis of how we, as individuals, suffer or can exist as a wider construct of why the world as a whole suffers. Much of Buddhist practice thus consists of cultivating the tools and methods that will eliminate delusions and increase clarity so as to alleviate the suffering and enjoy the moments, both positive and negative. The methods employed depend upon school, sect and culture. Some see the ultimate goal as reducing delusions while others see the ultimate goal as expressing and realizing one’s own True Nature (the form of Mind that is unfettered by delusions and the cycle of rebirth).
Again, it is this aspect of Buddhist philosophy that gets labeled as “pessimistic” or “nihilistic” but while focusing on the negative aspects of life a Buddhist does not necessarily expect negative outcomes (as does a pessimist) nor does he expect nothing or believe in nothing (as would a nihilist). If a term was fitting for a Buddhist it would simply be realist. We would prefer to always be happy and be surrounded by positive events (who wouldn’t?) but we understand that suffering exists and we need to engage that suffering directly in order to understand it. Through that understanding, suffering is alleviated for ourselves, those around us and for all sentient beings.
For Part 1 A Simple Life: Buddhist Basics ~ Intro