Monday, September 28, 2009

Bad Buddhist vs. Four Noble Truths—Dukkha

Dukkha, you win. You have stopped me and my blog in our tracks.

The First Noble Truth, dukkha, is the fact of suffering: that which gives rise to the feeling of "get me the hell out of here." The Second Noble Truth, samudaya, is the fact of the "get me the hell out of here" response. That the second follows the first is the essence of the human condition. It's so true, so universally, unmitigatedly true, that it earned the title of "noble".

Inspired by David Brazier's rejection of the idea that the second, third and fourth noble truths constitute a "cure", I was very determined to write about dukkha simply unto itself, not as a lead-in to the good part where we deal with it and feel better. But I've sat here every day for 2 months trying to do it, and everything I write has to get cut and saved for the later FNT posts — the ones about how we can free ourselves not from suffering but from suffering about our suffering. In fact, looking at my definitions above, I see I actually defined suffering as a kind of corollary to wanting suffering to end.

I can't even give dukkha its own sentence, let alone its own post. Apparently, that's how deeply and completely I want to get the hell out of its way.

This has been tormenting me for months. Neglecting my blog makes me feel irresponsible and weak. And I thought I was on such a roll with the FNTs! I've been drafting samudaya, nirodha and marga nonstop—I even have the artwork ready! But dukkha, just the raw naked fact of it all by itself . . . my mind slides right off of it.

This blog has been the "therapy" side of my practice—the place where I can whine about how hard it all is and how bad I am at it, and poke fun at the boss. But now I have this eerie feeling of being in one of those koan stories where Buddha enlightens someone by creating an experience for them, rather than explaining. Like Kisagotami, a woman who came to beg him to bring her dead child back to life. He told her to collect a mustard seed from a household that had not endured grief. After years of asking door to door, she realized there was no such household, and her wish to escape her own suffering changed into compassion for all who suffer; thus she grasped the nobility of the truth of dukkha. I also like the one about the samurai warrior who asks one of the Buddha's disciples to describe heaven and hell. The disciple says, "Why should I explain it to you, you ignorant clod?" The enraged samurai prepares to smite his critic, who quietly says, "That is hell." The samurai stops, not quite comprehending, separated from his sense of certainty. The disciple says, "That is heaven."

Well, this has been my own personal mustard seed. It's not that I really equated finishing a blog post with escaping suffering. But I feel like the boss I've been joshing just showed me why he's the boss.

If these posts are where I process my process of waking up, then maybe my failure here is a more eloquent statement than any thousand-word blob of analysis and snarky jokes would have been. I can't blog dukkha into submission. No matter how I try to take it apart, it's bigger than me. However I try to grasp it, it reminds me that I'm not here for that; I'm here to be in its grasp. Nobly so.

Thank you for the unexpected bonus, boss — I mean it.

"Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says otherwise is selling you something." I admit I thought about just using that line as my whole post. William Goldman is probably an excellent Buddhist, even if he doesn't know it.



I thought this one might be a little too cartoon-cute-sy, until I noticed the needle through the eyeball. Now I believe.



. . . yep.
PREVIOUS POSTS

BAD BUDDHIST VS. THE FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS – ALL OF 'EM
BAD BUDDHIST VS. BROUHAHA
BAD BUDDHIST VS. THE LORD (AND CELINE DION)
BAD BUDDHIST VS. BOURGEOIS HEROES
BAD BUDDHIST VS. YOGA
BAD BUDDHIST VS. THE EIGHTH PRECEPT
BAD BUDDHIST VS. THE SEVENTH PRECEPT
BAD BUDDHIST VS. THE SIXTH PRECEPT
BAD BUDDHIST VS. THE FIFTH PRECEPT
BAD BUDDHIST VS. THE FOURTH PRECEPT
BAD BUDDHIST VS. THE THIRD PRECEPT
BAD BUDDHIST VS. THE SECOND PRECEPT
BAD BUDDHIST VS. THE FIRST PRECEPT
BAD BUDDHIST VS. BREATHING
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