12:27 am - Friday, Sept. 24, 2004
Over the past couple weeks, I've been making my way, very slowly, through Buddhism Without Beliefs.
While I felt I "got" why I should meditate on the "transitory nature of existence", and could certainly see how anguish is created by "a craving for life to be other than what it is", the further I've gotten into this slim volume, the less I understand.
But what I do understand, the 10% that's managed to cut through the fog in my brain, is pretty appealing; No magic elixers, no giant "father figure in the sky", just a way to try and see more clearly what's in front of you.
Reading this book has made me think from time to time about Before Sunset...
At one point in the movie, the two characters are talking about the buddhist tenet (Is it one of the "Four Noble Truths"?) that "suffering is caused by desire" (Or "anguish is caused by a craving for life to be other than what it is", to use the terminology of Buddhism Without Beliefs).
They have the same debate I've had with myself when considering the idea that "suffering is caused by desire"–It makes complete sense to me, but I have a hard time imagining not "desiring" anything, and am not sure I'd want to, even if it were possible.
Then the Ethan Hawke character suggests that perhaps it's not "desire" that's the problem, but a sense of "entitlement" that accompanies "desire".
I thought that was an interesting idea–It doesn't seem possible to ever completely eliminate "desire", but could you eliminate the idea that just because you want something, you're entitled to have it?
I think a big part of the book's appeal to me is that it seems, in large part, to do with choosing to see things differently. You can choose to see yourself as "separate", or to see yourself as being "connected". You can choose to see yourself as "finished" or to see yourself as "an ongoing process". You can choose to spend your time defending your ego, or you can choose...not to.
The book's made me realize, once again, that I'm pretty much the source of all my problems at this point. My desire, my fear, my defensiveness–There's really no one keeping me down but me and my outmoded thoughts.
Like I said, there's a lot that I'm not going to even pretend that I "get". I don't really understand about "embracing emptiness", for example. But for a book that's only 115 pages long, it's giving me a lot to chew on.
I may have found an agnosticism I can actually live with...
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