Adventures in Advaita Vedanta, the philosophy and science of spirit. We are one you and I; are you curious why?..


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Find Your Path

Hari OM
Story-day is for cultural exploration, puraanas and parables and finding out about leading lights in spiritual philosophy.

We are following the text "Beyond Sorrow" in which we explore the nature of suffering and how to manage and move through difficulties.

The first essay in this publication is a lengthy one, therefore only an excerpt is going to be placed here, and you are encouraged to obtain the book itself from the link above in order to obtain the full context and depth of meaning intended by the authors.

Drs. S. Chatterjee and D.M. Datta

The authors first discuss the basis of philosophy from the Indian perspective then give a section on Belief in Moral Order followed by one on Rising Above Karma. The remaining sections will be presented in redacted form now;

Buddha on Suffering
Buddha always tried to enlighten persons on the most important questions of sorrow; its origins, its cessation and the path leading to that cessation. The essence of Buddha's enlightenment, which he is eager should be shared with all, are what have become known as the Four Noble Truths. They are;
  • Life in the world is full of suffering
  • There is a cause of this suffereing
  • It is possible to stop suffering
  • There is apth which leads to the cessation of suffering.
All teachings of Gautama Buddha centre around these Four Noble Truths.

The sights of suffering that upset the mind of young Siddhartha were of disease, old age and death. His enlightened mind, as Buddha, however realised that more than these, the very essential conditions of life appeared without exception be fraught with misery. All that is born of attachment is misery. In the first section [of this essay], it was mentioned that Indian philosophy tended to the pessimistic and this we find that the First Noble Truth is supported by all Indian thinkers. The Charvakas ('eat, drink, be merry' materialists) would decry this view, telling of all the pleasures and pains to be enjoyed on earth. However, the Buddha (and other Indian philosophers) tell that the transitory pleasures and the pains felt at their loss are the very things which set up uncertainty in life; for it is the fear of the loss of pleasure which builds fear and anxiety.

Thus we enter the fourth section, Cause of Suffering
The origin of life's evil is explained by Buddha in the light of his idea of 'natural causation'. According to this, nothing is unconditional; the existence of everything depends on some conditions; in turn, there must be something because of which our misery comes into existence. Buddha says it is because there is a birth.  If a man were not born, he would not have been subject to misery.

Birth is the will to become, a predisposition to be born. How does the tendency come about? From the desire to grasp the objects of the world; we crave to enjoy those objects, sights, sounds and so on.

From where does this desire originate? We would not have any desire for objects had we not tasted or experienced them before. The very senses through which we experience are the urge which remain with us and build the tendency to be born. These do not develop in the mother's womb, but can only come into existence with the descending of consciousness into the embryo. The bringing in of impressions (samskaaras) from past existence. The impressions that cause rebirth of the individualised consciousness are due to ignorance about Truth...if the transitory nature of the world were properly realised, there would not be any karma left to result in birth.

In the fifth section of this essay the Cessation of Suffering is discussed in terms of removing the 'condition' of ignorance. This is fulfilled through the perfect control of passions and with constant contemplation of Truth; practicing these leads the person through the four stages of concentration to perfect wisdom, wherein there is no more worldly attachment.

The Forth Noble Truth tells of the path, which Buddha followed and is therefore available for others to follow also. Clues regarding this path are derived from the knowledge of the chief conditions of the cause of misery. Buddha recommended the eightfold path, which is open to all, monks as well as laymen. It consists in the acquisition of the following qualities; right views, right resolve, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration. On deeper inspection these can be found to fall into three wider things; conduct, focus and knowledge. In Indian philosophy, knowledge and morality are considered inseparable, not only because the doing of good depends on the knowledge of what is good, but also because perfection of knowledge is regarded as impossible without morality and perfect control of passions and prejudices. Following the eightfold path brings one up to the level of full concentration on Truth, wherein it is found that ignorance and desire are cut at their roots and thus the source of misery and suffering vanishes.

[AV-Blog addendum; yes, these are going to be serious forays into philosophy of suffering! True, the idea of reaching to moksha or nirvana may seem far too impractical for daily living - but in truth, it is when we have a structure, such as the eightfold path spoken of here, that we can build a more hopeful outlook and have an anchor to tide us over the rough seas of life…]

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Hari OM
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