Ten Days at Tushita – Part 4 of 4

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Another entire dimension of the course was the teaching in Tibetan Buddhist Philosophy. I was impressed with the basic ideas of Buddhism. There is too much to write about entirely, but there are some things that really struck me. The biggest is the idea that all humans are in a state of suffering, which sounded negative at first, but eventually I liked it. Everything we do that makes us happy, eventually fades and then we need to do more. Thus our normal state is suffering and we’re constantly trying to become happy. Someone suggested that it was a glass half empty kind of thing. I found a better way of looking at it as the glass itself is suffering and the water inside is happiness. We do things to keep water in the glass, but it’s sitting on a picnic table and the sun is always out.


The second thing that stuck with me is the reason they say happiness fades. Impermanence. In our world, whether we like it or not, everything changes. It’s something I’ve always held on to, but hadn’t noticed the wide implications of. Just like flowers and people grow old and die, new cars and TV’s lose their luster and traveling the world becomes a normal way of life.

The combination of suffering and impermanence thus makes for a fruitless search for complete and perfect happiness. On the outside at least.

Buddhists believe that since total escape from suffering by things done in the outside world is impossible, we should and can seek it inside ourselves. They believe that the connection between our perceptions and cognitive thoughts and our emotions or feelings can be altered such that negative responses simply stop arising. Their tool for doing this is meditation. Mindfulness meditation will give one an experiential insight to the separateness of awareness and the thinking brain. Armed with this strong belief based in experience, one can then partake in analytical meditation and examine the way things like anger and sadness arise. Upon repeated reasoning and visualizations one should be able to, in effect change how their brain works.

The process in the book “Healing Anger” is based on this type of practice. The first step is gaining an agreeable understanding that anger is wasteful and a choice. That would never be enough for me to just stop getting angry, because the belief is part of my thinking process. But through repeated analytical meditation on my belief that anger is useless and unnecessary, my mind should start to “remember” this and begin to react to situations differently than it had before. It’s a long process, but from the things I’ve experienced already in meditation, I find it a very believable and likely method for attaining happiness. I even met a guy who meditated on money and his goals for three months. I can attest to fear being the number one thing between people and the worldly success they wish for. I’ve faced it countless times myself. This guy’s meditation changed the way he thought about money, goals and fear so significantly, that he started a business and retired in two years.

There was a point where Buddhist philosophy became more of a religion and that’s when I started to lose interest in the teachings. They’re not sneaky about things in Buddhism, which I like. The different aspects are clearly rated as “obvious”, “slightly hidden” and “completely hidden” phenomena. Slightly hidden phenomena are things that we can infer from other things we know or things we can experience directly. Most of that stuff I have come to believe in. However, the “completely hidden” class of Buddhist phenomena is things like karma and rebirth. Although there are claims that some people can remember past lives, and karma very efficiently answers the question of “why did this happen to me”, a Buddhist’s belief in these things is based completely on trust. It’s kind of the same trust Christians put in Jesus. Since he walked on water and rose from the dead, they are taking his word that He’s their ticket to eternal life. Buddhists are so yes, yes, yes for the Buddha’s description of how life on earth works, which they can experience as truth, that they take his word on karma and rebirth.

There are two places in religion I find I’d need to take a leap of faith. The first is that the things passed down through thousands of years of infallible hands made its way to me with sufficient truth. I know people take good care of their scriptures, but I figure my chance at eternal existence is a precious thing, so I’m cautious. The second and more important place is where I might believe in something beyond my mortality based solely on the story of someone who performed miracles. One thing I’ve been struggling with lately is the question of which is more important to me: truth or happiness? I find it good and beautiful when people take these leaps of faith. It brings them to a place of refuge that is peaceful on the inside and compassionate on the outside. It’s good for them and good for the world.

I want that, but I’ve got a hard practiced and built in truth filter that I’m struggling with. The closest way I can describe where I’m at right now is a “spiritual experientialist”. Some years ago, deep in my investigations of the physical world at University, I would have closed my ears to the existence of the metaphysical. If it couldn’t be proved objectively, outwardly and logically, then it didn’t exist. I think I can safely say I’m past that now. I’m a believer in the metaphysical and looking more than ever these days. But whether with my eyes or my meditative mind, I still need to “see it to believe it”.


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