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Cynical Buddhism 101

Updated on August 11, 2009

The Buddha said (essentially):

All life is suffering.  Youth turns into old age.  Health turns into sickness.  Life turns into death.  Nothing ends well. 

Because we don’t “get it,” and we continue to be attached to things, people, and ideas, we continue to suffer.  I love my dog, so when he dies, I grieve.  You are obsessed with eating sugary desserts, so when you have to go on a diet to slim down that fat ass of yours, it sucks.  He thinks he’s the shit, because all the girls want him, but once he gets wrinkled and loses his charm, his previous admirers flock to the hot young thing that just roared in on a motorcycle.  Lame. 

Attachment causes suffering, because nothing stays the same.  The things you are attached to die, leave, disappear, get sick of you… so you suffer.  But… most of us haven’t learned to be unattached yet.  So the Buddha said (and so did the Hindus, and so did the Christians until this particular area of the doctrine got banned) that we come back again and again, life after life, in different forms at different times.  Reincarnation.  The Buddha in particular stressed that every time we come back, we need to hitch up our pants and prepare for another dose of suffering, because that’s what we’re going to get.  You can’t escape it.  Unless…

Unless you wise up and become enlightened, basically.  Once you see the true nature of the universe, which is a constantly fluctuating system of cause and effect where nothing is inherently individual or with essence, you stop grasping.  Once you stop grasping, you just live.  You smell the roses and eat what’s put in front of you.  You don’t react to terrorists by dropping more bombs- you chill.  You observe the eternal fluctuations of life in its many manifestations, and you let go.  You wake up.

The whole point of living is to wake up.  Wake up bit by bit, or if you’re Eckhart Tolle, wake up all at once.  But life is an opportunity to finally come to our senses, or, to sound more properly Buddhist, a chance to escape the confines of our senses.  Ideally, you become a Buddha (an “Enlightened One,” or “One Who is Awake”).  The idea is to not come back.  The big reward for “figuring it out” is that you don’t have to be born again.  You’re outta here!  Nirvana, baby!  Nirvana has been described as “a flame going out.”  The stream of consciousness that has been “you” for so many millennia finally blows out, like a candle flame disappearing in a gust of wind.  No more life.  No more suffering.

So really, one way of looking at the Buddha’s logic is to say, “The whole point of living is to figure out how to not live again.  The whole point of living is to not come back.  We are trying to disappear, we are trying to end this cycle.  To escape suffering, we must escape life.”

I know he’s a wise man, but sometimes, when I look at it this way, this tiny voice in my head says, “Buddha, why are you so afraid of suffering?  Your whole goal was to disappear and never come back.  Pussy…”


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