Saturday, 16 July 2011
I am a Buddhist who has no wish to see suffering eradicated
written by Thomas Armstrong
This is so because I cannot see how existence without challenges [or with only make-work challenges] would be satisfying.
And if I (just, just!) perfect myself and eradicate my own suffering, I get booted to parinirvana [that is, unless I aggressively fight off the promotion], which doesn’t sound like much fun.
I cannot see how the loneliness of parinirvana is appealing. A universe of just me, the Adibuddha, and — what? — a stack of peanutbutter-and-jelly sandwiches and some quarts of milk until I can figure out what next to do? [Are there video games in parinirvana? Does anybody know? Internet access?]
Heaven, as described in the New Testament, or spoken/written about by suppositionist Christians, or mused about colloquially, doesn’t sound all that spiffy. Mind you, I am a wee bit fearful of death, and wouldn’t mind an escape clause, but whiling away centuries, eons, or for-fucking-ever on a cloud, playing a harp and eating perfect fruit to fill my body-made-of-light sounds like the kind of paradise where I would join the Rebel Underground [the Stormy Black Clouds is what I imagine their name is].
Jimmy Roughton, my favorite preacher, imagines himself in heaven planning a garden after death. But with God there, what work wouldn’t be “make work?” I mean, God, as He's conceived to be, can do anything, perfectly (and if “perfectly” isn’t the appropriate concept, then to the utmost of brilliant) and it’s done instantly. Why have Jimmy labor to create a garden when God can make a better one with a snap of His fingers, or just by saying a word?
The Zennists say that samsara IS nirvana, which, in Christian terms, means that heaven is earth, as it is. We just don’t see it. The Kingdom of Heaven is HERE. The land where improvements in people’s lives can be made is all around us.
My problem is I don’t want nothing, yet I don’t want a perfect [i.e., jolly] and crowded and eternal place, either — perhaps because there could be no compassion there. Wherever a better place is — on this world or on the next one — it mustn’t be static; there have to be challenges. And I require that these challenges be real and meaningful. So, is there an ultimate and excellent “this life” or afterlife place for me? Somehow, someday, somewhere?1 Or, even a good conception of one?
I, of course, ask because if there isn’t a Utopia in store for me (or, for all of us, really), then the obvious alternative is for us all to make where we’re at, here on the third planet from the sun, Utopia. But if we do that, then it automatically isn’t a utopia.
So what’s to do!? Improve life, for others, in the circumstance and environs we find ourselves, now, and hope that that is a satisfactory way to be and thing to do until something unexpected and better falls in our lap.
And during this long, long, long meanwhile, until the tickets to Disney World come in the mail (or what-the-fuck-ever) we can hope — just hope — we’re doing our teeniest part for the good of the whole. I mean, like, what else do any of us have going for us? You dig?
1 Sneaking lyrics into this essay from the song “Somewhere (A Place for Us)” from West Side Story.
|Like this post?|