8 April 2008

Letter 1.4

We start dying the moment we are born. Birth is the cause of death. All circumstances which may bring about actual death are but its occasions. How can one be at one's ease in the interval? The Buddhist point of view will appeal only to those who are completely disillusioned with the world as it is, and with themselves, who are extremely sensitive to pain, suffering, and any kind of turmoil who have an extreme desire for its surcease, and a considerable capacity for renunciation. According to the views elaborated by Scheler, Freud, Heidegger, and Jaspers, there is in the core of our being a basic anxiety, a little empty hole, from which all other forms of anxiety and unease draw their strength. In its pure form this anxiety is experienced only by people with an introspective and philosophical turn of mind, and only then rarely. If one has never felt it oneself no amount of explanation will convince. If one has felt it, one will never forget, however much you may try. It may come upon you when you have been asleep, withdrawn from the world; you wake up in the middle of the night and feel a kind of astonishment at being there, which then gives way to a fear and horror at the mere fact of being there. It is then that you catch yourself by yourself just fo: a moment against the background of a kind of nothingness all around you, and with a gnawing sense of your powerlessness, your utter helplessness in the face of this astonishing fact that you are there at all. Usually we avoid this experience as much as possible because it is so shattering. We try to avoid this by trying to keep busy as much as possible, to always be doing something; thus, do we incessant: run away from this experience of the basic and original anxiety, and rely on something else than this empty center of ourselves to inform our lives. The Buddhist contention, however, is that we will never be at ease before we have overcome this basic anxiety, and that we can do that only by relying on nothing it all. It is in the nature of things that intimate knowledge of the Path is discovered only by those who walk it.

The Buddha's description of (and prescription for) the problem is summed up in the Four Noble Truths: 1) Life is bound up with dukkha (dis-ease, dissatisfaction, suffering, grief, etc.). 2) Dukkha arises from desire. 3) the Way to break the hold of dukkha is to break the hold of desire. 4) to break the hold of desire is to follow the Eight-Fold Path - and the Three Signata: 1) All is impermanent (anicca). 2) All is unsatisfactory (dukkha). 3) All is not-self (anattá) - that is, the ego is a delusion (or a delusional complex)…

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