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Buddhism, on Suffering and the Force

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Written by   11
3 months ago

 There’s an old story in the Buddhist canon about a student who asks his master, “It is terribly hot, how can we escape the heat?”

“Go right down into the furnace,” replied the master.

“But in the furnace,” said the student, “how do we escape the scorching fire?”

“No further pains will harass you.” 

Of course, it wasn’t the heat that was bothering the student, and the master knew this. His master knew that his dissatisfaction was a symptom of his dissatisfaction with life in general. Inherent to existence is a process of hunger, disease, and death, and any pleasure that comes along is only transient. It’s too hot. It’s too cold. You crave pleasure and become acclimated to it when you get it, and that pleasure doesn’t suit you anymore. Everything always returns to the nagging emptiness. The only way to overcome the nagging emptiness, according to the master, is to kill yourself. 

Er, to kill your ‘self’, i.e. the ignorant and self-absorbed part of you that demands that life be more accommodating to your needs and wants. Buddha taught that you are the cause of your own suffering, and if you seek deliverance from suffering it is entirely your responsibility. If you do not want to suffer, you must recognize that suffering is inextricably linked to your pursuit of pleasure. This noble truth has been absorbed into the Code of the Jedi, which states:

 

There is no emotion, there is Peace

There is no Ignorance, there is Knowledge

There is no Passion, there is Serenity

There is no Chaos, there is Harmony

There is no Death, there is the Force

These five statements map onto a more precise 12-link chain in the Buddhist doctrine which identifies the origin of and the possibility of the cessation of suffering. Briefly, the doctrine states that when you pursue pleasures like food and sex, you are trapped in an endless cycle of hunger and cravings that always comes back around to suffering, dissatisfaction, and emptiness. It begins to feel that you are trapped in a body with insatiable desires that you can never satisfy, and you are passively driven about by the cravings of this body. To break out of this cycle you must do the unthinkable. Kill your self.

There are two ways to kill your self. The first is the way of the ascetic, in which you deny your self the pleasures you crave until they no longer control you. Then, there is the active way as prescribed by the master in the opening story and practiced by the Jedi. That is, to stand upright in the face of suffering and choose to suffer. To be willing to choose pain over pleasure, and to always be ready for death. In both cases, when you are willing to suffer you are no longer corruptible to the promises of pleasure and satisfaction that lead you directly into suffering.

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