Gerard and I have been having a conversation about the Four Noble Truths. I don't want it to get buried in comments because I'm enjoying the conversation and I hope others will chime in with their thoughts. Check out the original thread here.
Gerard brings up some interesting points:
- The heart of Buddhist practice is seeing things as they really are.
- The mind is cunning, and often in the attempt to see things as they really are, we are really just trading one set of unquestioned ideas, notions or beliefs for new ones.
Then paraphrases them nicely:
- We are suffering.
- We have a mind full of ideas/beliefs which inhibit us from seeing clearly and is the cause of suffering.
- Any effort to find a way out of our suffering will only lead to a strengthening of our ideas/beliefs which will continue our suffering.
- Our lack of clear seeing is causing an unprecedented destruction of the planet.
And closes with a question:
So what are we to do?
The house is burning around us, yet we don't see the flames licking at our feet. We believe the flames are normal. We are so used to the flames that they have become part of us, and we hold on to them.
So what can we do?
It's interesting. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about the Four Noble Truths. If my friend hadn't e-mailed the question, I wouldn't have spent the time trying to articulate what I think they mean. But through this process, I think we may be uncovering another type of craving that leads to suffering.
When I came to the end of Gerard's last post I smiled, because he's asking for something that I've so often asked for in the past. Something that I cannot give--The Answer (with a capital T and a capital A). What is it? What's the answer? There are so many questions, so many pitfalls, so many reasons to doubt the worth or efficacy of our efforts. How do we know we are "getting it right"? Is it possible to "get it right"? And considering the state that my mind is in, even if I am "getting it right" how do I know?
Isn't this something we all crave? Understanding? Answers? And when they don't come easily, we suffer. We tie our minds in a million knots trying to work it all out, trying to find the "Aha!".
Zen encourages us to approach practice with three attitudes--Great Faith, Great Courage, and Great Questioning. Maybe a solution lies in moving away from finding the answer and instead embracing the question... in moving away from an intellectual inquiry using the tools we grow up with in school (rhetoric, logic, and debate) and moving toward an experiential inquiry.