There is a very serious discussion which I wish to commence here, mainly out of concern due to some slight doubts that continue to manifest as well as some confusions and uncertainties. The topic with which I am concerned is that regarding the evils of the world and whether they can be seen to balance with what meager good is to be found therein, or if otherwise they drown it as completely as does the ocean a few insects which have been submerged in it. I have for a very long time been troubled by the fact of the inherent malice and wickedness in human nature. It has always plagued me why there seems to the sober reflection to be so much suffering which in the vast majority of cases is unjustified and which all denounce as evil acts inflicted wantonly on undeserving innocents. What is going on here, and how are we to make sense of this all? Is the suffering balanced in the end? Is there some good which can outweigh the incalculable evils that befall so many each day? This is what I wish to consider here.
At a first glance, I might assert that the very possibility of the corruptibility of people is evidence enough that world is a HELL. However, this is dissatisfactory as all it seems to prove is that the world is at least not a HEAVEN. But there is still something in this that strikes me as odd. Perhaps what I object to is the naturally optimistic view that many of us entertain which seems to carry an implicit belief that the world is a truly good place, and how at odds with reality this view turns out to be when one single glance anywhere is turned. Whenever any misery or cause for sadness arises in daily life, I have observed that people tend to naturally and instinctively divert their eyes from it, lest their view of the sanctity of life be tarnished or tainted in any way. They do not dwell too long on any serious considerations of life, for they know full well in the deepest and most unconscious reaches of their minds what immense sorrows these will yield. “Ignorance is bliss,” their inner serpent asserts, as it lulls them to sweet torpor and trancelike reverie, poisoning their hearts and minds with false hope and false beliefs, giving them permission to linger on this path they know so well and to avoid at all costs the mysterious forest that they dread. But this path leads nowhere; it is a circle and round and round countless times have we travelled its ways, and never anywhere good have we been brought thereby. Mayhap it is time to take our leave of this ignorant procession, even at the cost of abandoning EVERYTHING – the whole world BEGONE!
Metaphor and symbolism aside, there is a serious discussion to be pursued here. What troubles me in this current pessimism, is precisely that this might be just an oscillation of my moods, and that it is point of view, liable to change depending on circumstance and attitude, not a truth as it now so vividly and certainly seems to be. May it be that I am simply choosing to view the cup half-empty, and that should I so choose I might be able to see it half-full, and even justify it as so? What lends credibility to this idea is the fact that there are some days when I feel as though I am genuinely happy and that there is some point to life, which I can even come to see as sacred. However, I should note that the only instances when this seems to be the case are those when there is a solid conviction inside me that I am on the path to freedom and that I am capable of purifying my life from suffering, and that this is the purpose of life – a feeling which gives rise to true joy. I have arguably never felt joy that was not from this source. And what is bound up in this joy is also the realization of the suffering of the world, which somehow does not seem to have as much of an effect on me during those moments, but which is clearly apprehended nonetheless and from whom freedom is sought. On the contrary, when people assert that the world is good, they are usually guilty of partial blindness – perhaps inattentional blindness – to the miseries of the world as they do not feel like there is any work to be done, or any suffering to be overcome. The world is just a good place, their cheery optimism suggests, to be enjoyed and even taken advantage of.
To pursue this argument even more rigorously, let us consider what people believe to be the value of life. At a gross approximation, it is fair to say that people typically attribute value to the life wherein desires and wishes and dreams are fulfilled, and at the end of which they will have had no regrets, or missed opportunities. They would claim thus that this was a life worth living. And what are the desires that people typically have? A list might include: comfort, security, family, friends, love, legacy, adventures, etc. If at my deathbed I were to look back at my life and find that it was full of these and other adornments and pleasures, I would presumably look favorably then at the certain annihilation of my consciousness, feeling content and peaceful that all I had ever wished for had come true…? I beg to differ, seeing this as part of the delirious web snared over our eyes, keeping us forever servants to our desires, leading us to the false hope of fulfillment in some distant future. If we consider carefully the process of desiring something and then acquiring it, we find it dominated by misery. First, the very state of wanting is a state of suffering since it starts by an assumption of a lack, characterized by some dissatisfactory state, without which we can never be moved to seek the object of our desire. There must be some unease, some discontent somewhere in our being, in order for us to be motivated to go out and exert energy in our pursuit. In the higher pitches of this process, the desire transforms into a need which manifests as the most excruciating of pains, both mental and physical. But even disregarding this last claim, none could deny that some sort of suffering, whether mild or strong, is entailed by the process of desiring. Bound up with this is the belief that the acquisition of the object of our desire will completely eradicate our dissatisfaction or suffering and the fulfillment of our wishes will leave us satisfied and comforted. In short, it will fill the hole. But what usually happens instead is that every fulfilled desire gives only the briefest of reprieves after which we are given up to more desires. In truth, we are never completely satisfied with anything we get, but turn our attention immediately away to some new object that we wish to attain, hoping that this one will fill the hole, and that we will be right where in the past we have been wrong, never awakening to see the fundamental pattern of delusion in all of this and the innumerable miseries fostered by it. Even disregarding this last claim, the fulfillment of all our desires would leave us with virtually nothing to do, dropping us from one misery to another, namely boredom. When we have nothing to complain about and nothing to seek, we will be bored and life will be a drudgery to us, and so to alleviate this we formulate some new object to whose attainment we can now aspire, only to relieve us of this leisurely comfort, but also to restart the process of desire, dropping us again into suffering. In short, there is no escape from suffering so long as we desire at all.
Now, this suggests that everyone is secretly suffering and miserable while pretending on the surface to be cheerful and optimistic and asserting that life is good and to be enjoyed. If people are under stress and they have certain desires, believing the fulfillment of which will bring happiness, it is clear to see that they must be willing to perform almost any act so that this object is attained. It is clear to see, with this explanation, why people are corruptible, and why there is so much evil in the world and why people generally do bad deeds. It is simply because they are suffering and they wish to be free of this suffering at any cost, believing that the satisfaction of their desires will achieve this. As the analysis given above must amply illustrate, this is false and impossible. The only way to become freed from suffering is by the cessation of all desires. I cannot doubt this truth anymore and any happiness I have felt has always been in some cessation of one desire or another, or otherwise in the knowledge of the possibility of this in the future given the mental training required. There is no value to life other than this one, and nothing should be pursued except for the training of our minds to stop grasping for things hoping to be satisfied by them and to instead learn to be content in the here and now, not desiring nor willing at all. But whenever I speak of this or exemplify it to others, I am met with uncomprehending faces and perplexed looks, as if I had suggested something inconceivable or even blasphemous. It is a pity that this world of ours is populated by such weak minded fools that have no confidence in pursuing TRUTH – glorious truth in whom alone I take refuge – who instead resort to following the trail that everyone else walks upon, taking comfort in the herd, certain that “we can’t ALL be wrong”. I admit that it is precarious to find oneself in disagreement with the vast majority of humanity, but if it was truth that led me here, then I stand my ground and fear not the calls of insanity they rain down on me, nor the alienation and loneliness resultant from this loftier plane. There comes a point when we must trust our apprehension of truth even if all are unanimous in opposition to it – all of YOU are the insane, I would assert, or else lock me up and LEAVE ME BE!!