The Origin of Negative Value

I want to ask now an infinitely more difficult question than those that I have asked before, namely why does suffering have negative value? Is this simply a delusion and the truth of the matter is valuelessness everywhere? That is certainly a difficult notion to defend, but I can’t find and articulate a proper reason for the negativity of suffering. The seemingly correct way to talk about this concept is to assume that its negativity is axiomatic which means that this is a fundamental self-evident aspect of its nature which does not have a reason for being the way it is. But this is very unsatisfactory as the a priori mind prefers that nothing be without a reason for its being. Otherwise it would not be. If it is true that the negative value of suffering is axiomatic, then everything which works to reduce suffering has positive value. This was how we determined that the pursuit of truth was a valuable one as we found that this was the only way to reliably eradicate suffering. Running away from suffering without the truth of wisdom would only result in more suffering since it would arise from an aversion, thereby propagating that which it seeks to eliminate. But how would running away from suffering under the light of truth be any different? It would know the correct response to the sufferings which are encountered in life and would realize that this consists not in running away but in accepting and comprehending it with a clear and passive mind. It is the reaction to suffering, and in particular, the aversion towards it which causes its propagation. But still, we cannot think away the intrinsic negative value of suffering as that would invalidate the whole pursuit of truth in the first place.

It seems to me from this series of considerations that the desire to end suffering must be the only acceptable desire to have. And for this, it must seek only the end of suffering in general and not in the particular circumstances where it has already arisen. For if it did this, then it would be a reaction of aversion and would thus condition more suffering. But if, instead, it is simply a desire for the future circumstances to be such that suffering cannot arise, then it is a noble one. This is the necessary corollary of the statement that suffering has intrinsic negative value. It is just that, given this intrinsic negativity, people tend to react negatively upon its arising, not realizing that this creates more suffering for themselves. From this it follows that not reacting with aversion prevents the arising of more suffering. But this seems like a strange paradox in nature that we must orient ourselves so as to escape the snare of future suffering while accepting and even embracing its daily occurrence. This seems paradoxical since if seeking the end of suffering in general were a noble pursuit, then so should seeking its end in daily life be. The contradiction resolves itself upon comprehension of the crucial point that seeking the end of already arisen suffering is counter-productive by definition. The flaw takes place in our own minds which prolong the effects of this already arisen suffering and keep it in the present as though it were actually still happening, sometimes years after the incident itself has already passed and gone. The source of the problem is the mind’s continual reference to and guilt concerning the past and its anxieties and fears concerning the future. This perpetual reflection on past and future greatly exacerbates the effects of suffering on us and leads to the profound rejection and escape from our own lives that we all instinctively react with.

To better address the task at hand, let us redirect ourselves once more to the origin of the negative value of suffering. Firstly, how is suffering to be defined? This question will serve to elucidate much about the origin of value if it is met with a rigorous enough answer. Suffering arises with the incidence of any situation which opposes the affirmation of the will and is that which affects all sentient beings negatively – that is to say, it brings about pain in their minds and bodies. So, now we have to ask the analogous question substituting pain for suffering and we find that the negative value of pain lies in the very constitution of mentality and materiality. These two realms are, as manifestations of the will, constructed with pain and pleasure as distinct possibilities, referring to the occurrence of will-denying or will-affirming situations, respectively. Whether or not the pleasure of will-affirmation consists in nothing more than mere negation of pain is not yet clear to my mind, but certainly seems correct. Or perhaps, pleasure is a heterogeneous phenomenon which arises upon will-affirmation and which is independent of the presence or absence of pain. However, my experience seems to indicate to me that this is not so and that the phenomenon of sensations, as defined by the Buddhist concept of sensation, is homogeneous with pain and pleasure lying at opposite extremes of the continuum. The more gross and intense the sensation, the more it leans towards pain and the more subtle and refined the sensation, the closer it approaches pleasure. So, the mental and material realms are already conditioned for pain and pleasure, and hence that the values inherent to pain and pleasure are likewise conditioned. So, suffering is already built-in to this world that we inhabit as a distinctly negative occurrence which, by virtue of being in the world, we all seek to eliminate. And this conclusion resonates harmoniously with the Buddha’s First Noble Truth, which I have purposely kept out of this argument so that I may not be biased by it, but which now emerges of its own from this diverse consideration and which states that all life is dukkha, the closest translation of which is some amalgamation of suffering and stress. What is required by the First Noble Truth is that we recognize suffering and to comprehend it without the arising of the strong emotional response of aversion. This is because our natural tendency is to turn our gaze away whenever we encounter it in daily life by seeking to fill our time with meaningless tiresome escapist activities that will keep us distracted until the suffering is gone; but, what we do not see is just that treating it in this manner will never make it go away. This reaction just mentioned is itself the cause of the suffering in the first place which leads to this vicious circle which feeds itself as it operates and grows, like a tumour, without restraint until we have become so blindly miserable that we are led to perform horrific acts which upon reflection we ourselves find to be detestable. As concerns the claim that the negativity of suffering has no reason for its being, we can now attempt to clarify. In fact, the reason for its negative value is just that we are nothing but will, and is hence a metaphysical one. Within the framework of this spatiotemporal manifold, from the side of the representation, in other words, we can find no reason for negative value since this is to be explained metaphysically.

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