Friday, August 7, 2009

Buddha and Nietzsche, Isiah and Christ

"If the Christian Hell does in fact exist, then it is the duty of every compassionate Buddhist to become damned there, so as to do what he can to comfort the souls therin."
-attributed in some similar form to T.M. Suzuki

"If you feel this is the way for you / if you here this kind of call / if you feel you're really meant for this / if you find love / here's what you have to do / become indifferent / lock yourself out."
- Jean-Luc Demarco

Here's the funny thing about the teachings of Prince Guatama Siddhartha, sometimes known as the first Buddha: what he preaches is not a religion. The Four Noble Truths are statements about human psychology, independent of faith. They don't require one to believe, and will go on being true or false whether one chooses to believe or not. "Suffering exists. Suffering exists because of our attachment to the things of the world. Relief from suffering comes through detachment from the world. Detachment from the world happens by walking the Eight-fold path." Four simple statements. They don't ask you to believe; if you wish you may disbelieve them and see how far that gets you.

Beware attachment to the world, for the world of the senses is mere illusion. Mere illusion? The map is not the landscape, yes, we've been over this a hundred times. But if illusion is all that we have, with nothing but intuition (the intuition of Merlin, Dee, and Crowley perhaps?) to reach beyond the mere illusion, then doesn't the merest illusion become reality? We may believe that we do nothing, that the bottle is an illusion and does not exist, but there's that goose, still stuck. It seems that the merest illusion is illusion enough. Neitzsche asks that we embrace illusion, that we embrace the suffering that is the lot of we, an purely illusory people. To love the bottle and all it brings - terror and beauty, suffering and pride. The truth of illusion, or an illusory truth?

It's a funny thing, though. This detached compassion of the Buddha. A friend once created a board game representing the Buddhist cosmos. The goal was to advance through each stage to reach Nirvana in the center. Once you'd reached enlightment, and achieved the Bodhisatva, one could freely give the pips on one's dice to the other unenlightened players, in order that all may achieve enlightenment. No one may win the game until everyone does. But the last thing you want to do is care too much - there's a universe at stake here.

This will to help relieve the suffering of others, without becoming emotionally involved. "Teach us to care and not to care..." So very Christlike and so very unChristian. Christ - or Paul and John, at least - invoke us to do good works upon this Earth in order to ensure "storing up treasures in Heaven". Sounds good, right?
Do the right thing, and God will reward you with eternal life (TM) - accept no imitations! But is that really moral behavior? Or is this just behaving correctly, in the hopes that future happiness will be one's reward? Is that really the pinnacle of ethical thinking? Do good and get free stuff?

Isiah and his contemporaries once preached "Give unto the neighbor and the orphan and the widow and the stranger, for remember, you were strangers in Egypt." Not, "and God will reward you, and your children, and your children's children." "...for remember, you were strangers in Egypt." Do the right thing. Why? Because it's the right thing to do. It's so blindingly obvious, it's a logical tautology. But isn't this the emergence of actual, honest, ethical thinking? "Be excellent to one another, and party on dudes." Not, "Be excellent to one another, because then you'll be able to party on."? Nope. Just "Do x and y."

Neitzsche said that "God is dead". No rewards for you, little kiddies.

What's left for us, then?

Detachment leads to the end of suffering?

Do well by others, because in some way, we're all strangers here?

"We are on our way to being gods." - Jean-Luc Demarco

Googlebombing for a cause: 


Anonymous said...

Do the right thing because we are in this together. So, why not?

phaedrus said...


Didn't have anything to say, other than I read it and liked it.

Lord Carnifex said...

I believe it was Jim Morrison who first coined the phrase, "Nobody gets out of here alive."