A History Lesson

I think it is really easy to forget all of the small good things that happen to you in a day, and all of the good people that surround you. In my ethics class, we are discussing Buddhism. Today we talked about the mind and how it was related to PacMan. Yes, PacMan. Let me give you a five minute ethics lesson on Buddhism.

In Buddhism, there are the Four Noble Truths; Duhkha, Trishna, Nirvana, and the Eight-Fold Path. The first, Duhkha, means suffering. The Buddha lived a very luxurious and sheltered life before he became spiritual, and one day he decided to wander outside the palace walls. There he witness phenomenons he had never encountered before: disease, old age, and death. All of those are Duhkha. Trishna means desire or craving, and this is the cause of Duhkha. There isn’t just one cause of suffering, however. There are what Buddhists can the Three “Evils”, which are greed, hatred, and delusion. 

When the Buddha discovered all of this suffering, he wanted to escape it. All his life he had been living a life of desire, of Trishna, and he realized that this brought him suffering. So, in order to stop suffering, the Buddha renounced all of his worldly possessions and became a monk, during which time the Buddha lived with absolutely no desire. He went from a life of indolence to a life of denial. When I say denial, I mean that he denied himself any worldly pleasure. However, after several years of living like that, he realized that denying himself desire completely was not the correct option to be rid of suffering. The Buddha experienced two extremes, and he finally realized that the only way to escape suffering, to achieve Nirvana, was to walk a very thin line between desire and denial, and this is called the “Middle Way”. And now I shall relate this to PacMan.

In the game PacMan, the goal is to ultimately win. PacMan is constantly moving forward and away from the ghosts. The ghosts represent denial and/or fear, and winning represents desire and indulgence. PacMan must always keep moving for fear of death by ghost. This can be related to a person’s mental restlessness. In Buddhism, the Middle Way can only be achieved through quieting your mind. But think about how difficult it is to quiet your mind. Now stop thinking. Damn near impossible, isn’t it? Our minds are constantly restless, there is no stopping it. But do we even realize that our minds are moving at a billion miles an hour? PacMan is not only constantly moving, but constantly eating and absorbing, much like ourselves. We are continuously absorbing things, so we barely notice our minds. We are always occupied. This paired with mental restlessness means that we are compulsive thinkers. We cannot directly control our minds, and we cannot stop it. And here is where it gets a bit tricky; PacMan is always running away from fear (the ghosts) and always running towards desire (winning), which is an issue.

In life, we as humans strive toward desire, but why? Because we are running from fear. Let that sink in for a second. Say you have a goal in mind — getting your graduate degree — what pushes you to keep going? The idea of failing. The idea of not getting your degree and the repercussions of that. You will always be followed by fear, even if you obtain your desire, because you will be afraid of losing what you gained. And this, Buddha says, is the constant and continual suffering that all people need to let go of. And remember I said that the way to achieve enlightenment is quieting our minds. But how can we do that if our minds are constantly moving?  The answer is to let it keep moving. Don’t stop it. Simply understand it. Explore and examine your mind. Become aware of how your mind works, and you will achieve Nirvana. You will be rid of suffering. You will wake up.

So, how does all of this relate to forgetting all of the good things that happen in a day and the good people that surround you? Because we forget. We don’t notice, because our minds are so busy trying to comprehend our own fears and desires. But today I had a small moment of clarity, just enough to show me those good things and good people. The other night I had a mental break down and a friend brought me a huge bag of chocolate and sat with me until I calmed down. Today I got stranded at Walmart because my car was getting fixed and a friend picked me up and another took me back. It is people like that in my life that make all of the negative good. 


About returntoneverland

All around procrastinator, screw-up extraordinaire.
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