One of the things I’ve noticed about Buddhism is the religion needs to offer answers to the big questions. It makes it an odd way to do religion; after all, isn’t religion about answering the big questions?
Whereas other religions strut around claiming there is a truth, and they have it. Why we are here? Why is the cosmos the way it is and not some other way? You know the whole Ultimate Truth / Truth with a Capital ‘T’ thing. Buddhism remains silent on such questions and certainties. When the Buddha was asked if a god exists or doesn’t he he gave no reply.
When we ask questions like ‘Why are we here?’, ‘What’s our purpose?‘ and such we’re asking after an essence about our existence. An answer that ends all questions, a certainty, security, what I call the ‘Last Word Mentality‘, a final answer.
Yet Buddhists see this quest as futile, even harmful. It points out what Münchhausen trilemma explains. All efforts towards an ultimate bedrock of truth lead to failure. The claims are either circular, an infinite regress, or rest on axioms we create.
Worse still, such a quest is purely self-serving; it is not a quest for truth but more one of insecurity and emotion. If you’re asking these questions, you’re demanding answers from a cosmos without obligation to provide them. Your ego calls the shots here, believing the world has to make sense. Insecurity and neediness have taken over. It’s here the Buddhist ideas of attachments and suffering play a role.
Buddhism sees this drive towards certainty as a significant driver of our suffering. If you’re so desperate for answers that you can’t live without them, then your attachment towards those answers will leave you desperate and frustrated; that is suffering.
This can be found is the Parable of the Poisoned Arrow. Thich Nhat Hanh describes it as such.
The Buddha always told his disciples not to waste their time and energy in metaphysical speculation. Whenever he was asked a metaphysical question, he remained silent. Instead, he directed his disciples toward practical efforts. Questioned one day about the problem of the infinity of the world, the Buddha said, “Whether the world is finite or infinite, limited or unlimited, the problem of your liberation remains the same.” Another time he said, “Suppose a man is struck by a poisoned arrow and the doctor wishes to take out the arrow immediately. Suppose the man does not want the arrow removed until he knows who shot it, his age, his parents, and why he shot it. What would happen? If he were to wait until all these questions have been answered, the man might die first.” Life is so short. It must not be spent in endless metaphysical speculation that does not bring us any closer to the truth.
Buddhism is a remedial religion, a rescue mission. Buddhism can be seen as a psychology for people who over-philosophise and overthink. We can get caught up in the labyrinth of our thoughts and fears. In this light, Buddhism can be seen as emancipating the mind of its fetters, freeing us from attachments, illusion and falsehoods that drive our suffering. Accepting Emptiness and uncertainty (there is no explainable ultimate truth) it gives us the freedom to let go and surrender to what is going on, the reality we face. We can avoid the traps of both Eternalism (definitive meaning and truth) and Nihilism (absence of truth and meaning and chart the middle path between.
It’s not to find a bedrock of truth about the cosmos but practical truths that liberate us from suffering. When we see and accept that all things are impermanent, that the ego is illusory, that truth is inexplicable. That knowledge then liberates us. Once freed, we don’t have to bother ourselves with ideas on Metaphysics or ultimate truth and having to prove it.
No one carries baggage they don’t need, unlike the Western philosophical and theological traditions, which keep chasing after their tail, trying to pin down reality and existence.
Buddhists don’t bother wasting time trying to solve the unsolvable. Free of the baggage of certainty, we can let go of our desperate need for answers. Refrain from trying to find security in a world without obligation to provide it, to accept There is no secret ingredient to life.
Buddhism is not about supernatural insight or wisdom but about working with reality the mind as it is.
Over the years of philosophy and my striving for answers, I have come to see this is what liberation is about, letting go of inconsequential problems. Questions like, ‘Why are we here?, What’s the ultimate purpose of existence? Why is the cosmos the way that it is?’; can now be seen as absurd as questions like: ‘why is the sky blue? Why is water wet, Why does chicken taste like chicken and not like beef?’
‘No Fear. No Distractions. The ability to let that which does not matter truly slide’ – Tyler Durden
Buddhism accepts the uncertainty of existence (impermanence or Annica) and focuses more on suffering. It’s not a system of beliefs about the cosmos, but the insight into our psychology, our neediness that demands everything makes sense, our Nesting Instinct. I learned that Buddhism is not about giving answers but helping us see our desire and attachment for answers.
Buddhism is a Way of Liberation, Spiritual minimalism; It works the same way as life minimalism dies. It avoids overburning life with unnecessary attachments and possessions. It doesn’t need to answer questions that don’t matter. It’s about letting go, to Stop trying to Grasp the Wind.
It’s a parsimonious attitude towards life, uncluttered, valuing simplicity, where we will find the freedom and joy of our life.
In short it follows the axiom ‘Travel light’.
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