4 Noble Truths and Political Insight

Posted: 19/08/2011 in Insight, Struggle
Tags: , , ,

(Added to Insight & MCN page)

Some argue that the most important thing the Buddha brought to the world was the understanding of the 4 Noble Truths; here they are:-

The core of the Buddhist teaching is the Four Noble Truths: There is suffering. There is a cause to suffering. There is an end to suffering. The is a path out of suffering (the Noble 8-fold path).
1. The Reality of Suffering–dukkha
2. The Cause of Suffering–samudaya
3. The Cessation of Suffering–nirodha
4. The Path to the Cessation of Suffering–magga

Pasted from <http://dharma.ncf.ca/introduction/4-Noble-Truths.html>

Whether it is the most important it is still very important in the understanding of the world. Most Buddhists take these truths, and apply them on the basis that there is suffering, this suffering is caused by desire and that we become attached to this desire. To overcome this desire we have to work on detachment when it arises, and the 4th NT offers an 8-fold Path as a way to live that will help with this detachment.

The political insight from these truths is boundless. Imagine a world without greed (desire), would we have our problems? Of course not, but unfortunately when the world is viewed politically the world accepts this greed. Imagine trying to setup Socialist Workers’ Anti-Greed Party, and we start writing slogans and chanting “No More Greed”, we would be laughed out of Trafalgar Square. Yet on a personal level if we can overcome greed through sustainable living, this is a sound beginning for a Mindful Consumer Network.

But in the first Noble Truth the Buddha also points to a political reality, there is suffering. My earlier kind of Buddhist response to this was, yeah right move on to the meat – the detachment and the 8-Fold Path. But there is so much that can be thought through when you examine this Noble Truth. 2500 years ago there was suffering, and now there is suffering, is it immutable? Absolutely not, can it be changed? Maybe but how? And the Buddhist answer is compassion – the world being free from suffering.

On a Buddhist forum I pointed briefly to the notion that the world leaders are leading the world in suffering, and who are the world leaders but the western hegemony. Someone replied that this is not the usual way the 4 Noble Truths are discussed, and I asked why can’t they be? Now for me the reality is that they should be. Discuss the nature of suffering with calm insight and be active (as permanent revolution) in working to overcome this suffering. Applying meditation and mindfulness to the world of suffering we live in is what I am asking for, take inisght and mindfulness off the stool and apply these mental abilities to daily life – to the suffering we see around us. Is it enough to say that this suffering is caused by greed? For me the struggle now says that is not enough. What shape does this greed take? How does this greed shape our society? When a few take all the money in their greed, they are causing suffering to the many. Is this not a political reality? Do we accept this? Or do we seek to understand what this greed does, and follow it through to its conclusion? Follow it through to action? Is this not simply mindfulness?

And what do we use to follow this to a conclusion? The same skill we use to understand the dhamma – insight, the same technique of calm mind that comes in meditation – insight. Do we look at the dhamma and use intellect to understand? No because we know that intellect cannot see through the tricks that mind plays. In the same way when examining political reality we use insight to avoid all the pitfalls that are used to confuse us by the various powers that try to manipulate our understanding. And the 4 NT direct us by recognising that the world is suffering, and as we have leaders it is they who are causing the suffering – along woth personal greed. This is simple, this is insight.

Once we accept this insight, then we can begin to understand the way politics unfolds. Greed exists throughout our society but it has polarised in the corporations where excessive greed is extremely damaging. Then we see that our governments work in the interest of these corporations. We must use insight to see this, and not listen to what these leaders say. In times of crisis do our leaders control the corporations? No. They say they do, the corporations pay lip-service to the governments, but what about actions? In the US debt crisis recently (July 2011), taxing the rich was off the table – why? Taxes on the rich had been reduced in the last 30 years (since Reagan), and yet taxing the rich was off the table. Why? Insight tells us that the corporations are in control. Now what happens when you listen to these leaders and try to apply reason? Then you become confused because they have so much money at their control they can pay for so many intellectuals to research and come up with the conclusion that the Superclass wants. At the root of what they say will be inconsistency and contradiction, but these intelligent people misusing their abilities supporting self-interest and the establishment have the ability to confuse even the most knowledgeable. Don’t play their intellectual games. Apply your insight, and then once that insight is clear use reason to clarify your answers. When you look at the dhamma you use insight to determine the truth, and then you use reason and analysis to explain – the process is the same.

The 4NT – the world is suffering. Shouldn’t we use our compassion to work for people? A blueprint? We recognise the world is controlled by desire – in the case of our leaders (as others) greed. We apply detachment to ourselves to live sustainably, and then we try to help others to overcome their suffering by living sustainably as well. This requires some form of action to work against the interest of the corporatocracy, and even though we will have little impact individually it is an ongoing process that will bring happiness.

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