Choice and Suffering

Posted: 20/09/2011 in Insight, War
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Free from suffering?

Are we free from suffering whilst others die in war?

As Buddhists there is a recognition of fundamental unity, we are all one species, one entity, oneness. One. We are not killing something else, we are killing ourselves. This is a fundamental understanding that has to lead to pain and suffering, we feel the pain at the death of others. How do we deal with this pain? Coming to terms with this pain begins to set us free so it is important to understand how we interact with this pain. In the 4 Noble Truths the first Truth talks about suffering existing. So with this suffering existing how do we become free from it, are we not a part of that suffering? Yes we are, because we suffer. When an Iraqi dies we suffer.

Before I go on, I think of the recent Republican debate in which the audience were cheering when someone spoke of people dieing, it is sad how far these people have strayed from their humanity to lead them to cheering. There is such sickness in their hearts for them to do that, so much suffering in their own hearts.

All of the above are what is included in suffering existing, and why are we here? Compassion, free people from suffering. That is our purpose, free ourselves, the rest of the world, the unity, from suffering. How can we do that? By ourselves not suffering, and by helping others to free themselves from suffering.

In ourselves we need to recognise suffering, and we need to recognise the causes of suffering. For many Buddhists they see this as meaning freeing ourselves from suffering by not attaching to desire personally. But what about compassion – freeing others from suffering? Must we do this? I think so as a measure of compassion – being compassion. For many this leads to good works – understandably, and of course this goes part way to compassion. But does compassion end there? For me it definitely does not.

In the 4 Pillars of War I discussed the 4 components that make up a declaration of war:-

1) Military
2) Corporations
3) Government
4) Democratic legitimacy or accountability.

The military and corporations by their very nature push for war, the government usually complies, and the only control lies with democracy. It is our vote that legitimises war, it is using our voice that the MIC takes on the war for corporate benefit. Yet Britain went to war against Iraq when a popular demonstration clearly showed disagreement. Tony Blair said He did not “seek unpopularity as a badge of honour”, he said, “but sometimes it is the price of leadership and the cost of conviction”. In a democracy the price paid should have been the cost of his leadership, and not lamenting his lack of popularity, because that is what democracy is – he was an elected representative. The war went ahead and more than a million Iraqis have died:-

Iraq Deaths Estimator

In the UK the public demonstration was not enough, but what more could have been done? The answer to that is individual and lies with our own conscience, but my conscience tells me 1,455,000 + Iraqis died, my sisters and brothers died, and yet in a democracy that I am connected to my leaders and my soldiers killed them. This is suffering, Iraqi suffering and my suffering. I am not free until my conscience frees me. I am only free from siffering when my compassion has been active.

And that is the dilemma that I have been facing just recently. I am not free from the suffering my Iraqi comrades have suffered, my heart is not free. I seek freedom, to be free from suffering my conscience genuinely needs to be satiated, before it was not.

I am seeking freedom from my suffering, and without that freedom any thoughts of enlightenment are deluded falsehoods.

And when we go beyond the suffering we seek explanation. Here we need insight to discern the truth as to the need for war, we need to go beyond the lamentable excuses that are the stock and trade of the politicians as they serve their corporate masters. And when we go beyond their falsehoods a new world of intrigue and rationale open up that eventually leads to proper understanding of war, corporatocracy, influence and compromise. Recognising this understanding begins the freedom from suffering – true compassion.

Now that I am beginning to come out of the legitimate anger that can accompany political understanding the question that really matters is “what is all this blogging and angst for?” Quite clearly a significant aspect of the zandtao-corporatocracy blog has been my own learning process, a process that has involved an updating on political reality, a recognition that the system I am a part of is responsible for the deaths of so many people, and also preparation for the next section of the treatise. In the end the politics must settle down and be integrated into my journey – wherever that takes me next.

As with Buddhism there is an unreasonable part of me that wants to force this down peoples’ throats and make them understand – especially the monk. But that is not right. Awareness has to be personally driven. I think back to my dissertation on black achievement in schools – there was no doubt that imposed black awareness had a deleterious impact on the achievement of black students. We never forced white kids to understand how nasty the white system is, why did liberal teachers black and white think it would help black kids? I suspect the black intellectuals were angry and feel that they should teach all the black kids about the oppression but it hurts trying to cope. And that’s what I feel about the politics, it hurts, it makes you angry – or it should. However the understanding should be made available.

So where should it be made available? In the same place you look for Buddhism, the monks. So in the end this awareness is about monks as they are the teachers of Buddhism, this awareness issue is about the institution that has sold out. Where do monks take their insight? As far as is safe for the institution, but this is not awareness. The real issue comes down to this. For someone to achieve enlightenment there needs to be mindfulness – 100% awareness. What happens in practice at the moment is that it appears that monks shut off their minds to the consideration of the political causes of suffering. Suffering always exists as the Buddha said so it is Nature, why look into the causes now? There is some truth in that. But there is also truth in the fact that people are dieing because of tacit acceptance of humanity – the voters of US, UK and France for example.

For a monk seeking enlightenment should they not be aware that the donations for their upkeep could have come from the spoils of war? And that those spoils of war were the reason for the war in the first place. Can they do anything about it? Very little. But without understanding this can they be considered enlightened? I would suggest that part of enlightenment is understanding the times in which you live as well as the more important dhamma, isn’t that compassion?

But it is not just Buddhism. The churches I visited when young lived off the collections. Where did those collections come from? People mostly working for corporations. And where did the corporations get their money? Initially immoral wars, wars for profit, MIC wars. Surely war for profit is the greatest immorality, and yet did our priests tell us this?

But the real point for me is that political insight is insight, and insight is required for enlightenment. Monks seeking enlightenment seek insight at all levels including the political. How can people be expected to live with the reality of compromise with their society’s participation in war for profit when their spiritual teachers don’t?

And when those people choose that awareness can they get it from their spiritual teachers? NO. Living with the death of a moral war is hard enough but wars are not moral they are driven by power for profit. The reality of living with war for profit is suffering, it is hard. People should not be forced to do this. But if they are seeking complete awareness then that is a suffering they have to go through. How will their teachers be able to help them when they haven’t been through that suffering?

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