For quite some time, after a getting hit by a few bricks, I’ve endangered my own psyche with severe existentialism, fear, pain, and self-induced anxiety. It was a continuous downward spiral that led me to pessimism or knowing that the worst was yet to come, no matter how genuinely positive a certain situation was. It’s hard to get on without the constant need to tell myself that it’s going to end soon, that by the end of a busy, insignificant day, I’ll fall asleep only to wake up having the same anchor pulling me down.
Because of such experience, and like any other human being who had enough of the roller coaster ride, I looked for ways on how to put a stop into it. Within my time of talking to people and trying to understand their empty pieces of advice, a wise acquaintance named Jeremy Layson, floated the idea on Buddhism, mainly on the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. Normally, a person who talks about this would go on from start to finish but instead, with the influence of the acquaintance mentioned beforehand, I started off by understanding only those of which that apply to what I can comprehend as of now and add another philosophy that complements with it.
Before I start, this article does not intend to attack any other views but instead, this is to give way for another perspective. This article isn’t about Buddhism at all, but is a needed ingredient for better understanding.
As per Buddhism, the first Noble truth is to accept the existence of suffering. In this life, no matter how you stand in society, no matter who you are and what you do, we must understand that suffering is inevitable. Everyone experiences suffering, may it be physical, emotional, and psychological. People may have different levels of suffering but they all fall into the same category of feeling it. Accepting this leads to the second Noble truth which is acknowledging the cause of said suffering which is desire.
People suffer because they cling onto their cravings of materialism and emotions. It creates a constant need for people to look for happiness without actually getting the happiness needed because we spend most of our time trying to cultivate or carve something into a statue that conforms to our own expectation. A lifetime of desire and craving doesn’t equate to contentment and without contentment, happiness is absent. Therefore, suffering is present.
After acknowledging suffering as a part of life and it’s cause, this leads us to the third Noble truth which is knowing that suffering, a sprout that is relatively caused by a seed of desire, can be pulled out from its roots. Suffering can be stopped and true happiness can be achieved. The logic of it is simple: to end suffering we must let go of our cravings and our desires. This is the hardest step of all since most human beings do not understand the difference of needs and wants. It is to get rid of chasing what we want but to live every day without dwelling in the past and imagining an unknowable future. “Today is a gift, that’s why it’s called present.” We must not cling onto a small event that already happened because by holding onto it, we expect something to come out of it in the future, thus negates “living the now”. Think of it as holding on to a twig, trying to escape the rapid, tidal river. It would help you temporarily, but once the twig breaks, you’d be swimming with the schools of fish.
Now, the fourth noble truth is learning the Eightfold Path, but this is where I’d stop.
The Third noble truth tells us to let go, and not only with our material needs but it also stresses that we have to let go of our attachment to emotions. On another perspective, it could be letting go of attachment to people as well. In due time, if we attach ourselves to a certain person, the presence of suffering is imminent, hence negating the whole point of following the path to happiness.
From that point alone, I realized something that’s mostly contradicting to the third and second Noble truth. Like mentioned before, the next paragraph might contradict to how you look at Buddhism as a whole, but then again, this is something that I’m trying to connect based on what I have comprehended. Read ahead if you’ve opened your mind to the aforementioned fact.
From Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, we came from apes and evolved into who we are now by means of adapting and surviving. It’s possible that who we are now isn’t the final stage of evolving. We continue to adapt through different eras and there’s an inescapable thought that there’s a greater form in human civilization.
How is that connected to third noble truth? Before we get to that point, we must understand some points from Nihilism. Nietzsche once stated that in order to become the “Übermensch” or “Superhuman”, we must acknowledge suffering as a part of our lives. Sounds like the first Noble truth, right? Here’s the twist: Nietzsche also pointed out that the Superhuman accepts the fact that he or she might need to hurt other people in the name of great things. How can we do that if there’s a lingering feeling of culpability and disgrace to our own action? We can do that by eradicating our attachments to people. People may need to burn a bridge or two to get ahead. So in retrospect, if by achieving great things, we can actually boost our civilization and turn into supermen as a collective if we eradicate our attachment to people and emotion itself. By learning how to detach ourselves from them, we learn the Will To Power. As a civilization, we can go up the ladder without stigma, but only freedom and greatness as a whole. To quote Jeremy Layson, the person who first cultivated the idea into my head, “The need to cease majority of our emotion to skyrocket our civilization.”
The whole perspective is not focused on Buddhism but uses some points from the four Noble truths and adds sprinkles of Nietzsche’s views on Nihilism to formulate another angle in terms of understanding suffering and by it, the possibility of achieving greatness. It is by truly going through beyond the surface that we discern the depths of its concept.