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Saturday, February 8, 2014

ON SUFFERING IV


Thirty five hundred years ago the man we know today as Buddha started on a journey of enquiry and discovery. His goal: To understand the causes of suffering and to find a solution to liberate human kind from this affliction
His teachings where revolutionary and spread across the world and today it is considered one of the main religions and philosophies of the world.

Today, thirty five hundred years later we still live in a world riddled with pain, fear, anxiety and depression.
What happened? Where did we go wrong? Are the Buddhist teaching still relevant today and if it is so how come the world, and specially the places where Buddhism is the main religion, are so screwed up?

To answer that question we have to understand the Indian society where and when Buddha lived.
But for the modern people of today that will take a long stretch of imagination.
I grew up on a farm with no electricity, telephone, radio, TV or indoor plumbing and I still have a hard time imagining how Buddha lived.

Three thousand years ago the life expectancy was about 40, and death was a daily companion.
A cut, a flu or any disease could spell the end of life at any given moment. Life was a struggle for the daily meal a fight for survival. No wonder Buddha identified disease, getting old and dying as first (the obvious) sources of human suffering.
But are illness, aging and death as relevant today to human suffering as they were three thousand years ago?

Life expectancy in USA is around 79 (and that is not the highest in the world)
We live an active and healthy life long after our retirement age (65 in USA) and we are expecting that life expectancy to increase even more in the next decades. So are we living with the same fears of disease and dying as the people three thousand years ago? I think not.

Although the cases of suffering noted by Buddha are still valid, their balances and dynamics  have changed and shifted dramatically. Of course there are still people afraid of diseases but that is usually a mental condition. Of course we still have people afraid of getting old but they are usually Hollywood actors. Regular people like me and you don’t spend too much time worrying about it.
Yet we live in an era of stress, anxiety and depression. There are more people on drugs today than ever, both the legal and the illegal ones. Why is that? Why is suffering still so prevalent today?

The question is: Can we still use the Buddhist teachings the way they have been taught for thousands of years to alleviate our suffering or do we need to reinterpret them according to the new realities of our modern life?

This is the question that I would like to answer in my little blog and I invite you to be part of the discussion.

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