I’ve been feeling a little down recently, for various reasons. This is what Buddhists call suffering, and they say it is caused by desire, or passion. Desire is what binds us to this life, they say, and is the cause of our suffering. Christians have a similar world view. They say that sin is the root cause of our suffering, and that our redemption is through Jesus Christ.
While there are many differences between Christians (who believe in an eternal soul), and Buddhists (who supposedly do not – although people like the Dalai Lama certainly seem to), religions generally regard the physical world as a place where humans are trapped. It’s easy then to imagine that we were born to suffer.
If we reject such notions, we can regard the physical universe not as a cage, but as a vehicle that enables life and consciousness. It’s not a cage, but a playground we are free to explore. Suffering exists, and may even be inevitable, but it isn’t the whole story. It doesn’t even have to be the main act. Instead of suffering, choose joy.
In everyone’s life there is joy and suffering. But we can choose which to focus our attention on. We can choose whether to be happy or sad. Recently, there have been things in my life that have made me sad. But equally, there have been sources of joy. I choose to focus on the joy.
Some of the desires that Buddhists warn us about can be self-destructive. And some of the actions Christians call sin are also harmful. But there is nothing intrinsically wrong with desire, or passion. In fact, it’s what gives life its meaning.
Avoid selfish desires and sinful behaviour by all means. But don’t feel that you are trapped in a materialistic world and bound by desires and sins. Instead, choose joy.
One thing I have learned is that the path to happiness is through action, not inaction. There may be failure. There may even be suffering. But that is all part of the dance.
To say that life is suffering and that desire is its cause, is to focus entirely on negatives. Why not say that to live is to desire, to have passion, and that desire and passion bring joy? Aren’t both statements equally true?
Here’s the thing. I’ve tasted suffering. I know that there’s more to come. Lots more. What I absolutely cannot live with is regret – regret that I didn’t follow my dreams, that I didn’t take the risks, that I didn’t stand up for what I felt was right.
I am not afraid of suffering. My life is not grey. It is not a straight line. It has light and dark; bumps and spills. I like it that way. It reminds me that I am alive.
I would rather have the chance of success, than the certainty of not trying. So I’ll take the risks. I’ll continue to follow my desires and my passions. I’ll know joy, and suffering too. And I won’t regret either.