I am reading through the material publicly available from The Open University in Britain (courtesy the iTunes store) in their World Religions course. What particularly caught my eye this morning was embedded in a description of Buddhism. The first precept – called ‘noble truth’ of Buddhism is that suffering is the default position in life. The Buddhist says there are indeed episodes of happiness during life, but that these are merely incidences of ‘Guilded sorrow’.
My experience of life thus far matches this description. But I have always wondered at the many others I have known in my 61 years who have seemingly reversed this – who seem usually happy with episodes of unhappiness. Are they presenting a brave face to the world? Or do they disprove the Buddhist paradigm? Or, in Buddhist terms, are they farther along the path to Nirvana than I?
I am a Catholic Christian (albeit on vacation from the Church right now) where it is assumed, as in Buddhism, that humanity is fallen and broken and that true happiness, as opposed to the ephemeral happiness of here and now, comes only with heaven. Eastern Christians, who focus on matters of the spirit more than on the legal strictures so evident in my church, call this ‘deification’. This seems little different from the Nirvana of the Buddhists, the moksha of Hindus, the paradise of Muslims.
Well, my morning coffee is done, and on to other things now!