You Should Just Give Up. Completely.

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I did and I’m much happier now.

Perhaps the main way in which the Buddha’s message conflicts with the prevailing culture of the United States is that his take home point is to give up. Completely.

The historical Buddha had the life of a spoiled prince, which he gave up to become a wandering mendicant and severe ascetic for several years before having his second most important realization, that the key lay in meditation. He gave up on asceticism. He sat down under a tree and meditated all night until he had his most important realization, that the key to human suffering is clinging, which is a very deeply ingrained bad habit that we all need to give up.

The modern Buddhist teacher Patrick Kearney explains this using the sutras, the original teachings of the Buddha, as dukkha nana (which he pronounces “nyana,” not like my paternal grandmother’s name). “Dukkha” is the word the Buddha used. It has no good English translation. Some people use “suffering,” but that may be a bit strong for most people in the United States in the early 21st century, even in the time of Trump. “Disappointing” is perhaps better.

All is impermanence. Whatever you have or acquire will age and eventually lose its charm. This is inevitable. The Buddha realized first that old age, sickness, and death are the lot of all humans. He realized nirvana, the deathless, awakened, achieved enlightenment, whatever you want to call it, when he realized that dukkha applies to all human endeavors. It is a universal characteristic of human life. All you get for your striving is stressed out.

Don’t give up meditating. Keep meditating until you give up everything else.

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Written by

Uppity gay, Buddhist, author, historian.

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