"Heaven gives it's glimpses to those not in a position to look too close". ~ Robert Frost
In the four noble truths we find the definition of the human predicament according to the teachings of the Buddha. The first truth is that human life is wrought with frustration, pain and suffering. The Buddhist tradition refers to suffering as duhka.
The concept is an honest and straightforward description of the experience of human life. Although there are those times when we feel rather elated with our lives, as we engage with others we see, on the whole, so much suffering in the life of humanity. The digital age and the revolution of technology exposes us daily and more readily than in the past to enormous quantities of stories of human suffering and tragedy.
This discussion will reflect on two questions:
The first noble truth also defines human suffering as an internal issue for humanity. Science would define this internal experience of duhka as psychic or psychological, emotional suffering. The human intellect, with our innate capacity and ability of thought, can act almost as an enemy to us in life. Thought alone, with recollection upon memories of psychological trauma, for instance, can inflict us with suffering repeatedly, long after the traumatic event has passed.
Add to this the knowledge we carry that informs us, almost unconsciously, that we will age, get sick and ultimately, we know, we are going to die. This makes human life seem rather pointless. To some, the ultimate suffering of knowing we are living only to one day die, is what we might refer to as a meaningless life. No matter how hard we might try to not think about our inevitable demise, we can't help but think about it. Death, we know is waiting for us all. We've seen death. We know this is true. With this knowledge, we suffer.
The theory of natural selection in science supports the Buddha's reference to life as suffering in a more sterile form. Natural selection suggests that only the strong among us will survive. By survival, the theory of natural selection proposes that as a species of primate, not far removed from the abilities of the chimp, our quest in life is also a simple one. In this theory of science, the aim of humanity is to leave behind on earth, as many copies, individually, of our genes as possible to carry on into the next and coming generations.
Therefore, individual human life is a life of competition with other humans, to ensure the passing on of our genes. The study of evolutionary biology is the science we might engage to support this position to define the human condition or predicament. Evolutionary biology proposes that all human activity is fueled by this survival of the fittest, internal biological drive within humanity.
The second noble truth taught by the Buddha, supports natural selections definition of human life. This second truth teaches that suffering has a cause and that this cause is, in fact, that we are constantly struggling as humans to survive. Individually, we are constantly trying to prove that we are important to the world and that our existence, individually, matters. Unfortunately, the teaching suggest that the harder we struggle to establish ourselves in our efforts to survive with importance, the more painful our experience of life becomes.
The third noble truth in the Buddha's teaching tells us that suffering can end. He says that our struggle to survive, and our effort to prove ourselves to the world isn't, at all, necessary and that we can make adjustments to get along in the world in a peaceful way, without the suffering we tend to endure. Basically, the Buddha says, if we can learn to act in a simple, direct and straight-forward manner with ourselves, by accepting the reality of life, we can eliminate the cause of our suffering. He tells us we can do this by abandoning our expectations about how we think things should be.
This takes us to the forth noble truth, proposed by the Buddha.The fourth noble truth is the way, or path to end the cause of suffering. The central theme of this path is the practice of meditation. For the purpose of this specific discussion, meditation, here, means the practice of mindfulness.
We become mindful, according to the Buddha, by abandoning our expectations about the way we think things should be and, out of our mindfulness, we begin to develop awareness about the way things really are. We begin to develop the insight that we can handle ourselves, and our relationships, and we can then learn to live peacefully and comfortably with ourselves and others in the world.
This is where Buddhism and science come together in an incredibly helpful way. Mental health practitioners are now incorporating mindfulness training into treatment modalities. Mindfulness practice, for those who suffer with a variety of medically defined mental illness, teaches the 'patient' to not only become mindful of behavior, but more importantly, mindfulness training teaches us to become aware of our thinking. By observing our thoughts, without judgement, we can see the thoughts that cause us pain. We can gently allow the thoughts to come and go, thereby eliminating power of negative thinking over time and with practice.
When we look at the tradition of the four noble truths with some comparisons to modern science, the two points of view seem to align. Specifically, when we consider the value of mindfulness teachings and apply the practice in therapy in mental health practice, there is harmony between the two schools of thought.
Speaking personally, I know mindfulness teachings have improved the outcome of my own experience with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I personally value the practice and now incorporate a few minutes, three times/day into my personal recovery plan. Many report the same value in the mental health community.
As we move towards healing our individual lives, it would appear, both Buddhism and modern science, with the application of mindfulness into treatments, can support one another without conflict. As for any conflicts with religion, we'll leave this discussion for another time. The single concept of mindfulness, is making a huge difference in terms of recovery potential for those who live with the effects of trauma.
Consider a study of Buddhist practice. Consider mindfulness training. Don't suffer with any ideas of conflict. Rather, embrace the concepts and you too will find a contributor to healing. Peace awaits and this peace has been a long time in coming. We all deserve this peace. We all deserve to experience an end to our sense of personal suffering. Mindfulness practice, adopted from Buddhism, can make all the difference.
Be Well. . . . . . . .
Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia: Mindfulness (psychology): 2014 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindfulness_%28psychology%29
Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia: The Four Noble Truths: 2014 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Four_Noble_Truths
Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia: Natural Selection: 2014 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_selection
Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia: Evolutionary Biology: 2014 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_biology
The Trauma Recovery Blog: Thought & Mindfulness: 2014 http://www.traumarecoverybc.com/1/post/2014/02/thought-mindfulness.html
"Post Traumatic Stress is an anxiety disorder that leaves sufferers feeling overwhelmed. It is a normal reaction to exposure to traumatic events. Learn about the impact on the body, mind and emotion and how people recover." ~ Dr. Anna Baraanowsky