Tag Archives: beliefs

impermanence

twice in the last few months i spoke about human nature. in the first post, i alluded to the question of whether there is such a thing as human nature. in the second i showed you an essay i once wrote about human nature. if wonder how this hold up against buddhist ideas of impermanence?

here is a piece from the nirvana sutra

material form is non-eternal. by doing away with this form, one arrives at the eternal form of emancipation. so does it obtain with feeling, perception, volition, and consciousness, too. by doing away with consciousness, one arrives at the eternal form of emancipation and peace. this also pertains to feeling, perception, volition …

let me translate that into what i think it means:

  • material form is impermanent.
  • when we remove this empty form, we become forever free.
  • the same is the case with feeling, perception, will, and consciousness. they are just empty forms.
  • when we remove consciousness, we are forever free and in peace.
  • the same is true for feeling, perception and will.

one way of interpreting this is to say that nothing is fixed, and truly recognizing this constant flux, and living accordingly, is what sets us free.

we do not have to live in the “form” (straightjacket?) of our feelings. we do not have to live in the “form” (straightjacket?) of our perceptions, or our will (desires?).

and now it gets difficult: we do not have to live in the form (or structure, or box) of our consciousness.

what that means, i think, is that we can’t assume that even our most closely held beliefs and values are either fixed or unchanging.  which means that even my view of human nature is up for grabs … ?

pretty heady and radical stuff, this buddhism.

my view of human nature

i just stumbled across my term paper of my very first counselling class, 17 years ago. here is what i wrote about my view of human nature. i’m sure i could nip and tuck here and there, and would probably use a slightly different writing style – but generally, most of what i said still holds true.

i believe that as human beings, we are good, free, and interconnected, both among our specie and with other life forms. i also believe each and every one of us is unique and has his or her special place in this world, and that every living being, without exception, deserves respect and acceptance.

humans are those animals living in a culture that revolves around using its most distinguished characteristic – intelligence – to invent and develop tools and processes that make life easier.

beliefs and values, such as mine about the goodness of human nature, are tools, as well – tools that help us understand the meaning and purpose of life.

my life experience and my beliefs are interacting constantly, reinforcing each other. i try to take a positive attitude towards my fellow human beings and assume that they reciprocate. the result is a generally friendly atmosphere in my interactions.

i often find that people who sometimes behave in a less acceptable way towards others behave more favourably towards me because that is what i expect from them. i rather accept the risk of being taken for a ride – which of course happens once in a while – than to live in constant suspicion.

other people see life differently, have different tools. what matters is that they do have tools, recognize and use them as such, and that they feel they are the crafters of their lives, not circumstances or their tools. this is a basic premise.

why is it so difficult to recognize that we are masters of our lives? of course, this is closely related to the very question of the purpose and meaning of life, an issue i cannot deal with in this essay.

a more immediate circumstance preventing us from realizing mastery of our lives is the paradox that although intrinsically we are free, in fact we are also limited. this can be so overwhelming that we may lose sight of our perspective of essential freedom.

limitations are genetic, social, cultural, racial – the list goes on. also, severe restrictions are placed upon us through childhood experiences. if, as an adult, we do not consciously evaluate and, where necessary, change our decisions based upon them, they will be our most consequential limitations.

opposite our limitations lie our potentials. i hold that our options outnumber our restrictions, and that the sheer number of anyone’s potentials is so large that he will never be able to exhaust them.

furthermore, we have this wonderful tool called perception which helps us to bend and shape our limitations. we can try to overlook them, for example, or turn them into advantages or at least neutral conditions.

how we perceive and how we deal with the results of our perceptions, depends on our individual character. although i personally work from a “feeling/thinking” mode and at times have difficulty comprehending that anyone wouldn’t do the same, i have had many experiences that forced me to realize that others often see and live in the world differently.

(this post was mentioned – well, kinda –  in the gonzo papers blog bash