“Every pleasure contains within itself the seeds of pain.” – R. Puligandla, Indian philosopher & scholar.
Last night as I sat in my bed reading some Indian philosophy, thinking with pursed lips like I was George W. Bush in the Presidential debates, I came across these lines and thought how profoundly true it is. I had been mulling over this very idea in my head for the past several weeks as we had been discussing it in class.
It seems more and more apparent that the cause of suffering is indulgence; indulgence brings with it joy, and when we achieve joy through indulgence we seek always to indulge and we become addicts.
We make the mistake of viewing addiction as something only present for inherently negative things like drugs or alcohol, but truly this can extend to everything that stimulates the senses. We become addicted to sense pleasure and through over stimulation of our senses we can no longer gain pleasure through things which we ought to.
It is ironic that in the West people think that they will somehow liberate themselves by discovering their sexuality, when in reality this will easily tie someone into a whole new world of addiction. We encourage people to ‘cut loose’ but this provides only temporary pleasure… And in the pleasure there are the seeds of pain.
There are the very obvious causes of pain that come with confusing sexual relations and heartbreak, substance abuse and the conflicts it can make, eating too much, etc. but there are also the subtle ones that only come when we begin finding a lack of happiness in our lives because we had become so dependent on sensual stimulation we no longer find pleasure in the simpler things.
People act as if all of these things are normal and acceptable and that is why we have built up a Prozac nation; we are so addicted to sensual pleasure that when we can’t be having it we must immediately turn to some other drug to stimulate us towards happiness.
Of the Four Noble truths of Buddhism, the first is that life is suffering, but a deeper look into it attests to life is suffering due to impermanence. This is why the idea of meditation is so strong — it provides a degree of permanence in an impermanent world by giving us a form of intellectual liberation from both pain and pleasure that is fulfilling and is stimulating and is always achievable. I am certain that Christian prayer can do the same thing, as can chanting mantras, Yoga and other such activities.
I think we should be conscious of this truth and curb our indulgences, for though we attain pleasure there is always the moments where the sensual stimulation is absent and we are left to suffer.
It is important to not be moved, not be attached, not be addicted, but to be cold and indifferent towards the sensual pleasures of the world, for then we are not a slave to them but rather we are liberated.
Christianity speaks of being alive in Christ and being dead to the flesh, that is to say, dead to sensual pleasure, and this brings true happiness and allows entrance into the Kingdom of God. This is the same concept as the first noble truth, and in this regard, there is great similarity between Buddhism and Christianity (and for that matter much of Indian philosophy).
In an odd way we are able to become the most loving, complete and happy human beings when we become the most cold, dead, hardened and unmoved by the World itself.