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Cessation of suffering = cessation of feeling ?
December 7th, 2013

illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)

Cessation of suffering = cessation of feeling ?

The "poker-face Sōtō  Zen monk meditating, perfectly still, in front of the bare wall" image, which suggests the ideal of Buddhism is a cold stone, easily leads to a misunderstanding…
People too easily forget that the first tenet of Buddhism is: "all  beings want happiness" (and not: "all beings want to be stone-hearted").

If one interprets the message as "stop craving  happiness", then it should foremost be in the sense of stopping "seeking happiness matching a prejudiced concept of what it 'should' be"  (prejudiced by what felt nice in the past, that you'd hope to experience again).

Buddhism is often associated with "be present" or "be in the now;" the message is "don't let the memories, tendencies, habits, fears, etc. –all based on the past– decide for you (i.e. don't let these blind you from what's different  this time)." Liberation in Buddhism is first from your past, and your cyclical perpetuation of your past.

Buddhism doesn't ask you to stop having feelings though (of pleasure or displeasure), it only leads you not  to react automatically to such feelings. The Buddha still saw people, heard sounds, tasted food, felt the rain…

It leads you not  to automatically switch from "that's nice" to "I want more", to "I want to own"… or from "I want" to "I need."  Buddhism leads you to fully experience the "that's nice!"

In that sense, it is very modern and much needed in a society that can quickly go from "this ice-cream tastes nice"  to  "I need a ice-cream-maker at my place."  Only to realise later that the pleasure of the initial ice-cream also depended on the sunshine, the nice breeze, the friends one was with, etc., and that the ice-cream-maker-at-home does not bring the happiness that was projected onto it.

Buddhism teaches you to perceive and enjoy all aspects of the experience (in the moment, not once it's gone and missing!): not just the ice cream, but the friends too!

photo: © Kuntal Gupta (