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The ineffability of "You have to do something!"
August 18th, 2014 (May 13th, 2015)

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

The ineffability of "You have to do something!"

   Buddhism is at ease with the 'tetralemma' ( conditioned phenomena have neither existence nor non-existence, neither both nor none ( ( ( Buddhism doesn't confuse causality with a linear chain (; Nirvāṇa is 'beyond' (

   Avicenna apparently suggested the following test for those who defy dualistic logic: « Anyone who denies the law of non-contradiction should be beaten and burned until he admits that to be beaten is not the same as not to be beaten, and to be burned is not the same as not to be burned. »
   The "law of non-contradiction" states that you cannot have a proposition P and non-P true at once.

   Once the victim has been tortured into admitting that "to be beaten is not the same as not to be beaten",  let me ask the following:
• What is your moral opinion of people ready to torture others just to make their point? Do you consider that they showed some deep understanding of reality?
• Reversing the roles, would torturing the 'dualists', until they advocate non-duality, 'prove' that reality is non-dual?
• While many people might naïvely fall for "to be beaten is not the same as not to be beaten"  when asked directly (just like they fall for the "right to defend oneself", why do the same people later seem to ignore this "to be beaten is not the same as not to be beaten",  and to treat both options exactly the same way (not doing anything about it)… as soon as the one beaten is someone they don't know? If both phenomena are inherently  not the same, and "obviously" so at that, then surely people should act a lot more to stop wars, oppressions, domestic violence, bullying…

   The test is thus a test of self-centric bias, not of understanding reality. The test itself shows no wisdom, shows no understanding of how hatred and violence perpetuates hatred and violence, shows no realisation of compassion, love, empathetic joy, equanimity… It just falls for the delusion that conventional truths may fully capture reality.

   You have to do something, since you're here, now, sentient, alive… it is wiser to do something wise, i.e. in relation to "all sentient beings wish the cessation of  dukkha / unsatisfactoriness" and to causality (which gives you levers to engage with the causes of dukkha  and thus to address its origination directly).

   This starts by not  beating people up to solve a disagreement, by not  supporting a police state, by not  forgetting human rights when convenient, by not  putting lives at risk by the way you drive… It may continue with putting yourself in harm's way to protect another (being burnt might be a choice, e.g. to save a life!).

   In a classic twist, "you have to do something"  doesn't mean "you have to attain something"  (let alone "attain Enlightenment"); the former is about the non-separation between body and mind, the latter is 'craving' (

   You don't have to label yourself, or your actions, 'buddhist' either ( This is the ineffability of "You have to do something!"

   Several people have given feedback that my latest Dharma talk on "You have to do something!"  is one of the best talks I gave so far: it is at and lasts 45 minutes (+ 16 minutes Q&A).

#Buddhism   #Dharma  
Initial 'test' taken from (worth a read).
Unattributed photo