Passion of Christ = Suffering of Buddha


Buddhist Temple in Laos

“All Life is Suffering” is the First Noble Truth of Buddhism. Unfortunately that’s as far as some people ever get, the more adventurous maybe even deciding that they’ll choose ‘the way of Zen’ instead, as though they could somehow avoid those pesky Noble Truths and all that suffering. Sorry. But wait: what if the First Noble Truth were to be phrased as, “All Life is Passion?” Then would you feel any different about the outlook? Sounds Christian, doesn’t it? The original meaning is the same. The Passion of Christ is all about suffering.

Shiny happy people are a relatively new phenomenon, and arguably predicated upon the suffering of others, but… Regardless, there’s good news. Within certain limits you can live and move and have your being, but those limits are what defines our dimension—the speed of light, the speed of sound, the average life expectancy, etc… So: that desn’t mean that you have to be miserable; no, quite the contrary. You just need to know your limits and then you can proceed accordingly.

In other words: you are NOT the master of this life, this world, this dimension, much less this universe. You are subject to forces larger than you. That’s humility. You are not the Big Man made to lord it over your puny subjects, because we are all puny subjects. This is why religions exist, to keep us humble—but not humiliated—willing participants in the awesome spectacle of creation, the likes of which we can barely glimpse. Otherwise our lives are trivial and tedious regardless of how many tchotchkes we manage to accumulate in the short span of our lives.

The question is; how do you want to live your life? Christians—especially Protestants—usually prefer an activist role, getting in your face and sticking it to you, best defense is a good offense, etc., and often to disastrous results, despite all the advance hype. Just look at Election 2016. Buddhists are usually more philosophical, though some might say ‘lazy’: been there done that. I’d call it “primum non nocere”: ‘first do no harm’; leave well enough alone; if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. If you can make things better, then fine; at least don’t make them worse. I prefer that attitude, but consider it more pacifist than passivist.

Let’s look at it another way: positive space or negative space. Are you building things up one particle at the time to create something out of nothing, or are you carving that infinitely massive something into something smaller but more diverse and defined to ultimately reveal what was previously hidden within, i.e. differentiating something previously undifferentiated? The first way is more typically Western/Christian and parallels Newtonian physics, while the latter is more Eastern/Buddhist and suggests general relativity theory, if not quantum mechanics.

I make no secret of my preference. Despite our industrial and technological expertise, we Westerners are largely crude and unrefined, manipulating our mental states by ingestion of pills and chemicals rather than learning to control our mental processes through meditation, control, and practice. Many people get hurt in our ‘do first, think later’ we’ll-show-them-a-thing-or-two attitude toward life and politics. It doesn’t have to be that way. Every gambler knows: the house never loses. We just need a house big enough for us all.