Buddhism and that Special Flavor of Sadness…

Plato not Prozac. Buddha not Benzedrine. In other words, don’t go running for the medicine cabinet every time you feel a little sad, or bored. Life is not about getting all charged up, whether looking for thrills, or looking for bliss. Life is about being aware, not much more and not much less. So if you’re feeling a little down in the dumps today, or just can’t seem to pump it up any how any way, I can’t recommend experiments of the chemical sort, unless it’s the last resort, and you’re the experimental sort. Because the results don’t always work out well. Pills are not always equivalent to thrills, and thrills are not what they used to be, better for kids in playgrounds, than adults in real lives. (Unless you have serious clinical depression, of course, and then you should get thyself to a doctor, post haste, and follow his instructions to the letter, because they are the masters of experiment, and can save you some time and trouble). But depression and sadness are two different things, and boredom is even more insidious. Boredom may be a call to action, true enough, but that action is best when more than the zen koan: what is the sound of one pill popping? This is a Western disease, and American, especially, home to amusement parks and extreme sports, daredevil stuntmen and short short shorts. We know what we want and we want it now. The only problem is that once gratified that sensation, there will always be another, and another, and another. This is the main realization of the Buddha: craving, ‘uppadana’, closely related to ‘tanha’, thirst, and the need for constant needs. This is a vicious circle, of course, and the best way to nip it in the bud is to gain control over yourself, to whatever extent that is possible. And this is the essence of Buddhist ‘practice’, the control that you gain, primarily by meditation. But self-control can still fall short, especially if you have a history of chemical imbalances. Buddhism always reverts to causes, and even if 90% of those are ‘mental’ and ‘impermanent’, some of them are more intrinsic to this particular manifestation of our transitory physical dimension, and are best dealt with in that way. Sometimes you have to treat symptoms first, worry about ultimate causes later…