In this section, I present basic notions of Buddhist thought, as well as select articles or writings from others which I have found relevent. In particular, you may read about the following:
- Buddhism and Art
- “Le Bouddha, le médecin insurpassable”, by Jean-Pierre Schnetzler
- Buddhism and Classical Greek Philosophy
- Buddhism and Transmigration
- Nietzsche’s Criticisms of Buddhist Philosophy, by Omar Moad
- Buddhist Bibliography
My intention is to present Buddhist thought, first and foremost as a therapy for suffering, and put forward the notions that Theoretical Physics, Mathematics, and Buddhism have a great number of converging principles. Finally, by picking out some artwork pertaining to buddhism, I intend to make this a visually pleasant journey.
Surviving a deceased, as we are left to grieve and mourn the beloved one who takes a piece of you with them, is indeed a very painful and unavoidable experience, which is at the heart of the concept of impermanence, at the heart of the origin of the suffering. One is left with the unknown, and the weight of having to live on without that person, until your turn comes, to finally also experience something you won’t remember into the next life.
Whether you believe in this process, none, or another, you are still left as the one bearing the weight of feeling left alone. That statement does not bring much comfort, as speculative concepts in times of great sorrow seem meaningless.
However that is the essence of Buddhism, as it does not offer any instant relief, gratification, or solution. It merely presents an alternative system of thought about existence in general, via a formal logic (see below). It shows you a way, which it invites you to experience and understand for yourself practically, rejecting any dogma, any deity (non-theism), any higher being, any hierarchy. The flatland of spiritual quest. What it tries to convey is that all the suffering one experiences in this life, will come back over and over, unless something is done about it; and something can be done about it. Worth the thought ?
The key features on which Buddhism focuses are the concepts of impermanence (Anitya), no-self (Anatman), interdependence of all things (Pratitya-Samutpada), non-duality (neither Nihilism nor Eternalism, Subject and Object,…), deception of senses & emotions, ultimate reality vs. illusory reality, also known as “saṃvṛti” (conventionall truth) and “paramārtha” (ultimate reality).
Ultimately, the most difficult concept to grasp, is the concept of emptiness / voidness of void, known as Sunyata in Sanskrit. All of these concepts feed only one constant in all of humanity: Suffering (Dukkha in Sanskrit).
On the key metaphysical questions of our existences, Buddhism takes on a very different approach, as it erodes the necessity of raising such unanswerable questions which would detract one from ever attaining Nirvana (explained below). According to Buddhism, when one sees these things for what they are, the idea of forming positions on such metaphysical questions simply does not occur to one.
Buddhism means ‘the (path to) awakening’, Nirvana (not the rock band) is the the state of being free of illusion, i.e. extinction / liberation of all (senses), the ‘exit’ of the never ending rebirths (Samsara). ‘Smells like teen spirit’ does have a merit in the title: your soul is trapped by senses, in this case ‘smell’, and we are forever teenagers trapped in this evasive unintelligible life, and even more unexplainable process of dying. Nirodha and Nirvana are very close in meaning, as they both involve the extinction of illusory senses and perceptions, leading to the extinction of suffering.
All of this can be found in numerous audiovisual references, especially in the movie the Matrix: see for example Free Your Mind! Exploring the Matrix, compiled by Jyrki Papinniemi.
Buddhist thought helps you the understanding that everything is an illusion. Every aspect of life is governed by one principle common thread to all human beings, suffering (Dukkha in Sanskrit). As a consequence of the illusions we live in in in thinking that there is some reality to what we live in. The terribly difficult to accept consequence is that this is not the only life we have lived through, and is not the last, until we break all chains of illusion. Getting rid altogether with these chains once and for all is the image of crossing the river into the state of Nirvana, without having to come back back. It is the awakening that very few human beings have the privilege of attaining.Buddhism means awakening, Buddha the awakened, the one who helps humans cross over and never come back.
Samsara is the cycle of illusory lives, rebirths or “transmigration of the soul”, filled with suffering from birth to death. Buddha, or more rationally Buddhism, is the vehicle that helps break the cycle, and cross over into the realm of absolute reality, of pure consciousness, where everything else does not need to have any meaning anymore, as it is all illusion. Even matter is empty, as a consequence of the fact that nothing can exist on its own, but only in dependence of everything else, including all 5 senses. This is called “Dependent Origination”, or Pratitya-Samutpadda in Sanskrit. The true nature of all physical matter dissolves in absolute void, voidness of void, called Sunyata in Sanskrit. The dissolution of all matter accompanies the dissolution of the the self, together with the concept of the ego. The concept of “no-self”, or “Anatman“, and non-dualism, or “Advaita“, in opposition to the “Atman / Brahman” duality (Dvaita) of Hinduism, and many other religions, overcomes our virtual or relative existences, so that only a vacuous state and flow of pure consciousness remains, free of suffering. All schools of Buddhism teach No-Self (Pali anatta, Sanskrit anatman).
“Non-Self in Buddhism is the Non-Duality of Subject and Object, which is very explicitly stated by the Buddha in verses such as “In seeing, there is just seeing. No seer and nothing seen. In hearing, there is just hearing. No hearer and nothing heard.” (Bahiya Sutta, Udana 1.10). Non-Duality in Buddhism does not constitute merging with a supreme Brahman, but realising that the duality of a self / subject / agent / watcher / doer in relation to the object/world is an illusion.” (from wikipedia).
This non-dual theory is very closely related to a core principle in physics and quantum mechanics known as the particle-wave duality principle whereby elementary particles are both a wave and particles, depending on how they are observed. For more on that topic, read the article about Buddhism and Science.