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Moderation and Austerity with respect to Buddhist "rules"

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  • Moderation and Austerity with respect to Buddhist "rules"

    In some other discussion, some members of the forum seemed to be assertive in their beliefs that strictly following the Buddhist rules, in an austere fashion, would lead to a solid, virtuous life. The following is from a dissertation of S.N. Goenka, an Indian teacher from Bombay, who has been authorized to teach the Vipassana. He has great insight into the Eightfold Path. I think that this excerpt is extremely relevant, and helpful; a powerful testament to the advantageous modus vivendi of moderation.

    The future Buddha was not satisfied that he had achieved liberation. He decided that he must continue his search for the way out of suffering and the path to happiness.

    He saw two choices. The first is the path of self-indulgence, of giving oneself free license to seek the satisfaction of all one's desires. This is the worldly path which most people follow, whether they realize it or not. But he saw clearly that it cannot lead to happiness. There is no one in the universe whose desires are always fulfilled, in whose life everything that is wished for happens and nothing happens that is not wished. People who follow this path inevitably suffer when they fail to achieve their desires; that is, they suffer disappointment and dissatisfaction. But they suffer equally when they attain their desires; they suffer from the fear that the desired object will vanish, that the moment of gratification will prove transitory, as in fact it must. In seeking, in attaining, and in missing their desires, such people always remain agitated. The future Buddha had experienced this path himself before leaving wordly life to become a recluse, and therefore he knew that it cannot be the way to peace.

    The alternative is the path of self-restraint, of deliberately refraining from satisfying one's desires. In India 2,500 years ago, this path of self-denial was taken to the exteme of avoiding all pleasurable experiences and inflicting on oneself unpleasurable ones.

    The rational for this self-punishment was that it would cure the habit of craving and aversion and thereby purify the mind. The practice of such austerities is a phenomon of religious life throughout the world. The future Buddha had experienced this path as well in the years following his adoption of the homeless life. he had tried different ascetic practices to the point that his body was reduced to skin and bones, but still he found that he was not liberated. Punishing the body does not purify the mind.

    Self-restraint need not be carried to such an extreme, however. One may practice it in more moderate form by abstaining from gratifying those desires that would involve unwholesome actions. This kind of self-control seems far preferable to self-indulgence since in practicing it, one would at least avoid immoral action. But if self-restraint is achieved only by self-repression, it will increase the mental tensions to a dangerous degree. All the suppressed desires will accumulate like floodwater behind the dam of self-denial. One day the dam is bound to break and release a destructive flood.

    Most definitely, an awesome interpretation of the beneficial effects of moderation, previously extolled by Aristotle and his diatribes on the Golden Mean.
    Experienced Community organizer. Yeah, let's choose him to run the free world. It will be historic. What could possibly go wrong...

    "You're just a jaded cynical mother****er...." Jeffpeg

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