Mental and Emotional Toughness? – Top 10 Books You Need To Read
You wonder how in the world will you be able to muster emotional and
You read this because just like anybody else, you do have suffering in some parts of your life. Guess what – an unpayable debt, physical ailments, abusive relationship, emotional conundrum, family problems, other financial issues – isn’t’ it?
You know, suffering is one reality of life that seems to disillusion us from living the life we dreamed of.
It is just a sad reality, though.
Nobody is safe from the careless whispers of suffering, no not even one. Even the most affluent individual in the world who seems to belong to the gods of Olympus suffers from mental setbacks of how to allocate their riches, safeguard them and even further them on. So, if these “lucky sperm club” members still suffer despite life being handed to them on a silver platter, how much more us who belong to the bottom part of the food chain.
You wonder then, “so what if there is suffering? and I’m amenable that it is part of life? How do we go around it? And, don’t tell me suffering is a lifetime gig?” Well, it seems for me. But I cannot answer that with closed-loop certainty. But there was this guy, who as this world’s chronicle has it, was able to get out of this life’s daily grind of suffering and has a sneak-peek into the brighter side of life. The venerable sire was Siddhartha Gautama.
Siddhartha Gautama lived in India during which the existence of the world is under inquisition by different thinkers around the world. He was later known as the Buddha – “The Enlightened One!” He was born in Lumbini, a modern-day Nepal at around 560 BCE. His father is a high-ranking leader of a clan or tribe at that time. Siddhartha lived a privileged high life status of a crowned prince inside his father’s castle.
Though Gautama is revered during and after his time, he was neither a messiah nor a prophet and neither he acted as a middle man between God and Man. His philosophies are propelled by his reasoning and his messianic ideas does not come from divine revelation but from his deep yearning for wisdom.
So, the big caveat here is that we think Buddhism is a religion, as what you and I have been taught and believed – well, it is and even more than that. It is rather an institution with a deeply rooted philosophy for life.
Remember, that Sid’s quest for the truth about life is philosophical rather than religious and he never ever intended to build one. He even asserts that finding the meaning to life and an antidote to suffering is not a climb to seven mystical mountains nor a swim to seven esoteric seas, the answer is deeply rooted in us. But the noise of modernity and the disorienting standards the society wants us to carry has propelled us billions of light-years away from ourselves, such that even if life is confronting us in front of our face, we still don’t notice it.
Another thing that is profoundly significant about Sid’s philosophy is it’s deeply pragmatic nature. When we say pragmatic, it’s very practical but not literal, so divine yet down-to-earth. It’s so easy that you can teach your preschoolers about it with your eyes closed.
Sid has a distaste towards the high-flying philosophy of the Greeks – about their improbable quest for a metaphysical realm that might not even exist even to the farthest side of the parallel universe. Instead, Sid pre-occupied himself with the questions of the goal of life, happiness, virtue, the good life – things that are closest to our gut.
As was said earlier, Sidharta was chosen among the many by nature’s uncanny hand to live a life of leisure and extravagance not just by ‘natural selection’ but also by commission – he is by his father’s orders deliberately swayed away from any forms of suffering inside the kingdom could it be physical suffering, emotional and mental. But this in turn disgruntled Sid and pushed him to go beyond borders and walls, only to find out the reality of life waiting for him to unfold when he was literally standing outside of the castle walls.
This is the first reality that he realized when he saw an old man in the streets of India. This particular sight was non-existent during his life inside the walls. He realizes that every one, rich or poor, is getting old. One sad reality of life that causes suffering.
Another non-desirable reality of life that brings suffering is sickness. This is one thing he realizes that everyone succumbs into either you’re living in a walled castle or just a decrepit pauper on the street. This is another truth hidden from him back home.
Sid could just have imagined how people inside the castle are dying to hide this reality from him. Sid meets a dead man which symbolized another comprehensible truth he realized but a grim reality of life we all have to understand. Death could be the pinnacle of suffering or could be the end of it.
And a sudden twist of fate, right? Finally, Sid meets a holy happy man, the only thing Sid thinks was possible inside his kingdom. But why is the man happy despite all the sufferings? Well, this was even more dumbfounding for him than the rest he encountered. And this is where he realized that there must be a way to overcome suffering – just like this old man did.
And so he began his quest!
We do have an impression that like other monks and religious zealots, Sidhartha is a proponent of radical asceticism and abstinence, but this was the complete opposite. Over mortification and self-indulgence are equally dissatisfying for him. He believes that there should be a middle-way to attain happiness (this reminds us of Aristotle’s “The mean of virtue” – anything that is more or less is not virtuous). But before anything else, one must first understand these Four Noble Truths.
One of the inherent realities of life is suffering. Suffering is in fact a womb to tomb experience – from birth, to ageing, to sickness and death.
The Cause of your suffering is as real as suffering in itself. If you ever wonder why you suffer, then you must also wonder what is the cause, and for Sid the cause is Desire. Desire causes us to be attached to worldly positions that are more often unattainable.
Suffering has an end. You just have to look somewhere else. You will be reminded of a Persian adage, “This too shall pass”. Nirodha is as real as the reality of suffering (Dukkha).
The means to an end. Magga will teach you the ways and means to end suffering. This is categorically elucidated by Sidhartha in his ultimate solution – “The Eight-Fold Path.”
You begin to suspect now that we are beginning to sound religiously familiar as the word “deny yourself” rings a bell. But remember, that Gautama is very careful not to mention any deity in his ultimate quest for self-liberation. Though the word “deny yourself” has a Christian overtone (as Jesus told that one way to inherit heaven and be worthy to follow him is to deny oneself), it jives well with Sid’s Teachings.
Gautama did not only teach us to deny our desires that cause worldly attachments, but he also teaches to deny the one that causes the desire – the “self.” Because, even before we desire something that is worldly, we are already attached to ourselves. That self is a pincushion of desire, an insatiable black hole of greed. This is the reason why when someone is overly entitled or greedy we call him “selfish” and when generous, “selfless.” And if you notice it’s all about self because it is the only facet of the human existence that knows no limit when it desires.
The Eightfold Path is the Code of Ethics Gautama created for his subjects and to the world for those who seek happiness. This is pretty much like a doctor’s prescription for physical wellness. The Eightfold Path offers the same – a wellness for your mind that transcends to your body and soul. It is a proven principle that has stood the test of time, that if followed even by modern societies and beyond, would significantly abate suffering to its negligible level.
These principles are no farther than that of Moses’ Ten Commandments. It serves also as a code of ethics for the Israelites who have been freed from the structured life of slavery. These slaves don’t know what to follow and do after they have been freed into the wilderness, in contrast to their scheduled life during slavery.
Humanity at large needs a code of ethics that is easy to follow after they have been released into the wilderness wondering what to do and what to follow. Ever since humanity’s fall into the quagmire of chaos, understanding is the first human faculty that has been greatly disfigured.
So principles to follow should be as pragmatic as the Eightfold Path. Humanity’s attention span is already lost which can no longer afford highly flamboyant and ambiguous guiding principles.
If you watch the third installment of the movie “The Matrix” where Neo and Trinity are aboard the ship littered with disastrous sentinels about to dismember their ship. And the only way to get rid of them is to go way up where the sun shines to loosen up the grips of the sentinels. Those precious seconds where they were able to break away and break into the mighty horizon, gave them a sigh of heaven ever since the sun was hidden from them for life.
This movie scenario was comparable to a Nirvana where you break away from all attachments where you are now able to savor the foretaste of heaven. And according to Siddhartha, this is only possible if you are able to free yourself from worldly “attachments” as Nirvana is grossly translated as “non-attachment”, “not-being” or literally “blowing-out” from the vicious cycle of suffering – birth, old-age, sickness, death and as he added, rebirth!
If you can write of Emmanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative, that would be great!
Sure Joe! That’s one great topic to consider too!