Posts Tagged ‘linguistic construction’

the four noble truths

January 10, 2012
Neuroimaging sheds light on the seat of suffering

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This is a lesson based on a tradition called “the four noble truths.” Briefly, those truths are the first truth of suffering, the second truth of the cause of suffering, the third truth of the discontinuing of the cause of suffering, and the fourth truth of the way to live life after suffering.

The first truth of suffering involves relating to life as if there is some part of life that should not be how it is. Suffering is not simply pain or illness or old age or dying or even violence. Suffering is a way of relating to life. Suffering involves ill will as in contempt as in enduring madness as in mental illness as in agonizing as in hell. While there are a variety of forms and intensities of suffering, what I mean by the word suffering includes all of them.

The second truth of the cause of suffering involves the recognizing of the power of words. Words are symbolic codes with an origin as signals of sound, though words can also be written. The term “words” can even include gestures and hand signals or “sign languages.” 

Words are distinct from a mere signal because of the importance of the sequencing of the words. Words are the origin of what can be called nonsense, such as “this should be what should not be.” The second truth, briefly, is that all suffering is caused by nonsense made of words.

Specifically, “this should not be how it is” is the kind of formation in words that can correspond to the experience of suffering, at least if there is a belief in the nonsense rather than a recognition of the nonsense as nonsense. “This should not be how it is” is rooted in “there is exactly one way that this should be.” In other words, suffering is rooted in the linguistic model of “there is exactly one way that this should be,” at least as it applies to some particular perception or experience. “There is exactly one way that this should be” is further rooted in “there is exactly one way that life should be,” which is nonsense.

However, if operating as if it is inherently true that life should be a certain way, then suffering is the natural and inevitable result. That suffering could be in the form of ill will as in contempt as in enduring madness as in mental illness as in agonizing as in hell. Or that suffering could be mere frustration, worry, resentment, sorrow or grief.

Earlier than the belief that “there is exactly one way that life should be” is another presumption in language. That presumption is “there is exactly one way that life is,” which is also nonsense.

So, if there is a belief in the nonsense that there is exactly one way that life is, then that leads to the belief in the nonsense that there is exactly one way that life should be (which is also the way that it allegedly is), which leads to the various forms of suffering such as shame and blame and rage. If there is a belief that there is exactly one way that a particular thing is (which is also the way that it should be), then that belief in nonsense inevitably leads to various forms of suffering.

Beliefs are made of words. Beliefs are all nonsense. They are the origin of suffering.

Beliefs in what should be produce suffering. Beliefs in what is also produce suffering. Belief is also called idealism and idolatry and foolishness.

So, before we proceed to the third noble truth of the discontinuing of the causing of suffering, let’s review. The first noble truth is that suffering is relating to some part of life as if it should not be how it is. The second noble truth is that suffering originates in the belief that there is exactly one way that a particular part of life is and that is the only way that it should be.

Now, by summarizing those two truths close together, the nonsense of suffering may be extremely clear. If there is exactly one way that life is, but then life is not that way, then how can there be exactly one way that life is? Obviously, a linguistic construction of how life is exactly one way is part of life. So, if there is a logical conflict between a linguistic construction (or belief) about how life should be and the actual experience of how life is, then suffering is neglecting the actuality of life for the nonsense belief in words. 

In the Judeo-Christian terminology, neglecting the actuality of life by worshiping a nonsense belief in words is what is referenced by “placing another God before God.” In Muslim terminology, recognizing the actuality of life as distinct from worshiping a nonsense belief made of words is what is referenced by “there is no God but God.” Of course, because language involves codes, various interpretations of the encoded messages in words are possible. However, worshiping language instead of God is the root idolatry. 

Even the phrase “literal interpretation” is ironic because if something is recognized as an interpretation, then interpretation implies the use of symbolic codes of language. How can there be a “literal symbolism?” Such idealisms and idolatries are nonsense from the start.

However, nonsense is part of life. Should there be no nonsense? Should there be no beliefs made of words and no words? Should there be exactly one interpretation of anything?

Those ideas fall back in to the same trap of nonsense. It is not that there should be no suffering, nor that there should be any suffering. There either is suffering or there is not suffering. That is all.

So, the third noble truth of the discontinuing of the cause of suffering is simple. To discontinue causing yourself suffering, simply recognize how you have been causing yourself suffering through the inattentive use of language. That recognizing is sufficient to discontinue the causing of suffering. 

In other words, suffering does not need to fixed. Suffering can be distinguished. The distinguishing of suffering results in a relaxing away from the beliefs that cause suffering. Once the beliefs are distinguished as nonsense, no additional beliefs are required to replace the presence of the prior beliefs. More beliefs will only bring more suffering.

To review again, the first noble truth is that suffering is relating to some part of life as if it should not be how it is. The second noble truth is that suffering originates in the belief that there is exactly one way that a particular part of life is and that is the only way that it should be. So, the linguistic belief that there is only one way that some part of life should be results naturally in relating to one or more parts of life as if they should not be how they are, which is suffering.

Further, the third noble truth is to discontinue causing yourself suffering by simply recognizing how you have been causing yourself suffering through the inattentive use of language. Recognize the power of language and you will never worship any beliefs of language. You will be free of the suffering caused by the inattentive use of language.

So, there is no single way that life should be. There is no single way that anyone should be. There is no single way that I am. There is no single way of labeling life with language that is the only possible interpretations. All of those constructions in language are nonsense. Many interpretations in language are possible.

As for the fourth noble truth, the way to live life after suffering is basically to be attentive to language. Do what you must do. Do what you can do. Do what you should do. Do what you will do.

Now, there may be other interpretations of these four noble truths. Since these four noble truths are just symbols made of language, why shouldn’t there be multiple interpretations?

Is there exactly one way that the four noble truths should be? Is there exactly one way that the four noble truths are? 

Are there exactly four noble truths? Are these noble truths even true? What if there is no such thing as a noble truth except as a symbol in language?

If someone says “attention to language makes no difference,” so what? If someone challenges you with a nonsense belief made of language, so what? If someone says that their nonsense belief made of language is not a nonsense belief made of language, so what? If someone says that idolatry is not idolatry, so what? If someone says that their language is not idolatry but some other language is idolatry, so what? If someone says that there is no such thing as freedom, so what? If someone says that there is no such thing as language, so what?

Remember, when nonsense is recognized as nonsense, nonsense cannot cause suffering. Only believing in nonsense can cause suffering. So, one can play along with someone else’s beliefs or not. If someone is speaking the language of suffering, you can speak in that language as well, yet is there another form of language beyond suffering? Also, is there another form of interacting beyond the use of language?


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