Tuesday, September 18, 2018
That’s different from the Buddhist idea of extinguishing desire. The difference is profound. And it says something about two different worldviews.
The Durant idea is very Western, very Christian – almost Puritanical. It is about self-restraint. About reining in one’s natural impulses. This is a view that sees desire (and the temptations that come from desire) as inherent to the human condition.
The Buddhist idea is about letting go. It is about giving up desire. Energetically, it is the opposite of restraint. It assumes that desire is extrinsic to the self – that the self can be separated from desire.
For the Durants, life is a struggle to resist one’s inherent desires, and the effort to resist builds moral muscle. A good or virtuous person is one who strongly and continuously resists temptation.
For the Buddhist, extinguishing desire (caring less) is not about character but about wisdom.
Let’s say K and I agree that we will go to the Norton Museum Saturday afternoon. I know there is a possibility that we may not go. Still, I allow myself to look forward to the trip. Saturday arrives and K tells me she cannot go. I am disappointed, on the verge of anger. I want to blame her, which will cause a fight and more pain. So I control myself. I restrain the desire I have to act out. I behave myself. I behave like a person of good character.
But if, instead, I take the Buddhist path, I do not attach myself to the prospect of going. While scheduling the event, I consciously detach myself from the anticipation of it. I allow myself not to care. By doing so, I spare myself the possibility of pain if it turns out we cannot go, while not diminishing in any way the possibility of joy.