Letter from Bodghaya
Trust and Mistrust
One verse in the Foundation of All Good Qualities by Lama Tsongkhapa always seems to hit the right spot: “Seeking samsaric pleasure is the door to all suffering. They are uncertain and cannot be relied upon.”
If one stretches the meaning of pleasure in this quote to include comfort and security, which I think is a valid exercise, then the implications are truly terrifying and should cause me to lose all appetite and sleep were I a wise and realized person, which alas I am most assuredly not. For it means, does it not, that virtually the whole human endeavor is on the wrong track completely as far as the procurement of lasting satisfaction is concerned? Which means that the unbelievable effort, all the blood, sweat, and tears in the service of creating our modern world is merely creating the circumstances for additional pain.
For example, one line of thinking I’ve been entertaining myself with recently goes as follows: Take any human product – say New York city – and contemplate the amount of energy and skill it’s taken to transform a virgin landscape into a metropolis full of roads, skyscrapers, dwellings, museums, all the infrastructure, all the cement and metal and glass and whatnot. Think of all the technological mastery involved, the sacrifice of so many human lives to keep such a complex city going. And yet how amazing, appalling, frightful, and even unjust (words fail at this point) that this is nowhere near enough for the people of that great city to live in happiness and satisfaction. All the human relationships, all the food, films, entertainments, and consumer items – none of them enough to ensure that, in Einstein’s words, we can truly “escape from everyday life with its painful crudity and hopeless dreariness, from the fetters of one’s own shifting desires …
This article can be read in its entirety in Mandala