CONTENTMENT AND THE MEANINGFUL LIFE – WISDOM OF THE EAST – PART V

“While living one sits up and lies not,

When dead, one lies and sits not;

A set of ill-smelling skeleton!

What is the use of toiling and moiling so?.” – Hui-neng

Before we move on from Zen, I thought we might look further into its conception of contentment from the perspective of the famous 20th century Japanese philosopher, Daisetz T. Suzuki. We met him earlier in the sections on Teleology2 and Suffering,3 but today I would like to extract from one of his essays a fairly contemporary viewpoint addressed to the Westerner on the Zen concept of contentment. His essay Satori, or Enlightenment begins:

“The essence of Zen Buddhism consists in acquiring a new viewpoint on life and things generally…we must forgo all our ordinary habits of thinking which control our everyday life, we must try to see if there is any other way of judging things, or rather if our ordinary way is always sufficient to give us the ultimate satisfaction of our spiritual needs. If we feel dissatisfied somehow with this life, if there is something in our ordinary way of living that deprives us of freedom in its most sanctified sense, we must endeavor to find a way somewhere which gives us a sense of finality and contentment.”4

I have read no more apropos a description of the goal of this section of my website than Suzuki’s. Let’s follow his thoughts on how Zen can help us through the contentment labyrinth. He starts with a warning: this is “the greatest mental cataclysm one can go through with in life…no easy task…a kind of fiery baptism.”  Its central tenet is satori, that is, the intuitive (not logical or analytical) looking into the nature of things which unveis a new non-dualist or unified world and remakes life in a way that stays with one thereafter.

According to Suzuki, satori is not quietism like Tao, nor a trance-like wasting of life as in other Eastern traditions, but a seeing into one’s life and one’s own Nature. He tells us the sixth patriarch Hui-neng denied sartori arises out of stopping all mental activities and sitting cross-legged for a sustained period of time, and, in fact, scorned such practices.6 On the contrary Zen masters encourage the seizing of the most trivial incidents in life to make the mind flow and to open up new vistas. During such moments, one’s attention must be directed inwardly to the working of the mind. No one, not even a Zen master, can bring one to the final state; all they can do is indicate the way and leave it to each individual to find his or her way. At the end of the day, this state of contentment comes down to finding oneself (as if one lost oneself through neglect) or the “returning to one’s own home.”

(continued next post)

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1Barrett, William (editor), Zen Buddhism; Selected Writings of D.T. Suzuki. Doubleday Anchor Books, Garden City, NY, 1956. Page 89.

2,3 See post on this site titled Teleology – Alternative Approach to Reality  and  Suffering – The First Noble Truth IV dated 1/15/2020 and 2/3/2020 respectively.

4Ibid., page 83.

5Ibid.

6Ibid., page 89 – see epigram for this post.

7Ibid., page 97.

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CONTENTMENT AND THE MEANINGFUL LIFE – WISDOM OF THE EAST – PART IV (continued)

We ended last time on the first key component of Zen as a path to contentment – staying in the present moment. The second component is meditation on eternal truths (as opposed to koans). The key ‘truth’ of Zen is that thought interferes with the experience of reality by attempting to dissect it for analysis as traditionally is done in the West. What is needed is a special form of concentration which stills the mind. The practitioner learns to cultivate a deep or profound silence in the deepest recesses of his or her being. Thought is considered the great disrupter of contentment and an obstacle to the experience of reality. Thinking is about dividing reality which the Zen master tells us is a lower discriminatory consciousness.5 For example the classic philosophical designation of nuomenal reality (the thing-in-itself) is an abstraction postulated to solve a problem arising out of ignorance of reality. Zen seeks to understand the “suchness” not the “thatness” of things by immediate seeing into things just as they are. The higher way depends not on reason, but seeking by the complete person for the ultimate reality.6

Zen masters tell us we must overcome distinctions such as is and is not, learning to see the beauty of the world without distinctions.7 Buddha nature then is an enlightened mind, emptiness, ‘no-mind’, or ‘suchness’.8  One cultivates a deep or profound silence in the deepest recesses of one’s being. The philosopher must remain silent, but there is something to do – resolve to practice Zen “The silence forced on the philosopher can be the beginning of a seeing into reality that goes beyond thoughts and words, and that does not leave behind any aspects of the person.”9 Once achieved, “The vibration of nature is in accord with the inmost rhythm and vibration of man.”10

Like the other Asian traditions Zen offers a means to contentment and tranquility that transcends the human world and one’s own inadequacies and failures. It originates in a worldview that the experience of Nature and reality as a whole combined with staying in the here and now are the basis of peace and enlightenment. In Zen Buddhism, the effort to achieve self-improvement and satisfactory purpose in the world is replaced with focused work and meditation on paradox and truth under the apprenticeship of a master.

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5Koller, John M., Oriental Philosophies, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1970. ISBN 684-13668-6, page 187.

6Ibid. page 188.

7Ibid. page 184-185.

8Ibid. page 186.

9Ibid. page 189.

10Beck, L. Adams, The Story of Oriental Philosophy. The New Home Library, New York, 1928. Page 418.

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CONTENTMENT AND THE MEANINGFUL LIFE – WISDOM OF THE EAST – PART IV

“The only way to strengthen one’s intellect is to make up one’s mind about nothing…Be passive and receptive…The poetic nature has no self. It is everything and nothing…A poet has no identity…he is continually in and filling some other body.” – John Keats1

 

In thinking through Eastern philosophy’s guidance on achieving contentment, we have looked at Hindu, ancient Buddhist, and Daoist thought-leaders. From the Upanishads and Patanjali we learn contentment is found in withdrawal, recognition of the spiritual as true reality, and calming the mind by meditation and breath control. Buddha encourages renunciation, conduct in harmony with community, and deep contemplation of key truths particularly that suffering in life is due to desire and that self is an illusion. The Daoists advise disentanglement from the world, material simplicity, ordering of the mind, and a life of quietude and natural spontaneity.

Today I would like to examine a fourth school of Asian thought, Zen Buddhism. While nominally a form of Mahayana Buddhism, this mainly Japanese philosophy developed first in China under Huineng (637-713) and was later introduced into Japan. Zen, meaning meditation, represents a blending of Buddhist and Daoist thought further shaped by Japanese culture. Zen follows traditional Buddhism in the belief in reincarnation and release as satori or enlightenment. However satori is achieved not gradually by meditation (dhyana) and environmental withdrawal as in original Buddhism, but suddenly by meditation in contact with nature, especially under the watchful eye of a master.

Zen masters urge training in a rigorous practice of za-zem (meditation-sitting) and contemplation of one or another philosophical riddle or koan (e.g “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”). They may also use secular arts such as archery or the tea ceremony for spiritual training.2 The goal is illumination and liberated contentment based on a deep understanding of reality. From there it gets quite complicated, but is worth the effort to untangle.

Zen, it turns out, is not a philosophy or a religion, but a way of life, with two key components. First one must learn to live in the present moment rather than focus on future plans, expectations, or worries. One important element for this is work, especially some form of manual labor which forces one into the present moment. Zen so it seems is less about intellectual speculation and more about doing. However physical work must be paired with “training in the experience of seeing directly into the complete self in the fullness of the experienced moment without the mediation of intellect”3 including complete control and regulation of the body and breathing to bring thought, emotions and volition under control. The successful practitioner becomes focused on making “the most of the present moment finding therein the wholeness of self and completeness of life.”4

(continued next post)

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1 Quoted by Beck, L. Adams, The Story of Oriental Philosophy. The New Home Library, New York, 1928. Page 418.

2Edwards, Paul (editor), The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc. & The Free Press, 1972.   Volume 8, pag3 367.

3Koller, John M., Oriental Philosophies, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1970. ISBN 684-13668-6, page 181.

4Ibid. page 183.

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CONTENTMENT AND THE MEANINGFUL LIFE – WISDOM OF THE EAST – PART III (continued)

Zhaungzi also teaches us that contentment and tranquility are the platform for wu-wei.  “Discard the stimuli of purpose. Free the mind from disturbances. Get rid of entanglements to virtue. Pierce the obstructions to Tao. Honors, wealth, distinction, power, fame, gain – these six stimulate purpose. Mien, carriage, beauty, arguments, influence, opinions – these six disturb the mind. Hate, ambition, joy, anger, sorrow, pleasure – these are the entanglements to virtue. Rejecting, adopting, receiving, giving, knowledge, ability – these six are obstructions to Tao. If these twenty-four are not allowed to run riot, then the mind will be duly ordered. And being duly ordered, it will be in repose. And being in repose, it will be clear of perception. And being clear of perception, it will be unconditioned. And being unconditioned, it will be in that state of inaction by which there is nothing which cannot be accomplished.”5 In brief, by elimination of distractions and calculated action, calmness of mind appears and becomes the source of effective inaction.

The last Daoist text I wish to introduce is Liezi (formerly spelt Lieh Tzu) attributed to a likely fictional sage, but considered “the third major classic of philosophical Daoism.”6  Like, but also distinct from the other Daoists, his fundamental philosophy asserts (1) that life and death are a natural cycle, and thus it is unwise to cling to life, (2) opposites are interconnected and complementary, (3) the Dao requires an attitude of selflessness and purposelessness, (4) life is an illusion, (5) knowledge is of limited use as it distorts one’s natural spontaneity, and (6) one’s destiny is ensconced in following the path of spontaneity (like a swimmer riding a current).7

Liezi offers a slightly different take on contentment from Laozi and Zhaungzi. His is more hedonistic, permitting pleasure in fine clothing, food, music, and sex, but also in helping others find pleasure as well. However he warns that overindulgence causes discomfort and is thus to be avoided. He appears to sanction pleasure and enjoyment which arise from natural spontaneity. Nonetheless contentment comes from rejecting conventional standards such as fame, power, or wealth, and by creating an individual natural path for oneself.

In conclusion, Daoism’s three great thinkers offer a panoply of advice on contentment, which I suspect can be tailored to some extent to one’s own sense of harmony with nature and curtailed intervention in the world. To be sure Laozi emphasizes humility,, the rejection of ambition, and the adoption of material simplicity, while Zhaungzi stresses disentanglement from passion and worldly concerns. But Liezi opens a door to  an epicurean style of life as long as it conforms to natural spontaneity. It turns out that each of us must find our own path when we follow the guidance of the Daoists.

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5Ballou, Robert O. (editor), The Portable World Bible. The Viking Press, New York, NY, 1966. Page 574.

6Sellman, James D. Liezi, in McGreal, Ian P. (editor), Great Thinkers of the Eastern World, HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., New York, NY, 1995. ISBN 0-06-270085-5, page 76.

7Ibid, page 77-78.

8Ibid, page 78-79.

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CONTENTMENT AND THE MEANINGFUL LIFE – WISDOM OF THE EAST – PART III

“There is no greater curse than the lack of contentment. No greater sin than the desire for possession. Therefore he who is contented with contentment shall always be content.” – Laozi

 

So far we have looked at two Indian traditions for counsel on achieving contentment in life – the Hindu and the Buddhist. Those philosophies intertwine contentment with the achievement of enlightenment and release from the cycle of reincarnation. We move now to China and Daoist philosophy which is more naturalistic and earthbound especially in its acceptance of human mortality.

The first and greatest Daoist of whom we have knowledge is Laozi (formerly spelt Lao Tzu or Laotse), reputed author of the Daodejing, whom I discussed in some detail in an earlier section.1  A painfully abbreviated description of his teachings follows, but the reader will find far greater consolation in reading this surprisingly short work than I can offer in summarizing it. According to Laozi, the ultimate force in the cosmos is Dao, an undefinable universal order of reality manifested in a binary realm of opposites (yin and yang). Dao, he suggests, is the source of human freedom, serenity, and longevity. These are realized through inaction and non-intervention which define ideal conduct in the world. Power is found in wu-wei, meaning effortless action and virtuosity, which is brought about by paring oneself down to the level of nature rather than by the acquisition of wealth or skills. One who lives in unity with nature, maintaining humility, shunning ambition, and embracing material simplicity may achieve the tranquility of the sage. A contented life then is simple and unregulated allowing things to perfect themselves naturally.

The second great Daoist is Zhuangzi (formerly spelt Chuangtse or Chuang Tzu) who is a more prolific writer, and seemingly less mystic and more intellectual than Laozi. Both speak of “the virtue of quiescence, of keeping and preserving one’s spiritual power through tranquility and rest.”2 and both use water as the symbol of tranquility of the mind and spiritual calm. Zhuangzi tells us “When the body is kept hustling about without stop, it becomes fatigued. When the mind is overworked without stop, it becomes worried, and worry causes exhaustion. The nature of water is that it becomes clear when left alone, and becomes still when left undisturbed…it is the symbol of heavenly virtue.”3

How does Zhuangzi recommend we free ourselves of hustle, worry, and fatigue?  In one word – disentanglement:  “To attend to things which are not worth attending to is no escape. Those who wish to escape living for their bodies should not attend to business affairs. Those who do not attend to business affairs have no entanglements. Disentanglement means calm and repose; calm and repose mean the beginning of the new life, and when one begins a new life he comes near to Tao…By forsaking business affairs, one’s body is relieved from worry, and by abandoning life, one’s spirit is preserved whole. When a man’s body is at ease, and his spirit is recovered, he becomes One with heaven.”4

(continued next post)

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1See posts titled EXTRAORDINARY COSMIC VIRTUE – THE COSMIC SAGE dated 5/12/2021 and 5/14/2021.

2Yutang, Lin, The Wisdom of Laotse. The Modern Library, New York, 1976. Page 10.

3Ibid., page 108.

4Ibid., page 221.

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CONTENTMENT AND THE MEANINGFUL LIFE – WISDOM OF THE EAST – PART II (continued)

However Buddhism also emphasizes meditation. Regarding this ‘immeasurable contemplation,’ I quote from the Nikayas: “This contemplation is ease for the present as well as resulting in ease in the future…this contemplation is noble, disinterested…this contemplation is peaceful, excellent, it is for gaining tranquility, for reaching one-pointed concentration, it is not of the habit of painful self-denial…this contemplation is one which I, mindful, enter upon; mindful, emerge from…” 9

In general much of Buddha’s teaching is aimed at monks as individuals who have left the world, but he also preached to lay persons. For them Nirvana was untenable, but happiness on a community scale rested on another precept – that one should “consider all beings as like oneself.”10 Contentment comes from “four social emotions: friendliness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and impartiality.”11 Again we see that harmony in relationship to others and the universe is conducive to peace of mind.

Buddhism as other philosophies offers us a particular means to contentment. Lucien Stryk sums it up in his introduction to The World of the Buddha; “To many, modern life is simply unbearable, and there are things happening or threatening to, which make of our time a perilous absurdity. Man’s choices have been so severely curtailed, his involvement in decisions of life-or-death magnitude so limited, that he often find himself lacking totally in purpose. Paradoxically, Western man’s strong response to Buddhism may very well be the result of his being forced by circumstances to accept one of its major premises, that humans experience is not individualistic. Those things which have made of life, for some, a veritable hell, have at the same time thrown its richest possibilities into relief, the chief being the sense of man’s oneness with others.”12

So again we can take away some pearls of advice in achieving contentment in the contemporary world. These come down to five main principles: (1) Renunciation at least of the superficial offerings of material society is essential, (2) Understand that discontent (and suffering) come from craving and desire, (3) The illusion of self undermines our tranquility by leading to fears of annihilation, (4)  Regular contemplation of essential truths is the means to peace, and (5) Conduct in harmony with a community and consideration of all as like oneself leads to group happiness .

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9Beck, L. Adams, The Story of Oriental Philosophy. The New Home Library, New York, 1928. Pages 175-176.

10Champawat, Narayan, Buddha, in  McGreal, Ian P. (editor), Great Thinkers of the Eastern World, HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., New York, NY, 1995. ISBN 0-06-270085-5, page 165.

11Ibid.

12Stryk, Lucien (editor), World of the Buddha. Grove Press, New York, 1968. ISBN 0-8021-3095X, page xlv.

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CONTENTMENT AND THE MEANINGFUL LIFE – WISDOM OF THE EAST – PART II

“Total abstinence is easier than perfect moderation.” – St. Augustine.

Last time we examined contentment as conceived in the Hindu tradition. Today we look at the legacy of the Buddha who followed, but eventually rejected Hinduism’s extreme asceticism in favor of a middle way. His lesson is that renunciation is indeed essential, but mortification is counterproductive. The body must be cared for as it is an important factor in spiritual development.1 In an earlier section we discussed in detail Buddha’s four Noble truths: (1) Life is suffering, (2) Suffering is due to desire, (3) To eliminate suffering, eliminate desire, and (4) To achieve Nirvana, follow the eightfold path.2 We will not in this section repeat a detailed analysis of this last point, rather I hope to extract facets integral to contentment and defer on enlightenment to the next section.

Contentment for Buddha comes from recognition that reality is in constant flux and there is no individual self or soul. The corollary of this latter observation is profound; there is also no annihilation. “Nirvana is not extinction, but timeless and unconditioned existence.”3 One is freed once one realizes one’s own infinite, not as immortality. “Being freed, he knows he is freed.”4 Karma exists only in the world of Appearances and has no effect on the Absolute and the Universal.5  Peace comes from the attainment of timeless emptiness.

There is more. Buddha tells us we are fettered to Mara or the physical world and our continued attachment to passions and yearnings for pleasure and the material only strengthens those fetters.6 By quieting doubts and constant reflection, rather than dwelling on pleasures and the physical, we can cut those fetters and become free. Contentment comes from the avoidance of riches, passion, hatred, vanity and lust.7 Then he comes upon the perhaps the greatest hope for freedom “Give up what is before, give up what is behind, give up what is between, when thou goest to the other shore of existence; if they mind is all together free thou wilt not again enter into birth and decay.”8

(continued next post)

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1Beck, L. Adams, The Story of Oriental Philosophy. The New Home Library, New York, 1928. Page 177.

2See post titled SUFFERING –  THE FIRST NOBLE TRUTH – PART I dated 2/24/2020 on this site.

3Beck, L. Adams, The Story of Oriental Philosophy. The New Home Library, New York, 1928. Page 175.

4Ibid. page 176.

5Ibid. page 182.

6Stryk, Lucien (editor), World of the Buddha. Grove Press, New York, 1968. ISBN 0-8021-3095X, page 61.

7Ibid, page 62.

8Ibid, page 61(from the Dhammapada).

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CONTENTMENT AND THE MEANINGFUL LIFE – WISDOM OF THE EAST – PART I (continued)

Having introduced Hindu thought as one avenue to contentment, we are ready to analyze its approach in more detail. The most famous account in the Hindu corpus appears in the Yoga Sutra attributed to Patanjali (c 150 B.C.E.). Since I already discussed this text under the subject of Asceticism in the section on Suffereing,2  I will offer only a short summary. Yoga refers to a system of self-discipline loosely meaning the ‘yoking’ of one’s consciousness to spiritual liberation. This text of 195 aphorisms can be read in an afternoon and offers a lucid path to tranquility. Patanjali tells us human suffering and anguish are overcome by ascetic self-denial leading to freedom not through mystical experience but through a stepwise series of meditative practices. Dispassion is brought about recognizing the dual nature of reality, and fulfilled by a total absence of craving for anything material (prakrti) and by honing of spirit (purusha). One comes to see that the mind and intellect are fettered to the material world and that only by retraining of the ‘mind stuff’ – which is analogous to a lake with ripples – can calm be achieved revealing the Absolute within. The soul is liberated through a constant practice of disinterest, non-attachment, and renunciation, and through the control of breathing.

Shankara, the eighth century Hindu thinker, offers a slightly different conception. His is non-dual with only Reality or Brahman as true and the world as false. Moksha comes from recognizing  that one’s true nature is not different from Brahman. This is achieved by following Jnana Yoga, the Path of Knowledge, in three steps: (1) learning from a teacher or guru, (2) understanding those teachings, and (3) practicing meditation especially on the great saying of the Upanishads, “thou art Brahman.” The result is a liberated person able to help others towards the same state of peace.

One other key thinker appears much later, K.C. Bhattacharya (1875-1949) who suggests we need not look to scriptures or theology – “Rather, metaphysics should start with a phenomenological critique of ordinary experience” that brings “about a realization of the self as pure freedom.”3 Whichever course one follows, the contemplative techniques in Yoga “induce a stilling and purification of the mind in which the essential nature of the soul is reflected clearly. Thereby the soul becomes forever detached from any psychophysical organism.”4 Obviously the Hindu faithful impose a soteriologic meaning to moksha, but at the level of us as living beings, it also describes contentment in the here and now.

So what can we extract from this tradition in our search for contentment? Contentment may be found in withdrawal, renunciation, and recognition of the spiritual as true reality. Undisciplined thought is the disturber of peace and calming the mind comes from the practice of meditation and the control of breathing. Contentment then is pure freedom envisioned as one’s absolute self being revealed beneath a perfectly smooth lake of clear water.

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2See post titled  SUFFERING – ASCETICISM – PART III – PATANJALI dated 4/6/2020. Most Westerners think of the practice of postures, hatha-yoga, as “yoga” but historically that form has been given less weight, while the ascetic component has been emphasized.

3Edwards, Paul (editor), The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc. & The Free Press, 1972.   Volume 4, pages 168

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CONTENTMENT AND THE MEANINGFUL LIFE – WISDOM OF THE EAST – PART I

“Rejoicing in the things of the spirit, calm, caring for nothing, abstaining from sensual pleasure, himself his only helper, he lives on in the world in hope of eternal bliss.” – Laws of Manu.

 

 

 

 

Last time we examined the three main paradigms of contentment  reflecting different levels of engagement with the world: (1) complete withdrawal, (2) limited involvement, or (3) full engagement. Our next task is to examine the approaches of various traditions as we formulate guidance on finding lasting contentment within these models. Today we begin with ancient Asian teachings, first off with the earliest from the Indian subcontinent espoused by the great thinkers of Hinduism and founded on the Vedas, the Upanishads, and the Mahabharata.

It is worth noting Hindu literature has both religious and nonreligious facets, and I hope to steer clear of the former to the extent possible until the next section on Ultimate Reality, though of course I may cross over in this section. We start  with consideration of the most salient feature of Hinduism,  belief in transmigration of the soul or reincarnation. This doctrine over time inexorably leads Hindu thinkers to the conclusion that life, death, and rebirth is monotonous, even futile. Escape from this tiresome cycle is called moksha and includes spiritual release and perhaps a permanent place in heaven. However the earthly manifestation of moksha consists of enduring virtue, calm, and contentment… and with good luck, ultimately, enlightenment.

In this tradition, contentment and release appear to originate through withdrawal from the world following one of two patterns. First one may choose at an early stage in life, as in the case of Shankara (and Buddha!), to forsake society and become a wandering sannyasin, or holy man, living by begging, and spending one’s waking hours in ascetic contemplation. This is still the life choice of the Hindu monks. However, the more common pattern is to live a typical youth and middle age with family and occupation, and abandon society late in life with the explicit aim to find peace and enlightenment (as a hermit or vanaprastha).1 The actual steps to contentment are similar in both cases; but one’s priorities and timing drive the course one chooses.

(continued next post)

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1Zaehner, R.C., Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions. Barnes &Noble Books, New York, 1997. ISBN0-76070-712-X, page 242.

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CONTENTMENT AND THE MEANINGFUL LIFE – VARIATIONS

“To be content with little is hard, to be content with much, impossible.” Marie Ebner von Eschenbach, The Two Countesses

 

 

In our study of contentment so far we have concluded that it refers to a sustained state of satisfaction and peace of mind, facilitated by a good life including virtuous and purposeful activity, and by freedom from conventional psychological and mental barriers to tranquility. Today we examine the various structures of contentment proposed by great thinkers of the past. In general these revolve around which of three approaches to living in the world is favored: (1) withdrawal, (2) constraint, and (3) engagement. Philosophers, it seems, agree on the value of contentment, but their diverging worldviews lead to different strategies in its realization. As in other areas of philosophy there is significant overlap however.

Withdrawal appears to be the most ancient of the preferred means to tranquility, appearing first in the East with Hindu thinkers, Laozi, and Buddha. When one’s view of the world is an endless and tedious cycling of history or an incessant sequence of individual birth and death, engagement in the world feels counterproductive and an impediment to enlightenment which is the ultimate purpose in these traditions. Withdrawal is thus justified, and when paired with disciplined meditation offers personal peace. Western thinkers including some of the Cynics, Stoics, Neoplatonists, and even some Christian mystics and mendicant monks discover this path later in history.

The second major structure of contentment comes from the ancient Greek philosophers and goes by the name, ataraxia. This model is based on intentional constraint, a partial withdrawal from worldly affairs such as politics combined with a conscious effort to avoid all sources of unease or troubledness. Equilibrium is obtained by a reduction in wants and passions without total withdrawal from community or the practice of meditation. Purpose is found in simple pleasures within a limited community and the contemplation of nature. Epicurus is the most famous teacher of this doctrine, but its origins go back to the Cynics and the concept permeates much of ancient Greek philosophy. Modern proponents also present these ideas as minimalism or simplifying life.

The third model seeks contentment within a context of continued engagement with the world and is of inexact origin, though probably developed by blending features of the first two. Purpose in this paradigm depends on involvement in human affairs, and so peace is found in detaching one’s feelings from the results of one’s actions. This develops through a kind of disinterested or dispassionate attitude to one’s environment and an intense focus on completion of tasks, nowadays called mindfulness. Peace is also found in reducing worry by staying in the moment and by complete acceptance of the course reality takes. Regular meditation directed at controlling one’s thoughts is often encouraged as the means to success. This appears in the Bhagavad Gita, with later Eastern thinkers, the Stoics (particularly the Roman Stoics), and is advocated by many modern thinkers, such as Eckhart Tolle. This latter form is most useful for contemporary individuals who in general will find withdrawal from society impractical or unsatisfactory.

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