The Four Noble Truths
Life is suffering. That’s the realization that drove Siddhartha on his quest, and it’s the stick that’s pushed all Buddhists forward since then.
Why do we suffer? Is there a way to live without suffering? These are the questions that pave the Path. We’re told that there’s suffering attached to sickness, old age, death, losing what we enjoy, and experiencing what we don’t enjoy because we’re attached dreams of a world that doesn’t exist.
Our desires conflict with reality. We suffer because we’re searching for things that this world simply can’t provide. We don’t want to get sick; we don’t want to get old, die, lose the people and things we love. We don’t want to experience unpleasantness. We don’t want our loved ones to go through those things either.
We want to be eternally young, healthy, and have every moment be permeated by various exquisite blisses. But… tough titties; that’s not the world we live in. Everything’s impermanent and supported by other things. Each moment of our lives hints at that, whispers it to us. But it’s easy to ignore that little call to grow up when there are so many distractions that allow us to stunt our development.
When events shove the facts of life down our throats, well, we don’t usually take too kindly to the news. We respond with anger, sadness, longing, and hatred; we rush off every which way reaching for this and that bauble in hopes that they’ll help us forget the way things are. Our woes and anxieties make us feel isolated, so we start to harm others. In short, we’re undignified and immature.
But it doesn’t have to be like that. Each person has the ability to wake up; to let the facts of life sink down into all of our hiding places. Then, we see that impermanence isn’t a bad thing. Sickness, old age, death—none of these eventualities are inherently bad. They’re just as-is.
And things aren’t just impermanent, they’re interdependent. This cascade of support, when observed, provides immense relief because it de-mystifies the self and, ultimately, all of our suffering comes from the fact that we’re wrong about who we are. If we really, truly knew ourselves, then we’d be free of suffering in an instant <snaps fingers> because we abide by the same laws that everything else does. So, if we understand ourselves, we understand the facts of life.
By following the Eightfold Path, we’re putting our feet down and saying, “Enough!” to ourselves, to our habituated misery. We’re turning around and going against the stream of our own habitual thoughts and habits. We’re going against society itself by behaving skillfully in a world that seems to eagerly reward folly. We’re calming our minds and letting joy, bliss, and equanimity naturally rise up. From there, we’re investigating ourselves so that we can face the facts firsthand.
Because Buddhism isn’t a dogma, or at least it wasn’t meant to be. It’s a, “Try it and see,” Path that promises freedom from suffering without defaulting to some kind of higher power. Instead of a higher power, the whole thing relies on you. It’s your suffering, so it’s your Path, and your relief.
This Blog & Buddhism
There are hundreds of different Buddhist schools out there. I don’t practice in any particular one, but I lean Theravada these days—the oldest extant Buddhist school. I’ve been practicing for four years (A meager amount of time), and I started off with Zen. From there, I devoured as much information on the other schools as I could, practicing their practices along the way.
Then, I grew disenchanted with Buddhism until life slapped me in the face. All of a sudden: “Oh yeah, all things are impermanent and clinging causes suffering. Duh.” And here we are.
This blog is called Salty Dharma because 1) it’s a fun title, and 2) my goal is to just be straightforward with you; to speak plainly. I can be a little rough at times, but that’s because life can be rough at times, and the Path can be rough.
So, it pays to toughen up a bit. If you want to benefit from Buddhism, you’ll have to develop endurance and temperance, the same way you would if you were body-building, or learning a sport or martial art. Buddhism is mind training, and training is never easy. But, in some strange way, it’s a whole lot of fun. It’s fun to experience these things and to watch your mind develop. It’s fun looking at things you see everyday in a whole new way.
Anyway, I’ll never be brash just for the giggles and shits, and if I get a laugh out of you here and there, that wasn’t my intention. I’m not in this for the shocks or LOLs. I just love writing, and I love the Dharma, so I let the words flow.
The Lone Buddhist Path
Even though I’m not firmly fixed in any particular school, I’m kinda sorta in a specific Vehicle: The Lone Buddha Vehicle. I’m an introvert, and one intention behind this blog is to connect with and motivate other introverted Buddhists.
The Paccekabuddha Vehicle is all about self-reliance and attaining nibbana without a teacher. But it’s a challenging Path—teachers exist for a reason. If you’re practicing alone, like I am, you’ll figure out what those reasons are soon enough if you haven’t already.
Without a teacher, I rely on my love of the Dharma—and my memories of what it was like to live without it—to keep me moving forward. I rely on the old books, and I’m always critical of commentators and weary of gurus. The Paccekabuddha Path reminds me of the desert: it’s beautiful, mysterious, but also wrought with danger. If you get lost out here, you get really fuckin’ lost.
That’s why I make sure to root myself in the foundations, and always have a copy of the Dhammapada handy. Anyway, that’s enough of me blabbering for now, you get the gist of this place.