Religions and philosophies that propose invulnerability—such as Buddhism or Stoicism—as a solution to misfortune should not be taken wholesale, at least not if you want to remain recognizably human, argues Todd May, professor of philosophy at Clemson University.
The world is often a difficult place to live beyond the annoyances we endure each day. And it's normal to seek an end to the pain caused by loss, whether financial security or the presence of a loved one has vanished.
But the notion of ending suffering through extreme spiritual stances—the cessation of desire (Buddhism) or of emotion (Stoicism)—doesn't square well with other values we hold dear, such as caring for one another or seeking to improve our own lives.
"The official doctrines, the ones that offer ultimate peace with oneself, a place of stillness that cannot be shaken, are in most cases a misrepresentation of what people are like or even what they want."
Rather than subscribe wholesale to ascetic spiritual doctrine, however, we may use their principles to guide us. The notion that world is contingent and that fate might have easily led us down a different path is one such principle. It works by creating a distance between ourselves and our fate than may ease the frustration and pain associated with misfortune.
Kadam Morten Clausen, Resident Teacher at the Kadampa Meditation Center in New York City, explains how understanding your vulnerability can lead to more positive emotions like patience and compassion:
Read more at the New York Times
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