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Saturday, June 17, 2006


Loss, loneliness, emptiness, meaninglessness

A friend in Australia sent me a copy of an email conversation he'd been having with a philosopher friend of his. He asked the philosopher about issues that afflict some older men—issues of loss, loneliness, emptiness and meaninglessness.

The philosopher responded by sending a lengthy quote (not included here) from Zen teacher, Bodhidharma. I share below my thoughts on such issues.

One of the problems I see with philosophy is that philosophy relies on language and language is inadequate to give the answers philosophy seeks.

Bodhidarma speaks some sense but much of it is hidden in riddles. You may like riddles, but me, I prefer someone who gives it to me straight. That's why I like the Buddha. He says: 'There is dukkha.' and 'Dukkha is a condition of existence.'

Loss = dukkha. Loneliness = dukkha. Emptiness = dukkha. Meaninglessness = dukkha. Welcome to existence.

The Buddha goes on to say that to eliminate dukkha one must follow the noble eight-fold path. The noble eight-fold path leads, supposedly, to enlightenment. But what is enlightenment?

Buddhadasa says that rather than one big permanent enlightenment there are enlightened times that come and go. I can relate to this. So until the big one actually arrives, I'll be content with the little ones that come and go.

In the meantime, I accept (sometimes with a little impatience) that dukkha is part of my existence.

Footnote: The word 'dukkha' is explained in my previous blog 'Buddhism & marriage'.

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