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    Thread: Is suffering necessary for enlightenment?

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      Is suffering necessary for enlightenment?

      What are your opinions about suffering as a route to enlightenment? What does suffering even mean to you?

      I would prefer a genuine discussion instead of by default evoking spirituality or religious views that exist, try pulling from your own experience.

      Maybe John Milton was onto something when he wrote,

      O Progeny of Heav'n, Empyreal Thrones,
      With reason hath deep silence and demur
      Seiz'd us, though undismay'd: long is the way
      And hard, that out of Hell leads up to Light;
      Our prison strong, this huge convex of Fire,
      Outrageous to devour, immures us round
      Ninefold and gates of burning Adamant
      Barred over us prohibit all egress.
      nina and EnT like this.

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      Not the aesthetic sort. One need not dull themselves to suffering by chasing it. In fact that's an obstacle. But pain deepens the mind, and teaches it. As Nietzsche said "Anyone who has built themselves a Heaven found the power thereto in their own Hell."

      Of course life is naturally full of suffering, it need not be willfully forced. One need only be alive. The moment you desire something and think that desire will make your life better, you have bought a ticket to suffer. Paying attention to pain rather than trying to dismiss it or numb yourself to it is the way through it. Don't stop yourself from desiring things, simply realize that the desire itself is what makes you feel good and the manifestation of that desire will not. When you lose something important, do not stop yourself from grieving for it simply understand that beyond grief and joy there is a space of peace. Eventually, you learn not to identify with your own agony, but to sit with it from the vantage point of that space.
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      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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      Quote Originally Posted by Omnis Dei View Post
      Not the aesthetic sort.
      Do you mean ascetic? I like what you said otherwise.

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      Yes I did. The two words sound exactly the same when Alan Watts says them.

      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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      necessary in that its inevitable
      whyelse can/does mankind seek out enlightenment? its intrinsically part of the recipe
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      When nietzche said that maybe he was trying to say that the image of heaven is going to create the hell.
      It is true that some times pain creates an exit,but that exit comes only by sheer luck and circumstances.
      Otherwise millions of people in diffucult state would have understanding.
      take germany in ww2.It is the suffering of the german people who brought the world in a chaotic state.
      In a society which is not in agony fasism doesen't have such a big space.
      So no suffering is not nessesairy for enlightment.
      In fact is not even part of any enlightment.
      But as you see the world around you moving so blindly maybe we forgot that there is any other way.

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      Samsara is required to realize Nirvana, only because we experience samsara are we able to experience the change that comes when we reach Nirvana.

      And what Nietzsche meant, in my opinion based on everything I've read from him, is that you do need to be with your painful experiences and don't hide from them. Face the painful parts of life because they have the most to teach you.

      Of course that doesn't mean one need suffer more before they can reach enlightenment. It simply means one need be in the state I'm assuming most of us are in right now in order to realize the state without suffering, but we can realize it the moment we let go.
      Last edited by Omnis Dei; 05-31-2012 at 10:45 PM.

      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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      maybe nietzsche was moking the polarity that religion tends to create.
      Don't forget that before humanity discovered heaven there was no fear for any hell.
      And there is no state of suffering.we decided to suffer and in the process we forgot the alternatives.
      Το Θεω δοξα.

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      Are you posing necessary duality?

      "When any situation that is desired by the pleasure principle is prolonged, it only produces a feeling of mild contentment. We are so made that we can derive intense enjoyment only from a contrast and very little from a state of things." - Freud

      I believe wholeheartedly in such duality, but not in an either/or sense that some see it as, but that...say, the meaning of dark and light are mutually-dependent on each other. This is the realisation of non-duality....or at least I think so. And thus, there cannot be suffering without enlightenment, and there cannot be enlightenment without suffering. Though those words could be replaced with words more applicable in a general sense.

      I don't know of anything that is not defined through contrast to another concept or lack thereof. Even the basis of perception is contrast.

      The amusing thing is that we would not call 'this' suffering from the onset....because we'd down contrast 'this' to actual suffering, like we'd then eventually down contrast enlightenment to 'this'/suffering.
      Last edited by Wolfwood; 06-01-2012 at 03:06 AM.

      Who looks outside, dreams;
      who looks inside, awakes.

      - Carl Jung

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      Quote Originally Posted by tsiouz View Post
      maybe nietzsche was moking the polarity that religion tends to create.
      Don't forget that before humanity discovered heaven there was no fear for any hell.
      And there is no state of suffering.we decided to suffer and in the process we forgot the alternatives.
      Το Θεω δοξα.
      I believe he was referring to the growth that occurs through pain. In order to find a state of mind where we are free, we must explore the possibilities fully, many of which are very painful. But of course, beyond the joy and pain, there is peace, and that peace is enlightenment.

      Quote Originally Posted by Wolfwood View Post
      Are you posing necessary duality?

      "When any situation that is desired by the pleasure principle is prolonged, it only produces a feeling of mild contentment. We are so made that we can derive intense enjoyment only from a contrast and very little from a state of things." - Freud

      I believe wholeheartedly in such duality, but not in an either/or sense that some see it as, but that...say, the meaning of dark and light are mutually-dependent on each other. This is the realisation of non-duality....or at least I think so. And thus, there cannot be suffering without enlightenment, and there cannot be enlightenment without suffering. Though those words could be replaced with words more applicable in a general sense.

      I don't know of anything that is not defined through contrast to another concept or lack thereof. Even the basis of perception is contrast.

      The amusing thing is that we would not call 'this' suffering from the onset....because we'd down contrast 'this' to actual suffering, like we'd then eventually down contrast enlightenment to 'this'/suffering.
      Continuing my point above, I believe clinging to joyful experiences guarantees pain in your life, and in fact as Rumi would say, beyond the world of right-doings and wrong-doings there is a field. I will meet you there.

      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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      It seems quite intuitive too. Given that joy cannot exist without pain, and pain without joy... that they come as one, mutually-dependent, then investing attachment to joy implies invested attachment to pain. Because the 'lack of'/loss of joy will bring about pain. It's like a coin with heads and tails... the absence of one implies the presence of the other.
      Last edited by Wolfwood; 06-01-2012 at 03:18 AM.

      Who looks outside, dreams;
      who looks inside, awakes.

      - Carl Jung

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      People definitely think it does. Just look at how victims of rape or other tragedies are treated. "It's terrible what happened to you but know what? You're a stronger, better person now." But does suffering really make people better people? This is a question I've been dealing with for a long time (I think I even made a very similar thread once) and I think the answer is that it depends on the individual experience and how the person chooses to deal with it. Someone might be abused and it might leave her feeling terrified and helpless with self-esteem issues for the rest of her life. Or she could realize that it was never her fault, that the abuser was dealing with his own issues and she'll have gained insight about abusers or humans in general that she wouldn't have otherwise.

      So I don't think suffering necessarily leads to 'enlightenment' (whatever that means, I'll assume it means knowledge about certain truths that are important on a higher level), but is suffering the only way to achieve it? I don't think so, but it can give it massive boosts. People can become more 'enlightened' by thinking alone. Sadly, I don't think many people do much of this. It can be difficult for one's entire belief system to change after coming to a realization that wasn't provoked by anything but thought, but it can happen, for some people at least.

      I think what happens is, when you suffer, or at least experience some intense change in your life, the fact that everything is changing around you makes your mind more suggestive to mental changes that alter your entire outlook. Everything's already changing, so why not your mind? So if you come to some realization about life during that time (which is more likely than usual to happen because of whatever intense thing is going on) you'll be more likely to implement it and actually change your mindset. On the other hand, if you're stuck in your daily routine doing math homework or something, and you consider something that could alter your perspective on life, you might think it's interesting at first but then you'll move onto the next thought.

      A large part of why suffering leads to certain positive mental changes might be because we expect it to. After being held up at gunpoint, for example, a person might think "holy shit I just survived something that not many people can say they've ever had to go through" and he'll believe he's supposed to be a better person now. So he might start thinking about things he might have learned from his experience, to appreciate his life more or something, so that he can tell other people and feel that the experience changed him. Then he'll start thinking about appreciating his life more and due to those thoughts he really will appreciate his life more. Or he might be lying to himself and others and not really have changed at all, but continue to assert that he has.
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      It's not so black and white as being a better person for being held up at gunpoint or a stronger person for being raped. I was speaking more about anxiety and chronic issues such as PTSD or injury. Nietzsche said anyone truly committed to growth should never set foot inside a church nor take a sip of alcohol, and his reasoning was that leaning on a crutch to deal with yourself wastes the opportunity that suffering can provide.

      So for instance someone who is raped may not suddenly be stronger, or whatever you want to say. But they can no longer be who they were before, they're changed. And they're deeper. Someone who is mugged will also be deepened by the experience. That's the best word I can come up with to describe it. Painful experiences in my life didn't make me more powerful, they simply made me wiser in a way I can't even express. It's not a knowledge thing, either, someone who is raped or mugged may make decisions from a more emotional standpoint, and less rationally, for instance they may avoid dark alleys even if they're perfectly safe to a reasonable person.

      But to me when a traumatic experience occurs I can't use it to my advantage. All I can do is surrender to the fact that it happened. And that's it, it just happened. So I can't easily explain how I'm better. It takes years to recover from intense trauma, and you can only take the process one day at time, you can't take notes on how you're improving as a person... you just can't. But you can recognize that you're more 3 dimensional now, and the things that used to matter don't matter so much anymore. You gain a deeper perspective, you don't get so hung up on the small issues.

      For instance we're the only species on the planet that not only suffer when we have nothing, but we also suffer when we have everything because we mistake what makes us happy with material things. However, if you take a spoiled kid from a rich suburban neighborhood who hates their parents because their parents just don't get them, and you stick that kid in an impoverished african village with nothing or send them through a life threatening situation, they won't come back home with the same perspective on life, and the trivial problems will matter less.

      Enlightenment, by the way, is when you realize you're just fine to the very core.
      Last edited by Omnis Dei; 06-01-2012 at 09:21 AM.
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      I see I approached the question from a different perspective: so, what do you mean by 'suffering'?

      To me, I defined suffering in relation to enlightenment as that which is not-enlightenment.

      I believe completely in this feeling/meaning through contrast. If you subject any part of our system to a constant stimulus, we habituate to it....this is true for any of our sensory systems and our brain as a whole. For instance, down-regulation and up-regulation of post-synaptic receptors, and pre-synpatic neurotransmission demonstrates this.

      You can subject any sense to a sustained stimulus and find it gradually reduces its response to it. At this point of reduced response, if you subject the sense to the inverse of that stimulus you'll find an exaggerated response to it. Now apply this to sustained pain and then the sudden presence of its inverse: pleasure.

      An example: if you were to look out the window of a moving train for a sufficient duration, you'd find that when it stops you experience an illusory movement in the opposite direction of travel (a demonstration of habituation through contrast). Now, at this point, if the train began travel in the inverse direction, you'd notice a distortion in your perception of speed; an exaggeration. It'd appear that you were going faster than you'd usually perceive. Another example is colour opponent process theory: stare at a blue square for 30 seconds and you'll notice after looking at a white space that you can perceive an illusory red square, and that red in general appears more intense....You find a similar effect after having your eyes closed, sun bathing, in bright sunlight....the back of your eyelids go red from the intense light....when you open your eyes, the world will appear to have a blue hue to it.

      And worthy of note, suffering experienced by a depressed tramp is no different to the suffering experienced by a depressed millionaire. Whilst we may erroneously assume the tramp requires more compassion than the millionaire, their mental suffering is the same. By that, I mean from their own perspective, their problems could affect their minds identically - your problems are yours, and mine are mine. Again, through contrast, if you were to suddenly put the millionaire in the tramp's position and vice versa - The tramp would feel great and better than the millionaire did; The millionaire would feel worse than the tramp ever did (it causes an exaggeration).

      Meaning through contrast is not derived through conscious thinking, people, e.g., 'Oh, now I will choose to appreciate life more after that badness'; it's a natural neurophysiological response to sustained activity/stimuli.
      Last edited by Wolfwood; 06-01-2012 at 02:42 PM.
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      Who looks outside, dreams;
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      - Carl Jung

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      Quote Originally Posted by Omnis Dei View Post
      So for instance someone who is raped may not suddenly be stronger, or whatever you want to say. But they can no longer be who they were before, they're changed. And they're deeper. Someone who is mugged will also be deepened by the experience. That's the best word I can come up with to describe it. Painful experiences in my life didn't make me more powerful, they simply made me wiser in a way I can't even express. It's not a knowledge thing, either
      If you can't explain it, other than saying what it isn't, then I'm not sure what to make of it. Are you sure it isn't some form of knowledge you're talking about, but you're focusing more on the feeling that it causes in you? Knowledge about things we consider more meaningful will seem 'deeper'.

      Quote Originally Posted by Omnis Dei View Post
      But you can recognize that you're more 3 dimensional now, and the things that used to matter don't matter so much anymore. You gain a deeper perspective, you don't get so hung up on the small issues.
      I don't see how this is different from what I was saying, except that you're using more soulful sounding ambiguous terms like "deeper perspective." The experience caused the person to gain knowledge that small issues don't matter.

      Quote Originally Posted by Omnis Dei View Post
      Enlightenment, by the way, is when you realize you're just fine to the very core.
      Even realization is the gaining of knowledge.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Dianeva View Post
      Just look at how victims of rape or other tragedies are treated...
      The particular type of situations you're describing seem to involve more than just suffering, I think. Rape also includes an element of psychological damage that unless treated could preclude any growth.

      My take on the idea that suffering can lead to enlightenment (at least at this moment) is that suffering tends to shake us up and make us think about core values and what's really important, possibly in ways we never have before. I suspect any experience that has that effect must enlighten to some extent. Think about kids who live a very sheltered life and never face any real danger or hardship, as compared to tough street kids who have to learn early how to scratch out a living in any situation. There's a lot of damage that goes along with it, but the street kids certainly know how to fend for themselves. Not sure if that counts as enlightenment, or if it's completely offset by the psychological damage that often accompanies that kind of life. But then I'm talking about American kids, not people seeking spiritual enlightenment with the help of teachers, which is most likely what the Buddhist teachings were aimed at.

      And in regards to the last quote and response in your above statement, I'd classify the kind of realization Omnis proposes as not 'the aquisition of new knowledge', but more as a shift in attitude, in which a person realizes they don't need more knowledge - that they already have everything they need.

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      I would think a depressed millionaire who switched places with a depressed tramp might become happier, and vice versa, though it depends on the cause of the depression. If the tramp realizes being a millionaire failed to make him any happier than he was on nights when he found a warm place to sleep and a filling meal, this will cause him to enjoy the simplicity he had, free from the fear of not having a place to sleep or food to eat. If the millionaire was forced to face those possibilities, he'd realize how much he took for granted and learn to base his happiness on his experiences rather than his stuff. This is, of course, speculation and wishful thinking. And it doesn't work for everything, a non-rape victim is certainly less likely to be any happier after experiencing rape, and a rape victim cannot change back into being a non-rape victim. That kind of trauma and suffering is a one way street, and it will cause psychological damage to the point where if you're using wolfwood's idea that enlightenment is to live without suffering, then you would assume ignorance is bliss and that sort of suffering does not get you any closer to being enlightened.

      But I look at enlightenment differently. It certainly does mean to be without suffering but we have to realize everyone is approaching their experiences from their own unique perspective. So while from a rape victim's perspective, a non-rape victim is suffering a lot less than they are, the traumatic experience does change their perspective. But it's not so much involved with the law of depreciating returns like Wolfwood was talking about. It's not like they built up a tolerance to suffering so the little things can't cause suffering any more. It's more like they shift their priorities. Their attitude changes regarding what is important. And that goes back to the millionaire and the tramp scenario. The reason human beings suffer even when they have everything is because they expect their stuff to make them happy and place importance on their stuff, so it ends up weighing them down like an addiction. And like any addict, they lose their sense of gratitude. Gratitude is a vehicle toward enlightenment, for through gratitude we remember that we are absolutely fine. But sometimes extreme suffering helps us realize this to a deeper level. Sometimes it takes an experience like nearly dying to realize just how fine you're doing, and how special your breath is.
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      First things first

      define 'enlightenment'
      define 'suffering'
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      Quote Originally Posted by TimB View Post
      First things first

      define 'enlightenment'
      define 'suffering'
      You may employ any definition of those words that makes the most sense to you.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Phion View Post
      What are your opinions about suffering as a route to enlightenment? What does suffering even mean to you?

      I would prefer a genuine discussion instead of by default evoking spirituality or religious views that exist, try pulling from your own experience.

      Maybe John Milton was onto something when he wrote,
      It is difficult to not evoke spirituality when addressing a concept that is spiritual in of itself.

      If I were asked to do this in a secular fashion (which I assume you are asking us to do), I would have to change your question to: "suffering as a necessary route to knowledge of truth, satisfaction with self".

      I will confide that when we do suffer, or experience anguish, or fail to achieve a goal, that for me has been the only time I turn inward and attempt to correct whatever I was doing and redefine/affirm my actions to avoid suffering.

      I'm going to be a little presumptuous here though. I am going to suggest that you were thinking about the idea that if God exists, why should suffering, for our anthropomorphic vision of God suggests that he is all powerful. Through that definition, suffering or pain can be avoided.. For after all, anything would be possible if we had an all powerful arbiter watching over us.

      Which is one of the easiest counter examples to an all powerful God. Let alone that fact that this mysterious entity (attempting to be more general here) permits pain if he truly "loved us" and could stop it. Very much a logical conundrum, or quite simply, discontinuity in logical justification.

      So.. stepping away from that tangent (though I find it somewhat relative to the topic)

      I don't really consider suffering a "bad" thing IF it is necessary. If suffering is necessary for growth, then for all intents and purposes its a good thing, because without it, we would be lacking a significant element of our design as human beings that has allowed us to be where we are today. Suffering allows us (or for me at least, as I said earlier) change patterns in behavior that would otherwise lead to be more destructive.

      I guess another example could be suffering anguish over the loss of a loved one. The act of suffering in this case would allow one to perhaps reflect on how their life will modulate based on this change, and with it what they should do differently (if anything) to continue to thrive and grow.

      I like the John Milton quote. The man really was quite a genius. Just a side note.

      Anyway, I'm not sure how successful this post was as fuel for the fire, so to speak, but I answered it as directly as I could.

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      Id say more of the lack of suffering. To where you suffer so much and remove all bodily needs from yourself to a point where you realize that your not suffering then you can start thinking profoundly and peacefully.

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      This, I like

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      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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      Suffering...

      Even and including its opposite..

      Are grinding wheels, grinding away..

      Working to remove the unecesary material surrounding you..

      Deluding you...

      Confuising you..

      Until all that remains is the essential I

      Uncovered from the blanket of body, person, persona

      Signature work courtesy of Cloud

    24. #24
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      "Even and including" doesn't mean anything in the English language.

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      Combating poetry with truism, which is essentially poetry in and of and even within itself.

      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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