Stresses and Difficulties - Has Buddhism the answer?
by J. P. Pathirana
Does modern psychology offer a solution to the stresses and difficulties of life? Does the sub conscious of the psychologist, explain the past history of man? What is the sub-conscious and has it as much power over our actions as the psychologists claim.
These are questions that occur to every thinking man and woman struggling through the spate of words written and uttered on this subject. Never was mind so discussed and analysed as today and its manifestations brought into everyday using. We have mind-culture applied to business, to prosperity and to social relations. Even our religious emotions are discussed and dissected and traced back to some primeval need or God as witness by Carl Jung, where he states in the ‘psychology of the unconscious’ — religion is the sublimination of the incestuous libido’.
There is no doubt that psychologists have gained information about mind-process and that will be of benefit to mankind, but on the other hand, they seem to flounder beyond their depth, when they try to understand man’s higher nature and to attribute certain manifestations of this nature to the lower phases of life which do not properly so belong.
We have to turn to Eastern philosophy for an explanation of man’s complicated structure, for it seems to be only in that direction that light is to be found. The study of the mind has been pursued for many centuries in the East and self mastery has been held out in religion and philosophy as the ideal; and as the only path to knowledge and a fuller life.
In the East, the spiritual desire and nature of man has never been denied. The great religions of the East have advocated the necessity of moral development and of keeping the physical nature in subjection, and for that reason, their study of the mind has not been marred by the unpleasantness and animalism that characterise certain schools of psychology. It is in the entanglement of the lower-mind with the emotions, which in the East calls (Kamma-manas) that the western psychologist mostly concerns himself and hence his conclusions. The East has always recognised man as a threefold-being: spirit, mind and body, and this again being separated by some schools into a seven-fold division. The East has emphasised the spiritual as well as the physical evolution of man, and formulated a code of ethics, stern and inescapable for the aspirant to the spiritual life. Not for him the lax morality of the irreligious, ‘out for a good time’ regardless of the future: not for him the digging up of the unsavoury past thoughts, trying to disguise bad odours with fancy names. Modern psychologists give great importance to the subconscious mind. It is a favourite peg on which to hang the manifestations of the mind which are imperfectly understood. Mental life is described as an iceberg, the greater part of which is hidden and the hidden-portion regarded as the sub conscious and the most important.
The sub-conscious mind is like all the involuntary processes of the lower-bodies. We only becomes aware of it when they are not functioning properly. No one is conscious of the working of a healthy-heart, though one depends for his life upon it; but as soon as it commences to work in an abnormal manner, he or she immediately become aware of its existence.
The same applies to the mind. As soon as attention is directed to a process that should not have conscious attention, trouble arises. It is wiser to take care of the waking consciousness and the sub conscious will take care of itself.
It is the reaction of the individual to the incidence of daily life that are important, and when the attitude towards life is wholesome and sound, the stirrings of the sub-conscious are scarcely heard. The great trouble with humanity is its absorption in the lower-self and its manifestations and this is where Buddhism shows us the better way. Even our limited experience proves to us that no permanent happiness is to be found in earthly pleasures for everything of the earth is impermanent. Buddhism with its ethical code, its noble Eightfold Path, gives us an ideal of conduct which is unsurpassed by any religion man has known.
The world needs the Ethics of Buddhism as a sick man needs a physician. In its teaching of the Law of Cause and Effect, in its stress upon the unity of all life and the relative unimportance of the personal-self; it emancipates the ego from the enthralment of the lower nature and its striving for self.
It shows us the perfected-man in the form of the Buddha and holds out to all human beings the glory of achievement. It teaches that self-mastery is absolutely necessary and essential to a fuller life.
The glorification of the lower ego and the pursuit of the physical pleasures lead only to suffering, because the very nature of the physical world is transitory. Everything that has a beginning has an end, and sorrow, disillusionment and pain are concomitants of physical existence.
For this reason, Buddha taught men to subdue their lower-desires and to strive for spiritual-wisdom. Only spiritual knowledge can release man from the endless round of birth and death. Buddha taught that man is a divine being, and that his essential nature is for the spirit and that he must claim his rightful heritage. Only in this recognition that man can loosen the clinging fetters of physical existence. It is the path of indulgence, of self-pity, of unhealthy absorption in self, which supplies the psychologist with his clientele and fills his waiting-room with victims of their own ignorance. The Ethics and Philosophy of Buddhism constitute a more bracing-tonic that any psychologist can offer. The cure for all our ills, as the cause of them, lies in ourselves. In ourselves too, lies the freedom.
The need of man for spiritual food is greater than his need for physical food and it is to supply this need that spiritual leaders having trodden the Path of Return themselves are eminently fitted to become "Wayshowers" and to following their footsteps, is to become as emancipated as they. Life for many people is empty and unsatisfying. Men realise that they are caught in a machine of their own making. They wish to free themselves, but do not know how. The cry goes on continuously: What is his life for.? The scientists and psychologists have widened our horizons, but they have not given us a purpose. Only religion can do that, and it needs to be a religion that is at once logically sound and inspiring in its motif.
Buddhism fulfils these conditions and has an answer, as it satisfies man’s most profound and lofty aspirations, and yet bears the strain of everyday life and helps him in his contact with his fellowmen. Few religions can bear such a strain.
The great test
The great test of a man’s religion is how far its philosophy can be applied to man’s human problems. Yet these human problems are cosmic for man himself, a cosmos. The cry of a man’s heart for a purpose is the dim recognition of this fact. When a man feels his divine nature quickening to life in his human everyday self; he no longer cries for a purpose in life; for he realises that he himself that very purpose." Thou art thyself the object of thy search".
He is impelled by a divine-urge to push on to the goal of self-realisation. Restless and dissatisfied souls seeking for light and purpose outside themselves find only ultimate unhappiness, and discontent. Buddhism has been accused of being a religion of pessimism, but to those who understand it’s teachings, the contrary is true. It is the religion of Hope, Enlightenment, of serenity — because it showns man that the Path of Knowledge is open to all and that the fruits of attainment are worth the effort and Buddhism has the answer than any psychologist offer the world.