Do you know what is better than charity and fasting and prayer?

It is keeping peace and good relations between people,

as quarrels and bad feelings destroy mankind.

- Prophet Mohammed


Day 11

As promised, I wanted to discuss some of what the Buddha has said and the Dharma has taught me. I’ll try steering clear of excessive canonical referencing, though. After all, I’m not lecturing about Buddhism, just relaying how my secular world mixes with the spiritual. Today, I want to quickly talk about rules, suffering and causes.

It’s become quite clear to me that Buddhism does not have rules. There is no divine punishment for bad behavior like many people are used to when dealing with deities. And after thinking about it, why should we fear them? Don't we want to spend eterntity with them? It sounds a little Stockholm Syndrome-like to me. There are, however, very clear guidelines on how to avoid punishing yourself. Acting ethically is really pushed. That being said, there is no clear way of acting ethically. Advice is given, sure, but to truly act ethically, you must be able to control your mind and –very simply put—use common sense.

Everything we do in life has a cause and a condition. If I lie, that lie will affect someone else and alter their condition. If I cheat, my dishonesty will perhaps hinder someone else’s honest effort and, therefore, alter their condition. At its core, humans act of out ignorance and that ignorance leads to impure thought and behavior which, in turn, causes suffering. Buddha exists to steer people from suffering.

Hard work; materialism; relationships, money; jobs; homes; cars; food; vices; games and every other aspect of life cause suffering of some sort.

If you have 50 loves, you have 50 woes.
He uses love because love is something all people desire in life. However, it’s not love that we want. Love in indefinable and often causes just as much pain as joy. Rather, humans need affection. Affection for each other. Affection for animals. Affection for life. True and honest affection does not lead to suffering.

He’s not saying “don’t love”. He’s saying that there is a way that you can avoid the woes of love. If you don’t wish to follow his advice, that’s fine, but be prepared to accept the suffering you are putting on yourself.

As I mentioned, there are no rules in Buddhism, just advice. Maybe I like to smoke from time to time. Buddha wouldn’t say that’s against the rules. He’d say, “Okay, smoke, but be prepared to accept the condition you’re creating for yourself.” –meaning that I could get sick or even cancer from smoking. Is that pleasure from a cigarette worth the suffering you’re sure to face because the desire you had was too strong for your mind to control?

The rituals I go through every day as a Buddhist are not punishment or even rules. They’re behavioral suggestions that are meant to reduce my desires and therefore, my suffering. It's a gift.

“There is no secret teaching, no hidden message; everything has been taught openly and clearly.”
In my life, I have caused many people to deal with conditions which led to their suffering. We all have and that’s something we all try to avoid, but what about the conditions that lead to suffering within our own life?

This month I’ve given up drinking. I’ve never had a problem with drinking, but right there is the actual problem. I’ve personally never had a problem with my drinking. My drinking has caused a lot of suffering in others lives which, of course, has an effect on my life. When I drink too much, my wife has to deal with me. That causes her stress which increases her suffering. Why would I want my wife to suffer? She’s my wife! She should not be forced to suffer because I gave into my worldly desires and drank too much.

Another thing that comes to mind is politics. I really dislike American conservatism. In fact, I hate it. I believe that it represents all that is wrong with America and why America is sure to fall behind in the world. Yet, telling them I hate them is wrong. In fact, hating them is wrong because it creates suffering for me. My suffering creates suffering for my wife and her suffering causes suffering for other people as well.

You see how fast my hatred affected people across the world? One person’s distrust of an American ideology spread to another corner of the world and created suffering for people totally unrelated to the original cause.

This is what the Buddha has warned us about. The question is: Can I live by it?


  1. I am learning something from this. I am also quite pleased to hear some of your own confessions. We all could do some of this. But Tiger is a Buddhist..look at all the suffering he caused. As with all religions and all best intentions, we fall short. Maybe not as short as he did but short nonetheless. Good for you, George.

  2. please hold the potty talk on twitter....seriously, George, spare us. :)

  3. From ignorance and greed there springs impure desires for things that are, in fact, unobtainable, but for which men restlessly and blindly search.

    Tiger wanted too much and he has changed the conditions of a lot of people. Nothing is life is constant. Everything is impermanent.

  4. Also, can I mention some of your choices that have caused your Mom a lot of suffering? You know them, I think. ;)

  5. I like the message of Buddhism, the impulse to help us "rise above" our human frailties and emotions. What I wonder, though, is what that neutrality/passivity might turn us into. I was thinking about what you said about the right wing in US politics. I don't really see why disliking or loathing what they stand for causes suffering for you and your family. I think they cause suffering for others, the poor and the the weak. That is reason enough to oppose them.