‘The central theme of existentialism: to live is to suffer, to survive is to find meaning in the suffering…. Each must find out for himself [sic], and must accept the responsibilities that his answer prescribes.’–Introduction by Gordon W. Allport, Man’s Search For Meaning, 11.
buddhism’s four noble truths are:
- suffering is common to all
- we are the cause of our suffering
- stop doing what causes suffering
- there is a path to end suffering
the path is known as the noble eightfold path. ‘The Buddha chose the symbol of the wheel with its eight spokes to represent the Noble Eightfold Path. The Buddha’s teaching goes round and round like a great wheel that never stops, leading to the central point of the wheel, the only point which is fixed, Nirvana. The eight spokes on the wheel represent the eight parts of the Noble Eightfold Path’:
- Right View
- Right Thought
- Right Speech
- Right Conduct
- Right Livelihood
- Right Effort
- Right Mindfulness
- Right Concentration
what is not presented is the idea that perhaps some of us are predisposed to suffering (such as allport or frankl) while others (such as the buddha) can kick the habit. maybe the buddha and allport are talking about different things. maybe the buddha would suffer but he meditates it away. i imagine that it’s hard to meditate when you’re being tortured. what do you do then? frankl seems pretty optimistic. (seems? he explicitly says he is.) that must go a long way to alleviate suffering. but is such optimism an innate character trait, or can it be taught?
frankl says we should ‘think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life–daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and right conduct.’ here he seems to say it’s not so much what we think and say that’s important (the second and third spokes of the wheel that symbolizes the noble eightfold path) as it is what we do that’s important (the fourth and fifth spokes). but in getting to right action, doesn’t it help to have right thinking? or can you stop suffering by doing things without thinking about things? hhmmm….