With Sensual Pleasures as the Cause…

I find a little time every day to read some of the news and to think about the vastness of suffering that pervades much of the so-called “civilized” world. Occasionally, I have been asked about “Buddhism’s response” to all of the chaos, and I haven’t always known the best way to reply, but in my reading of In the Buddha’s Words, I found this excerpt from the Majjhima Nikaya which seems to address the very issue of man-made chaos.

…with sensual pleasures as the cause … kings quarrel with kings, khattiyas with khattiyas, brahmins with brahmins, householders with householders; mother quarrels with son, son with mother, father with son, son with father; brother quarrels with brother, brother with sister, sister with brother, friend with friend. And here in their quarrels, brawls, and disputes they attack each other with fists, clods, sticks, or knives, whereby they incur death or deadly suffering. Now this too is a danger in the case of sensual pleasures, a mass of suffering visible in this present life, having sensual pleasures as its cause, source, and basis, the cause being simply sensual pleasures.

Again, with sensual pleasures as the cause … men takes swords and shields and buckle on bows and quivers, and they charge into battle massed in double array with arrows and spears flying and swords flashing; and there they are wounded by arrows and spears, and their heads are cut off by swords, whereby they incur death or deadly suffering. Now this too is a danger in the case of sensual pleasures, a mass of suffering visible in this present life, having sensual pleasures as its cause, source, and basis, the cause being simply sensual pleasures.

Again, with sensual pleasures as the cause … men take swords and shields and buckle on bows and quivers, and they charges slippery bastions, with arrows and spears flying and swords flashing; and there they are wounded by arrows and spears and splashed with boiling liquids and crushed under heavy weights, and their heads are cut off by swords, whereby they incur death or deadly suffering. Now this too is a danger in the case of sensual pleasures, a mass of suffering visible in this present life, having sensual pleasures as its cause, source, and basis, the cause being simply sensual pleasures.

Again, with sensual pleasures as the cause … men break into houses, plunder wealth, commit burglary, ambush highways, seduce others’ wives, and when they are caught, kings have many kinds of torture inflicted on them … whereby they incur death or deadly suffering. Now this too is a danger in the case of sensual pleasures, a mass of suffering visible in this present life, having sensual pleasures as its cause, source, and basis, the cause being simply sensual pleasures.

(Excerpt MN 13: Mahadukkhakkhandha Sutta)

These multitude of ways men (and women, lets not be sexist) act in response to the desire to amass and experience pleasure; it is truly amazing to think even for a moment of how the world must have looked to the Buddha — to one endowed with and attained to the pureness of Right-View.

Think about it; wars over resources (such as oil) are waged so that one’s standard of living, or that of that “king’s” people, will increase (or at least not decrease), or conflict over land rights are waged so as to provide more (gold, power, prestige) to a particular nation (or leader), and men, on their own accord, often commit thievery on many levels so that they can have what others enjoy, or perhaps they steal so that they can sell the items and obtain something else (drugs, for instance).

All of these acts are committed on the basis of obtaining more self aggrandizement and gratification.

Think about the reasons you do the various things that you do all day. How many of our acts are completely free of selfish desire? How many of us could never, under any circumstance, be drawn to violence in order to protect our pleasures? I must admit, I find thought of this rather discontenting, but perhaps that is precisely how it should be.

Think well and be mindful. May you be at peace, friends. I will write again soon.

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