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Author Topic: "Wanting" and Desire  (Read 789 times) Average Rating: 0
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Thanatos
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« on: December 05, 2006, 08:07:07 PM »

Hello,

I was reading today, in class, a story about this troubled teen whose mother sent him away to Cambodia to live with Buddhist monks - in hopes of a rehabilitation.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2003462221_monk05m.html

He said, while at the monastery there, "I learned to try to be free from wanting things, and I learned a lot about older people, how to talk to them and thank them."

I'm wondering if anyone can explain to me the difference between the Buddhistic extinguishing of "want" or desire, and the Orthodox perspective ? Or, if we at least find the same need to seek death upon "wants" and desire (Minus, of course, the kenotic desire to unite ourselves in theosis with God, in Orthodoxy). Quotes from the church fathers would be great.

Thanks in advance,
Peace,
Ioannis
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pensateomnia
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« Reply #1 on: December 06, 2006, 11:59:31 AM »

I'm wondering if anyone can explain to me the difference between the Buddhistic extinguishing of "want" or desire, and the Orthodox perspective ?

Well, I can try! However, Buddhism has many forms, so it really depends on what particular tradition these monks belong to.

First, I would say that Orthodox ascetism calls for the destruction of the sinful self -- NOT the self itself. St. Nikodemos says it best in his Handbook of Spiritual Counsels: God has created all of our senses, our body and our mind to exist in harmony and holiness. Often, we misuse our senses and physical capabilities, and thereby deprive the mind of its true capability and its actual purpose. The goal of asceticism is not to obliterate the senses or our physical desires, but to use them as God intended.

For example, God Himself has created and given us the "passion" of anger, so that we might maintain righteous anger toward our sin and the work of the devil (not so that we can get angry at our fellow man!).

In other Eastern ascetic traditions (both Hindu and Buddhist), however, the true nature of divinity itself is not personal. In fact, in many schools of thought, everything is divine. Thus (to speak in Christian terms), one is "saved" by truly realizing that he does not actually possess a single self. In the words of the Upanashads, Brahman equals Atman. (Brahman is the transcendent Reality and Atman is the self.)

As far as I understand it, that's really the point of the Four Noble Truths: All suffering comes from desire, which stems from the mistaken belief ("sleep of ignorance") that one has an independent identity or self. In other words, one has to awaken to the fact that he doesn't actually exist.

Thus, one really does need to leave behind all desire (even one's incorrect and ignorant assumption that one has an actual individual identity). Ascetical practices, especially extreme ones, can help break down one's false ideas about the self.
« Last Edit: December 06, 2006, 12:05:25 PM by pensateomnia » Logged

But for I am a man not textueel I wol noght telle of textes neuer a deel. (Chaucer, The Manciple's Tale, 1.131)
Thanatos
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« Reply #2 on: December 07, 2006, 08:47:19 PM »

Thank you pensa! That was a very thorough explanation. I definitely agree with this, in particular:

Quote
Often, we misuse our senses and physical capabilities, and thereby deprive the mind of its true capability and its actual purpose. The goal of asceticism is not to obliterate the senses or our physical desires, but to use them as God intended.

I would suppose, with these pantheistic sentiments put aside, that there is an underlying need, motivation in both systems of thought to limit this "want." "Want," I think, is synonymous and/or manifested by one's very own self-will. And this self-will, should we let this run our lives, will deter us away from our heavenly will, to come under the fullness of God (Thy will be done...) Take, for instance, what some fathers have to say:

"Do not be always wanting everything to turn out as you think it should, but rather as God pleases; then you will be undisturbed and thankful in your prayer." Abba Nilus

"If we abandon our own desires and opinions, and endeavor to fulfill God’s wishes and understanding, we will save ourselves, no matter what our position, no matter what our circumstance. But if we cling to our own desires and opinions, neither position nor circumstance will be of help." Counsels of the Venerable Elder St. Amvrossy of Optina

So in that respect, I think that both faiths, Orthodoxy and Buddhism, seek to empty ourselves of this pain, this sorrow that leads to death, instead of life. However, this "self-emptying" differs, greatly, from the nothingness of Eastern philosophies and the kenosis/theosis present in Orthodox Christian philosophy.

What do you think?

Thank you for your response. It is greatly appreciated.

Peace!
Ioannis
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