Cause and Effect Denied

If you lose the cultural trappings and metaphors, the basic principles of Buddhism are totally compatible with Christianity. If you lose the trappings and metaphors of Christianity, it is entirely compatible with Buddhism. That’s because religion in its essence is a message from the past experiences of human kind that is intended to help us understand the natural law of cause and effect, and how it works in our relationships within populations and in the reality of how life functions. The laws of nature do not differ from one place to another or from one religion to another. In fact the laws of nature don’t know we exist. The laws of nature are what they must be if there is to be a universe, and if we choose to defy them or if we choose to understand them, the laws of nature don’t give a shit. They just are. So, the more we understand about them, the better we can learn how to get what we want in life. Religions are meant to help us toward more rewarding life by guiding us toward doing actions that have beneficial effects.

The basic law of cause and effect tells us things like – if you jump off a tall building you will fall. The evil that has been done to Americans mostly has to do with corrupting the concept of cause and effect, teaching us to believe in things that can’t possibly be, and so destroying our ability to use logic to make sense of our lives.

There is a basic law of cause and effect that we cannot change. The only way we CAN grow a long-term good life is to learn as much as we can about how the real world really does work – and the lies we are being told — and build that knowledge into our lives.

So the first step (“the first noble truth”) is to recognize that pain is unavoidable. The point is not whether or not you like that idea. The point is that if you try for a life that has no pain in it you will make it more painful than it really is. Bitsy’s caretaker’s mother has MS. When I picked up Bitsy yesterday, she was telling me how people don’t like to look at her mother and so they just turn away, and she said they would cause less suffering for everyone if they would learn to: “Deal with it.” Whether or not we like suffering is not relevant in our lives because it’s not one of the available choices. What gives us a better or worse life is how we deal with that and with the choices that are available. That’s what religion is supposed to help us to do more effectively. The more you know about the reality of cause and effect, the more effectively you can deal with it.

The wisdom traditions that are actually useful do not tell you that you can get whatever you want by magic or prayer or wishing or buying something. (For example what I said – if we keep doing whatever we are doing our lives won’t change very much unless of course there is some big change from outside.) If we want to change our lives, then we need to change our behaviors, and we also need to know what does NOT work. For example the American Dream does not work. It claims to benefit the entire population, but it can’t because that goal is biologically impossible using the methods – or behaviors – that we are using. We would be far better off to stop doing what we know is not working. We can’t live without air. We can’t eat without good earth to grow the food in. We can’t destroy the earth and still feed all the people. We can’t be fulfilled human beings by spending our time competing with other people, rather than growing sustainable communities. Those are the things we need to know if we want to find a sense of satisfaction.

The trick of living is to understand what we can NOT do and stop trying to do it. If we do the things that can’t give us what we want – we won’t get what we want. No matter what self-help make-believe someone is trying to sell us. If we want to grow a better future for ourselves or for anyone else, we need to consider the law of cause and effect and the ways in which our behaviors of today are most likely to affect our future(s). We humans know enough science to understand the basic biological realities. What I like about the principles of Buddhism is that they are a useful recipe for the human realities.

I got interested in the principles of Buddhism when I heard the Dalai Lama say just what I said in the paragraph above. I already understood the law of cause and effect as it is studied by science. He recognized this and compared it with Buddhism. Buddhism studies the law of cause and effect as it applies to human behaviors. But the other wisdom traditions also give us essentially the same useful recipe.

We cannot avoid the results of the behaviors of our society, but we don’t have to believe the lies or live out the false claims of the propaganda. The more useful alternatives are well understood.

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