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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Some Precepts to Consider

I've been sitting on these for almost two years, occasionally adding to them or filling them out with references. I plan to consider adding more detail and links into them eventually, but I think I'm ready to post now. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the following:


Update, January 30, 2008: I have made some wording adjustments after some questions by friends to be more clear. I have also added links in the notes section.


  1. Interesting stuff. Lucid as always. I'm sure you won't be surprised to learn that I agree with you on pretty much all of it. If I have any disagreement at all, it would be such knit-picky minutia that I won't waste either of our time with it.

    So do you think this True Happiness is realistically attainable, or is it more like a target we should strive for, try to get as close to as possible, but are unlikely to actually ever get there?

    I also find your statement of "True Suffering" interesting. I don't think I've ever seen such a distinction of suffering in any other philosophy before. Sounds like its almost the opposite of Buddhist enlightenment, or some theist accounts of hell.

  2. Thanks much for your comments friend :)

    To answer, as you might have guessed, "True Happiness" is my attempt at a common-language phrase for something like flourishing, stoic joy, eudaimonia, enlightenment, etc. The "True" part, and the capitalization, are meant to distinguish it from plain old shallow happiness.

    As to whether it's realistically attainable, I think certainly it is attainable in moments because I think I've tasted it occasionally. Probably most of us types have at times, which is what keeps us coming back for more. Can we have it 100% at all times throughout our life? I think it's probably possible to reach a state of thinking, attitude, and disposition where your approach is such that this form of True Happiness is possible 'practically' all of the time. It's a matter of degrees, and to what degree our character is formed in that direction is the degree to which we will have True Happiness in life - hopefully with an upward climb as we work on our life practice. Therefore, whether or not we can ever reach 100.0% in principle isn't really an important question if we recognize the endeavor itself to yield greater rewards at whatever level we attain. By 'not important' I mean that the answer wouldn't effect the best course of action one way or the other.

    As for True Suffering, it only stands to reason. I'm reminded of the Stoic notion of thinking about the difference between being tortured and undergoing a planned procedure with the same pain (I forget the exact reference). Pain or suffering is one thing, and unavoidable in life, but enlightenment on these precepts can allow us to recognize it as shallow, and help avoid a much more harmful form of suffering which is long lasting, deep, and effecting the internal spiritual quality of our lives. Sadly, many people experience this so routinely that they never know life could be better. Most 'evil' people would fall into this category, thus relating to Socrates' statement about the only evil being ignorance. But I digress :)