The Self Immolation of Thich Quang Duc

I had written an article last in April last year on why there is suffering in this world. Here is a link to that article

Responding to that my niece sent me a WA message.  Here is the message and my response to it

My Niece: I would argue that suffering is a human construct. We could choose not to suffer. The mind always finds something to be unhappy about, because happiness and sorrow are relative. The same thing could make one person happy and the other unhappy.

Me: Technically speaking you are correct. Pain and pleasure is inevitable but happiness and sorrow is a state of mind.

But hardly any of us has the required mastery of the mind that is required to choose happiness when faced with intense pain. You can test this out next time you have a toothache 😊😊

But as I read the book below by Mark Manson I am beginning to think that my niece was onto something good. She lives in the USA by the way, a country which is filled with the get up and go and the can do attitude. There is much that India can adopt from the USA profitably.

Anyway here is the link to the book by Mark Manson (not an affiliate link):

Chapter 7 of the book is titled – Pain is the Universal Constant. Manson in this chapter starts with describing how a Vietnamese Buddhist monk named Thich Quang Duc self immolated himself in a political protest in 1963. That in itself is not unique. There have been many instances of people in India setting themselves afire in protests. But what was unique was the way in which Quang Duc met his end. Quoting from the book:

The photo of Quang Duc’s self-immolation triggered something primal and universal in people. It goes beyond politics or religion. It taps into a far more fundamental component of our lived experience: the ability to endure extraordinary amounts of pain. I can’t even sit up straight at dinner for more than a few minutes. Meanwhile, this guy was fucking burning alive and he didn’t even move. He didn’t flinch. He didn’t scream. He didn’t smile or wince or grimace or even open his eyes to take one last look at the world he had chosen to leave behind.

There was a purity to his act, not to mention an absolutely stunning display of resolve. It is the ultimate example of mind over matter, of will over instinct.

And despite the horror of it all, it somehow remains . . . inspiring.

Manson goes on to make the point that the human mind and also the human body can be turned into an antifragile system. Again quoting from him:

Whereas a fragile system breaks down and a robust system resists change, the antifragile system gains from stressors and external pressures.

Actually that is not the complete picture. The human mind or body can become either fragile or antifragile depending on how we use it. If you actually seek out pain the body (or mind) is antifragile meaning it becomes stronger through those experiences. As the Spartans used to say: That which does not kill me makes me stronger.

But if you sit in front of the TV and be a couch potato the whole day all days of the year then your body and mind will turn into a fragile system and break down pretty fast.

Thich Quang Duc spent many decades of his life meditating 10 hours a day or more. Anybody who does Buddhist meditation for any length of time knows that it is not easy. In fact, at times, it can get excruciatingly painful. Because of his meditation practice he was able to meet his end the way he did and prove conclusively that (in my niece’s words) suffering is a human construct. We could choose not to suffer.

But we have to work very hard and go through enormous amounts of pain (not necessarily suffering) to reach that state of being. It is up to us to seek out challenges so that we approach that peak.

I’ll end here. Please explore this site for more articles on Self Help, Spirituality and Politics. Please comment on the articles if you liked them or even if you didn’t. Feedback from my readers keeps me going.

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