Craving is the Cause of Suffering?

Craving is the Cause of Suffering?

A photo of the Dorje Ling Buddhist Center in Brooklyn, NY.

Although I don't find my identity in any social constructs or affiliations such as nationality, religion or language, there was a time when I studied closely and related to Buddhism. Of all religions I have read about, Buddhism is among the clearest and most rational. There are many definitions of religion. Mine is rather broad: Religion is the set of teachings, practices and assumptions that guide us in seeing The Truth as is - whatever The Truth may be. By that definition, any set of conscious or unconscious assumptions about ourselves and the world is a religion. And, needless to say, not all teachings, practices and assumptions point to The Truth. If you really believe that greed is good, and act on it, then that is your religion, even when you go to church on Sundays.

These days, political religion is often frowned upon and labelled as "poison". But, can any religion be apolitical? For example, could any religion ignore the concept of justice altogether, a concept which undoubtedly is political. Buddha struggled with the Caste System, Moses with the Pharaoh, Jesus with the money changers and Muhammad with perverse traditions. Social and political teachings are built into every religion, just not with the same approach and at the same degree. And there is where I find Buddhism somewhat obscure, somewhat disengaged. A criticism readily accepted my many Buddhists.

Most people I know who regard themselves to be spiritual but not religious, be it that they follow Buddhism, New Age, Yoga or some eclectic form of spirituality, concentrate mainly on the "self". To them, evil is primarily internal. A sentiment echoed in Buddhism; The Four Noble Truths teaches us that craving is the primary source of human suffering. Consequently, they rarely engage in politics or issues related to social justice. Their focus is on self improvement. So long as they do not commit evil themselves, they feel tranquil.

What a human being perceives to be evil could be both internal and external. Human nature is programmed to struggle with both external and internal evil. Yet culture, tradition, religion and experience influence what we assume to be evil and how we deal with it. Solely internalizing evil, or solely externalizing it, are the most obvious diversions from The Truth.
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