The Four-Fold Noble Truth of Mormonism

When I was in Vancouver getting laser eye surgery, I stole a copy of The Teaching of Buddha from my hotel room nightstand.  Surprisingly, there is little in the book regarding theft.    My previous exposure to buddhism was fairly limited: a comparative religions class at the Y, some buddhist friends growing up, and some literary references here and there.  So, I plunged into my newly-pilfered book with gusto, and highly enjoyed it.

It wasn’t long before my mormon-centric POV started to draw parallels and make associations between buddhism and mormonism.  Most of the associations were banal; many were stupid and wrong.  But there was one aspect of buddhism that particularly resisted correlation with mormonism: the Four-Fold Noble Truth.

Let me explain (standard disclaimers of ignorance apply).

The Four-Fold Noble Truth is one of the most central and primary teachings in buddhism, regardless of the branch of buddhist practice one follows.  More fulsome discussion is available here, but The Teaching of Buddha expresses them as:

  1. The world is full of suffering. Birth is suffering, old age is suffering,
    sickness and death are sufferings. To meet a man whom one hates is suffering,
    to be separated from a beloved one is suffering, to be vainly struggling
    to satisfy one’s needs is suffering. In fact, life that is not free from
    desire and passion is always involved with distress. This is called the
    Truth of Suffering.
  2. The cause of human suffering is undoubtedly found in the thirsts of
    the physical body and in the illusions of worldly passion. If these thirsts
    and illusions are traced to their source, they are found to be rooted in
    the intense desires of physical instincts. Thus, desire, having a strong
    will-to-live as its basis, seeks that which it feels desirable, even if
    it is sometimes death. This is called the Truth of the Cause of Suffering.
  3. If desire, which lies at the root of all human passion, can be removed,
    then passion will die out and all human suffering will be ended. This is
    called the Truth of Cessation of Suffering.
  4. In order to enter into a state where there is no desire and no suffering,
    one must follow a certain Path. The stages of this Noble Eightfold Path
    are: Right View, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Behavior, Right Livelihood,
    Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration. This is called
    the Truth of the Noble Path to the Cessation of the Cause of Suffering.

My first inclination was to link these precepts to our own Articles of Faith: normative statements whose rhetorical purpose is to lead one to believe in the religion.  It’s true that there is this goal, inherent in the Noble Truth; the only way out of the world it describes is through the path of enlightenment, as demonstrated by the Buddha.  But I don’t think our own Articles of Faith establish a global understanding of the world on the same level of the Noble Truth.  The closest we come in the A&F of a description of the world is the expression that we will be punished for our own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.  By interpretation and deduction we can arrive at some conclusions about the world, but they’re not immediately evident in the A of F.  Further, there is surprisingly little in the A of F about how to get saved; we explain that salvation comes via the Atonement, through obedience to the principles and ordinances of the Gospel, but the bulk of the A of F is about nuances of Christianity — it is a document designed to set forth the Church in a Christian context, not in a global context.

So where then can we look for the Four-Fold Noble Truth of Mormonism?  2 Nephi 2 is a good reference, but it too is concerned with different subject matter, focussed on the nature of good vs. evil in the world.  King Benjamin’s discourse also comes to mind; it is very good at detailing the fallen nature of man and the solution through Christ to the Fall.  However, it is far from a succinct set of precepts.

Ultimately, I’m led to believe that nowhere do we concisely but carefully describe the Mormon world-view in the vein of the Four-Fold Noble Truth.  So, I turn to you — what is our Fourfold Noble Truth?

Comments

  1. Steve,

    I have also played with correlating the four noble truths to Mormon belief. I gave up, and simply believe in them now, for their own intrinsic value, which have played a big part of my life in the past two years. I am interested in how others interpret them.

  2. Dallas, like I said I’m a neophyte, but I think mormons could learn a great deal from these precepts. Clearly, the concept of universal suffering and the principal of global compassion could be more prominent in our minds.

  3. Wow, deep topic Steve. Restating the four truths, it sounds like Buddhism identifies Suffering as a basic truth about the world, and our goal as the reduction or elimination of suffering by removing passion and desire from our lives. That’s probably an unfair summary of Buddhism, but it helps identify an approach to similarly summarize Mormonism or any other world view: (1) What is the basic (and non-obvious) truth about the world? (2) What does that imply for how we should live?

    For Mormonism, I think the basic (and non-obvious) truth about the world is that “man is, that he might have joy,” specifically exaltation, understood as a form of enhanced salvation offering personal growth approaching godhood and continued association with family members (parents, spouses, children). This seems quite different than Buddhism’s “life is suffering.”

    For Mormons, this implies obeying the principles and ordinances of the LDS gospel so as to acquire the priesthood-dispensed keys to exaltation: baptism, priesthood (for men), and temple ordinances, with the implicit understanding that one must endure faithful to the end. Obviously, there’s an institutional focus to Mormonism’s life ethic (formal membership in a hierarchical church with recognized leaders to whom obedience and loyalty are given) that is lacking in Buddhism.

    Awhile back I came across the four-word film review site, and I still have a lot of fun with the idea that you can say anything in four words. The four-word summary for Buddhism would be something like “Conquering desire prevents suffering.” For Mormonism, it would be something like “Mormon keys unlock exaltation.

  4. The closest we can get is perhaps John 15: 8-12.
    And I think these verses are a step above the four noble truths because they are purely altruistic in motive, as well as more wholly encompassing in behavior. They tell us what we ought to do (love one another) and why (for the glory of god).

    At the same time, the saints would do well to pay heed to the noble truths.

  5. Eric, interesting idea, but I don’t think that those verses really describe the world or its meaning… although they are interesting in terms of what they have to say about God.

  6. At first I was thinking 2 Nephi chapter 9, but maybe section 88 is the best bet.

  7. Bill, what is it about Sec. 88 that is a succinct expression of the human condition and the gospel’s answers?

  8. I like 3rd Nephi 27 starting in vs. 13 for a brief Mormon summary of life. This does not have any reference to the fullness of the priesthood, but hey, I don’t know of a place that gives the whole spiel and Jesus rely gets at the essential aspects. And while 3 Nephi 27 does not really outline the state of the world, it states that men are essentially agents and that we are culpable for our misdeeds.

    As far as the 4 Buddhist precepts Steve outlines, I think they are incongruous with a Mormon world view. It seems that for a Mormon, suffering is to be overcome by desire not through its negation. Asceticism is not a valid solution to the fallen state of man. Its our active engagement in the world that subverts our fallen state.

  9. Perhaps it’s not really succinct, but it does address cosmological concerns in uniquely Mormon fashion. The atonement and the love of God are doctrines shared by all Christianity, after all, however the different subsets of that larger grouping may differ on the details.

    I’ve been reading the Moral Essays (1827) of Giacomo Leopardi, a poet whose first love was astronomy and who, like Pascal, emphasized the relative insignificance of mankind in the vastness of creation, but did not agree with the latter’s reasons for believing in God. Leopardi developed a theory of pleasure or happiness which reminds me a lot of the first two tenets of Buddhism listed above (although Leopardi was really more influenced by classical stoicism; it was his contemporary Schopenhauer whose pessimism had more affinity with Buddhism).

    From a brief synopsis in the introduction by Patrick Creagh, “All living creatures, though in a thousand different ways, long for pleasure, and not for this or that particular pleasure, which fades with familiarity or fails to match our hopes, but pleasure itself, infinite in vastness and duration. Man yearns for the infinite, and is equipped with an imagination that enables him to ‘conceive of things that do not exist, and in a way in which real things do not exist.’ Our greatest pleasures therefore are our hopes and our illusions, but insofar as we know them for what they are (since we know ‘the truth’) even they are stained with sorrow and disappointment. In short, as our infinite yearning for infinite happiness can of its very nature never be satisfied, it follows that true happiness is impossible, non-existent and ‘alien to the nature of the universe.’”

    For Leopardi, there was no avoiding desire, except in death. This made him wish to live as intensely as possible, not resulting in anything so vulgar as satisfying the appetites, but in banishing the banal and living without illusions but still in pursuit of rare and precious love in the midst of sterility and boredom.

    It seems like the Mormon and Christian attitude toward suffering is of two minds: on one hand, it is the result of sin, and to be avoided, and the Savior suffered that we might not. On the other hand, it is in the nature of things, the result of our fallen state, and to be earnestly desired, not only the better to learn pity and compassion, but to become partakers of Christ’s sufferings as a prelude or prerequisite to becoming his joint-heirs.

  10. Bill: It seems like the Mormon and Christian attitude toward suffering is of two minds: on one hand, it is the result of sin, and to be avoided, and the Savior suffered that we might not. On the other hand, it is in the nature of things, the result of our fallen state, and to be earnestly desired, not only the better to learn pity and compassion, but to become partakers of Christ’s sufferings as a prelude or prerequisite to becoming his joint-heirs.

    I’ve been working through this dicotomy recently and never expected to find something so beatuful that crystallizes it. Thank you.

  11. Thanks Bill — very thoughtful.

    Senor Stapley, I don’t think the buddhist ascetics are completely incompatible with mormon beliefs. I agree that we do not believe in the removal of desire, but we do insist upon self-mastery and keeping our appetites within certain bounds. So, to that end I think we can harmonize the two. And I think that we can agree with buddhism that most suffering comes from human desires.

  12. Steve, who wrote and/or translated the book you picked up?

    My understanding of Buddhism differs slightly from what you present. Again, I’m no expert, but I did take an entire class on Buddhism, though it’s been a while.

    First noble truth: If I remember right, the word suffering is translated from the Sanskrit/Hindi (I’m unsure of the language) “dukkah” (or something like that). Almost all western texts use the word “suffering” but, in some ways, the English word is too narrow–“dukkah”, sometimes, might be better translated as “discontentment”. So, it’s not always that active “suffering” but the general state of melancholy.

    Second noble truth: Perhaps some schools of Buddhist thought limit suffering to physical desires (I wonder what school the book you have is from?) but, generally, Buddhism believes that suffering is caused by desire. Period. Again, though, “desire” is perhaps not the best word, as it’s loaded in English. Another common translation is “attachment” (which I, personally, conveys the thought better). It’s easy to see how attachment would cause suffering: we get frustrated if we don’t get our work done because we are attached to our job, our definition of self-worth, praise, etc. The death of a loved one causes suffering because of our attachment to them. That sort of thing.

  13. Good points Pris — I think the site I linked to makes that kind of distinction, but my book was definitely slanted in its translation towards ascetics. It was from a Japanese organization, the Buddhist Promoting Foundation (Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai). The leader of that foundation is a Shin buddhist, I believe.

  14. This is interesting. I studied a lot of Eastern philosophy when I was in college and younger, although I focused more on the Tao than Buddhism. One of my favorites was “The Great Tao” By Stephen Chang.

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0942196015/qid=1110296652/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i1_xgl14/103-5431694-5435843?v=glance&s=books&n=507846

    The first few chapters illustrate the parallels in christianity and the Tao and later portions discuss the need for certain types of ballance, including diet, which seems to follow similarly to the WoW. A very interesting book.

  15. Steve, it seems that the harmonization that you speak of is more consistent with the Tao. True we believe in “managing” our appetites; however this is more a matter of perspective. We believe that there is a natural, beautiful, and godly way to indulge our appetites and the conversely unnatural, distorted, and devilish way to indulge. Either way, we are indulging and the ideal seems to be that we are not ridding ourselves of bad desires, but filling ourselves with good ones. If we are indulging the proper way, we are one with the Tao (or the way).

  16. I don’t know much about Shin Buddhism, but in the Theravada/Mahayana traditions, the third of the noble truths has less to do with removing the desire as overcoming it. As Pris points out, “attachment” may be the better word, because the attachment has both to do with cravings (desires) and aversions (the opposite of desire), both of which arise out of attachment.

    In that interpretation, at least, I don’t think the Four-Fold Noble Truth is at all incongruous with Mormon belief. If suffering is, in fact, rooted in desire and attachment, then overcoming desire helps us to overcome suffering. The result of overcoming suffering isn’t just personal gain, either — it’s an increase in compassion for the suffering and misery of others. Really, it’s the development of Christ-like love.

    To bring this back to Steve’s initial question as to whether there’s a “Four-Fold Noble Trush of Mormonism”, I think it would have to be rooted in a fundamental element of the Gospel. “Men are that they might have joy,” as Dave suggests, is probably a good starting place.

  17. Thanks Arwyn. I think that you’re right that “Men are that they might have joy” is a good place to start. The fact of the matter is, though, that I believe Christianity and mormonism are fundamentally oriented towards the hereafter in ways that buddhism is not, and this explains why there may not be a Fourfold Noble Truth of mormonism. Buddhism is much more concerned with the state of the world than mormons are, I think, and this reflects in their emphasis on immediate behavior and practice. It seems weird to say, but Christianity can seem escapist at times in comparison to buddhism.

  18. Finally — a free moment! I’ve been dying to make a comment on this one, sucker for Buddhism that I am.

    First, I’m glad some (particularly Pris and Arwyn) have pointed out that Steve’s simplification misses a good deal of the nuance and complexity involved in the Four Truths. We could probably explore those even further, but that’s not what I wanted to say here.

    What I did want to say is that the Four Noble Truths can be seen as a diagnosis and perscription for the human condition, much like a physician would do:

    Step one — diagnose the ‘illnes': suffering
    Step two — determine the cause: attachment (I agree, Pris and Arwyn, a much better translation), wrong views, etc.
    Step three — can anything be done?: yes, suffering can be overcome
    Step four — how can we overcome suffering?: the Holy Eightfold Path

    In this light, I think there is a somewhat equivalent distillation of the human condition in our Church, taught in the missionary discussions:

    One — what is the human condition? We are subject to death, both physical and spiritual.
    Two — how did we get that way? Through the Fall of Adam (and Eve), which God allowed because it’s necessary for our spiritual progression.
    Three — Is it possible to overcome physical and spiritual death? Yes — Christ’s atonement makes it possible.
    Four — How? The first principles and ordinances of the gospel (Faith, Repentance, Baptism, Gift of the Holy Ghost, Endure to the End).

    This, I think, is what we might be able to call the “Four-fold Truth of Mormonism.”

  19. I understand that we’re simplifying for the sake of conversation, but if I’m reading these ‘truths’ right, they seem to say that suffering can be eliminated if we will shed ourselves of desires or attachments. Does anyone really buy that? Seems patently false to me. Further, I’m still trying to understand why the abandonment of desire or attachment would be a good thing. Explanations welcome.

    It’s interesting to see the connections in Buddhism to Huxley’s “Brave New World,” which was constructed around the priority of always allowing every human to instantly fulfill every single desire, thereby eliminating crime, etc. That book is a good explanation about how such a project is inherently doomed. Of course, the people in the book were seeking to control eliminate desire by constant fulfilment of desire, rather than self-abnegation, which I surmise is the method prescribed by the Buddha. Either way, the goal strikes me as fundamentally unattainable, and not certainly desirable.

  20. Ryan, I don’t think you get it, which is probably because I am not setting forth the fulness of what Buddhism is about.

  21. Perhaps Logan or Pris can fill in the blanks. Steve has obviously been too morally compromised by his theft to be a credible exponent of these principles.

  22. p.s. I really, really like what Logan said. And let’s not demean buddhism by putting their tenet in scare quotes. The fact of the matter is that a great deal of suffering in the world is caused by other people, and any efforts to eliminate it would be worthwhile.

  23. Steve, I’m not sure how I’m being demeaning. I’m trying to critically analyze what you’ve set forth here. There has been some clarification offered by others, but I don’t think it’s out of bounds to question some of the premises on which these principles are based. And I agree, some suffering could be eliminated if we got rid of desires, but 1)not all (or maybe even most) suffering, and 2)at what cost would we rid ourselves of desire?

  24. Ryan: I buy it, to some extent, but recognize some of the difficulties in it. I’m not sure how to explain why, because it seems patently true to me. For example, why do I suffer when my hours burns down? Because I’m attached to the objects, including the house itself. There might be a variety of reasons for my attachment–pride, status, nostalgia, etc.–but I’m still attached to those things. If I weren’t attached, I wouldn’t suffer.

    One of the difficulties with accepting this line of thinking is the implication for other things–like relationships. Non-attachment says that you shouldn’t ever be so attached to your wife that, if something were to happen, you would suffer. Clearly this isn’t something many people agree with (I don’t), but I can see the logic.

    As for why it’d be a good thing: perhaps those that know more about Buddhism would be better equipped to answer. That is to say, I don’t know the nuances of the Buddhist position to answer from a Buddhist perspective. I can say, however, from my own thoughts, that the reason to lessen one’s attachment is the decrease in suffering. I wouldn’t say that we should be completely non-attached, but I shouldn’t be so attached my stereo that if it broke I’d cry.

    It’s easier to “go with the flow” — to adapt, to change — if one isn’t attached to things.

    That said, I don’t think it’s all that different from Christianity – we shouldn’t be attached to the things of this world: we should only be attached to the Lord.

  25. Pris, that’s exactly right.

    Ryan, “ridding ourselves of desire” is not like some sort of lobotomy that turns us into Vulcans. Rather, it’s indicative of an attitude of selflessness and a focus on helping others rather than helping ourselves. IMHO that’s entirely consonant with Christ’s teachings.

    That said, I’m not advocating total detachment from love, etc., and so I would likely make a poor buddhist in the traditional sense. I believe there are branches of buddhism that recognize the need for familial relationships and cherish them.

    What’s more, this thread really isn’t about buddhism — it’s about mormonism. I guess that’s why I am not interested in exploring the critical approach you’re endeavoring to provide.

  26. Thanks for these thoughts, guys.

    Steve, let me atone for my threadjack, then, with my own thoughts about your central question:

    Mormonism’s four-fold truths (combining Mormonism’s condensed, central message about the world with its normative prescriptions for overcoming it)

    1. The world is fallen. This is not the fault of any person living in the world. Some evil and pain naturally result from this condition, including death,independent of the moral choices of mankind.
    2. As a result of the fallen state of the world, mankind– though not inherently evil– is inherently able to do or become evil. Some suffering and pain results from this state, because of the moral choices of mankind.
    3. Both of the above kinds of pain and suffering are permanent conditions of this life, but can be mitigated in part by the peace offered by the Savior.
    4. Both of the above kinds of pain and suffering can be completely conquered in the long-term, by the grace and atonement of the Savior.

    Now I understand that composing that formulation is easier than finding where it’s neatly set forth in the scriptures. I believe, without checking that each of these points is basically addressed in 2 Nephi 2. Alternatively, if you add Articles of Faith 2 and 3, you get a stripped down version of this, without some of the bells and whistles.

  27. Ryan, is it correct to strip the fall of human fault, the way you do? I’m concerned that your formulation doesn’t adequately address the role each of us play in a fallen world. Yes, the world produces thorns and noxious weeds, and death is now a part of the equation, but you seem to be anxious to say that the world isn’t our fault…. and that isn’t quite right.

  28. Steve, as I tried to state in truth number 2, there’s no doubt that the evil in the world is partly caused by our own choices. However, I think it’s good doctrine that the fact that evil is possible in this world is not our fault.

  29. Ryan, how can evil occur in the world if not through men? What other ways can evil manifest itself? Are natural disasters evil? Dog bites?

    I guess evil, and the suffering that results from evil, seems to me to manifest through mankind only. Now, mankind may not be the source of evil, but that’s a different problem.

  30. HL Rogers says:

    In certain respects the Bible points to spiritual manifestations of evil that are independent of mankind. For example, demonic possession of pigs. Although the deons do not use the pigs cause any evil acts besides the fact of demonic possession in intself being evil and of course the loss of pigs’ lives (the account only shows the possibility of animal possession as Christ casts the demons into the pigs and not the independent power of demons to inhabit animals). This leads to the possibility of demonic possession of a dog that in turn bites you out of evil intentions.

    Perhaps a stretch but I thought Steve’s query should be answered.

  31. Good intern! Tonight you can go home at 10:30 IF you finish that photocopying job Kristine gave you.

    Philosophically, the problem of evil’s source cannot be solved, I don’t think. People far more intelligent than ourselves scratch their heads. But for Mormons, we believe in external evil actors (such as Satan) that seek to destroy us. How do they do it? Occasionally, those sons of perdition/devils act directly (like the Death Grip described in the First Vision), but I think those are exceptions to the rule, which is: evil exists through men.

  32. Matt Evans says:

    The definition of suffering seems to be tautological. If the cause of my suffering is my desire to be free of suffering, and the solution for my toothache is to lose the desire for a toothache-free mouth, suffering has been defined as a refusal to embrace the status quo.

    The world is better because we do not accept suffering; we seek to end it.

  33. Matt, it’s not entirely circular, because people seek to cure their suffering in ways that are selfish and destructive. People think that by having food and nice clothes and an iPod that their sufferings will end. People think that by taking drugs or having abortions or getting a new job, their sufferings will end. Ultimately, suffering can’t end by conscious means on our part, because pain is a part of this world.

    Buddhism teaches that we become free of suffering only when we can master our selfish tendies to triumph over our own suffering. Accepting suffering as a universal problem is a mechanism to get us thinking about the other.

  34. Matt Evans says:

    I edited my comment too quickly. The definition of suffering is tautological because suffering is defined by our desires (if we desire it, it’s not suffering), and desires are defined as those things that cause suffering.

    Implicit in the model is the validity of the desire to be free of suffering — the desire to be free of suffering is the purpose for walking the path in the first place. But why is the desire to be free of *all* suffering legitimate, but not the desire to be free of particular forms of suffering, such as migraine headaches?

  35. Matt, the desire to get rid of just one source of suffering can be selfishly motivated and guided, and thus destructive.

    But otherwise, the cause-effect relationship of desire and suffering is I think a central buddhist teaching (some of the more informed out there can help us on this). It’s similar, IMHO, to reaping what we sow in mormonism.

  36. Matt Evans says:

    Steve, I didn’t refresh the page before writing my last comment, so our comments crossed.

    It seems obvious that people are frequently wrong about the way to alleviate their suffering (clothes and iPods do not make up for emotional losses), but they are frequently right, too. Dentists are good at alleviating toothaches, and maintaining our bodies alleviates much suffering. It seems that Buddhism, as presented here, teaches that the solution to a toothache isn’t a dentist and better hygiene, but to overcome my desire for a pain-free mouth in the first place. And if I have bed sores because I’m 800 pounds and never get out of bed, I should just rid myself of the desire for a bed-sore-free bottom, and hasta la vista suffering.

    If Buddhism teaches that we should not be selfish, count our blessings, and be mindful of and anxious to alleviate others’ suffering, I’m not sure how it differs from Christianity.

  37. Matt, I’ve seen some chubby Buddhas, but no bedsores!

  38. Sorry for my absence, but I’ll now pick up the thread I abandoned earlier:

    It seems like a pretty simple thing to say that there are two preconditions for evil: a setting which allows evil to occur, and an agent that can do evil. The world, having fallen, is a setting in which evil may occur. I’m not sure what exactly happened in the fall, but something changed such that evil was now possible. Where Adam and Eve were concerned, this took place through the advent of knowledge of good and evil, ushering in moral agency. But where the rest of the world is concerned, I’m not sure. Something changed though, which introduced thistles and noxious weeds, and enmity between the creatures. Thus, regardless of whether anyone actually committed any evil, the world was now a place where evil could occur.

    The second step takes place when we use our moral agency to commit evil. But presumably, I could not sin if I lived in a pre-fall world. Thus, the setting in which evil may occur is crucial, and this is provided by the fallen world. Make sense?

  39. Too many wonderful comments and too little time, so I must restrain my input to what is really stuck in my craw….

    On suffering: it is part of the human condition, since it is merely that we cannot have exactly what we want when we want it all the time. (Try spending time around a two-year old sometime; they excel at it!) And as Saints, we recognize the value in suffering, as it leads us to put off the natural man. Christ suffered more than us all (the summation of all our suffering, plus his own!). It seems to me that the first three of the Buddhist Noble Truths are not so different in intent than telling us that we must overcome our carnal selves.

    One of the politically correct “truths” in the world that I think does much harm is the notion that “no one should have to suffer…” Joseph Fielding Smith said in answer to the question of why we must suffer is that the Lord allows it because it causes us to draw near to him, for his help. (If we try to remove all human suffering, we take away this natural inclination to turn to him for aid and comfort.)

  40. I would have to interpret the four noble truths as a critique of Mormonism. Whereas Mormonism is basically a philosophy of a personal fulfillment which knows no bounds, Buddhism teaches that the ego must accept its own finitude in order to transcend itself and thus be truly free. A Buddhist would surely tell a Mormon to stop seeking his or her own self-satisfaction in some purported planetary after-life and instead seek to discover the meaning of the life we are actually given in acts of compassion and mercy. In fact from a Buddhist perspective Mormonism is probably a cautionary tale as to how religion sadly tends to propagate suffering instead of self-understanding. Is there a religious community anywhere that suffers more than the Mormons, and understands it less?

  41. Colby, I have to disagree with your characterization of Mormonism, though I do think there are risks that mormons themselves could neglect their duties in this life in favor of an afterlife.

  42. Steve, thinking this through from a Buddhist perspective, what is the cause of suffering? It’s the fact that we think of ourselves as egos who must be satisfied, and therefore we always feel unsatisfied. There’s always something else out there that we use to explain our discontent rather than looking inside ourselves. But we aren’t egos, we’re part of nature. If we accept that then we accept the reality of change and of death. Mormonism on the other hand would seem to project the human condition infinitely. If we’re not satisifed in this life, it’s because we haven’t yet satisfied ourselves in the next. Suffering, or unfulfillment here is just the beginning of our troubles, which will extend to every possible universe. The ego which I am will survive my death and inherit all of my problems in the next life. If I’m a battered or unloved housewife who hates my husband, I can’t even expect to lose him when I die! Could anything be more hopeless? Surely Buddhism offers a deep consolation for such anxiety.

  43. Steve Evans says:

    Colby, again you’re deeply mischaracterizing the mormon perspective. Battered housewives remaining married to their abusers after death? If that is what you think Mormons believe, no wonder you think it’s hopeless.

    I can fully see the conflict between the two systems to the extent that Buddhist teaches the non-self and that individuality is an illusion, while for Mormons the unique nature of each soul is something precious. I am not sure the two faiths can be entirely reconciled on this point, though as a practical matter in terms of outward social behavior the two systems at their ideal would seem to me to be fairly similar.

  44. Steve, I guess I’m pursuing too many lines of argument here but let me see if I can bring them together. I’ve frequently heard LDS inveigh against a “traditional” Christian concept of the afterlife by saying “Wouldn’t it get boring?” and “There’s still so much left to accomplish!” What I think this stands for is the belief that the ego-world, the state of affairs of our knowing and experiencing the world exactly as we do experience it here and now, will survive our deaths. Thus, it is not so much that great evils such as wife-battering will exist in the celestial kingdom as that we will continue to encounter the exact same types of problems which are particular to the ego-world as we do now. From a Buddhist perspective, that’s completely backwards. Salvation in Buddhism is deliverance from the anxiety and suffering of the ego-world. To extend that suffering indefinitely, throughout endless ages, would be something like a nightmare.

Trackbacks

  1. explorations says:

    Joseph Smith and Four Noble Truths

    The teacher framed the lesson in a way that provides an answer to Steve Evans’ question from a while back. According to her, here are four truths from the First Vision:

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