Author Topic: Is Buddhism Pessimistic?  (Read 19360 times)

RedLantern

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Is Buddhism Pessimistic?
« on: June 03, 2012, 05:51:52 PM »

People in general misunderstood Buddhism,because either they jump to conclusion or they decided on the surface that Buddhism is something they don't like.Some people think we are pessimistic ,because we said the world affairs have no meaning in our external existence,but upon studying the eight fold path and six perfection,one will know from eight noble path teach us to perfect our existence in the world as generous beings.It is neither totally pessismistic nor totally optimistic,but on the contrary,it teaches a truth that lies
midway between them.Buddhism encourages us to be realistic; to see things as the truly are.

Big Uncle

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Re: Is Buddhism Pessimistic?
« Reply #1 on: June 03, 2012, 06:23:33 PM »

People in general misunderstood Buddhism,because either they jump to conclusion or they decided on the surface that Buddhism is something they don't like.Some people think we are pessimistic ,because we said the world affairs have no meaning in our external existence,but upon studying the eight fold path and six perfection,one will know from eight noble path teach us to perfect our existence in the world as generous beings.It is neither totally pessismistic nor totally optimistic,but on the contrary,it teaches a truth that lies
midway between them.Buddhism encourages us to be realistic; to see things as the truly are.

Hi RedLantern,
I think the right word to describe it is nihilistic and not pessimistic since Buddhists don't place emphasis on worldly affairs and it is the wrong interpretation of emptiness of inherent existence. The teaching is beyond what I can describe here in words. However, I will attempt to explain in a nutshell, emptiness of inherent existence means that our world is a projected world of labels and limitations that are put into place based upon our upbringing, culture and habituation. As an example, an apple is a fruit to me that I can eat while a native in the jungle who has never seen an apple would look at it apprehensively and wonder if it is poisonous.

On the other hand, i think most people would find Buddhism morbid or even pessimistic because it has a common recurring theme - death and impermanence. Death and impermanence is a universal truth that can be altered and yet people still fear it. And that is why in Buddhism, we face our fears and prejudices and we face death in the face. It is our practice because that is one of the most powerful tool that the Buddha has taught us to evoke change and transformation within us. Once, we understand this, we will find Buddhism not only optimistic but also very empowering. It is religion that not only tells you to be better but also shows you the way to do it. That's amazing!

Manjushri

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Re: Is Buddhism Pessimistic?
« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2012, 06:08:36 AM »

People in general misunderstood Buddhism,because either they jump to conclusion or they decided on the surface that Buddhism is something they don't like.Some people think we are pessimistic ,because we said the world affairs have no meaning in our external existence,but upon studying the eight fold path and six perfection,one will know from eight noble path teach us to perfect our existence in the world as generous beings.It is neither totally pessismistic nor totally optimistic,but on the contrary,it teaches a truth that lies
midway between them.Buddhism encourages us to be realistic; to see things as the truly are.

On the side of the religion, its neither pessimistic nor optimistic. The projection comes from us, and our analysis of what Buddhism is. If it can help us, great..it's optimistic. But if it can't and what's more is that we have to face our fears and comforts through meditation on death or something we dont' like, then we find it pessimistic

I personally don't see Buddhism as pessimistic or optimistic. It is a tool that we are of utmost fortune to have, to question what life really is about, our duties as a human being. It makes you question, it makes you think and not just accept society's norm as is. It takes you down routes that will go against everything that has been taught to us in life. What YOU make out of your life through infusing religion, in this case Buddhism, in your life can be optimistic or pessimistic. Not on the side of Buddhism as it is the truth, which takes no sides but merely presents to you the sufferings that you will face in life being in but not knowing that you are in samsara.

Dolce Vita

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Re: Is Buddhism Pessimistic?
« Reply #3 on: June 04, 2012, 06:42:20 AM »
I think Buddhism is optimistic. Life is a suffering, this is for sure, it can be mental sufferings or physical sufferings. Buddhism recognises this fact and says there is a solution to it, it is not that bad after all. :)

Lord Shakyamuni using his own experience found the way to be liberated from sufferings, he left many teachings for us to follow if we want to be free from sufferings like him. But because we have so many wrong views on what happiness is, we often find Buddhism to be Pessimistic. For example, in Samsara fame and money are good, we think when we have fame we will have money, when we have money we can buy happiness. We fight our whole life for it. Then Buddhism says emphasis on fame and money is not good, it is not the solution to our happiness. It may even cause suffering to us. It is causing sufferings to us because we will have to sacrifice our health while chasing after it. This seems to contradict our general belief of what happiness is. Therefore we find Buddhism to be pessimistic.

yontenjamyang

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Re: Is Buddhism Pessimistic?
« Reply #4 on: June 04, 2012, 09:39:52 AM »
I agree many people (non Buddhist and even many Buddhists) find Buddhism pessimistic. But to me, the reason for that is quite different from what many would think.

For me it is because of how it is normally viewed. Many would argue the reason to be how it is normally projected but I take exception in that. Why? Because the majority of the population of the world does not have that kind of karma. Remember? This is the degenerate age. People regard religion as a quick fix. Pray, ask and get. When there are problems, they go to Church or temple and ask God or Buddha for a favor. When their problems are solved, there will not go back. When their problems are not solved, there will say God or Buddha do not exist or give some negative comment. Their faith is low. They are very self cherishing. They have a preconceived idea of a perfect world of their own projection. They live life for this life only. Hence, when Buddhism says impermanence and death which is a certainty or truth, they say Buddhism is pessimistic.

 I agree with BU that this view is not pessimistic but nihilistic because the opposite of pessimistic is optimistic. So if one is optimistic, then one will be optimistic that death will not occur, which is illogical. Their view is nihilistic with means they is no life after death. Hence, they view Buddhism as "pessimistic"

Q

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Re: Is Buddhism Pessimistic?
« Reply #5 on: June 04, 2012, 09:58:30 AM »
People will brand religions, cultures etc... its been going for awhile and will continue to as long as people refuse to accept others as they are (though after watching a series of 'Most Evil Psychotic Killers' on youtube, I'm feeling a little difficult to accept strangers as they are!)

Buddhists being pessimistic? Well, I can't deny what others think about Buddhist, but being pessimist is far off from Buddhists! Especially those who practice the Dharma.

There was a story I once heard, about an old abbot of a monastery... when he was building the prayer hall in one of the temples in Thailand... they didn't manage to complete the construction before their meditation retreat, so when the time came to retreat into the forest, he and his assistants left for the forest. Just before he left for his retreat, a visitor came by and asked the abbot when the prayer hall will be finished?... then came the abbot's reply "What's done is finished!" then he left for the forest to do his meditation retreat.

Pessimist? I think quite the contrary haha! I can't really blame others for thinking Buddhist as pessimist, after all millions of people claim to be Buddhists, but to truly find one that practices the path of Buddha Dharma is like finding a needle in a hay sack. But what I know for sure, and have seen it with my own eyes... true practitioners always see things as 'a half glass full'

KhedrubGyatso

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Re: Is Buddhism Pessimistic?
« Reply #6 on: June 05, 2012, 03:42:57 AM »
Whether Buddhism is labelled one way or another depends on one's level of understanding of its teachings.
Yes, it can have a  pessimistic or even morbid message  if one is limiting one's study to only the faults of worldly existence. The 3 characteristics of existence as we know it are : suffering, impermanence and non self. To the ordinary folks they are perceived as ' negative' .  The way we  live our lives is  exactly  the opposite. We indulge in sense pleasures, we don't like change, and we see things and ourselves as very solid and real although we never  stop to check out what are merely our assumptions .
If we are suffering it is because we are not living our lives in accord with reality. By not accepting , we go into denial, self deception.  This may lead to some form of temporary relief or  happiness but it will reveal its  true nature  as suffering sooner or later.
Knowing the  suffering state we are in , may be realistic but it would still be considered pessimistic if there is no way out.
Fortunately , since our suffering arises from having wrong view of happiness and its causes, the  source is within our mind and not some external agency where we have no control or certainty.  It is immensely liberating  that we can end all suffering by replacing wrong view with right view. Hence we can say that Buddhist methods  can transform a potentially pessimistic situation to an optimistic one by being realistic as to where things are coming from or what make things work or don't work.

DSFriend

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Re: Is Buddhism Pessimistic?
« Reply #7 on: June 05, 2012, 04:32:06 AM »
Without studying, it'll take a long time for us to have any way of changing our thinking patterns, to abandon wrong views and adopt right views. Knowing how morbid Buddhism can be, if not careful..just by studying and knowing ALL the methods can turn into an escape, a false assurance that we'll be able to free ourselves from the grip of Yama!

And when we are tried and tested, we flung yet again by seeing how anger takes control over us.

Having good dharma friends, and especially a teacher is very important to show us by example, to help make the pages of scriptures to come alive. Reading biographies are very inspiring to help us incorporate what we have studied.

Anyway, i don't think buddhism is pessimistic. It makes one fearless, a conquerer, a victorious one. It's far from being pessimistic.

vajrastorm

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Re: Is Buddhism Pessimistic?
« Reply #8 on: June 05, 2012, 03:01:52 PM »
I don't think Buddhism is pessimistic. Buddhism teaches us the 'truth' and teaches us what 'ultimate reality' is. But we cannot see 'existence' and 'life' that way because we wear the blinkers of a deluded mind and distorted perceptions. That's why the 4 Noble Truths are called "noble" because it is as the aryas(with their pure view) see them.
 
Again, Buddhism is not pessimistic because there are 4 Noble Truths which Lord Buddha taught; the first two are on suffering- the fact of suffering and the causes of suffering. The second two are on the cessation of suffering and the way out of Suffering. How can Buddhism be pessimistic when Lord Buddha tells us we can get out of suffering and  shows us the way out of suffering?


negra orquida

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Re: Is Buddhism Pessimistic?
« Reply #9 on: June 05, 2012, 05:36:32 PM »
I think Buddhism is very optimistic! It is basically telling us, "look. you are in terrible deep sh**. this is a fact.  you may not know it now but trust me, you are.  there is almost no chance of you ever getting out of it but guess what... follow this path i'm showing you right over here (which is actually in your mind) and you will get out some day, and if you REALLY wanted to, you can even get out today!"

big problem + (no hope + no solution) = pessimistic

big problem + (solution + hope) = optimistic = Buddhism!

vajratruth

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Re: Is Buddhism Pessimistic?
« Reply #10 on: June 06, 2012, 01:15:10 PM »
Thinking with our gross and worldly mind, Buddhism does come across as "pessimistic", not because it is, but because the way of the world is to deny anything that expounds a position that is not convenient to the fantasy world that commercialism has successfully sold everyone, even if that position is one of Truth. Trillions of dollars have gone into building a paradigm that the purveyors of carpet dreams want to keep and accordingly our "education" system keeps us all looking at life the wrong way.  And Buddhism undermines all that.

The fantasy paradigm tells us to literally ignore and forget about the only sure thing in our life, i.e. DEATH. And so, mostly we see death pessimistically...something to be avoided if possible. Buddhism keeps insisting that we do not forget death but keep it foremost in our minds. True practitioners do not fear death and sees it as perhaps even an opportunity.

Everything about the fantasy paradigm is designed to build the identity of the Self...the Ego. It tells us that we need to be different. Buddhism tells us to abandon the self and that liberation lies in letting go of the self instead of finding a fake self that there never was and hanging on to it.

Within the truth of Buddhism we lose just about everything we have worked so hard to hang on to. We work hard to grasp at more and more and then we work ever harder to tighten that grasp. Now, Buddhism tells us that what we have been doing is wrong. And so a lot of people find it pessimistic.

If that is all Buddhism does i.e. tell us how wrong we have been about the way we see life, then I would agree that Buddhism may be pessimistic. But Buddhism is so much more and it goes on to tell us what is in fact a much easier way to attain happiness and if we allow ourselves to see the many simple truths in the Buddha's teachings, then Buddhism is the most optimistic and liberating idea, concept and attainable practice around.
 

Tenzin K

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Re: Is Buddhism Pessimistic?
« Reply #11 on: June 09, 2012, 09:58:27 AM »
I think why people think of Buddhism is pessimistic is because Buddhism teaching is teaching us to face and react to our problem. Sound negative right is such way? But being in samsara we are not just facing happiness or sadness, to me both happens every moment and it’s not permanent. For most of the people happiness is forever and their perception of happiness is gaining materialistic. This is what they chasing and assume it’s eternal.

Buddhism teaches us to face the things that bring us down, unhappy or degenerate us. It’s not about being negative but being real. How in the world we can always ion the happy mode? Ideal condition? And when the condition turns 180 degree we stuck and can’t find a solution to overcome it. There is where we see suicidal even from a very young age. How sad!
I don’t Buddhism is pessimistic but just the truth. There is nothing optimist or pessimist but just the truth of life.

Midakpa

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Re: Is Buddhism Pessimistic?
« Reply #12 on: June 10, 2012, 01:09:29 PM »
Some people think Buddhism is pessimistic because of its focus on suffering. But if you really appreciate the Buddha's teachings, you will not think that it is pessimistic. Buddhism is appreciated by intellectuals, scientists, great thinkers, philosophers and even free thinkers all over the world. So far scientists cannot discover anything which contradicts the teaching of the Buddha. Buddhism is based on freedom and reason.

The Buddha had always encouraged his listeners to question him and challenge his teachings so they could personally realize the truth. He said, "Come and see" (ehipassiko). Whenever he spoke, it was because he had personally tested the validity of the saying for himself as an ordinary being. For me, this is the most sublime religion and extremely positive and liberal.

Vajraprotector

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Re: Is Buddhism Pessimistic?
« Reply #13 on: June 14, 2012, 02:24:20 AM »
I think people who think that Buddhism is pessimistic because they base their views on the First Noble Truth that all conditioned things are in a state of suffering. But Buddha also taught the cause and end to suffering, that is the purpose of this religion.

The Buddha image is that of peace, serenity, and compassion, hence in popular culture, the Buddha image is well sought after to bring peace and calmness to the mind, so how can such a pessimistic religion has that kind of effect? Buddhism is also about the conquest of the Self and overcoming/victory over one’s Mara. This is very positive and is the foundation of self-development .

Sometimes, we have to acknowledge the “ugly truth” so that we can face the reality and move on. Hence Buddha taught the fact of suffering so that people can face the reality of samsaric suffering, then choosing the path to overcome the suffering and moving in the direction of ultimate happiness (enlightenment).  We always read that Buddha and Bodhisattvas are filled with joy in the midst of samsaric suffering, always ready to help all sentient beings, so I don’t think Buddhism is pessimistic.

There are two Buddhists texts called the Theragatha and Therigatha which are full of the joyful utterances of the Buddha's disciples, both male and female, who found peace and happiness in life through His Teaching. The king of Kosala once told the Buddha that unlike many a disciple of other religious systems who looked haggard, coarse, pale, emaciated and unprepossessing, His disciples were 'joyful and elated, jubilant and exultant, enjoying the spiritual life, serene, peaceful and living with a gazelle's mind, light-hearted.' The king added that he believed that this healthy disposition was due to the fact that 'these Venerable Ones had certainly realized the great and full significance of the Blessed One's Teachings'(Majjhima Nikaya).

When asked why His disciples, who lived a simple and quiet life with only one meal a day, were so radiant, the Buddha replied: 'They do not repent the past, nor do they brood over the future. They live in the present. Therefore they are radiant. By brooding over the future and repenting the past, fools dry up like green reeds cut down [in the sun]" (Samyutta Nikaya).

One thing for sure, Buddhism encourages us to be realistic: we must learn to see things as they truly are.


ratanasutra

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Re: Is Buddhism Pessimistic?
« Reply #14 on: June 26, 2012, 12:43:09 PM »
I don't think Buddism is Pessimistic. Buddhism teach people about the truth. The truth or reality which we can see in general.

Example when someone is moving to stay in our country which has the hot temperature, we will tell them that the weather here is very hot. It will not make the person feel not happy or think that this place is not suitable to stay instead it will help the person to prepare and get ready with the hot weather which they will encounter.

As the same time by telling the truth it might help the person to think and find solution how to release the heat ie if they want to make the house to stay here, they will use materials which help to release the heat.

So by telling us the truth is benefit us more than we stay in ignorant and it can be too late when we know the truth and have to face it ie death which everyone can not be escaped, what we know about it? , what we can do to prepare in the time of death come? Therefore knowing the truth will help us to get ready to face it instead of scare of it.