QUESTION: Do Buddhist enjoy each moment? Specifically through the senses. After reading about what the Buddha taught in the Fire Sermon I became saddened thinking that he thought that life itself especially through the senses is terrible and a waste of time and we should seek beyond this life and transcend all that this life is about. My thinking this is causing me to be much sadder than I am naturally. It would help to know that the Buddha thought of life as wonderful and precious and each moment is new and beautiful and that we can experience life through our senses. If we experience life without clinging to it. I would really appreciate your insight.
ANSWER: Hi Lauren,
Many new to Buddhist teachings may misinterpret the Buddha's teachings as pessimistic and unrealistic and illogical. The Buddha pointed out the truth in why we suffer. We suffer because of our desire to quench our thirst for material things and to enjoy every sensual pleasure. What the Buddha meant was that we should not crave uncontrollably for all these pleasures. If we have this insatiable desire for sensual pleasures all the time, then we will be slaves to these desires and in the end we will suffer because we will never be forever satisfied with these sensual pleasures. Come a day, we will realize that these pleasures are not forever, and one day we will all die. It is this truth that the Buddha was talking about.
Be that as it may, there is another side of life that you would not read much in Buddhist text. This is about living life in moderation as a lay person. The Buddha did not actually ask us to surrender to life, and live a lifeless lifestyle. His strict instruction to discard all sensual pleasures was addressed to monks/people who had abandoned the worldly lives/family lives. These people would concentrate on the development of a higher spiritual level. For them it was conducive to discard completely all sensual pleasures and concentrate on mind development. As for us lay people, we cannot live a life without sensual pleasure. But as Buddhists we are forewarned that excessive indulgence in sensual pleasure will bring sorrow to us because these sensual and physical pleasures are not permanent, and one day when we cannot "enjoy" these pleasures we will be very disappointed in life.
"It would help to know that the Buddha thought of life as wonderful and precious and each moment is new and beautiful and that we can experience life through our senses. If we experience life without clinging to it." The Buddha actually taught this! The keyword is "without clinging to it".
Hope you are happy now!
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QUESTION: I appreciate your thoughtful response to my question. I am glad to know that things aren't as bad as I thought though I care about the monks too and wonder how they can live without sensual pleasures at all. What about tasting delicious food or taking a beautiful nature walk? Can't they do that? I didn't the Fire Sermon, only a small part after reading what someone wrote who was talking about it. In what I read they also talked about orgasm and said it can cause people to do unwholesome deeds and sexual misconduct. Does this mean that everyone who has an orgasm will behave in unwholesome ways?
ANSWER: Hi Lauren,
Always remember this aspect of the Buddha's teachings. Most of the Buddha's teachings were for those who had reached a very high level of spiritual development. During the Buddha's time, these people were mostly monks. Most of the discourses of the Buddha were addressed to these monks. A lesser part of the discourses were addressed to lay people like us. So we must be aware of this distinction, one set is for the highly spiritual people, the other set is for the lay people. An example will be the Buddha's discourses on the path to enlightenment. This is the path one must take seriously to reach the final goal. A simple guideline by the Buddha for the lay people is the five precepts. Once you can discern the spiritual level from the mundane level of the Buddha's teachings, you will not have any problem understanding and following the Buddha's teachings.
To put simply, the pure spiritual level will be like the Phd studies. While the more mundane level will be like school level. As one progresses, one will be able to practise the higher level teachings. The more developed, the mental cultivation, the lesser urge will be the sensual pleasures. It is of course very difficult to understand this concept while one is just an ordinary "ignorant" person, but once a person has reached a certain level of mind cultivation, this person will naturally realize the grossness of sensual pleasures which will not last for long.
In the meantime it is important that we follow and practise the Buddha's teachings in moderation, in accordance with our ability. With continuous studies and practice of the Buddha's teachings, we will gradually improve in our way of life and thinking.
Hope you take this as a learning process, and this spiritual journey will definitely bring peaceful and happy benefits to your life. All of us, including the monks are on this journey of learning, only at different levels.
Take care and be happy.
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QUESTION: Thank you Justin.
I appreciate your replying with kindness and wisdom. Specifically does orgasm make all those who have one act unwholesomely in other area of their life and does it cause them not to follow the 5 precepts? Also are monks allowed to enjoy the taste of a cup of tea or take a nature walk? If we are aspiring eventually to reach the spiritual levels a monk does I wonder about these things.
peace and happiness,
Gratifying the sexual urge is a totally normal sexual desire. It is the people's hypocrisy and "guilt" feeling that sexual activities are outwardly viewed as taboos or sins. Yet those people who condemn sexual activities are definitely participating in this sexual urge. It is perfectly normal for us to enjoy sexual activities. Animals and all other living creatures do not feel ashamed of sexual activities. It is only humans who impose their opinions on others. Buddhism is about truth. And the truth is that we are all sexual beings, depending on sexual acts to procreate. So what's the big problem with sexual activities? The third of the five precepts is not about the shame or discredit of sexual activities, but about the moral aspect of sexual activities, and is called sexual misconduct, meaning having sexual activities outside the permissible boundary of morality, example, rape, infidelity or adultery.
Please remember, monks are also humans. If I become a monk tomorrow, it doesn't mean that I have become a saint. I will only strive to become a more saintly person from then on. Of course monks do take nature walks and drink tea. They also go to sleep and go to the toilet (LOL).
You can regard practising Buddhism like training for a sport championship. You first have to start with level 1 and slowly progress to higher levels, until you reach the "expert" level. Those from levels 1 to expert level can be considered sportspersons. All who practise Buddhism are called Buddhists, but just like the sport program, they are of various grades.
Hope you can feel at ease now,
(If you want to follow-up, please start a new "ask a question", to avoid this thread being too long. Thanks.)