A few days ago we had one of our lunch/movie meetings in the Tai Pan Hotel. The topic was ‘Just Enough’, as a reflection on the nature/necessity of giving up sense pleasures.
Video’s were as much for fun as serious debate. The longer videos came from the brilliant TED website.
We looked at the ‘Paradox of Choice’ with Barry Schwartz – which showed that the more choice we have, the less happy we are. His approach is psychological, and his conclusion was that we are actually happier with fewer choices – a goldfish bowl as he puts it. Relating to Buddhism, we can see that monks have a carefully constructed goldfish bowl of limited choice especially regarding food, clothes, passtimes, activities and moral precepts. And we can also see that monks are not more unhappy as a result. Does this mean that you must give things up? Those still attached to the worldly things argued vehemently that not only are sense pleasures not an obstacle, but enjoying them is ‘Enlightenment’, so long as you are ‘present for them’. Hmmmm.
The second majour video was of Dan Gilbert, again on TED. He on ‘synthetic happiness’ being just as valid as ‘authentic happiness’. The point being, again, that you do not need sense pleasures in order to be happy. You just need to generate happiness with your conditions. Fast talking and very psychologically orientated, he outlined a number of experiments on the way people generate the idea of happiness with things they did or did not receive in the test. Like with most of these tests, the conclusion was that you really cannot trust your won judgement on your level of happiness with snese pleasures.
Final TED video was a humorrous peice by GQ Journalist Benjamin Wallace who looked at some of the most expensive examples of things. Mostly with an eye to criticise. He looked at wine, an expensive hotel room, car, beef steak, soap, jeans and a few other items. Most interesting was the Japanese toilet.
We finished with a great couple of minutes with Clark CK, a rather crude stand up commedian from the US. Fortunately he was on good behaviour for American TV, and gave a great couple of minutes talking about how we got ungrateful for the wonderful things around us.
As for Buddhism, it is clear if we know anything at all about the Buddha, we know he was originally and remained a renunciate for his whole life, and spent much time and effort restricting his order of monks in their desires and activities. His methodology was a careful ‘restraint’ of the mind from the senses that distract it. Not by ascetic practises per se, but through careful attention in meditation.
More blogs on that when time permits.
Regarding our previous Tai Pan day on the topic of rebirth, below is a curious story, purely anecdotal :
Is boy reincarnation of dead fighter pilot?
An 11-year-old US boy could be the reincarnation of a Second World War fighter pilot, according to his parents.
James Leininger’s parents Bruce, 59, and Andrea, 47, say they were initially sceptical about reincarnation, reports the Daily Telegraph.
But over time, they have become convinced their son has had a former life. From the age of two, he has suffered from nightmares about being shot down in a plane.
Mrs Leininger said: “In the throes of his nightmares you couldn’t work out what he was saying.
“But two or three months in, I was walking down the hall and I heard him saying, ‘Airplane crash, plane on fire, little man can’t get out’. It chilled me to my bone hearing this.
“I asked him what happened to his plane and he said, ‘It crashed on fire’. I asked how it crashed and he said the Japanese shot his plane.”
Flicking through a book, the two-year-old pointed at a picture of Iwo Jima in the Pacific and said that was where his plane was shot down.
Mr Leininger found that just one pilot died during the battle of Iwo Jima, James M Huston Jnr, 21. He was shot down on March 3, 1945.
The Leiningers have since traced the relatives of the dead pilot who they say were impressed by James’s apparent memories of the war.
James, from Lafayette, Louisiana, said: “I think the story is incredible. I don’t remember any of it but hearing about what happened when I was two, it is incredible