The Essence of Nature
Everything in nature is conditioned, cause and effect, and our own existence is exactly the same, so no matter what we believe or think we are merely the sum total of this conditioning.
On first arrival, for several weeks we are simply an egg, then life begins at the navel. As we grow physically we begin to become aware of the world through our belly-button window and eventually make our entrance to find out what it is all about (whether we like it or not). Later, after a couple of years, once we have gotten on our feet, so to speak, we experience another birth, the birth of a self, a personality, and then the conditioning in the mind begins to take over completely. From then onwards we experience many births, changes in conscious experience, as this so-called self attaches to the conditioning of the mind. This series of births continues until we leave (die), and then repeats itself, here or somewhere else; that is unless we endeavour to unlock the secrets of this conditioning and experience yet another birth, a higher birth, of going beyond the world of physical and mental conditions, eventually reaching the unconditioned, sunyatta.
While many people are aware of the concept of Samsara, as an endless cycle of birth and death from one life to another, they are correct in having little interest in the possibility of some future existence. More correctly, Samsara is in the present life, the present moment, where people endlessly roll on from one type of consciousness to another, being born and dying as another type of self, due to the conditioned clinging and desire in their minds.
Most people do not go on to a higher birth because they maintain and even reinforce their attachments to their conditioning, and to many people no amount of explanation will make the slightest of difference. However, many people do wake up to a certain extent by realizing that this existence is not the ideal situation and develop an interest in religion in the hope of a better and more reliable existence, while others form their own personal religion out of what they enjoy in this life, such as work, sport, music, travel, shopping, drinking, narcotics, and gambling. Thus, many people do eventually realize that this existence is not ideal, and that it is unsatisfactory in nature, dukkha. The essence of this existence, and any other, due to it being conditioned, is that it is unsatisfactory, impermanent, and non-self, not only in its totality but also in whatever we experience in individual moments throughout our life.
Generally, human beings have an inflated opinion of their presence in the world and their achievements, much like chickens that lay an egg, only more so. Unfortunately, there is no specific range for human consciousness, thus this conditioning involves not only what we might consider to be worthy of decent human beings but also animal, demonic, hungry ghost, and even deva or angelic type conditioning, and often a single human being is capable of expressing all of these types of consciousness at different times (Samsara).
The idea of a perfect world is certainly a nice one, and many people have made attempts at this, usually in the form of genocide, getting rid of all those whom they consider to be unsuitable (not forgetting slavery and attempts at forming a utopia). Other methods have also been used, like a caste system, and in the present day we have a world ruled by the merchant and military castes, and many of the so-called democratically elected politicians pander to their wishes rather than to the hopes of the ordinary people who elect them. Even then, we cannot arrive at a perfect world, because of dukkhang, aniccang, anatta; the nature of all conditioned existence, unsatisfactoriness, impermanence and non-self.
You cannot make a perfect world out of imperfect and primitive beings who do not really see or understand the world to begin with. Acknowledging that many people are highly educated (only in knowledge of human society's sensual appreciation of materiality and academic theories, unfortunately) and that most people generally live decent and respectable lives, they remain primitive beings as long as they are ignorant of the conditioning that makes up their lives. In real terms, to overcome this primitive state people need to recognize the conditioning that creates the notion of a permanent self or personality, their own doubt of ever going beyond this conditioning due to attachment to their own views and opinions, their attachment to virtue and rites and rituals, and their attachment to sensuality and not understanding the nature of the senses; namely, the four attachments.
In terms of seeing and understanding the world, most people do not see the supposition that binds societies and cultures; meaning that the world and world society is only supposedly a certain way, like a hypothesis, whereas in reality it is not. When we begin to talk about reality, or the truth, then almost everyone has their own opinion about the truth, but world society in general clings to popular and convenient truths and ignores the real truth, namely the essence of nature, and in particular, the essence of our own nature.
Many people think that their time here is to become somebody, accomplish something by which they are recognized and respected (even if it creates suffering for other beings), or make a mountain of money to be recognized, respected, and have power and influence (our idea of self demands an encouraging and adoring audience). On the other hand, if people do not attain such hollow triumphs, attachment to this same self idea often leads them to think in terms of failure and uselessness, and this self-created conditioning then leads them to engage in some some meaningless pursuit that leads to their death, or even to commit suicide.
In general, existence for most people becomes a prison to a certain degree, in that their attachment to a hypothetical lifestyle and a hypothetical view of life binds them, ties them up, and creates suffering for them. The analogy of a prison is very close to reality. However, if you were to ask the inmates of a real prison what they wanted the most, then they would all want to be free of the prison; to be on the outside. They would not want to move to a more heavenly part of the prison, become the most popular person in the prison, become recognized as the messiah of the prison, nor even become the powerful master of the prison; they would all want real freedom.
The hypothetical self, the fundamental primal instinct of all lower beings, is just a convenient truth; there is no one there, just conditioning in our own minds. Doubt exists because most people never even attempt to verify these natural truths for themselves and cannot go beyond their own views and opinions, which are usually the general views of society and culture. As for virtue, it is very good, however, the clinging to it is not as it often creates the opposite, namely, clinging to aversion whenever we see a lack of virtue, and virtue alone, although being responsible for basic happiness, is quite useless when it comes to examining the essential nature of our minds. Most people are aware of the attachment to rites and rituals in others, but fail to recognize their own superstitious habits, and while sensuality may be considered natural, attachment to it to the point of blindness is unnatural, and not understanding its nature leads to serious problems.
Assuming that many things are ‘only natural’ is a common folly, and many people also assume that getting angry and having attachment to aversion are only natural. They are natural if you are a being ruled by greed, anger and delusion, and other behaviour may be considered natural if you have attachment to being born an animal, a demon, or a hungry ghost (basically a being who can never experience any kind of satisfaction, so it takes out its frustration on other beings, again, without gaining any satisfaction). Without going into great detail and offending people, regarding levels of consciousness and what belongs to what realm of existence, you look for the lowest common denominator. Thus, if you find that something is also a common trait of the animal realm, even though it may be regarded as ‘only natural’ or even ‘divine’ in society, then that trait is basically animal in nature.
‘Only natural’ is simply a convenient truth, an excuse, and is usually accepted because people follow the herd and act like everyone else. This is somewhat like Confucian thinking, where the view of the majority is generally accepted, resulting in ‘situational morality’, meaning that morality depends upon the situation; if everyone thinks that something is acceptable then it becomes acceptable. Thus, things like corruption in society, especially among politicians, become considered a ‘necessary evil’ as it becomes normal practice (and is no longer considered to be corruption). There are laws and rules of course, and while a lot of people generally ignore the laws, they tend to follow the one single rule, ‘don’t get caught’.
While some societies often have innumerable laws and rules and claim to be efficient and just societies, one would have to think the opposite and regard them as primitive and somewhat ignorant of how to behave (unfortunately, having laws and rules is only a basic remedy when beings are ruled by greed, anger, and delusion, and does not really address the cause). However, people only need to follow one rule, and that is not to lose direction in their minds; not causing suffering and offending other beings (unless we do so only by pointing out what is true). We can compare this to the simple act of eating with a clean plate (and ‘eating’ is what everyone does anyway when it comes to sensual nourishment, gahma). We can lose direction and eat with a dirty plate if we so choose, but eventually we will become sick and suffer, and this is exactly what happens to the mind when we have attachment, it is not a clean and bright mind and eventually we will suffer because of it.
Generally, in talking about these four attachments (Uppatahn See, in Thai), most people will not accept them as the essence of our own nature because they regard them as sources of happiness. Sources of happiness they truly are, in an ignorant and primitive way, but they are also sources of happiness that turn around and bite you when you least expect it. Thus, they are happiness that bites.
Another obstacle for many people is that they often regard such truths as religious and belonging to Buddhism. However, even if The Buddha and Buddhism had never existed, these truths would still be the essence of our own nature. The only difference being that no one would be talking about them as we would all remain completely ignorant. Thus, these truths are not beliefs, not religious, and do not belong solely to Buddhism, but are simply the true nature of our being that anyone can verify for themselves; which then dispels the doubt that people have that by observing the true nature of our own mind we can reach the next level of birth and experience real freedom from our delusional conditioning.
Happiness and contentment are what all beings are looking for, and while people do experience what they consider to be fleeting moments of real happiness in their lives, it is a view of happiness related to the ever changing conditions of their minds; a happiness based upon Samsara. Most people look to the outside for happiness, or look to other beings or material objects as their sources. However, one should ask where happiness is, and where is unhappiness?
Whatever we experience is dependent upon the quality of mind, not how much we can buy, how famous we are, or where we travel. Thus, whatever we buy, whatever we become, and wherever we go, it is the same mind that experiences it. If we do feel somewhat better after buying half the store, you can guarantee that this need, this desire, will remain unsatisfied and in true samsaric fashion will eventually come around again to haunt us. If all that we know is blind and delusional attachment then we are hardly any more advanced than a laboratory monkey that keeps pressing the right button over and over to get a treat. We have no control over the basic nature of our minds. However, what we realize through observation and understanding is that we are solely responsible for the condition of our mind, and going beyond attachment frees the mind and enables truer direction in our lives, resulting in better quality experience.
If you were a scientist studying human existence then you would have to look at all of the evidence closely, ignoring the general views of society and religion and coming to the very essence of its nature, namely the conditioning of all things, nothing happens by chance, and in particular the conditioning that people attach to in their minds. For those who do see this evidence, then they can come to only one conclusion, that there is no other choice but to let go of this conditioning and travel forward. This is the conclusion that many people have arrived at, and as you would expect, before they come to understand the true nature of their attachments they do not relish the prospects of letting go, but eventually they do so because they realize that there is no other choice.
The Essence of Human Nature
The Four Attachments of an Ordinary Human Being
Doubt due to attachment to 'personal' views and opinions
Virtue and rites and rituals
Magnificent scenery, good food, and a good place to find metaphysicists who never stop talking, but not a place for repeated visits, as apart from natural dangers the natives are ruled by greed, anger and delusion and lifetime visas are brief (1.5 days celestial time), which really spoils everything. File under Dangerous and Fearful.
While there are innumerable problems, we can only apply generosity, kindness and wisdom. The answer to solving the world's problems is that there is no answer; this is how it is, this is its nature, all due to the conditions that support it. It is simply a stop along the road of samsaric existence, and the masses of transient beings who arrive (and depart) by the second bring their problems with them, namely their ignorant minds.