Since the first ancient Buddhist texts, there’s been the analogy that the Buddha was like a doctor, his teaching being his medicine, “therapy for suffering hearts and minds” as it’s described by Thanissaro Bhikkhu on Access to Insight. “The Buddha’s path consisted not only of mindfulness, concentration, and insight practices, but also of virtue, beginning with the five precepts. In fact, the precepts constitute the first step in the path. There is a tendency in the West to dismiss the five precepts as Sunday-school rules bound to old cultural norms that no longer apply to our modern society, but this misses the role that the Buddha intended for them: They are part of a course of therapy for wounded minds. In particular, they are aimed at curing two ailments that underlie low self-esteem: regret and denial.”
The Buddha offered his medicine, free for anyone willing to make the effort. It’s up to us whether we take it or choose something else.
There are a couple of lines of Taj Mahal’s that leap out of this song at me. “The doctor said it’ll kill me but he didn’t say when…” Well, the Buddha took it a step further. Not only will we die, but we will keep dying, again and again, until the day we reach the Deathless State of utter peace. As for it being “ain’t nobody’s business but my own,” if you think of it from a non-dual, interconnectedness point of view, our suffering really is all of our business. I think of all the ones who have taken the Great Vow, not to enter Nirvana until every last sentient being enters together. I’ve recited it myself (half reluctantly!) on occasion. Could I look any of them in the eye and tell them my suffering isn’t any of their business?
Thanissaro Bhikkhu continues, “When our actions don’t measure up to certain standards of behavior, we either (1) regret the actions or (2) engage in one of two kinds of denial, either (a) denying that our actions did in fact happen or (b) denying that the standards of measurement are really valid.”
The moment we blur our mind with intoxicants, it’s that much easier to slip into denial, convenient disbelief that our suffering is ours alone, when what truly becomes required is responsibility.