Sunday, February 1, 2009

Awakening Joy

Someone once said that had the Buddha been a better marketer he would have reframed his Four Noble Truths thus:

Original Version:

There is suffering.
Suffering has causes.
Suffering can be extinguished by interrupting its causes.
To extinguish suffering, follow The Noble 8-Fold Path.

Revised Version:

There is Incredible Joy!
Joy has causes.
The causes of Incredible Joy can be cultivated.
To cultivate Incredible Joy, follow The Noble 8-Fold Path

I don't know if this reworking of the Buddha's Four Noble Truths had anything to do with James Baraz coming up with his internet course, Awakening Joy, but I suspect it might. In any event, thousands of people have taken his course and found it useful. Oprah has featured it in her magazine. It's caught on like wildfire and given James the success and notice he deserves.

I decided to enroll my wife and me in it, as a birthday gift to her. It will bring us a lot of happiness.

Enrollment is still open as it begins in February. (Delwyn, I'm thinking about your February 1 post.)

Here's a YouTube video describing the class:

Disclaimer. I've been to several retreats with James and he's an acquaintance of mine. I know him to be a reliable guide. One of the musicians in the course is Eve Decker, a member of my "Society of Friends."


Delwyn said...

Good on you for enrolling...and happy birthday to your wife from me

Yesterday was my husband's mother's birthday. If she were living Milo (rhymes with pillow) would be 95. She died 3 years ago after a joy focused life. I was going to say joy-filled but I know she had difficult times as well as joyous ones - but she chose to dwell in joy. I am grateful that I had her for my MIL and experienced her joi de vivre.

I am also grateful that through her I knew her father, J's grandfather, - a french professor and lover of the outdoors

and through their family I have been able to experience the joys of the Whareama weekender. (will elucidate in future post)

Delwyn said...

Dan I wanted to say (but got side tracked in my eagerness to give thanks) in regard to reframing the 4 noble truths ~ I'm still in favour of the former. I found in my counselling experience that it is hard for people to imagine an emotion like joy or happiness when all they are feeling is despair or depression and the best place to start is by normalising what they are feeling so they don't feel alone in their responses to their experiences. Once that has been done then it is an incremental step by step process to move towards the opposite pole. To have joy as a goal could be daunting to some people, even laughable, who have not felt that way or never felt that way. But to comprehend that suffering has causes and these causes can be investigated and perhaps mitigated by following a set of guidelines, with some encouragement and support, is a very plausible and reachable goal,in the first instance.
On the other hand for people ~ maybe like us~ who have had the benefit of learning from loving relationships and family - cultivating joy is a much easier precept to adopt. In the end it all amounts to the same but I tend to think 'if it aint broke don't fix it.' I'm sure the Buddha had his reasons. And maybe this is why all the modern day gurus have such fleeting authority and ascendancy because they are appealing to our gullibility to buy snake oil rather than transcend our suffering.

Mr. Kinder said...

Yes, completely agree. I'm not one to second-guess the Buddha's reasons for framing the 4NT as he did. It's just like you say. For some, even those who ARE suffering a lot, thinking about the causes of suffering is just too painful, so they aren't attracted to Buddhism.

Thank you for your comments. They're spot on.

Delwyn said...

Those that have suffered a lot are often re-traumatized by revisiting their suffering.There is an excellent book by Babette Rothschild called 'The Body Remembers' which explains how at a time of trauma the usual laying down of memory in the brain does not occur in the normal way. The 'explicit' memory of facts, description, operations that are based on thought, and rely on language get split off from the 'implicit' memory that bypasses language and is an unconscious process where emotions, sensations, behavioural impulses get laid down without access to the context in which they arose or are about. That's why people seem to be dissociated and why they can re-experience all the bodily sensations and emotions of a trauma by talking about it.
So I can see why they would not be attracted to Buddhism - they can have a lot of difficulty just coping with life.