May 02, 2007

Dukkha, Kung Fu

Philip Ryan

The Wall Street Journal, which recently said 'No, thanks' to Rupert Murdoch, pontificated today on what satisfies us.

We constantly hanker after fancier cars and fatter paychecks—and, initially, such things boost our happiness. But the glow of satisfaction quickly fades and soon we're yearning for something else.

Well, gee, this assumes we get the fancier car and fatter paycheck. But of course we all have our own version of things we want. (If yours is a fancier car and fatter paycheck, you may want to subscribe to the WSJ.) The article looks at happiness from an evolutionary standpoint and says happiness doesn't necessarily help pass on our genes and so is useless. It's a good point in the United States where the pursuit of happiness is part of our avowed national goal. But really the article is just another shout-out to the First Noble Truth. Three more to go for the Wall Street Journal.

Also, here's an article about the Shaolin Temple in China and efforts to bring legitimate Shaolin traditions to America. But whose legitimate Shaolin traditions? Here's article's brief history of kung-fu:

Legend says that more than 1,500 years ago, an Indian monk named Bodhidharma sat meditating before a wall for nine years on Mount Songshan in northern China. When he finished, he began teaching at the Shaolin Temple that long periods of seated meditation would lead to enlightenment—the essence of Chan Buddhism, popularly known as Zen.

But the extended meditations also atrophied the monks' bodies. So Bodhidharma developed a series of calisthenics that evolved into kung fu, a form of martial arts.

Shaolin believe meditation clears the mind, preparing it for purer action. But a weak or sick body hinders clarity of thought. Kung fu, by building the body, complements meditation.

That's cool. They're still working on setting up a Shaolin Temple in San Francisco and having all sorts of arguments that haven't yet turned into epic Jet Li-style battles.

Philip Ryan, Webmaster

UPDATE: Some good stuff on dukkha over at the excellent Bhikkhu's Blog.

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