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The Existence of Suffering by Nietzsche and Khema
The core modern problem is characterized by the existence of suffering. Nietzsche and Khema said that the problem is rooted in the way mankind perceives their existence. But this is, where the two philosophers end their similarities and begin to expound on their different worldviews regarding the ideal solution to the modern problem. Nietzsche said that the solution to the problem requires the eradication of religion, because it tends to stifle imagination, passion, and scientific pursuits that led to the destruction of the sense of existence. Khema, on the other hand, proposed a solution based on Buddhism and runs counter to their argument of Nietzsche. Khema said that the ideal solution is the eradication of the craving, for existence. The arguments of both Nietzsche and Khema can be supported by their unique worldview.
It can, therefore, be argued that standing in the shoes of Nietzsche one can say that he is correct. But the same thing can be said about the argument of Khema if it is viewed from his perspective. Consider, for instance, the statement made by Nietzsche for he said: “That grand passion, which is at once the foundation and the power of a skeptic’s existence, and is both more enlightened and more despotic than he is himself, drafts the whole of his intellect into its service; it makes him unscrupulous; it gives him the courage to employ unholy means; under certain circumstances, it does not begrudge him even convictions” (Nietzsche 90). Nietzsche argued against religion.
The premise of his argument is the failure of religion during his time. He was born in a time when religion was seen as nothing, but a parasite to society. Nietzsche is so angry at the fact that religion serves no other purpose other than for the enrichment of the few. But his fury reached great heights when he realized that not only does religion fail to contribute to the transformation of the Renaissance man, but religion creates a roadblock that stifles his creativity, vision, and other desires that could lead to discovery, invention, and the solution to modern problems.
If viewed from the perspective of Nietzsche, his attack against religion is justified. There is numerous evidence to show the corruption of the clergy, but at the same time, it must be pointed out that Nietzsche was heavily influenced by the circumstances surrounding his times. But, if one would take a step backward, religion is not evil as characterized by enlightened men like Nietzsche, who saw firsthand the grave abuses perpetuated by religious leaders. Thus, claim of Nietzsche that religion stifles the pursuit of existence is justified.
The knowledge that Nietzsche has a biased worldview that is the direct result of the suffering that he experienced in his lifetime must encourage the student of philosophy to determine another solution to the modern problem. Suffering is everywhere and it is no longer practical and prudent to blame everything on religion. Nietzsche’s argument falls flat if he comes face-to-face with Mother Theresa. This petite nun of no political and financial power moved the hearts of men all over the world, because of her generous spirit. She lived among the poorest of the poor in India and served the outcasts. She even took care of the lepers. Her life is a counter-argument to Nietzsche’s criticism that religion is pure evil.
The search for an alternative solution to the modern problem leads to another philosopher, named Ayya Khema, who said that suffering is rooted in the craving for existence. Consider Khema’s argument regarding this matter for he said: “The way to look at this is to see that the delusion of this assumed self creates the craving for existence, and vice versa – the craving for existence is the underlying cause for the delusion of the assumed self” (Khema 147). Khema went on to argue that to end suffering one must recognize the stifling power of dukkha (Khema 120). He also said that man should learn disenchantment, dispassion, cessation, calm, higher knowledge, and a mind-made self.
A closer examination of his statements will reveal that Khema’s worldview is greatly influenced by Buddhism. Thus, the ideal solution for the modern problem is to deny the self of its desire to indulge the flesh and the craving for existence. He went further by saying that the pursuit of these things is unimportant in the general scheme of life. He said that it is important to let go. It can only be achieved through meditation. It is only through meditation and the desire for higher knowledge that an individual can cleanse the self of these destructive cravings.
Nietzsche and Khema provided contrasting views regarding the creation of a solution for the modern problem. Nietzsche said that suffering can be eradicated through an unhampered pursuit of truth, and this can only be achieved through the destruction of religion. Khema offers a different approach because instead of destroying religion, Khema upholds it by his desire to learn more about Buddhism. But Nietzsche and Khema agreed on one thing. Both philosophers believed that suffering can be reduced through the pursuit of knowledge. Nietzsche pursued the knowledge through the scientific method, while Khema said that the higher form of knowledge is only possible through constant meditation.
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