Buddha's unasked question | Bleader

Friday, August 18, 2006

Buddha's unasked question

Posted By on 08.18.06 at 06:49 AM

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A different take on Buddhism, the favorite escape hatch of ex-Christians who want to keep some kind of religion on hand: 

"Gautama Siddartha, you may recall, decided the world was a place of unmitigated suffering and unhappiness, to be escaped at all costs, after he first encountered old, sick and poverty-stricken people. Only recently did a sharp American psychologist, Robert Biswas-Diener, say, 'But hang on—did he ever get down from his gilded chariot and ask those people if they were unhappy?'"

Evidently not. So Biswas-Diener undertook to answer a question left unasked for a couple of millennia.

In India, "He even questioned sex workers in the back streets of Calcutta, surely the most wretched of the earth. 'No,' they said, 'we’re mostly quite happy, thanks.' How can this be? Well, compare it with the experience of paraplegia. Calcutta’s prostitutes are dirt poor, but then money doesn’t make you happy. Having intense friendships, close-knit families and neighbourhoods certainly does: and that’s just what they have. Bye-bye Buddhism."

And hello New Urbanism, which is really light on theology!

(Hat tip to 3 Quarks Daily, where you can read the whole thing, a Times [of London] Online review of several recent books about happiness.) 

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