“Not Necessary”…

… was what my Zen teacher, Harada Tangen Roshi, used to say. And he used to say it to me a lot. I don’t remember exactly what I did, but I must have done and said some pretty moronic things. Oh, how short, my memory!

So figuring out what exactly is not necessary in life has been a kind of hobby (read: obsession) of mine since. I first took this “knife” to the very thing that fed me – Buddhism. To me, the Noble Eightfold Path is pretty much about what is necessary and what is not – like when to speak and when to refrain, etc. But what is interesting about this Path is the last one, that of right concentration. Without this concentration, or meditation, what the Buddha taught would have been no different to a philosophy. It is the necessary component that makes it different to philosophy.

But as I have said elsewhere what the Buddha taught cannot be seen as a religion either, at least not in the conventional sense. Note that I make a sharp distinction between the Buddha (what he taught) and Buddhism. To me, they are not the same. While Buddhism shows signs of religion (organization, structure, etc) the same could not be said about what he taught. The “community” or sangha, I believe, had a much wider meaning to the Buddha. Also the monasteries were not a place to dwell or meet, except only for convenience sake that it was necessary for it to be so. And his teaching was not a set formula but an open and varied practice (it included right livelihood showing the Path was also for the lay person).

So if the Buddha’s teaching can neither be seen as religion nor philosophy, then what can it be seen as? Let me ask another question: does it really need a label? Labels are such a human affair. For the fastidious perhaps, labels are necessary but not for this writer. There is nothing wrong saying it in the long-hand. So I will leave it at that, for I feel no more needs to be said.

But it is necessary to mention sustainability here, and take the knife of necessity to present humankind, because this is what my blog is about. And the entire blog is about how it is necessary to think about sustainability today, and how it is not necessary to consume as much as we do. It is decadance. And its root lie in his (I will blame man because he didn’t listen to woman more) fortuitous affluence and complacency. It is the if-you-have-it-flaunt-it or use-it-or-lose-it kinds of attitudes of our society that has amplifiied the sustainability problem unnecessarily.

8 thoughts on ““Not Necessary”…”

  1. if we only did what was needed, then there would be much self-denial, and sakyamuni taught to follow the middle way (or middle path, however you translate it). I.e.: live so that you neither live a life to self-indulged nor self-mortified. Neither oversleep nor undersleep too much – how will that help with reaching (realising) enlightenment?


  2. signature103 said: “If we don’t need to consume, why produce it? My point is some things are necessary for survival, some are not.”

    my point was sarcastic, but also serious: economic structures are currently aligned so as to *require* production. that is, our system is *production-oriented*. in this system, which I think is horrible, we have to actually work out what to do with what we produce, i.e., we have to get rid of all the products made. We can’t just stop this production.

    If a production system overproduces, such that the price of its commodity lowers due to a flodding of the market, they might just keep producing but destroy the products, rather than stop producing. That’s the disturbing reality.


  3. fieldmouse,

    If we don’t need to consume, why produce it? My point is some things are necessary for survival, some are not.

    Is the question “all that we produce” or “all that we have (already) produced”? If it is the former then reduce production. If it is the latter then still reduce production and consume what you have already produced. But don’t waste anymore. It has to stop somewhere, so it might as well be ‘here’.

    Also, thank you for the link. It seems interesting.


  4. By the way, you might like to read Buddhist Economics, by E. F. Schumacher. It’s only superficially about Buddhism, but his small scale social vision is totally inspiring.

    There’s a link on it from my blog


  5. Dead on. Couldn’t have said it better. Goes kind of in line with what I was saying…. now money is how we take pride in something: “I have enough to buy this, or buy that… and you don’t.” Sick world. Most of the time it takes tragedy to drive this mentality from our minds… to make us realize what actually has worth, and what doesn’t.

    Really enjoyed this one… excellent point concerning religion/Buddhism and the Buddha. Great!


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