Posted by: Upāsaka | 05/14/2019

Training Desire

I’ve been reading a lot of the Stoics and interacting with some groups and well-known authors of neo-Stoicism online of late. I’m continually impressed by how these teachings can improve character and it shows in the way these teachers and students of Stoicism comport themselves. And yet there is this sense that Stoic philosophy doesn’t go fast enough; it is as if it is missing something and I think I may have found part of the issue.

According to Massimo Pigliucci, desire can be trained and channeled, as it were, to desire only what is with our control. This proposition is attractive and, at least initially, seems to share some common ground with the Dhamma. But, upon closer examination, it seems to me that the whole idea of taming desire is where we go of the rails.

I need to look into this more but I think the issue is that, as long as we identify with the desire and have no insight into anatta, we really don’t have the space to see clearly and act from wisdom. We may still obtain the same apparent result but the moment our will power fails or we find ourselves reborn into new circumstances, there’s no guarantee that we won’t backslide.

Perhaps it’s this: with magga (path) there can be no phala (fruits) and we cannot break through and see anicca, dukkha and anatta four ourselves. Everything in Stoicism relies on discursive reasoning and will power but its cosmology and metaphysics don’t allow for anything more.

Clearly this deserves much more thought and I’m fleshing this out as I ride on the train but I expect to look into the texts more deeply for answers.


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