A thought experiment on what you would do if you never suffered again
I became Enlightened yesterday. After meditating for ten years, I finally did it! It feels amazing. This deep sense of abiding peace, with waves of satisfaction and intense levels of joy on demand.
I don’t know for sure if it will last, so I am making this log to see what happens for future posterity and analysis.
I’m going to go back to meditating in the cave. Looking forward to writing this journal.
I have been sitting in complete bliss for the last month. No suffering at all during that time. Occasionally I feel hunger, physical pain, or a sense of sadness for the suffering in the world, but it does not cause suffering to me. I look at them and feel immense love for these sensations and thoughts. It is like crying at a sad movie. The emotions feel good and I do not wish to make them go away, for they, just like all of reality, are perfect just the way they are.
I am leaving the cave.
I realized that I wanted to share what I have learned with others. This is interesting. I thought Enlightenment would have abolished all desire. And it has. But it has not.
How to describe it?
I have a desire to help the suffering, but if I fail, I will not suffer. If I simply sit in the cave, I will continue to be blissful. I will feel completely satisfied. Complete.
So why help? Why do anything other than stare at the wall?
It is not because of some philosophical and rational reason to help. I simply want to. The desire arises, I see it, and seeing that I will be happy either way, I decide to attempt to satisfy it.
Do I desire beauty too? When I left the cave, I was blown away by the majesticness of the mountains. I was also overcome by these same emotions in the cave though.
Everything is filled with a glowing light of beauty. So why would I want to see mountains? Do I?
I shall have to experiment.
I desire truth! I realize this is the whole function of this log. But why? Why do I want anything? This is fascinating.
I shall have to find others who have achieved Enlightenment and see what they have discovered. Am I what happens in general? Do others have different experiences?
I spoke to another Enlightened One. He was sitting in a cave outside of a small Nepalese village.
When I arrived he did not speak. He looked straight at me and did not respond.
“Hello.” I said. “I heard you are Enlightened. I am as well and I wish to learn about your experience. When was the last time you suffered?”
He smiled beatifically at me. After a long pause he said, “Not since my Enlightenment ten years ago.”
“Wonderful! What have you done since then?”
“Nothing. I sit here and experience deep bliss and peace. Why do anything else? I have abolished all desire.”
“Then why are you speaking to me?”
“Because I still wish to survive. This is my only remaining desire. To stay alive such that I may continue experiencing True Happiness. To stay alive, I must occasionally speak to visitors, such that I may receive alms. Of course, to die is also fine. I will not suffer when it happens. I put in the absolute minimum effort to stay alive because why do more?”
“That is so interesting! I find that I still desire truth and beauty and to help suffering beings. You do not have these desires?”
He laughs, a deep belly laugh of True Mirth. “Ah, I see. You finally prove my hypothesis.”
“What’s that?” I ask, confused.
“You see, I was a neuroscientist before I began my Quest for Enlightenment. I always debated with people that the only thing that mattered was happiness, so why not go straight to the source, achieve Enlightenment and be happy no matter what?
“But people kept disagreeing with me. They said that they cared about more than happiness. I told them they were confused. They only cared about the truth because it made them happy. If they felt happy even if they believed incorrect things, they would not try to discover the truth of the matter. They only cared about others’ suffering because to see it made them feel sad. If they never felt sad about it, they would not care. Ultimately, it’s all about happiness.
“At first I mostly spoke to the unsophisticated who had not thought of such matters much. I felt confident in my claims. But then as I continued my studies, I came across more and more people who were exceptionally intelligent and well versed in the topic. And they still disagreed with my obviously correct conclusion!
“I became confused myself. They were not unaware of my arguments. They could easily follow my line of thought. And yet, they still disagreed.
“Then it hit me. Perhaps I only cared about happiness, but others cared about other things as well? Perhaps the brain is structured such that its main form of motivation is to avoid suffering and pursue happiness, but that is only one of many mechanisms. Perhaps there’s variation between people about the strength of the various mechanisms, and some have only one: happiness. And perhaps those who have only one are like those who cannot visualize things in their inner eye who assume that when people say that they can, it is merely a figure of speech, as it is for them. They have typical mind fallacy and think that since they cannot visualize, others cannot either.
“And here you are! We are proof of this! I ceased to suffer and since then I have pursued nothing. You, on the other hand, continue to have desires despite being in a constant state of bliss. How very lovely.”
We spoke for a few more minutes, then I gave him some alms and departed.
I had much to think about.
I had much truth to discover, much beauty to apprehend, and many sentient beings to help. For despite having discovered Permanent and True Happiness, there were still things I wanted, and I would pursue them.
Because life is not all about happiness to me.
I'm an effective altruist who co-founded Charity Science Health and Charity Entrepreneurship.