I was too shocked to cry, too confused to take notes or ask questions, too bewildered to even think. . . . As he burned he never moved a muscle, never uttered a sound, his outward composure in sharp contrast to the wailing people around him.– David Halberstam (a correspondent for the New York Times)
In the 1960s, the Buddhist people in Vietnam were experiencing such an extreme level of oppression, that one man, a Buddhist monk named Thich Quang Duc, decided he would set himself on fire in hopes that it would bring peace to his country and his people. What’s remarkable about this event is the manner in which the monk experienced the pain of setting himself on fire: Motionless. Equanimous. At peace.
In this episode, Julian will read a story from a book named “Everything Is Fucked”, which recounts the timeless and invaluable history lesson of the monk that set himself on fire.
Julian will then give his commentary on the story and expand on the concepts of pain and suffering. Julian explains that pain can be practical depending on the meaning you give to the pain and how you respond to it. He then goes on to argue that there is some pain that is worth experiencing, and expands on several examples: cold showers, meditation, fasting, healthy eating, and exercising.
- Why was this monk willing to endure massive amounts of pain and even give his life?
- How was he able to endure the excruciating pain of being engulfed in flames without moving or making any sounds?
- What is the value of pain and suffering? How can we give meaning to our suffering?
- What is your pain threshold? How can you increase your pain threshold?
The core concept of this episode: “The Buddha said that suffering is like being shot by two arrows. The first arrow is the physical pain—it’s the metal piercing the skin, the force colliding into the body. The second arrow is the mental pain, the meaning and emotion we attach to the being struck, the narratives that we spin in our minds about whether we deserved or didn’t deserve what happened. In many cases, our mental pain is far worse than any physical pain. In most cases, it lasts far longer. Through the practice of meditation, the Buddha said that if we could train ourselves to be struck only by the first arrow, we could essentially render ourselves invincible to any mental or emotional pain.”