Positing Promised Lands

What is one of the greatest hindrances to beginning the existential inquiry into the Unborn, what Buddha called “the noble search”? The Six Hindrances in Buddhism refer to hindrances for one who is already on the path, but what of those who keep overlooking the path, who don’t see the path as a path in the first place?

I suggest that the greatest hindrance to seeing the path as a path is positing promised lands over here, over there, or out there.

Now to posit is to set something forth in front of one, to place it out there. Thus, to posit the promised land is to put something forth out in front of one with a view to that promised land being what will bring about, or coincide with, the final end of one’s suffering as well as the experience of ultimate peace and happiness.

Promised lands are used daily, monthly, and yearly and, as such, are moving targets. When you say to yourself, “I just need to get through this exam and then I’ll take a rest,” you’re fudging the math: you’re really implying that the end of this exam will coincide with lasting peace and happiness, yet obviously this is not even close to being true. Thus, it’s a fudge to get by.

And yet, out of delusion, we don’t admit that we keep fudging while lying to ourselves. The next job, a different relationship, getting out of this painful seated position, moving to Bali or Oaxaca, acquiring a new possession, getting a dog or cat: none of these are anything but false posits of the promised land. They’re false because they cannot possibly keep their promises. Their falsity is shown, in fact, by the urge to keep positing a new promised land after the last one (as well as the one before it) failed.

Moreover, psychological states, psychological healing, altered states, and certain experiences also, and equally, fall prey to this delusion. Simply, no altered state will end your suffering while also making you boundlessly happy. It makes no difference, on this score, whether you’ve been to Burning Man.

What I’ve written above continues to be overlooked just because many of us devote our lives to playing shell games with ourselves. “Oh, I know that it’s not living in Boulder or Costa Rica now, but maybe it has to do with this coaching training.” Nonsense. “Getting into better physical shape: I used to think that that would make me happy, but now I know it’s Bitcoin.” Double nonsense.

Do you see how tragic this is? By this means, suffering continues in slightly altered forms and shapes.

And so, what happens when you finally realize that all of the above is really just the same pattern, one that Buddhists aptly term “the cycle of samsara“? Just the same old shit, albeit in new dress. Understandably, you’re presented with two basic options. The first one is nihilism. The second is the noble search.

I urge you to embrace the noble search and thus to cease not only positing promised lands but also to forget the nihilism born of self-pity. Who is this self-pitying self anyway? Who has been positing all this all along? Find that out and be free.