The aesthetic - sense of tragedy in Buddhism

Abstract. By clarifying the inner concept of tragedy in aesthetics, this article analyzes aesthetics in the Buddhist sense and their aesthetic value. Tragedy in Buddhism is about suffering in life due to opacity and aberration as a result of by ignorance and appetence. Conquering the self to become immortal is a magnificent aspiration of many individuals. Tragedy in Buddhism includes lofty aesthetic values, orienting people on the journey of self-improvement.

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JOURNAL OF SCIENCE OF HNUE Interdisciplinary Science, 2014, Vol. 59, No. 5, pp. 85-89 This paper is available online at THE AESTHETIC - SENSE OF TRAGEDY IN BUDDHISM Pham Minh Ai and Nguyen Thi Toan Faculty of Philosophy, Hanoi National University of Education Abstract. By clarifying the inner concept of tragedy in aesthetics, this article analyzes aesthetics in the Buddhist sense and their aesthetic value. Tragedy in Buddhism is about suffering in life due to opacity and aberration as a result of by ignorance and appetence. Conquering the self to become immortal is a magnificent aspiration of many individuals. Tragedy in Buddhism includes lofty aesthetic values, orienting people on the journey of self-improvement. Keywords: Tragedy, Buddhism aesthetics, aesthetic values. 1. Introduction Tragedy is a category of aesthetics that is associated with deep humane values and the human aspiration to improve the world. Buddhism is a religion/philosophy which reflects tragedy in human inner conflict. The way to overcome tragedy is to find the soul to open the mind which would liberate people from suffering. Tragedy in Buddhism awakens the desire to be good in every person, which is the foundation for Buddhism to sublimate people into Buddha in the eternal beauty of Nirvana in the earthly world. Nowadays, the study of tragedy in Buddhism has profound significance for ethics education as well as overcoming the paradox of economic growth which is accompanied by a degradation of morality and compassion. 2. Contents 2.1. Tragedy in aesthetics Basically, tragedy evaluates the aesthetic and ethical aspects of social phenomenon which involve conflict (between the new vs. old, progress vs. tradition and the individual vs. the community) that has never been resolved and is associated with misfortune and death. Along with beauty, comedy and sublimation, tragedy is a fundamental category of aesthetics which has deep humane and philosophical meaning, reflecting the specific Received May 25, 2014. Accepted June 13, 2014. Contact Nguyen Thi Toan, e-mail address: 85 Pham Minh Ai and Nguyen Thi Toan aesthetic realm that persists in the human struggle for development. It represents the persistent aspiration to regenerate the human conception of what is the world. In addition to the philosophical meaning, tragedy is also associated with awareness. Tragedy helps people realize that life is rich and complex. People reach out to have a good life and chase after happiness but happiness does not necessarily come to those who do good things. While there is always conflict in life people do find ways to overcome difficulties. Tragedy exists objectively in life and some people are concerned about its nature, its origin and the way to avoid it. 2.2. The aesthetic sense of tragedy in Buddhism Unlike the Western way of understanding tragedy, tragedy in Buddhism aesthetic brings a specific shade and expresses a very unique manner of feeling about people and life which has an Eastern color of human philosophy, reflection and introversion. Recognizing human existence and life not in terms of gain, win or lose, the Buddhist aesthetic sense recognizes the world to be a very subtle connective string between souls in consideration about goodness. The concept of tragedy is similar in Buddhism, Shakyamuni, Aritstotle, Hegel and Marx with regards to the experience of contradiction and conflict. However, every philosopher has his own approach to tragedy. Aristotle mentioned tragedy in conflict between the old and the new„ the progressive and the traditional. Hegel wrote about tragedy as a result of conflict between man and nature and in human sexuality as a standard deviation of each individual with universal moral principles. Marx discussed about tragedy mainly in class conflict social conflict. The explanation for those inconsistencies in the Buddhist aesthetic sense is considerably different. Being an introverted religion/philosophy, Buddhism recognizes tragedy to be associated with anxiety and inner conflict. Buddhism presented this as a contradictory structure, a contradiction between man and his circumstances, and an internal contradiction in an individual who has not been enlightened. In the Buddhist aesthetic sense, the origin of tragedy is not a struggle between two separate entities, good and evil, but rather it being one entity, a struggle between a clear, pure heart and desire, which creates karma. A dark greedy heart obscures the true path to libration. Tragedy is not about fate, destiny or supernatural forces but rather about knowing and not knowing, ignorance and enlightenment. Happiness and pain exist regardless of awareness. Most people worry and die in fear because the lack understanding. Those who are enlightened and aware of the Buddhist Sutras are happy and observe the nature of things as they really are. Tragedy in Buddhist teachings is shown in the first and second of The Four Noble Truths. There may not exist another philosophy that contemplates human suffering as deeply as Buddhist philosophy. According to Buddhism, the nature of human existence is to suffer. For people, life is suffering and the tears add up to more water than is found in the four oceans - and those tears are even saltier than sea water. But the cause of suffering lies within each person. Tragedy in Buddhism is the feeling of alienation caused by greed 86 The aesthetic - sense of tragedy in Buddhism and ignorance. People feel greedy, they hate, they are deluded and they cannot distinguish the difference between how they might get happy and the reason they want to be happy. And so they bring suffering upon themselves. Tragedy in Buddhism is derived from compassion, empathy and a love for all living things. To feel such empathy, each person must have sustainable internal skill and spirit. That stuff is a process of self- overcoming, a wonder of trophy of eliminating suffering. This is a struggle of overcoming desire which does not leave marks of success or failure, a struggle which is a million times tougher than those on the battlefield. Usually, people barely recognize their mistakes and wrongdoings and tolerate such things which lead to alienation rather than overcoming their desire to possess. Therefore, defeating oneself is really a difficult trophy but it is worthy of praise. If each of us knew how to win over ourselves, society would be happy. With overcoming desire comes no-self. Victory over other people is the victory of self. The victory of selflessness brings a quiet confidence, liberation and peace. The Buddhist view of impermanence and selflessness is seen by some as pessimistic. However, tragedy in Buddhism is not a negative pessimism but rather an optimistic desire to reach the pure and holy beauty of spirit. Behind the concept of human suffering is the strong belief that people can be kind and that the Eightfold Path goes beyond all delusions. Death in the Buddhist aesthetic sense has no pessimistic or painful nuance but is considered to be a necessary link within the impermanent cycle of transference. There is no self-confinement and torment in an endless spiral of ‘create, exist, degenerate, destroy’ or ‘be born, get old gat sick and die’. An acceptance of Buddhism teachings puts people in a serene mood to take inevitable things in the realm of impermanence. All are fragile in the long chain of birth and death. Hence, existence, nonexistence, loss, life, death, prosperity and decline are all endless serial categories of mankind and this earthly world. Eliminating suffering and coming towards beauty is what Buddhist aesthetics is all about. The lotus is the symbol of beauty in the Buddhist Sutras. This beauty can exist in lives which can vary all the filthy things into wonderful fragrance spreading in all directions, a dignity which does not stink of mud despite living close to the mud. The most perfect beauty in the Buddhist aesthetic sense is the color of liberation in the doctrine of the Buddha. In other words, it is the state of having a holy heart. Beauty in the Buddhist aesthetic sense means having internal balance, a unity of form and content. Nirvana is the harmonization of human perception and rules, acts and principles of life, perception and objects of perception. According to Buddhism, tragedy is alienation that is caused by ignorance and greed, and beauty is the disruption of unconscious immersion in ignorance and greed. Thus, in Buddhism, beauty emerges as egotism dissipates. The Buddha pointed his marvelous fingers to beauty. That coronary moon just wrapped up the word “heart”. Wherever there is ‘heart’, there is no-self. Freedom of mind results when one has power, as presented in the first and second of the four noble truths. Giving up greed and craving is the path to peace and is like pure drops of water on 87 Pham Minh Ai and Nguyen Thi Toan lotus leaves in the morning and is much like the lotus when it goes beyond dirty mud to confirm serenity and goodness with selfless intention in life. This path helps people live well and right. This path will expel misguided delusions and greed. This is particularly present in the aesthetics of Zen. Nirvana is the cessation of suffering. The way to get rid of suffering is the way to enlightenment and liberation. The way to get to Nirvana is the radical liberation of tragedy in the Buddhist aesthetic sense. Every step toward that goal brings happiness. The Buddha can be considered as an aesthetic man of action because not only did he describe tragedy and its cause but he also showed the way that people can free themselves from suffering and find the true nature of the holy spirit. When on this path, one does not beg paranormal Beings for help as is the case in many religions. Instead, it relies on the inner strength of each person, in the desire to be both good and human at the same time. In Buddhist philosophy, this is the belief in the ability and good nature of humans. 2.3. Aesthetic value of the aesthetic feel compassion in Buddhism Vietnamese people have souls in which the seed of Buddhism is available. For this reason, Buddhism can and has easily penetrated into the souls, mindset and lifestyle of Vietnamese people for a long time and become a part of who they perceive as their culture. Because Vietnamese culture has been deeply influenced by Buddhism, learning about tragedy in the Buddhist aesthetic sense is a way for Vietnamese people to understand better the Vietnamese soul and Vietnamese aesthetics. This is commonly seen in Vietnamese people’s expression of compassion towards strangers and living things. Tragedy in the Buddhist aesthetic sense helps us become more aware of human nature and human life and the value of tragedy to those on the path to goodness. No victory is as hard and great as the victory gaining in conquering desire, such as lust, which is so prevalent. Most people don’t understand this until after they die. Understanding the inner aspects of human life is probably a way to make people’s lives better, perhaps even reaching liberation. This Buddhist concept has great significance in asserting the importance of self-discipline and dignity, the overcoming bad things to bring out the best in human nature. Sense of tragedy in Buddhism means thorough values. It warns people that evil and is the result of our own greed, hatred and delusion. It awakens the perennially strong desire to be holy and good in each person, something which is usually concealed by rivalry and pettiness. The concept of tragedy in the Buddhist aesthetic sense helps us face life and death with a positive attitude, kindness, bravery and calm. Understanding that all is impermanent makes people brave and able to have what some would consider to be a meaningful life. Those who are enlightened have absorbed Zen teachings of impermanence and selflessness and calmly face the changes in life. Being in balance with one’s environment and reaching firm stuff is the manifestation of “dead” aspects of the nature 88 The aesthetic - sense of tragedy in Buddhism of “enlightenment” and “essence”. Enlightened people therefore practice an altruistic lifestyle, feeling their own impermanence and serving others. The altruistic and selfless way of life is the only way to go, whether life is hectic or slow. Hereafter, aesthetic value, the beauty of human perfection and life’s philosophy shine brightly, including sincerity and kindness. When people feel empathy towards others, they become more human. Life is beautiful if we not only take, but also give. This brings people together. Love, caring and the empathy for the pain and loss of others without deliberation is clean and clear. Happiness is bringing happiness to others, blurring the boundary between oneself and others. Buddhism points the way towards a beautiful life in this world. When one is honest with oneself one can know who one is and what one should do. This obviously implicates the vivid Engaged spirit in Buddhism aesthetic sense because the ethereal beauty is not in somewhere far away but it embodies right in the most dusting place in this world. This dogma exists for people. Buddha encouraged us to "Light the torch by yourself and go", to rely on oneself to eliminate suffering and to construct a happy life, not begging for or expecting to be rescued by any spiritual Beings. Buddhism considers man to be the center, the owner of all acts in all three tenses: past, present and future, the only God who has the total right to reward and punish for the whole of his life, who cannot be lifted up to heaven or pushed down to hell by anyone or any genies. In Dhammapada, the Buddha said: "Only we do impure things, only we pollute ourselves, and only we avoid impure things, only we can cleanse ourselves. Purity or impurity depends on oneself. "No one can purify another” [2]. The kernel of the Buddhist aesthetic system is a humanistic and realistic aesthetic ideology. All comes from people, is for people and is about people. Aesthetics are of and for people. 3. Conclusion Although it has its limitations, tragedy in the Buddhist aesthetic sense has lofty aesthetic values. It pertains to human awakening, to the sublimation of the dark aspects of individuals and to the arousal of a desire to be kind. Before Buddhism human philosophy including aesthetic sense of the tragedy, we need some more deep and silent moments to understand and experience numerous challenges on the earthly journey. REFERENCES [1] Thich Thien Tam, 1996. Buddhism aesthetic ideology. Published by The Buddhist conference in Ho Chi Minh City [2] Translated by Thich Thien Sieu, 1993. Dhammapada. Institute of Buddhist Studies Publisher [3] Translated by Quang Tri, 2005. Lotus Sutra. Religion Publishers. [4] Nguyen Thi Toan, 2010. Commentaries on the libration in Buddhism. National Political Publishing House, Hanoi. 89