Saturday, August 05, 2006

Notes on karma, suffering and Pirsig

If dependently arising values provide us with a way to think about all phenomena and if karma provides us with a directional process by which values are dependently arisen then one may be tempted to ask more about the direction in which we think these values may be headed. One answer to this has been provided by the Metaphysics of Quality (MOQ) proposed by Robert Pirsig in Lila. In it he writes:

Karma is the pain, the suffering that results from clinging to the static patterns of the world.

(Pirsig, Lila, Ch.32)

But he says of this suffering:

If you eliminate suffering from this world you eliminate life. There's no evolution. Those species that don't suffer don't survive. Suffering is the negative face of the Quality that drives the whole process.

(ibid, Ch.29)

So Pirsig is saying that the "direction" of the karmic process of dependently arising values is an aspect of that which is generally recognised as evolution. He elaborates on this in correspondence with Dr. McWatt:

The MOQ sees the wheel of karma as attached to a cart that is going somewhere - from quantum forces through inorganic forces and biological patterns and social patterns to the intellectual patterns that perceive the quantum forces. In the sixth century B.C. in India there was no evidence of this kind of evolutionary progress, and Buddhism, accordingly, does not pay attention to it. Today it’s not possible to be so uninformed. The suffering which the Buddhists regard as only that which is to be escaped, is seen by the MOQ as merely the negative side of the progression toward Quality (or, just as accurately, the expansion of quality). Without the suffering to propel it, the cart would not move forward at all.

(Pirsig to McWatt, 1997)

For any readers who are unaware of Pirsig's ideas, and hence what some of the terms mean in the quotes above, I intend to spend a little time covering the basics with respect to what I've been writing about here. The only point I wish to make here is that of the link of karma to evolution.

1 comment:

Daugter said...

I notice when I look at a ditigal clock it is always 11:11 or 2:22 or 3:33 or 4:44 or 5:55. When I come to a particular stop sign, a car will always be coming over the adjacent hill-always. I may see another car for two or three miles. Would anyone care to speculate on if there is a metaphysical meaning to this?