Skip navigation

Buddha was assailed by doubters, who kept asking for more precise details about nirvana before they would start down the path to enlightenment.

Buddha likened them to the inhabitants of a burning house, asking their rescuers what house they will get in exchange if they agreed to leave this one behind.

2000 years ago, the writer of the Lotus Sutra set down this parable on the obstinate nature of the human being.

People by nature are loss averse. We prefer to not profit rather than suffer losses. Some studies suggest that losses are twice as powerful, psychologically, as profits.

We are obsessed with accumulating security and safety. If we work hard enough, accumulate enough wealth and store enough away we will be proof against all the calamities of life. Once safe, we can begin living properly.

Till then, we live slowly and carefully.

We forget that we dwell in a burning house. Time, the most critical resource is strictly controlled. Every moment spent living the wrong way can never be recovered.  Buddha’s words capture our fleeting permanence.

Almost all of us know this at some level. The paradox is that even when we know there is something wrong with what we have now, we won’t give it up for something better. Even if we recognise it as better.

Instead, we need to know if its ‘better enough’ to justify the jump. That is the challenge of every argument. It does not have to be only better – it has to be ‘better enough’ to overcome mental inertia.

Buddha overcame this challenge by making the stakes too big to risk agonising over the decision: the escape of the soul from the chains of samsara hinged on action taken decisively, before the house and its inhabitants were claimed, once again, by the fires of death.

How will you?

Advertisements