Three Fires




Three Fires

1. Gautama’s Fire


Gautama’s principal and most concrete image of born existence
was that of fire or heat. His philosophical conceptions are feeling-conceptions
(rather than merely intellectual or verbal-mental conceptions). His philosophy
has its concrete basis in a profound feeling-sensitivity to the status
of born existence. He felt that born existence (or every form of psycho-physical
process) is literally on fire. That fire is the concrete feeling-context
of all desire. And desire, in Gautama’s view, is the prime mover or creative
cause of all forms of motion, effect, thought, experience, birth, self,
and death.

Gautama’s entire philosophy is devoted to convincing us
of the existence of this fire and motivating us to put it out. Therefore,
his Argument is first of all devoted to waking us up to the fact that we
are on fire (much as one would try to call someone’s attention to the fact
that a burning coal had fallen into his or her clothing). His first effort
is devoted to the establishment of the conviction in his hearers that they
are on fire—which is to say that born existence is inherently painful,
burning, or driven by desire.

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