A stream of pleasure (獨行道 2)

This is number 2 of my series of posts on Dokkōdō.

Dokkōdō (獨行道) is a short work written by Miyamoto Musashi (宮本武蔵) a week before he died in 1645. It consists of 21 precepts. [It] was largely composed on the occasion of Musashi giving away his possessions in preparation for death, and was dedicated to his favorite disciple, Terao Magonojō. “Dokkōdō” expresses a stringent, honest, and ascetic view of life. ~ From Wikipedia

2. Do not seek pleasure for its own sake.


Pleasure is not intrinsically a bad thing, although it has something of a bad reputation.

Many might feel that experiencing pleasure, or doing something because it feels good means you are being selfish and self-serving.

And, if you follow an ascetic view of life, like Musashi did, then seeking pleasure as an end to itself is inherently undesirable.

But there is another way to view pleasure.

Feeling pleasure is, fundamentally, an emotional reaction to stimulus. Something happens to you and you feel good or bad. Maybe someone gives you a neck massage, and that feels good. Maybe someone slaps you in the face and that feels bad.

But like I mentioned in the previous post, the massage or the slap are not inherently good or bad, they are just a stimulus.

And there are people who are ticklish or sensitive and feel a neck massage would be uncomfortable. And there are those who might (for whatever reason) feel a slap in the face is enjoyable.

Our belief about the meaning of the stimulus dictates our emotional response.

Likewise, changing our belief about that meaning would similarly change our emotional response.

The seeking of pleasurable stimulus just to receive pleasure is an empty path. It is self-serving. Because it is an act that provides no service nor fulfills any greater purpose.

But how you respond to any stimulus — and the emotional meaning that is tied to it — is completely up to you.

In other words, you don’t need to seek pleasure to feel pleasure.

You may walk along a path every day on your way to work. You pass the same stream every day and barely give it a thought.

But one day you take time to view the stream and appreciate the simple beauty of this natural feature. The sound of the water and the way the light dances on its surface fills you with wonder and joy.

The stream is no different. But on this day it has provided you with a pleasurable feeling. Why? Because you decided to view it in a way that provided pleasure.

You do not need to seek pleasure to feel pleasure. Pleasure surrounds you as much as any other emotional sensation surrounds you.

Rather, they are within you.

How you view the world, and what you believe about what you see, provides you with opportunities to take pleasure in whatever you experience.

Or, on the other side, you can decide to feel anger, resentment, displeasure, or frustration in whatever you experience.

The choice is up to you.

There is beauty in the mundane. There is amazement in the simple. There is joy in the everyday world.

And there is pleasure wherever you go.

Do not seek pleasure for its own sake. That is a pointless endeavor. It is already within you. You would do just as well to go on a quest for your lungs or stomach.

Why not feel the pleasures already inherent in our daily experiences?

It is an effort that uncovers the richness of life, and enhances every breath we take.

Photo by Max Andrey from Pexels