Here’s a table of The 4 Noble Truths. It’s not perfect (and is actually simplified!), but it suggests a tantalizing idea: The Buddhist path may be based on a thorough-going deconstruction. I explored this in an earlier article, but here’s a summary.
I bundle collections of phenomena into objects. For instance, phenomena of certain images (like smiling faces), feelings (like pride), etc… get bundled under the object “reputation”. A similar process obtains for “cars”, “books” and all the other objects I encounter daily. I can go even further; I can deconstruct certain feelings into even lower level sensations, low enough that I have no emotional attachment to them.
The key here is that the phenomena making up the objects to which I cling do not in themselves inspire clinging. Yet, since no object exists beyond the phenomena that define them, this means I cling to illusions.
Yet, I still cling. Why? Well, because intellectual understanding is not enough. I have to SEE this in action. So how do I see this?
When I deconstruct the objects of my experience, I see the phenomena, feel no clinging and know there’s nothing beyond those phenomena. This facilitates letting go. It doesn’t matter how I deconstruct (there are many ways to do this) provided that my deconstruction fully defines the object and reduces things to a level to which clinging doesn’t apply.
For instance, let’s say I’m craving my favorite meal. Normally, I consume the meal without attending to this experience carefully. However, what if I deconstruct my experience as I eat the meal? What if I focus on the whole process; the sensations of saltiness, textures, my chewing, etc…? I don’t cling to any of those aspects, yet together they define the totality of consuming my favorite meal. Seeing this, I see first-hand that what I craved was a mental abstraction; not the entire set of phenomena, but something extra I added to this set.
My goal is to live this deconstruction, to deconstruct all experience, leaving nothing out. This includes the experience of the “self”, which is another abstract object, but one I’m so used to treating as the subject, that I take it for granted as a “background” when it really is not.
Deconstruction is a process, not an ontological or metaphysical claim.
So do the 4 Noble Truths in all their gory detail (and the many numbered Buddhist lists in general) represent a thorough-going deconstruction?
Is Buddhism the path of deconstruction?