There are not many places in Hyderabad that I can go for breakfast and I do not usually eat breakfast here. Whenever I wanted to have breakfast I will go to this bakery shop called “Ofen” and will have a doughnut and a cappucino and read the newspaper. Today, I happen to go for breakfast there and while waiting for my food to come, I saw imprinted on the Deccan Chronicle newspaper a very popular quote from Kafka and my head kept on thinking about it for some reasons that I do not understand. Perhaps it’s because I have just finished watching Bergman’s “Cries and Whispers” in the early morning hours (and what a thing to do to watch a Bergman movie early in the morning!).
The quote is particularly powerful when reading Indian newspapers where you will read so many news about how bad the human condition is. The quote reads:
“A first sign of the beginning of understanding is the wish to die.”
I am not exactly sure what Kafka meant when he wrote this. The “first sign is the wish to die” is perhaps consistent with the Buddha’s understanding of the human condition via the first of the Four Noble Truths, i.e. “The Noble Truth of Suffering”. When one understands life via the First Noble Truth, how can one still have the heart to continue living? Lucky for us, the Buddha laid a way where we can overcome this suffering but perhaps Kafka was not very much aware of it :)
I do not subscribe to nihilistic philosophy and I think that suffering exists because happiness exists. But for some people, there is more suffering than there is happiness. Everyday when I look to the streets of Hyderabad and see those children that sleeps by the roadside in dirty and torn clothes begging for food, I begin to wonder and think to myself if there is ever any happiness, any future, for these children. Will the Buddha’s Eightfold Path salvage them from their suffering when their basic needs could not even be met?
However, from what I see and if I observe correctly, there is even more life or to put it more correctly, a greater desire to live in these children than what I will assume to be pure suffering for them. Somehow, they seem to be able to live with whatever they can find and when it rains for example, their laughters while they play with the rain seem more life reassuring to me than anything to the contrary and in fact provided me with greater strength and renewed hope. Everyday now I draw inspiration and strength from them and who is to say who is suffering and who is happy?