Buddhism through Lacan’s eyes: desire
Nietzschean nihilism is the one being used most when people attempt to write an analogy between western and eastern philosophies. Yet, lately I found out that Freud and Lacan also serve as examples par excellence to define concepts of Buddhism in western mode of thinking. Zizek, a contemporary thinker that renders Lacan readable through popular culture, opens a new horizon to me. I finished reading his book Looking Awry and am reading the second one, Enjoy Your Symptom; Lacan seen through the eyes of Chaplin, Rosselini and Alfred Hitchcock. Lacan being read through the eyes of Kafka to Stephen King.
Personally I still consider the Buddhist explanation as the easiest one to understand. However, the simple language of Buddhism may not be considered as sexy writing by the western thinkers. On the other hand, in the dazzling works of modern western philosophers I find the echoes of Buddhism. The Freudian drive, later on elaborated by Lacan as jouissance is described in Pali canon as tanha, literally translated as craving or desire.
The jouissance (enjoyment) is not a matter of reaching your aim, but lies in the pursuit itself. It is like a vicious circle that enthrall and captivate mankind, precisely because of its repetitive character of going after the elusive goal which can not be grasped. As soon as the goal is accomplished, you lose the pleasure of pursuing it. Sysiphus from the Greek mythology gives a good illustration about this endless enterprise.
Lacan goes even further by stating that anxiety is not caused by the lack of the object of desire, but by the disappearance of desire. You become anxious not when you get your reward, but when you get too close to it. Not the goal, but the process of endless going after it is the real drive to ecstasy.
Buddhism talks about the same thing, and much more than that. Instead of setting a full-stop after the psychoanalysis of desire, Buddhism goes further to explain how you can break this vicious circle. The teaching of Paticcasamupada is an important part of Buddhist spirituality that expound how you can be the one that has control over your drives. How to be the master instead of being enslaved by your very own desire.