Posts Tagged ‘buddhism
The Challenge of Enlightenment
If the traditional realization of enlightenment is that everything is already perfect and whole, then why should anyone bother trying to improve themselves or the world? In the following excerpt from a classic dialogue between American Buddhist pioneer Roshi Bernie Glassman and EnlightenNext founder Andrew Cohen, these two teachers explore the potential danger of complacency and self-satisfaction on the spiritual path:
|COHEN: The challenge of enlightenment is that on one hand everything is already full and complete and already free and, at the same time, there is an overwhelming amount of suffering that urgently needs to be responded to in every moment.
GLASSMAN: Exactly. Some people experience that first stage and get caught there. They think, “There’s nothing to do.”
COHEN: Yes. And they may even use it as an excuse not to have to do anything. That’s how many people actually squelch the expression of their own conscience, their own humanity. That’s a pretty bad place to be.
GLASSMAN: That’s sort of where I started—trying to encourage people not to remain in that place. There’s a state in Japanese Zen that’s called the “Cave of Satan.” It’s that place where you just stay—because there’s nothing to do. And you can get in that state and it can be an overwhelming experience. But the point is to kick the person out of that cave.
There is a quote I came across from Mark Epstein, while I was scanning over his book “Thoughts Without A Thinker” again (btw – I recommend any of his books).
For me, this thought is not only central to any type of spiritual practice or discipline, it is also central to achieving psychological health. While psychology is a fairy new discipline and Buddhism is over 2,000 years old – isn’t it funny how relevant this idea of over-identification is to the human experience and how certain schools of thought keep bringing it up?
I can’t even begin to blog how often I over-identify with my thoughts or feelings (let alone how easy it is for me to see it in other people before I notice it in myself). Or how I try to find some damn “meaning” in a feeling or thought so I can make sense of it or understand it.
(this is truly the dilemma for anyone suffering from a Bipolar disorder or the general narcissism found in society – it’s what marketing firms and advertisers count on yeah?)
It’s just a feeling.
It’s just a thought.
They arise and they pass . . .
Why do we try to so hard make them permanent and concrete?
Why is it so difficult to just observe them?
(Again, this is why I practice sitting. Or at least one of many reasons I practice)
Enjoy Mark’s perspective on this:
“Because of our craving, the Buddha is saying, we want things to be understandable.
We reduce, concretize, or substantialize experiences or feelings, which are, in their very nature, fleeting or evanescent. In so doing, we define ourselves by our moods and by our thoughts.
We do not just let ourselves be happy or sad, for instance; we must become a happy person or a sad one.
This is the chronic tendency of the ignorant or deluded mind, to make ‘things’ out of that which is no thing.
Seeing craving shatters this predisposition; it becomes preposterous to try to see substance where there is none.”
Changing Like the Weather
The first noble truth says simply that it’s part of being human to feel discomfort. We don’t even have to call it suffering anymore; we don’t even have to call it discomfort. It’s simply coming to know the fieriness of fire, the wildness of wind, the turbulence of water, the upheaval of earth, as well as the warmth of fire, the coolness and smoothness of water, the gentleness of the breezes, and the goodness, solidness, and dependability of the earth. Nothing in its essence is one way or the other. The four elements take on different qualities; they’re like magicians. Sometimes they manifest in one form and sometimes in another…. The first noble truth recognizes that we also change like the weather, we ebb and flow like the tides, we wax and wane like the moon.
–Pema Chodron, Awakening Loving-Kindness
I am not a Buddhist, despite most of these blogs. The teachings of Buddhism however, have a significant psychological and philosophical influence in my life for which I am most grateful – it is a most auspicious teacher and has been since childhood (In my Christian upbringing I was always attracted to the book of “Job”; he was my favorite old testament character along with “Joseph” and the most meditative Buddhist in Judaism, while Joseph was the most mindful). I posted below 2 excerpts from this weeks Tricycle’s Daily Dharma and a quote from Jack Kornfield’s “Buddha’s Little Instruction Book”. For me the are about the paradox of embracing in order to “let go” (the latter of which is a theme in my recent blogs). I hope they offer you as much insight as they have me:
We are in actual fact reborn every moment with new thoughts and feelings, and we bring with us the karma that we made in the past moments. If we were angry a moment ago, we are not going to feel good immediately. If we were loving a moment ago, we would be feeling fine now. Thus we live moment to moment with the results of our karma.
Every morning, particularly, can be seen as a rebirth. The day is young, we are full of energy and have a whole day ahead of us. Every moment we get older and are tired enough in the evening to fall asleep and die a small death. All we can do then is toss and turn in bed, and our whole mind is dreamy and foggy. Everyday can be regarded as a whole lifespan, since we can only live one day at a time; the past is gone and the future may or may not come; only this rebirth, this day, this moment, is important.
–Ayya Khema, When the Iron Eagle Flies
The mirror of death
According to the wisdom of Buddha, we can actually use our lives to prepare for death. We do not have to wait for the painful death of someone close to us or the shock of terminal illness to force us into looking at our lives. Nor are we condemned to go out empty-handed at death to meet the unknown. We can begin, here and now, to find meaning in our lives. We can make of every moment an opportunity to change and to prepare–wholeheartedly, precisely, and with peace of mind–for death and eternity. In the Buddhist approach, life and death are seen as one whole, where death is the beginning of another chapter of life. Death is a mirror in which the entire meaning of life is reflected.
–Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
Each Morning we are born again.
What we do today is what matters most
But why do I desire 2 days? *smirk*. If you ever had one day like this I know you get it. I am thankful to every “thing” that has pointed me in this direction. Deep Joy
Better than a hundred years
110. Better than a hundred years lived in vice, without contemplation, is one single day of life lived in virtue and in deep concentration.
111. Better than a hundred years lived in ignorance, without contemplation, is one single day of life lived in wisdom and in deep concentration.
112. Better than a hundred years lived in idleness and in weakness is one single day of life lived with courage and powerful striving.
113. Better than a hundred years not considering how all things rise and pass away is one single day of life if one considers how all things rise and pass away.
114. Better than a hundred years not seeing one’s own immoertality is one single day if one sees one’s own immortality.
115. Better than a hundred years not seeing the Path supreme is one single day of life if one sees the Path supreme.
— The Dhammapada, trans. by Juan Mascaro
A few posts back I wrote about an eloquent saying I had come across:
“Open your hand and let the dead wood drop”
I still love that metaphor. Not chucking the wood, not chopping it up into pieces; just opening my hand and letting it drop to the ground, right where I am standing.
I never have any problem accumulating shit. Building up my ego. I live sparsely compared to most Americans; I live like a king compared to people in underdeveloped countries – it’s a matter of perspective. Most of my accumulations are in my head and heart. I need regular clearings. Spiritual enemas. A washing out of all that accumulated waste that keeps me from taking in what I need in life. I walk around with a clenched fist. Just open your fuck’n hand already, John. Sit down and be still.
I say the above with a smile. My background was/is about perfectionistic German anger (apparently the only emotion that was “natural” for most family members to convey). The reason? Be tough, the world’s a harsh fuck’n place; you need to be tough to survive, to watch your back (although the “hard work” ethic has served me well too). I have to grin; that way of thinking creeps up every now and then, but in another sense it is so foreign.
My “hard work ethic” rears up at times too, it tells me to “doing something” (like go chop up the dead wood and analyze it *grin*). Damn, it’s dead wood – let it go, John.
I don’t beat myself up anymore and at the same time I am still able to hold myself to standards of development – in a friendlier way ( a bit more compassion towards myself). Sometimes a metaphorical slap upside the head does me well though, other times a metaphorical friendly conversation over a cup of tea does me well. I am more reactive to the former and tend to be far more attentive when the latter is used.
It’s just a reaction to how I was raised. A part of my psychological evolution. Not unfamiliar to many of us. It’s a common way to be raised.
Another part of being raised in my family is to view life as black and white. Fuck colors, there’s hardly any room for grey, haha. This has challenged me to let go even more. Letting go means choices, means possibility.
Who doesn’t love a world with possibilities? To be able to say “I don’t Already know”. To be open.
I came across another “open hand” writing that again gave me yet another choice. Not just one way. It was like a slap upside the head that stopped me in my tracks so I could sit down with a comforting cup of jasmine green tea *smirk*. (It also works well regarding a “clinging” that comes with our financial times right now or a “clinging” to the last 8 years of our political climate)
Tricycle’s Daily Dharma
Sure someone can take the coin, or not. Someone can add to the coin, or not. Willingness. Possibility. Choice. Openness. (and maybe even letting go)
Have a good one and thanks for stopping by.