I remember a time when I thought money was good. I thought monetary wealth was important. The idea of “selling out” was not necessarily bad – it depended on the price. Money gave you security and happiness so everything else was second at best. I had bought so far into that meme that it nearly drove me insane. My life and mind were driven by caffeine and percoset through the week and alcohol on the weekend. My obsession with bodybuilding was the only thing that kept me from going off the drug induced ledge of complete self-destruction.
I woke up one day and realized I was wrong. What good is money when you hate life, hate doesn’t bring happiness and what is the point of security if you are miserable? Money doesn’t bring happiness because it is transitory, it can only get you external things and it can do nothing to make your mind calm and peaceful.
I was faced with a trichotomy:
Continue going on the same way and die early of a heart attack or stroke, miserable all the way.
Finish what I started at 17 and off myself – no “Fade to Black” to save me this time.
Walk off into the woods and just sit with nature and wait to die.
None of these looked good to me but I didn’t know what else to do. If I was in a state of depression I would have probably opted for option 3 but my mind felt clear and calm. A state of equanimity was present, it seemed like a natural choice even more natural than deciding what’s for dinner. I decided on a different option which didn’t appear at first, spirituality – not religion, religion is just part of the meme and it even has its own subset of memes. I needed religion to find spirituality though or so I thought so I tried them and held option number 3 open just in case it didn’t work out. I didn’t need religion to find spirituality I needed compassion and wisdom – I needed it from others and, most importantly, for others. A different way, a middle way finally had been shown to me and peace finally became a possibility.
I look around the world today and see so many people buying into that meme of politics, societal norms, and materialism. Not really their fault, it’s all they know just like it was all I knew. The damage it does is on all levels from the rich to the poor. The rich (winners in this meme) usually become spiritually destitute or the spirituality they do find is just leading them to more sensual pleasures or fame. (just look at all the headlines of how meditation can help you become more successful) Unfortunately the poor want to be like the rich or they want to blame the rich for the ills of this world – I was caught in that circle too – so many few want to be out of this circle and out of the meme. I truly feel sorry for these people, not many know there is a different path in life and this path it makes no difference what your income, social status, or ethnicity is.
I am not fully out of the meme yet either, 30 some years of brainwashing will not go away with 8 years of practice. I do know there is a way though and I have confidence in this path. We need to realize that the chase after “things we simply do not need” needs to end, it is not the rich or the poor that is to blame – it is our desire. How many people will point at the rich person and say it is their fault but yet spend money on what that person is offering even though it is not needed and barely wanted in some cases?
Maybe I’ve just come to the realization that it has to end for me soon, I see no point in most of the world anymore and have very little desire for money or advancement in my job or much of anything that is said to keep the world moving. It’s not apathy, it just doesn’t make sense anymore. Or maybe I’m realizing that the time for that walk in the woods is coming much closer except this time instead of despair there will be freedom.
Well it’s easy to be a holy man on a mountain but hard as heck when you live in the real world.
We’ve all heard that many times. I’ve even read something similar to that in a book once – it was called everyday Buddhism or something to that effect. It’s not really true though, just the work it takes to live on the side of a mountain is very tiring – I know how tough it can be because many of my retreats are spent on the side of a mountain. In the sense that people usually refer to, the moral or wisdom sense, is very hard as well. Sure there are fewer temptations and less people to deal with but there is always the mind. It’s common to think that it must be easy to do or say the right thing when you aren’t in the thick of things. That might or might not be true. What we usually miss or don’t understand is why that person has decided to be on the side of a mountain instead of in the swarm of society.
Those holy men aren’t on the side of the mountain to escape the world or because it is easier to deal with the “real” world when there is less of it. They see no point in what most would call the “real world”. If we actually looked deeply into the intent of our actions, that daily schedule we try so hard to fill, we would see how many of our activities are driven by plain desire. We don’t want to feel unproductive so we fill that schedule up, don’t want to take the chance of being bored so we plan activities, we’ve actually gotten to the point that we plan things to do during rest time. Most of these activities are completely unnecessary – many times this is done really to avoid ourselves.
I know many “Buddhists” who take their practice the same way…read books, listen to talks, watch videos for hours, but meditate only maybe once a week. It is much harder to sit and watch just what is happening without interference or judgment than it is to be entertained in some way.
These holy men on the mountain, or monastery, or forest, are there because they realize boredom is just boredom, pain is just pain, pleasure is just pleasure, the experience is just conditional. Realizing this is just a stream of experience and trying to fully realize reality. When you start to see things as they truly are and not muddled by perception then you see that these conditional things do not bring happiness and all this chasing seems so pointless. The point of what most call the real world is gone.
Maybe these holy men on the mountain are not there running away from the real world but are there to truly face it.
With Metta my friends
A change of explaining the three defilements; instead of greed, anger, and delusion how about the term “partiality”. Not my idea alone, many thanks goes to Venerable Phra Yuttadhammo. The term makes sense though. It is quite often misunderstood that intense craving or clinging is the cause of suffering (2nd Noble Truth), well this is true but the misunderstanding comes in thinking that it isn’t any desire only the really intense ones.
It’s really any desire and that is where the term partiality comes in really well. I was asked once when discussing the 4 Noble Truths where do the 3 kilesas (root defilements) come in to play. Well we can look at greed/attachment as partiality for, anger/ill will as partiality against, and delusion as the mistake that either of these will bring us satisfaction or the mistake that we are not affected by these. This explanation can bring us a clearer picture of the 2nd Noble Truth.
Quite often we have heard the phrase “accept reality”. Most people have a hard time with that because of the word accept, it sounds a lot like agreeance or approval and if we still see situations with perceptions we will see things we do not like or agree with. So using the term partiality we can replace the phrase “acceptance of reality” with “observing what is without partiality either for or against what is”. This kind of drops the whole agree with misunderstanding and pulls at the perception issue as well telling us to drop the perception of good or bad. Reality isn’t good or bad it just is, our perception tells us good or bad depending on our partiality and that is what causes suffering.
With Great Metta,
I spent part of my weekend reading a new book I got from the library.
As I was reading I became curious to the question: How can I be unmindful? I don’t mean to say how can I become dumbed down or absent brained but rather how can I be mindful but unfixed or empty-mindedness.
The book was describing a game of chess and one of the players was so fixed, so mindful of his Queen he completely missed how open his king was and lost. I saw this as a great metaphor for my life. I sometimes wonder if my focus at work or school is leaving me exposed to an attack… An attack on my experience that I will some how miss by being fixed and committed.
So I ask any one to answer and give me your thoughts. How can I be un-fixed in my mind?
It was once said to me that the best way to know you know something is to teach it. While this may work well in electronics, the class in which it was said, it is a horribly bad idea when referring to the Dhamma. The conceptual knowledge may take hold but to turn that knowledge into wisdom will rarely happen. The task of teaching it takes precedence and even when reading Dhamma the task turns, instead of reflecting and gaining knowledge, into “how can I explain this?”. It’s a tough place to be when we don’t allow the time and space for our own practice. When things really go awry is when we don’t even realize it or we don’t want to realize it. We start doing this with our own selves too – start thinking of how others “see” me, or what type of reputation we hold with others. Falling into the trap of thinking we have some control over those views instead of practicing and to be able to accommodate the outcome. Reality knows not good or bad, reality just is. Instead of thinking “how do I look from there” lets(me) remember to bring it back to “what is going on here”. Truthfully that is what makes us all teachers, dedication to practice. Mindfulness is what we do, not always what others see.
Walking out onto the patio, expecting heat – it is July and the patio being concrete, sitting in the sun all day, is usually quite hot. I am greeted by the warmth of the sun and by a cool breeze. Experiencing these two seemingly conflicting forces one might think it would be quite odd; one without the other would probably have been not pleasant. As the warmth of the sun was just about to reach its unpleasantness the breeze would pick up and cool things down; just as the wind would start becoming too cool the warmth of the sun would peer back through. We have many chances to build equanimity but as I stand here in the warmth of the sun and the coolness of the breeze I do feel it is nice to realize and appreciate when conditions are just right.
With all My Metta