“To call something ‘a fundamental principle of Buddhism’ is only correct if, first, it is a principle that aims at the quenching of dukkha (pain, misery, suffering) and, second, it has a logic that one can see for oneself without having to believe others.”–Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, Heartwood of the Bodhi Tree
Last night, the eve before this new year, I wondered why I vacillate in my commitment to my spiritual practices. How is it after so many years of study and practice I get caught up in some concern or behavior that results in more suffering? How after been given so many spiritual teachings that, at times, I turn away from them? I thought on how there are numerous choices that bring false happiness or even increase my suffering, –– over my lifetime they have included drinking too much, depending on others to make me happy, being judgmental, demanding others be a certain way, indifference, or overeating, . . . I wondered at my vacillation with my spiritual practice because the favorable results of my spiritual efforts are always so profound, and, immediate. Of course sometimes life simply hits me hard with a loss or disappointment, like us all, which becomes a time to either fall further into a dark time by holding on to some raft for dear life or, to let go of the habitual way and swim or walk to the shore.
I thought on what always brings me back to my practice. Through some divine intervention, (which is more often experienced as a divine interruption), sometimes subtle but always noticeable, I am given the opportunity and reminder to rely on my spiritual teachings and practices.
“I would like to suggest that the heart of Buddhism is the short saying “Nothing whatsoever should be clung to.’ ” –Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, Heartwood of the Bodhi Tree
We all want to be happy. Most of us want to experience a deep and lasting meaningfulness to our lives and want to feel a rich connection to others. I know I do. We know that a new car, a finished creative project, a good relationship do indeed bring us satisfaction. We also soon realize that once we have what we want the related happiness is ephemeral. If we expect a relationship or even a rewarding creative project to bring us lasting happiness we cannot cling to it like a life raft, expecting it to supply us with continued purpose and happiness. We will miss so much! Everything actually. We will be like those who use a raft to cross a great body of water but don’t get out onto the shore. We cling to the “old” relationship the way it was, (I have been married for 20 years I know how this can destroy a relationship’s potential) or, we go in search of a new relationship or gadget that makes us feel the same way we felt before. We feel the edge of dissatisfaction, so instead of letting go of the raft we find a way to hold on to what we believe makes us happy. We believe “this” will make us happy so we continue to attach ourselves to new things, relationships, fame, beliefs, and various sense pleasures. We end up limiting our experiences by not letting go. We are limited by what we see is possible. We limit our view of others in that we filter our perceptions of them through our set beliefs and demands. I refer to this as “seeing others through a small crack in the door.”
In Buddhist doctrine the Eight Worldly Concerns are what keep us holding onto the raft and which ultimately limit our experiences and satisfaction. Another way of putting this would be to suggest that we not mistake the raft for the shore. We can spend our lives holding onto these rafts of concerns and never experience our true capacity for happiness and belonging. True happiness arrives when we release our hold of the raft (of beliefs, views, things) and explore each moment and encounter as a new shoreline (as best we can).
These Eight Worldly Concerns are:
- Attachment to getting and keeping material things.
- Fear of not getting material things or being separated from them.
- Attachment to praise, recognition, and feeling encouraged by others.
- Fear of getting blamed, ridiculed, and criticized.
- Attachment to having a good reputation.
- Fear to having a bad reputation and being misunderstood.
- Attachment to sense pleasures in general.
- Fear and aversion to unpleasant experiences.
Important to notice that it is our attachment or aversion (fear) to the above concerns that result in our and others suffering. I have seen countless people be pushed around (or nearly drowned) by the waves of dissatisfaction when a relationship gets difficult or ends, when they lose their financial status, when they can’t find that perfect partner, or when their endeavors are not recognized or appreciated. We can begin (or return) to an awareness of how these eight worldly concerns are specifically the cause of our own suffering. From this awareness we are more likely to let go of the raft and step onto the shore of new possibilities . . . here are some ways that work for me:
Restore ourselves by being tuned into nature. I continue to discover the transformative power in a simple walk outdoors. Spend enough time in nature till you feel the restorative and transformative medium of the natural world. . .
Meditate on the impermanence of things. . . .Notice how every thing is ephemeral. Name for yourself what your raft may be and practice a willingness to let go of it and look toward the shore . . .
Give something you cherish away (anonymously if possible) . . . Or imagine giving things away as part of your meditation practice.
Explore other worlds and ideas through conversation with people who hold other views, listen in on other conversations via the radio, read about other cultures and people . . . Appreciate and recognize the common ground we share, especially where we may hold on to our differences . . .Listen to other’s stories . . . That being suggested, also find support in the hearts and minds of those who cherish you and support your spiritual efforts.
Return to a text, teaching or practice that helps you to let go of your rafts. . .
“Dhamma* is acting as we should act in order to be fully human throughout all stages of our lives. Dhamma means to realize our fullest potential as individual human beings. What is most important is to realize that the Dhamma is not simply ‘knowing,’ but also ‘acting’ in the truest sense of what it means to be human.” Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, Heartwood of the Bodhi Tree
* Dhamma: Truth, Nature, Law, Natural Truth, “The Way Things Are.” The law of nature, according to natural law.
JOIN ME in further discoveries: this April 5th, 2016: The COURAGE TO BE YOURSELF: Awakening The Zero Point Circle, Madison
Bring forth your greatest potential through personal and collective explorations.
Increase your creative and spiritual capacity in the setting of a dynamic circle lead by me, a seasoned facilitator and counselor. This process offers you a PSYCHOLOGY OF AWAKENING. We will use the Zero Point Agreement: How To Be Who You Already Are (book) as a template to explore all your possibilities. This is about awakening to your fullest potential within the context of your life,now. Creativity, direct spiritual experience, creative manifestation, intuitive development, personal awareness, creative dialogue, visioning & re-mything, the wisdom body, personal ritual, the Heart Sutra, enlightened action, and the ELEVEN CORE PRINCIPLES of the Zero Point Agreement will be explored and developed. Release your outdated myth of spiritual seeker for the personal and global myth of the Meaning Maker. Emphasis is on transforming our outer world through awakening the inner potentials of each participant. Circle is limited to 12.
We begin our journey on TUESDAY APRIL 5th 2016. The circle will be held TWICE A MONTH on the 2nd & 4th Tuesday night (except holidays) for a year. We meet at 406 North Pickney (corner of Gorham and Pinckeny). We end in MAY, 2017. The cost is $35 per evening/$70 a month.