Another Meditation – What’s a Monk to Do?
“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief…” – The Talmud
The words of The Talmud and the words of my dear friend I shared with you in my last meditation, “We are not to be absorbed by the suffering of the world…,” continue to dominate my thoughts and experience these days. When I add Chardin’s words which point to our true identity: “You are not a human being in search of a spiritual experience. You are a spiritual being immersed in a human experience.” – This is where I must always continue my journey in this temporary existence we call “life”.
What does it mean to “not be daunted” or “to not be absorbed”? Given the horror of global current events and its consequences, the uncertainty about the future which dominates all our lives, the reality of a way-of-life we all were told was a “dream” only to discover it’s really a nightmare; is it at all possible to practice these two essential teachings? And when I move from out there to right here in Shamong, NJ and even closer to home in my own heart and mind, “What’s a Monk to do?” “What can anyone do?”
I’ve been asking for “clarity” a lot these days, clarity of mind, clarity of body, and of everything connected. I am first reminded of the saying, “Be careful what you ask for.” But I have often said, “The truth is never convenient and will always rock your world before it sets you free.” This is true for the monk and anyone else for that matter, no one, not even the Christ, Buddha, or any of the “enlightened” figures were exempt from “the cross” or “samsara”. They too had to find their own “way to heaven or nirvana.”, and the path was without exception through “suffering” and “death” before they realized “true life”. So I am always annoyed and discouraged by these modern day guru’s of meditation and yoga who promise a “path down the silky road” to heaven.
So as I sit here and write this at 4:00 AM in the morning, again, I thought I share with you bits and pieces of the process I am still developing for myself even after 41 years of “on the job training”. Before I do I want to say one thing about being 41 years of learning and teaching as I go along. If you think you are ever “evolved” or that you’ve reached that point of your journey where you’ve learned just enough to say, “All right, I got it.”, you’re in trouble. Just eliminate that thought entirely from your backpack, that’s just excess weight. The only place that thought will ever get you is right back at the beginning. Like the movie “Groundhog Day”! What we don’t ever like to hear even the Buddha knew about himself, “We are now and always will be – BEGINNERS.” The sooner you embrace that, the sooner you can move on.
The first rule I apply every time I am consciously involved with contemplating my life and my experience at the moment (which is an essential daily practice without which you’re not practicing) is, “To thine own self be true.” No matter your experience at the moment always tell the truth about it. Don’t try to color coat it with that idea of how you “should feel” or “ you should think”; you know “You who are spiritual.” As “spiritual” people we need to stop trying to be “spiritual people”. What I mean is “appearances don’t mean anything”; they are about as valuable as your money was in the stock market on the day Great Britain left the EU.
Underneath my robes is the same body, just a lot older, I had the day I was born and throughout those first years of my life when I walked around with poop in my pants. There are days I feel like I still am. Always tell the truth about the poop. Why pretend you can hide poop in your pants? You have to start where the poop is. Own your poopie pants. (I know your thinking now, “What the hell just happened with this guy?” or “Freud would have a field day with this guy.”) But I mean it, your “stuff” whatever it is, is your “teacher” the “lesson” of the moment, which you are required to learn or you will repeat it again and again until you do. If all you do with your stuff is try to perfume it or hide it, that behavior will not “clean you up”. And remember the word’s of the Buddha’s First Noble Truth, “Life is DUKKHA.” Poop is everywhere. For many years here at Pine Wind when you first start studying with me one of the “work practice” assignments you were most surely to get was “scooping the poop” my dogs leave in the rear yard. I have to do it when a student is not available. No one, myself included likes scooping the poop. But if you have dogs you know if you don’t it doesn’t go away, and eventually you will step in it, and it will destroy the lawn. So spiritual practice is really about “poop scooping” and at least once a day. I could go on about this because I think that something as mundane as poop scooping is a very enlightened practice, but I won’t; At least not for now.
So lately I’ve been filled with emotions ranging from affection and love for my daughter and a few closest to me; sorrow for the victims of tragedies and my friends and biological family members dealing with tragedy and pain; self doubt; doubt in general; uncertainty; the pain of unhealed wounds from past experiences I continue to dress and redress; wanting; craving, and the big one – FEAR. It’s been a smorgasbord of emotions and feelings lately. I have never been one to avoid a wall or a crash, over the years I have learned to prepare for the possibility but never to intentionally avert or avoid. Overtime I have tried that I ended up worse than I would have if I had just “fastened my seatbelt”. If life happens to detour me I am grateful, but that’s only happened on a few occasions and you know there’s always construction on the highway.
The next part of my contemplative practice is to include in my contemplation the following:
The First Noble Truth teaches us that: “Life is challenging. Our physical bodies, our relationships, all of our life’s circumstances are subject to the nature of uncertainty, change, disappointments, and unfulfilled expectations.”
The Second Noble Truth teaches us that: “The cause of our suffering with the facts of The First Noble Truth is our habitual tendency to ignore the larger reality, and the nature of life, so the mind’s immediate response to life’s inevitable circumstances is fearfulness.
The Third Noble Truth teaches us: “We don’t have to be “daunted” by or “absorbed” by the fearful nature of the mind’s reactions to life’s inevitable circumstances.
The Fourth Noble Truth teaches us: “We have work to do and we always will have to work at it. The work involved, involves changing the way we usually do it or have been doing it. The solution to suffering is changing the way we live our lives including our priorities (the stuff and the people we want to focus on); the way we perceive ourselves; the way we perceive others; the way we perceive ourselves in relationship to others including all sentient beings and the myriad of Dharma formations we often call Universe.”
I think there had to be a “Fifth Noble Truth” and it went like this – Get to work. Forget about retiring. The amount of time you have to discover the real meaning of happiness and then to apply that meaning toward being happy is uncertain. “Do not squander this opportunity!”
I Love you…How can I not? I need your love…How can you not?
– Seijaku Roshi