Is the struggle a struggle?

Posted: 19/08/2011 in Insight, Struggle
Tags: , , ,

(Added to Insight & MCN page)

As a Buddhist I react against the word “struggle”, life should not be about struggling. If your mind is under control through meditation and you develop your insight then you can be happy. But when you look at the suffering in the world then your compassion has to make you angry. In terms of unity this is your Oneness suffering, you are suffering. It is not other people suffering, it is not Iraqis, Afghans and Libyans who are suffering. We are suffering, I am suffering. This must begin to make you sad, and if you think about it more you can become sadder and even depressed.

And what is the solution? As an individual there is no solution. Maybe as a political animal you might look at Marxism, and say this is the way it is – this blog is my way of saying what I describe is the way it is for me, but then what? The forces that are opposed to changing it for the better are so powerful that if you do start to make an impact they will quickly find a way of shutting you down – and for some people that shutting down means death. This is the reality.

So what do you do? And the useless answer I am going to give you is that you must decide. However if you decide with 100% awareness – mindfulness, then you can live happily with yourself and that is the point of this blog-entry. Make a decision to do something, and you will be happy. And the converse is also true, ignore the suffering that is around you, run away from it and you will not be happy. Always in the back of your mind will be the recognition that there is suffering. Basically the struggle is not a struggle unless you try to ignore the suffering, then you will always be struggling with what is termed “your conscience”. In reality what is happening is your compassion for Oneness is saying “what are you doing for these people – your Self?” This question would be showing an instability in yourself.

This instability means you become vulnerable. If you ignore the reality of this suffering then when you meet people who are attempting to do something about the suffering you feel threatened. Usually what happens when this threat occurs, you attack the people who expose your vulnerability. More often than not this attack is not recognised by the attacker – yourself, but it is recognised by the person being attacked. This situation is very difficult. The person being attacked is likely to be used to perpetually being attacked, on occasions quite vehemently, but this vehemence whilst being uncomfortable on the receiving end is an expression of the attacker’s vulnerability as succinctly described by the 2nd Agreement:-

Don’t take anything personally.

Receiving this vehemence continually is emotionally draining, receiving a barrage continually is not fun obviously. So what do you do? Run away. If you run away then you too will become vulnerable. You will feel emotionally unstable, and eventually you will find yourself attacking others. So what do you do? You choose your battles – your struggle. It never ceases to surprise me how entrenched some people can become. My most recent example was with a Theravadan Buddhist monk. Monks are trained to have insight – vipassana meditation. They learn dhamma, understanding the truth in life, and still there was an attack. Of course with monks you can understand that their isolation in a monastery can excuse a lack of insight into political reality, but then insight and mindfulness are tools their meditation develops hopefully.

Whilst it is hard to continue through such unexpected attacks it is necessary to do so, and often there are lessons to be learnt. Following the attack from the monk I learnt that I had not committed myself enough to the struggle, and thankfully I now recognise that life is about meditation, insight and mindfulness, and struggle. But struggle in part means dealing with attacks, and that is not easy. Fortunately the 2nd Agreement and meditation help you through. If you are angry you are no use to the struggle. That anger makes you vulnerable and you alienate people with your anger. Calmness is an essential requirement in the struggle. Under attack remain calm.

But choose your struggles. I did not take on the monk, I could see he was too entrenched. At the same time the attack occurred in a forum of a Buddhist organisation that he had built. Attacking the monk would have been an egoic response because the forum would not have listened as he was their monk. I walked away, chose another struggle, and started this blog. And for the moment I am more comfortable, except there is some instability because I realise that for some time I had not been participating in the struggle – for me a requirement of happiness. Some instability – and some anger.

There was another recent incident involving a contact who had used Buddhism to overcome drink addiction. It is important that people know that Buddhism can help with this problem so this man promoting his recovery method helps others – spreads compassion. We met over the internet a few years ago – before he published his book, and he said at the time he hoped to produce a website like mine. I liked and remember this compliment but I mention that as significant only as a comparison with what happened recently. On his blog he wrote about a writer, Sam Harris, so I read and listened to this writer. I tended to agree with what my friend said about him – can’t remember what it was, but as an aside I suggested his work might suit the political climate, and that maybe he was a Jewish intellectual? His immediate response was that he avoided politics. I said everything is political, but there has been no contact since. I suspect he considers I am anti-semitic or a political radical, for myself I see that he has not extended his mindfulness beyond the way he used it to control his addiction. Perhaps in time, but his lack of contact shows an inherent internal conflist that comes from not extending his awareness in daily life.

The struggle is a constant, that is what I have learnt. For me it is not possible to escape the struggle as the struggle is continuous. I remember Krishnamurti talking about permanent revolution – much like the Trots talk of the same. This is the struggle fighting a permanent revolution in your daily life . This is struggle, but is it truly fighting? Internally not so, because being in a state of permanent revolution is not a struggle, it is Oneness. In fact the converse is the struggle, if you are not in a state of permanent revolution, you are not Oneness.

This sounds a bit like religious claptrap, and if it has no practical meaning then it is such mumbo jumbo. How do we apply it? There is a phrase you hear on crime shows – follow the money. In this context I would like to change this to “being mindful of how you spend your money”. When your money ends up in the hands of the corporations, then it is part of the problem, if as much of your money can be used sustainably then it is part of the solution. It is not easy to spend sustainably but we can always do more. Consider our vegetables. If we buy (genuinely) organic then the money does not go into the coffers of BigFood, it goes to the farmers who produce it – farmers’ markets etc. How many activists attend demos, write books, and eat unhealthy food – processed food that is bad for your health and whose profits are completely controlled by the corporatocracy? Now food is the easiest choice we can make about taking our money out of the pockets of the corporatocracy. However we can do more. What about our bank accounts? Look at Triodos bank. They do not offer much in the way of interest but you know your money is invested sustainably. What about your investments? Most of that is beyond our control but we can think about investing ethically. Triodos has renewable shares which offer some interest – far less interest than you would obtain if you invested in the MIC, but peace of mind?

What about Fair Trade schemes? These are particularly useful for presents – not always practical presents, but why not?

The real issue of developing this type of consumption is demand. If a significant proportion of the money earned by all activists were spent mindfully, then there would be a much bigger market. The more we spend mindfully, the greater the MCN – Mindful Consumer Network, and the less the corporations have. The less they have, the less they can use to indebt people and the less we have recession. For a sustainable economy we need to return to a system closer to barter – rather than one based on unsubstantiated credit. This approach would be resisted strongly by the corporatocracy, but initially it benefits all those who join in such networking – and it brings with it happiness and peace of mind.

Now to the activist part of the struggle, this is the most frustrating. As an activist you are continually subjected to attack, emotionally it is a barrage, and the tangible results are minimal. But such activism is essential to resist the encroaches of the corporatocracy. Working within trade unions is extremely frustrating but it is part of the struggle. It is the absence of mindful people within trade unions that enables them to be hijacked both by the government and opportunists within them – such as the exploiting leaders as well as manipulations of some extreme factions. It’s a job, it’s a struggle – ongoing, working for us the mass movement. But with meditation and insight we can do this with a calmness, detachment and strength that will maybe guide the trade unions to more fruitful activity. At least resisting the corporatocracy is positive. And perhaps we can begin to use the power of trade union investment ethically?

Lobbying groups such as Oxfam have their activities restricted by charity laws, but within these constraints they can do some good work. Throughout daily life there are activities that can help resist the impositions of the corporatocracy, if you think of your daily contacts I am sure you will be aware of these. But we have to be careful not to be intellectual about these activities. It is not the results but the ongoing activity and struggle that is the real power and happiness – working for what is right is an internal balance that brings happiness and peace of mind. Demanding results is an intellectual pursuit that just brings dissatisfaction. Be comfortable with your activity as part of the struggle that is everyone’s permanent revolution.

So the struggle is not a struggle if it keeps the calm of the activism of permanent revolution. In fact it helps avoid internal disharmony that comes from the failure to apply insight to daily life.

Addendum:- Today is 18/9/11. I have become aware that anger is still an issue, and I am not meditating enough. Perhaps struggle is not the right word, so I reread this to change it. But I am not, struggle is compassionate awareness. It is not struggle as described above that is creating my anger – I must deal with that another way. More balance.

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