Dilemma

Posted: 11/03/2012 in Freedom, Insight
Tags: , , ,

In my blog on contentment I said “Enlightenment is Nature’s purpose – it is in our Karma. We have no choice about it”. The dogma says that we become enlightened as a form of perfection over lifetimes so we escape the cycle of death and rebirth. There are all kinds of bells and banjoes around this enlightenment, so people search for Nirvana as this wonderful state. But the reality is that the state we live in is made by ourselves, and is not some kind of target to be aimed for.

If Nature’s purpose is enlightenment what does this mean? And my mind takes me into all areas where I cannot possibly answer the questions. Enlightenment is the end of our personal evolution but that is almost a complete tautology. Because we are ONE planet where does our enlightenment fit in with the enlightenment of the ONE? But these are questions of flights of fancy? Maybe there are answers in the dogma, but the reality is that we can only deal with what we deal with – our own being. Knowing that our enlightenment will happen and knowing that it fits in with a broader plan does not actually help us too much as that is beyond our control. But what we do control is our daily lives, and in our daily lives we can “always do the best we can”; that is enough.

[Warning:- I have discussed about enlightenment on the Buddhadasa page, I am now not happy discussing enlightenment. 20/9/13]

Imagine how much freedom doing the best we can gives us. We analyse a situation, work out what is the best way to deal with something, and then we do it. There might be doubt concerning our analysis but there is no doubt about our actions – we are doing the best we can. And if we are having continued doubts about our analysis then the situation is beyond reason, and we need meditation. Whilst this description sounds simplistic, that needn’t dissuade us from following it as a practice. We live in a world where the mind has gone beyond the control of the heart. Uncontrolled intellect is rampant showing itself in addiction to greed and power, the good sense of meditation is not practised sufficiently. Because of this we simply don’t realise that if analysis does not provide a solution meditation can and does help us follow the Path. And the best we can do is follow the Path. For me this is Right View, but not only that it is the Fourth Agreement.

Enlightenment and desire are made of the same stuff. I had a monk tell me that the desire for enlightenment was called aspiration and was different from desire; can that be intellectual semantics? Enlightenment just is, it is part of being. If we are being who we are, we become enlightened eventually. But there is no desire attached to it, it is a natural process. The problem lies with our minds. Our minds take the natural being that leads to enlightenment and converts it to desire, and there are so many things that that desire can be. Sex and food are desires that are natural to begin with, we must eat and we have sexual needs, but then our minds attach to these needs making them cravings that control us. This then leads to suffering (the 4 Noble Truths). So we have natural desires that come from being alive, and our minds pervert these desires into cravings that cause suffering.

Part of enlightenment is compassion, and compassion must go out to the people in this world with all its suffering. What is the cause of this suffering? We have already seen that suffering comes from addiction or attachment to desire. On an individual level this might be a sufficient analysis if it gives people a means of coping with the suffering, but on a social level our responsibility must take us far deeper into analysis of the society we live in. That deeper analysis helped by our insight gives us a view of society, this is also part of Right View, and because of the way our current society has developed that insight brings us into consideration of the 1% and what is needed to control their addiction and help the suffering of the 99%. Now the usual approach for helping the 99% is to say that they can control their minds to be happy; but, with the destructive path that the 1% is now taking the world, our personal responsibility requires that with our understanding (Right View) we engage with practical solutions associated with this insight. Perhaps this is always the case, I don’t know I am alive now, but my analysis now sees the power of these addicted 1% bringing so much destruction to ONE planet that there is a responsibility of all the aware to engage in actions against the influence of these addicted. Remember most of the 99% are not in a position to act so although there appears a numerical advantage in practice there isn’t. Awareness brings with it responsibility so there becomes an additional dilemma that our minds must work with, balancing the compassion that comes on our paths to enlightenment with our social responsibility that comes with the insight as we progress along that path to enlightenment.

How we deal with these desires and the social responsibility that comes with compassion and insight is what shapes our minds and furthers us along the Path. It is just the natural dilemmas of life. To avoid them is avoiding the Path and our journeys become stalled. I pose the following questions for those who are in institutions that claim to be beacons towards enlightenment. What does your institution/monastery offer? Teaching and learning, this is extremely important. But teaching and learning what? Dogma? For many it appears that much teaching and learning appeals to the intellect and finishes at the doorstep of dogma. Is this deep learning? Especially if this teaching and learning is given to those in daily life, is dogma sufficient? For example if the analysis of the teaching of the 4 Noble Truths stops at attachment to desire and does not consider an analysis of the affect of this on society, is that teaching complete? At the same time if that analysis does not examine the connection between the institution and the society it is a part of – the society also is a consequence of these desires, then there is a question as to the self-interest of those institutions.

Monasteries perform other useful functions and this cannot be ignored. They provide a refuge and succour for the less fortunate or those being temporarily affected by suffering, this is especially important if the society in general does not provide such. This of course is social responsibility. But how do all the monks respond to these issues? Are there senior monks who have allowed themselves to become complacent in the institution? When I start to ask these questions serious doubts arise in my mind, but these are not questions for me I have my own. But of course the Sangha must always be part of my consideration being one of the Refuges.

Developing minds that handle all of these dilemmas is the Path, that is where enlightenment comes. If we do not encourage our minds to engage all the dilemmas then enlightenment does not happen – it is not complete. These dilemmas give the mind strength whilst it comes to terms with the distractions, avoiding the dilemmas is not the Path finding the balance is.

Here is a blog I wrote about Sogyal Rinpoche, he quite clearly has not balanced the sexual dilemma. With this failure comes the question as to the validity of his teachings especially in a religion which advocates working with gurus. I have previously discussed the Bhagwan and Sai Baba, both of whom have not come to terms with the sexual dilemma. Even K failed. With the power of teaching at whatever level comes control over the student – especially spiritual teaching. In all teaching situations there might come sexual advances – sought or otherwise, and the strength of mind the teacher shows in dealing with such is an examplar of the integrity of the teachings. It does not excuse the student’s advances. I am reminded of a story recounted to me in which a woman married an abbot who disrobed because of her. The recounter said that the abbot was very knowledgeable as an abbot, but also said that the wife complained because the abbot failed in business. The abbot lacked strength in his teachings but what else is a surprise? How can a man who is forced to consider morality be a success in business? The man’s strength failed him, and the woman’s karma will pay for her temptation. Such advances are not appropriate whether sought or otherwise. I admire Brad Warner for his book “Sex, Sin and Zen” and his attempt to address some of these issues as he does more personally in other books such as “Zen wrapped in Karma dipped in Chocolate”. Despite his desire to be confrontational, a desire that he misplaces at times, and despite his lack of political insight, Brad makes the efforts to work through these dilemmas in daily life whilst being a Zen teacher. Different people conclude different things on their Paths, and there are matters I disagree with, but throughout his work there is a deep questioning within a practice of meditation, social engagement as well as desires. Whether you agree or not, questioning oneselves at such levels is an integral part of the Path.

Dealing with dilemmas and permanent questioning, what a wonderful life of happiness!

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