When I first thought of this blog I thought it was momentous – not so sure now; it is the second blog that comes from this Bradblog. This blogentry became more than I conceived and I thought of changing the title to “the revolution of removing thought addiction” but …. Maybe this is momentous.
The Buddha “started to see that the way his thoughts had been framing his experiences were not right. …. He saw that it was a mistake to habitually believe his own thoughts.” Where did the Buddha’s thoughts come from?
“As anyone who has ever tried to give up cigarettes or alcohol or even coffee can tell you, habits are hard things to break. Our addiction to believing our own thoughts is more powerful and more difficult to overcome than being addicted to heroin or any other addictive substance you can name. So this process was not very easy for our man Buddha, nor has it been easy for anyone else who has ever attempted.” Thought addiction, what is it?
Brad’s blog is timely , and it very much connects with my blogs on feminism concerning culture and conditioning. And it connects with what Buddhadasa said about “removing the I and mine from the 5 khandas”.
Let’s start with the khandas – sankara. Sankara are thoughts and where do those thoughts come from? Culture and conditioning. Once our culture conditions us we think that those thoughts are “mine”. We think we are our thoughts as Kant proposed “I Think therefore I am” – extended to I am my thoughts. But Kant’s proposition was misguided because those conditioned thoughts create a framework in the mind, and we attach to this framework – attach to the khanda sankara. The longer we hold onto this framework the more addicted we get and the harder it is to think clearly and free ourselves from the traps of culture and conditioning.
In his blog Brad described what the Buddha did when he solved problems. “Buddha sat with this problem for a long, long time. But, unlike most Western philosophers, he didn’t try to think his way through it. Instead he quietly observed life as it happened to him.
“He realized that his thoughts were just a part of what was going on, and not even a very significant part. So he chose not to focus on them. He let his brain do whatever it needed to do, but he didn’t try to use his thinking mind to determine the answer to his questions about the nature of life.”
We are educated into using the thinking mind, this is our culture and conditioning. Our mind is filled with ideas on different subjects, our exams require us to concentrate on these ideas to reproduce them in exams, and this concentration reinforces the framework. Our conduct is controlled by our parents who conform to society, and we become conditioned to do what society wants.
There ought to be nothing wrong with this culture and conditioning. Whilst we should always apply an enquiring mind to what we do, having a conditioning culture ought to mean no more than living together in harmony. But underlying the culture that we live in is the 1%-system, a system that is designed to profit the few and puts their profits before people. As a result our culture creates issues concerning class, gender and race, and when we mature enough to develop the enquiring mind that starts to unravel conditioning we become a threat to the power bloc, its greed and its shameful exploitation.
Our system’s thought addiction is powerful. Not only must we overcome the addiction that is attachment to the khandas but we also have to overcome the social pressure engendered by the 1%-system.
Yet there is a plus to this 1%-exploitation. Because of the oppression of the 1%-system the exploitation starts to make us aware of the lack of truth and the level of injustice. This awareness provides an impetus for our awakening, an impetus for our recognition that there is an imposed framework of culture and conditioning, helps us detach from the 5 khandas, and propels us into a mature lifestyle that frees us from the impositions of the cultural framework of conditioning.
This shows us how important meditation is in terms of social change. By sitting and observing we see what is. We observe our own cultural conditioning, we see it for what it is, and we can free ourselves from it. But as Brad says it is thought addiction, and addiction is hard to break. Having faith in whatever Buddhism is is not enough. Becoming addicted to the dogma of Buddhism is still thought addiction – just a different framework. Without a methodology of removing addiction there still exists the framework that we are addicted to, the framework of thought that has now been replaced by the dogma of Buddhism, the dogma of Ickeism or any dogma. It is enquiry, seeing what is what, that frees us from addiction, and that enquiry has as method meditation.
Meditation is freedom from thought addiction, meditation is liberation, it is the revolution that is not violence. Of course such a revolution only works as a mass movement when there is genuine meditation for all. It is disappointing that so many meditators do not see meditation for the revolutionary tool that it is. Meditation is a way of life but it is not an end in itself. Through meditation we see what is what, and can then begin in our daily life to create change around us. Of course if we choose not to see what is what, typically choose not to see the 1%-system, that meditation lacks true vision, and we accept slavery perhaps in a more profound way. If we accept slavery by not freeing our minds to genuinely see all of what is what, then we evade the responsibility that comes with awareness, that comes with awakening, that comes with maturity.
This brings us to an institutional danger. Institutions such as Buddhism that require finance have an inbuilt need not to see all of what is what. They require finance, the finance of the rich, and choose not to see where that wealth comes from. The institution avoids that aspect of meditation that brings awareness of politics because that awareness taints the very institution itself. The people who provide the greater proportion of the finance of these institutions are the very people who need to change because they have the greater power and influence in the 1%-system. Yet the institution is compromised. Meditation becomes compromised not seeing what is what, but seeing what is expedient to see. Seeing peace has connected with it a violence, a violence that has upheaval because our level of exploitation is so unjust. This is the consequence of thought addiction.
Meditation is the methodology of liberation but it can also be a tool of enslavement if we choose to avoid seeing all of what is what and allowing some thought addiction that is convenient – compromised. Meditation is a means of liberation but it can also be a means of enslavement if it still contains thought addiction. Focussing on the breath means we are not holding to anything, zazen focussing is just that and addictions just fall away. We are left with seeing what is what, and if sufficient people are doing this we have revolution.