Has been significantly revised here.
I was going through in my mind how I would recommend someone at the beach to live – just as one does. Now the Four Agreements (Appendix D) is excellent on how one responds to what people and society throw at you, but in many ways the 4 Agreements does not guide us on how we deal with ourselves. What stops us from doing good and behaving well is an internal matter, and the good practice of the 4 Agreements requires an internal personal change, but it does not expressly say how to do it. The 4 Noble Truths does so I am writing this – a beach guide to the 4 Noble Truths, to be read in combination with the Four Agreements.
Now before you can do anything on this stuff you need to meditate – this is part of magga (Appendix B) – there might be some people around whose minds are naturally in harmony with Nature but for the rest of us …. To describe what to do in meditation is easy, to do it and learn from it is hard. Here is the description the hard part is up to you:-
1) Meditate twice a day – when you get up and before you eat after you get in from the day – work. Make this a daily routine.
And if you meditate, follow the 4 Noble Truths and carry out the 4 Agreements, you are happy. That’s it. Simple!! No it isn’t, but it is simple to describe.
Getting on with it
Are you meditating? No. Then you are wasting your time reading this, and even though Don Miguel Ruiz doesn’t say this, I would also suggest you are wasting your time with 4 Agreements; you need to be training and controlling your mind. I don’t know whether I will be a reinforcing pedagogue and keep returning to this point but if I don’t, it is a proviso throughout your life – are you meditating?
Now to the 4 Noble Truths. Great people have written about them, I have listed HHDL’s book [B1] and Ajahn Sumedho’s book [B2] in the bibliography to this post. Both good books. But this is a beach guide, and by a beach guide I want one thing for sure – no dogma. In the appendices you can find dogma, and you can follow the dogma to find references along with the books which can all be very helpful. But dogma sucks without understanding, and beach people don’t want to sit and talk about dogma. But if you are a serious truth-seeking beach person then you actually want to do something – OK most beach people are not serious. But do you want dogma? No. Is dogma necessary? Mostly no. Dogma can help on the way to understanding but far too often people get hung up on dogma and don’t make it to the understanding – and this includes some who wear robes. Dogma is an institutional problem and serious beach people have rejected institutions for sand sea and Nature.
OK, desire. The 4NT is about desire, life is about desire. And we don’t deal with it. Men think with their dicks, this is desire. The 1% screw the world and destroy our planet, they are addicted to desire. On a personal level it is all about desire. And what do we do about it? We say, if I want it I must go out and get it. This desire gets hidden in all kinds of nice words like career, ambition, supporting the family, and many mental subterfuges but basically we want something and that leads us – thinking with our dicks. Life would be so much more pleasant if we had few desires, could fulfil them and we were happy with doing that. For me this is the 4NT. And the key to understanding this is that we are happy doing it, not pretending to be happy but actually being happy. And what do beach people desire? To be happy.
As with all of this to describe how to do it is easy – few desires, fulfilling them and being happy doing it. But the practice is far from easy, it is a lifelong struggle. But the thing in that struggle is that if you don’t get hung up about it it is fun. If you don’t force it, it is fun. One problem with some of the beach people is that they get drunk on the beach, and then they tell me I am bored because I don’t get drunk, don’t chase women and the usual stuff. When they start that it my cue to leave, but last week I met a better one of these beach drunks who had got blotto for two days at a leaving party, and then spent the next two days sitting on the beach feeling sorry for himself. For two days he wasn’t there lost in drink, and for two days he was too ill to enjoy being there in Nature’s beauty; I apologised to him when I laughed a bit. For me these were just a normal 4 days of happiness trying to do the best I can (4th Agreement).
If you can accept this – few desires, fulfilling them and being happy doing it, then the real question is how do you do it? Again there is a simple answer – the 4th NT Magga. But I don’t want to go there, because this magga tends to get wrapped up in dogma. Now magga means Path so Path is clearly an answer to “how do you do it?” But what is this Path? In the intro I talked about the most important part of the Path – meditation. Moving on from there I want to consider desire.
All around us there are stimuli that bring up desire. Luckily for me at my beach there are few bikinis. Assuming that a bikini arouses a sexual desire in you, do you immediately go up to the woman and ask for sex? Some of the drunks do!! No, such a request would be gross. But a woman in bikini can still cause arousal in men even if they don’t act on it. The better drunks don’t go up and ask but they do notice and their arousal leads to frustration especially if they talk about it. So the desire causes a problem – unhappiness. The drunks became attached to their desire and this led to frustration and unhappiness.
Now I have no complete answer to the bikini problem. I enjoy the beach, the swimming, the rays, being in Nature, the books I read – whatever, so I am not continually distracted by the bikini. But it is a distraction, it is a desire and if I am not comfortable with it it can cause unhappiness. But basically my suffering ceases when I am not attached to the desire – 3rd Noble Truth. And what is the cause of that suffering? The desire in the first place – 2nd Noble Truth.
Much of the male problems associated with the bikini comes from fantasy – not all but most. I am not sure what the particular fantasies are but they are unreal. Let me go with one such fantasy. You see the bikini, go up and talk to her. After a while you find that she is your cosmic other, you go for a swim, find somewhere secluded, and make passionate love. This love will last for two or three days, and you will both say to each other that this love has been totally wonderful but it is time to move on gracefully. And part happily.
Get real, this is a movie. The bikini is just that – an object, you are not thinking about the fact that it is another person, a woman who has her own needs and desires. It is a fantasy, and when you cannot live life according to that fantasy you become frustrated and dissatisfied – you are not happy. So forget the fantasy, forget the illusion, when the desire naturally happens, notice it, and forget it. Nothing can happen, and let it go. What we attach to the image of a woman in a bikini the attachment is just that – attachment to desire, and creates nothing but unhappiness. I smile, this is now a literal beach guide – how to follow the 4NT on the beach.
There is another fantasy here in Thailand that is laughable if it didn’t have so many sad consequences. Thailand’s government has written laws that make prostitution apparently less perilous for the johns, and as a result many tourists are attracted to the beautiful women in the bars and some beaches of Thailand – luckily not the beach I go to. Older men turn up at these tourist traps, fall for the charms of these prostitutes, and travel round Thailand supposedly as a couple. However the desires of these men turn from the financial transaction of paying for sex into a relationship that they then fantasise as meaning far more. Thailand has a very good property anti-speculation law. Buying land and building a house is comparatively cheaper in Thailand so the government legislates that only Thai people can own land – there are small exceptions. So what do these fantasising men do? They buy the land and build a house putting the deeds in the name of the prostitute. And what happens then? The prostitute leaves with the deeds, and the man ends up on the beach drowning his sorrows blaming Thai women and not his own stupidity. Thai society in general is very conservative, and the activities of those involved around the prostitution are generally frowned upon by majority Thai society – but there is sufficient profits being made from the tourists that the laws are not changed. Now I don’t excuse prostitution but surely attaching to this sort of fantasy is foolish, how can it not lead to unhappiness?
But this beach guide doesn’t end on the beach. What about the desires we create around ourselves in our daily lives? Ambition and career, for example. Is it any different? Yes. Money. How many people would do the job they do if they weren’t paid? Very few. We work for money. Why? For most men and women the answer is to feed the family. We answer this question in a way that describes the work ethic as honourable, and there are not many more honourable things than taking good care of the family. But how honest are we in answering that question? And that honesty is at the very core of our personal and social problems.
Let’s examine the personal issue first. This can be considered in terms of the words – needs and desires. What do families need? And what do families desire? There are many desires that come into play, desires that are not requirements – not needs. House and contents – are these minimal? Should they be minimal? Is our house a measure of status, image, desire? What do we provide our children? Is it what we think they need or is it governed by the latest fashion in which trends become needs? Do we provide for our children sufficiently in terms of love and nurture, or do we give them the latest trend gadget because it keeps them off our backs when we are tired? And when work comes into the home like this, are we teaching our children the best morals when tiredness governs the quality of a child’s life? Do we teach children manipulation to wait for your tiredness? On a personal level our work enters our home affecting the way we live, the way we bring up the children, and yet our rationale for working is “feed the family”.
Our desires interact with our work, as we let our desires associated with the home and family create a greater dependence on money, and the greater our need to earn money develops ambition and careerism that brings with it its own negativity. Instead of controlling our desires it becomes easier to perceive our desires as the need to earn more money, a need which is in general considered socially acceptable.
So what happens to this desire to earn more money in the workplace? It becomes used as a tool for wage slavery. Whey, hold on there. That’s a bit strong – wage slavery. So I ask the question again, would you do the job you are doing if you were not paid? Now I take that question further. Do you do things in your job that you don’t agree with? How many compromises do you make every day? Do you choose these compromises? So when we go to work we might accept that we have to do a job as wage slavery, but then we start to think about it more and we are paid to compromise. Our desires force us into a compromise.
Now where do these compromises take us? Ask whistleblowers. The consciences of these brave people have forced them to stand up and decry the compromises they have had to make. And for each whistleblower denouncing the compromise, how many more people accept these compromises as part of their wage slavery? Because this number is way more than a simple majority we all console each other that the compromises that come with wage slavery are just “business as usual” whereas in reality our desires take us into compromise – and are we sure that we need that compromise? What are these whistleblowers blowing on about? Government breaking their own rules to give huge private contracts in Iraq – Thomas Drake, Annie Machon British Defence policy, Bradley Manning (allegedly) leaking footage of US atrocities, Pharma whistleblowers talking about the drugs industry damaging our health etc. These compromises in wage slavery are what are damaging our planet and the quality of our life. The 1% don’t tell us to get up and shoot Iraqis, sell harmful drugs, give vested big business huge contracts, they create the conditions where the compromises made in wage slavery lead to these actions. The 1% control us through compromise, and why do we compromise? Because we want more money, and why do we want more money? To satisfy increased personal desires. And are those desires necessary to feed the family? We delude ourselves that they are.
Attachment to our desires force us to compromise, and this compromise is a major cause of suffering. What would happen if we did not attach to those unnecessary desires? We go to work to do our job knowing that we haven’t got to earn that extra money. This means that when the inevitable compromise is forced on us we can decline – not always but mostly. And if there are innumerable compromises then we can choose to leave that work. And if we cannot find suitable work we can work for ourselves, produce our own items for sale to feed our family. And when the children come home with their fashionable demands we have the time to say no and explain why. And our children grow up with a better morality.
So by not attaching to desires we introduce greater happiness in our lives by having fewer desires – the needs of our family, devoting ourselves to genuine concern for the family, and bringing our children up in a happier environment. If we control our own earning maybe we can live near a beach where the children can go every day and love Nature. Watching the children playing at the beach is one way of not attaching to desire.
It is not the desire itself that is the issue. Once we become attached there are all kinds of issues that follow on, our desires lead to compromise in the workplace, and that compromise is the basis of 1% control. So sit back, examine your desires and see how necessary they really are, and if they are not don’t attach to them and watch the happiness develop. And here’s a nice little pep-up. Once you see these desires for what they are and say no, life starts to clear up. There are not huge complicated scenarios requiring compromise and manipulation, there are simple decisions to attach to desire or not. And how does that affect our relationships? Here we can consider the 4 Agreements. Through meditation and detachment from desire we can focus on the 4 Agreements, we always do the best we can because we are not always striving for compromises that our desires have brought about.
As a teacher I always tried to do the best I could. At times I felt angry because I could never be Head, I could never earn more money. Towards the end of my career I was always happy in the classroom, but outside made me more and more angry. By the end of my career I had decided that teaching in the classroom was enough, and I was so lucky to be able to teach because when you focus on that the children enjoy your relationship and many more make an effort to learn. But when you get out of the classroom you enter the world of politics, both personal and the 1%. On a personal level there are many teachers who are not satisfied with teaching in the classroom. For some this is because their desires force them to be ambitious to earn more money, and for others they quite simply enjoy the power that can come from being in charge. Either way these desires damage the education quality of the institution.
But much more drastic is the impact of the 1%. Now the 1% screw up society from all angles but here I will just address the issue of education. Now fundamentally the 1% require a continuation of the status quo – wage slavery and acceptance of the existing structure. They achieve this by preventing teachers from genuinely educating. Once the teachers exhibit desire they control their ambition and keep them compliant. Teachers want to educate but they are forced into an exam system that creates failures desperate for a job and successes who tow the 1% line. The 1% system is more powerful than the individual desires to educate. For me this system always caused suffering as I always wanted to do more to educate. In truth I didn’t always cope with this well. I desired to confront and change the system, and this particular desire did not bring me happiness. There is a tightrope balance that I never walked although I recognised it sometimes. Teach, doing that was enjoyable – not always but often enough. Beyond the teaching in the classroom there was the suffering that the 1% created. They required this system of failure, they required compromises from teachers with their own desires, and their system with the compromises created suffering. When I chose not to attach to my desires there was some happiness in teaching.
For me this is what is meant by the first NT. There is suffering around in the system. Now the 1% weren’t around at the time of the Buddha, and he spoke of birth, ageing and death and the suffering inherent in this. But when there is suffering created by the political system you are in, it is still suffering. And the 4NT still apply. When you minimise your desires that system has less control of you. It cannot compromise you. You choose, you have your control, and your happiness. And in the final analysis it is the addiction of the 1% to their money and power which creates the system we are in, it is their desires that are their problem, and their power makes it ours.
So this is the beach guide to three of the 4NT. It is all about desire and how much we give into it. I hope that you can see that minimising these desires yet fulfilling the needs brings happiness. But this doesn’t work if we are into self-flagellation, or what in the Buddha’s time was called asceticism. Even if beach people said they were not going to be hedonistic, very quickly that would change. The drinker remorseful in pain after two days heavy-drinking was back drinking again a couple of weeks later. He didn’t want to change. At the time when I was ribbing up he envied my happiness, but he starts again. He is not in control of his mind and so he cannot use his mind to control his desires. The key to happiness is not attaching to the desires in the first place, and that means discerning between desires as needs and desires as mental constructions that we don’t need. Once we recognise what we need, and fulfil those needs, and we don’t want the other desires we are on the Path to Happiness.
So how do beach people minimise or control desire? Clearly the mind has to be more in control to start controlling desires, and meditation is the key to this. As I said at the beginning, if you’re not willing to meditate don’t read this, you are wasting your time. So once you are learning to control your mind through meditation, the next step is to control your lifestyle. OK beach people, so you go to the beach and on the beach is a nymphomaniac convention of girls in bikinis. OK that is a chauvinist fantasy joke, but don’t put yourself in the way of desire unnecessarily. However that is not enough. Do we still have desires if we are in a monastery? Yes and no. Yes there is still the desire but it becomes less and less because there is not the temptation. No, because you are still a human being with human needs. If we live an immoral life then our lifestyles are immoral and we do immoral acts. And even better, as we live a life in which we are not always chasing after desires then those desires start to disappear – not altogether they effectively and gradually minimise. So we have the 4th NT – magga. By considering these 8 attributes of the Path and what they individually mean for ourselves we effectively change our minds so that mind becomes more amenable to a life in which we are less controlled by desire. The attributes of Right Honesty, Right Speech and Right Livelihood are often grouped together into what is called sila – moral integrity. As you follow the Path this sila becomes stronger, maybe in a similar way that some religions call soul. To be perfectly frank, beach people, if you do not accept sila as a lifestyle then this stuff is pretty much a waste of time for you as well. Morality and desire often complement each other, or at the very least it is desire that sharpens the steel of sila. Giving in to desire often produces an immoral act, but if that doesn’t matter to you then you have lost one of your major benchmarks of control. If you look at the bikini on the beach and see her with a 6 foot 6 bouncer, then Nature has provided a means of control of your desire. If you do not see that sleeping with your neighbour – a married woman with children – while she is wearing that bikini, then controlling your desire is that much harder.
As I said earlier on I don’t want to focus too much on Magga – the 8-fold path, because it can become wrapped up in dogma, so I want to turn to the 4 Agreements. I like these because they describe a non-dogmatic Path (Appendix D). The book by Don Miguel Ruiz opens with a consideration of the meaning of Agreement, and I want to consider that here briefly – he has more detail and does it far better. Basically as soon as we come out of the womb we come under pressure to conform. Through instinctual love we learn to conduct ourselves the way our parents conduct themselves, we agree to follow them. Through school and into adult life we accept what society and our peers tell us to accept, we agree to do what they do. What the 4 Agreements do is to undermine that dogmatic acceptance. By following these 4 we question how we relate so that it is not through pressure but through understanding and genuine internal agreement that we act. From our meditation we learn to control our desires and through our practice on a Path such as the 8-Fold Path or the 4 Agreements, we develop minds that are constantly questioning and are not being pulled one way or the other by desire. Here lies happiness.
The three tenets of Zandtao are:-
Improving the mind
Harmonising our energy
Taking care of our bodies
For a more complete understanding of the Zandtao approach to life you can read the Treatise.
4 Noble Truths – a translation-
There is suffering – Dukkha
Here is a Buddhist reference with links:-
The core of the Buddhist teaching is the Four Noble Truths: There is suffering. There is a cause to suffering. There is an end to suffering. The is a path out of suffering (the Noble 8-fold path).
Appendix D – 4 Agreements
Be impeccable with your word.
[B1] The Four Noble Truths HH Dalai Lama
[B2] The Four Noble Truths Venerable Ajah Sumedho
Posts Tagged ‘Desire’
Tags: 4 Agreements, 4 Noble Truths, Anatta, Desire
Desire again. My recent consideration of Sogyal Rinpoche and his alleged sexual proclivities made me think about tantric yoga. Now I know little about it as I have said. Here is a recollection of something I may have read somewhere. Contemplation of Kuan Yin, Goddess of Compassion, can help change sexual desire to compassion. Now I recently described enlightenment as a law of Nature, and then that desire and enlightenment are the same stuff. So any form of actuated desire is a detraction from enlightenment, enlightenment being a natural progression – a Path – if not interfered with and diverted by mind. That is a concern, desire detracting from enlightenment. [Warning:- I have discussed about enlightenment on the Buddhadasa page, I am now not happy discussing enlightenment. 20/9/13]
Now desire is no easy stuff to deal with. All around there are images that can create a response that becomes a desire, attachment to that desire can increase involvement with the desire, and therefore decrease involvement on the Natural Path to enlightenment. Like in all of us desire arises in me, much less now I am older but it is still there. So what do I do? Sit on it? No, that doesn’t work. Repressing the desire just means it squirms out somewhere else. In terms of sexual desire I remember reading that the Buddha suggested we meditate on what a human being is actually made of when we are attracted sexually, bugs, cells, bacteria etc. That never worked for me. Whilst I consider sexual desire natural, it is something I don’t want – I consider it a defilement (kilesa). But once attached to the defilement that’s it, whether a sex symbol is made of bacteria or not she is still a sex symbol. So that never worked.
So I give up with a kind of laissez faire attitude, I don’t want it but it’s going to happen so let it happen and don’t get strung up about it. But then it is detracting from enlightenment so that is not acceptable. But what if I can sublimate the desire? As enlightenment and desire are the same stuff, can I change it through meditation? Suppose a desire arises, can I convert it to love and compassion – good enough enlightenment stuff for me? Here I mentioned sexual desire and I also have too much appetite – I eat more than I need even though all I eat is good. What if I can change these desires when they arise? I suspect I am getting involved here with dependent origination but I have never really related to that as being more than theory.
So here is what I have come up with. If the mind is pure then enlightenment will happen when it is meant to. Love and compassion are good enlightenment stuff. If a desire comes up and I go with it then that is a distraction from enlightenment. Love and compassion are good stuff to work with chakras, breathing love and compassion in and out of the chakras. Natural sexual desire is found in the tan tien, the second chakra. I am guessing that natural hunger comes in the third chakra – solar plexus. But of course desire is primarily mental, we have sexual desire far more than we are actually capable of, we want to eat far more than we need – and eat the wrong foods because our taste buds are titilated (or addicted). That is the sixth chakra. So if desire arises I am going to try to convert it to love and compassion through these chakras – and the others as well.
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!
This is not my original blogentry. Eva Ross commented on the original blog entry, and I have used her comments in making this revised blogentry:-
It was a sad day for me Friday 9th March . I had woken up thinking about dreams that I have regularly. I used to fly quite a bit and I was always prepared and early, because you can’t just hop on the next one. So I have had a number of dreams in which I have left things to the last minute, was not prepared, and it was affecting the flight. I had downloaded some Toltec dream symbols, so flight meant a change and I wasn’t prepared for the change. I was wondering whether this meant I was not prepared for death, and death means diving for Sogyal Rinpoche’s “Tibetan Book of Living and Dying”. I went hunting an eBook.
In the process I was directed to this site where Sogyal Rinpoche’s alleged sexual indiscretions were discussed, for a complete list of entries concerning Sogyal go to http://downthecrookedpath-meditation-gurus.blogspot.com/ and search for sogyal rinpoche. I became angry at this blog because yet another book that was important to me have had doubts cast. Look at this list:-
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance AND
I have read other books , such as the Theravada books, Thich Naht Hanh talks and books, or Krishnamurti books and talks, that have impacted a great deal (perhaps more) in their entirety, but these 5 books, as individual books stand out. That is not to ignore HHDL, Eckhart Tolle or Fritjov Kapra. But when you look at these, Pirsig never claimed to be a spiritual teacher even though he is, it is questionable as to whether Castaneda had a genuine source of wisdom and whether all his books were written through discussion with Don Juan, K had a dubious relationship with a lifetime colleague’s wife, Fritjov Kapra’s analysis was not spiritual, and then I read this stuff about Sogyal whom in previous blogs I reverently called HHSR.
I now consider the issue is that sex has got to be completely off the table in a spiritual context. Suppose a spiritual teacher is prepared to get involved sexually, then the devotion to spiritual studies is diluted. And if your spiritual audience involves westerners then the point of sex being off the table is even more important as western culture can be promiscuous – especially if the people themselves are lost. Off the table. As I have now insighted enlightenment and desire are the same stuff, then the more that desire is allowed then enlightenment is reduced. This is a very loose statement as I don’t understand it properly, but it does give a clear direction. Off the table.
To the particular case. Eva describes women throwing themselves at Sogyal Rinpoche. I wasn’t there but it doesn’t sound like sex is “off the table”. She implies that the allegations have grown from these scorned women. Maybe that is so.
There are a number of points that my research has raised, I don’t have an answer to them and they create doubts.
1) Mary Finnigan. She apparently helped setup Sogyal Rinpoche in London in the 70s. She reacted to his practices and has since tried to expose him. This could be vindictive. Here is her Guardian profile, she writes about Tibetan Buddhism in general and not just Sogyal Rinpoche. Judge for yourself.
2) In 1994 there was a sex abuse civil suit brought against Sogyal Rinpoche, discussed here. It was settled, why? For me the integrity of a spiritual teacher (sila) pervades all that teacher represents, so how can settling be acceptable? Judge for yourself.
3) “In the Name of Enlightenment” is a recent Canadian documentary in which further allegations were made. I cannot find the documentary but here is a trailer. Rigpa gave out this public statement that did not counter the allegations but argued that it was not appropriate to get involved in a public argument on TV. I don’t know why they took this approach but it is not an approach that attempts to establish sila. Judge for yourself.
4) The president of Ireland visited Dzogchen Beara in 2007, and according to this article then distanced herself from Sogyal Rinpoche. Maybe this doesn’t mean anything as she would have to distance herself from controversy, or maybe her backroom staff discovered “dirt”. Again I can never know. Judge for youself.
So I need to try to assess in some way. Firstly I can never know, as Eva quite rightly says if I don’t go to Lerab Ling, France, how can I know? Mind you could I know even then? The title of this blog was always warning although originally I wrote the blog as if the allegations were true. Now thanks to Eva’s intervention I more correctly must describe this discussion as allegations.
So what do these allegations mean to me? Quite simply I doubt his integrity, and when I doubt integrity I doubt the teachings. Eva says she hopes that I “can see beyond any rumours” to “the wisdom that the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying holds. I would hate you to miss out on that wisdom due to fears.” This one I have not been able to resolve, and to my mind this is the issue of having sex “on the table”; off the table there is no possible confusion.
And the issue brings HHDL into question. He visited Lerab Ling in 2008 (watch this clip) as Eva pointed out. On the net people have questioned HHDL’s integrity as a result of his not “excommunicating” Sogyal Rinpoche – even giving him continued support. HHDL’s books have helped me, do I question them as well?
In fact should I be questioning the wisdom at all? If the allegations are true does that affect the value of the wisdom? I have previously discussed the Bhagwan (42 and 43 as well). I am sure there is much knowledge in his teachings, but can you be sure when he is directing you on the wrong path? I am unsure of the allegations, I am unsure of integrity, I am unsure of the teachings, because sex is not off the table.
Being content is why my journey stalled. In many ways being content is not a bad thing, but neither is it good. Contentment has an element of stagnation attached to it. If I look at my contentment rationally there is no arguing with what I was doing yet I still became stagnated. In particular I became focussed on politics to redress a balance – leading to becoming too attached to politics. Equally a similar process occurred with food where I became too attached to improving my health through eating. At the same time contentment arose because although I would like to do more I am doing my bit. And what is stopping me doing more is that the conditions for doing that more have not arisen. Apart from ongoing learning teaching is my bit, and I want to teach more. But teach what? Somehow I would like to be a spiritual teacher – without the institution. And those conditions rarely exist. Krishnamurti established it, but he was exceptional. Eckhart Tolle’s books hit home at the right time, maybe my book(s) will do something – certainly the scifi didn’t. I do a bit of teaching in the system but as Matriellez I would simply say that I am teaching them to fail. So the conditions for genuine teaching have not arisen. Having accepted these external limitations contentment easily follows. And that is why I need to incorporate “Beginning Anew” so that I don’t stagnate and let the journey stall again.
So what is the journey about? Quite simple – enlightenment. For a long while I thought enlightenment was an aspiration – a word that in my mind substituted for desire, but enlightenment is not a desire – it is a law of Nature. Seeking enlightenment is not a desire that we have to manufacture. Enlightenment is Nature’s purpose – it is in our Karma. We have no choice about it. When I was young and I first learnt about the Path it was as if I became disturbed when I wandered from it. So often conflict would arise as a consequence of my Path, and I would just have to say “C’est la vie”, that is the Path. I would just be forced to act in a certain way. I could never work for money alone, although many times I wished I had more. I still don’t own my own home nor a car – but now that is more of a choice. I always had the potential to earn more money but I never wanted the level of compromise that earning required. I still have to accept that there was too much compromise in my life but I could never compromise for money. That was my Path. And this Path I now happily call the Path to Enlightenment. Not that that changes anything, I don’t do anything differently, I just now recognise that Enlightenment is not something we choose – it just happens.
So if it just happens what is all the fuss about? Why aren’t we all enlightened? Simple – our minds screw things up. Instead of accepting that the process towards enlightenment is happening and doing the best we can, our minds interfere by becoming attached. This attachment needs a lot of clarification.
Attachment is a process that starts in the cycle of death and rebirth. An integral part of this process is karma. That part of Nature which is our personal karma is born and attracts to it that which becomes our existence (through the chakras). Within this existence is the mind, and the mind’s function is to keep us on the Path to Enlightenment by living in harmony with Nature and doing the best we can. So our very existence is a Karmic attachment, and by doing the best we can that attachment gradually disappears within the cycles of death and rebirth; at this level the letting-go process means the end of the cycle and enlightenment happens.
Meanwhile the mind gets in the way and as described in the 4 Noble Truths we become attached to cravings leading to suffering. Now this attachment we can control as opposed to the Karmic attachment in which we have no direct control. By following our Paths and not becoming attached to desire we work through our karmic issues, and so become less attached to samsara leading to enlightenment. The control we have is through our minds not being attached to desire rather than controlling the karmic process itself.
So why did my journey stall? First and foremost because I let the meditation slip, and because of this I didn’t control my mind, becoming too attached to politics and too attached to food. Neither food nor politics are permanent, they are part of this temporary incarnation and are therefore temporary manifestations on the Path. Whilst it is essential to use our insight in the correct use of food and in the correct understanding of politics, neither food nor politics are objectives. From last June it was clear that my political awareness had become limited, and it was correct in terms of the Path to use insight to understand politics. Equally over the last 5 years I have become aware of the importance spiritually to look after the body through correct eating, but neither body nor community are Enlightenment they are just the way we live together in this incarnation.
Recognising this our minds can give correct priorities to the different aspects of our Paths in harmony with Nature as opposed to what usually happens where our minds become attached to craving. In my case it led to contentment, a stagnation of the Path.
Warning:- I have discussed about enlightenment on the Buddhadasa page, I am now not happy discussing enlightenment. 20/9/13