Today’s advice from the heart:
Avoid activities that are said to be meritorious, but which in fact are obstacles to Dharma.
I’m not sure what this piece of advice ‘means to me’. I’m still noodling it through, and as usual, am doing so ‘real time’ in the interest of both being of the moment (mindfulness) as well as honesty with self (and you).
At first glance/blush/consideration, I read it as ‘Don’t fool yourself in relation to what has potential to be an obstable to Dharma’. But as I sit here and consider it, it shifts more toward ‘Don’t allow ego to be the tool by which you convince yourself an activity is “good”.’
The ‘click’ of that statement seems very clean and crisp, after all, I certainly know I’ve had moments in which I’ve done just this — the notion of ‘no one knowing’ the part of me that giggles to savor what appears to be a rightful activity, but how, in reality, the motivation underneath, inside, where no one can see it, is decidedly less Rightful.
The simple truth being that, while the world may never know, I always will, and the conflict of the choice is the impediment of which this piece of advice eloquently speaks.
It’s kind of a pain in the ass to be so devoted to practice. It doesn’t really let you have any ego fun. I say this with a laugh, though, because what IS ego fun anyway? Pride. Vanity. Self-importance. The active undermining of kindness or rightfulness in the name of that nice feeling I get to coddle and stroke that greedy, hungry little ego. Hah.
What’s the big deal, right? It’s ok to feed your ego now and again, right? Perfectly normal. Everyone does it. Ego is a natural part of humanity, yes?
Still laughing… oh, rationalization! Didn’t I outgrow that kind of idiocy the first time my houseparent asked me about following my friends off a cliff? Will I now follow the fickle whims of culture and society just to enjoy the feeling eager, every-hungry ego?
Yes, actually, sometimes, I certainly will. But most times, I try not to… they call it ‘practice’ for a reason, I suppose.
All this said, I think perhaps the ease of self-deception is the real crux of things. The question isn’t so much ‘can i justify this?’ because, let’s face it, we usually find a way to justify pretty much anything we want to justify. Ahem. *I* can find a way to justify anything I want to justify. (See? Slippery, isn’t it? Oh, shift this from “me” so it’s easy to discuss.) While I may comfort myself here and there with the statement that ‘we all do it’, using that statement is no more pointedly foolish for justification or rationalization ‘from’ something than ‘to’ it.
There are certainly times when I tell myself that it’s ok to do X because it’s a human thing. Or that it’s ok to do Y because ‘everyone is doing it’. Or even that it’s ok to do Z because no one can see that my motivation or intent is other than respectful and honoring of Dharma.
But it remains that I’m the one who has to live with the knowledge of my own intent and motivation. I’m the one that has to carry whatever weight that lie creates. Even after the act itself, perhaps even after the absolution of admission. Who knows where the ripple ends?
It brings me firmly in contact with the wisdom of this piece of advice, that last question. A somber, solemn moment. The lesson I find here is a helpful one — check my premise, check my intent, check my motivation, and avoid the temptation to engage in ‘good acts’ that I know within myself are a foil beneath which other than Rightful intent or motivation rests. Such things, indulged, become more difficult to resist and, candidly, who needs that? Not I.