autotelic, autistic, assonance-hole©.

Advice from the heart – do not be attached to this life

Today’s advice from the heart:

Since the happiness, pleasure, and friends you gather in this life last only for a moment, put them all behind you.
Since future lives last for a very long time, gather up riches to provide for the future.
You will have to depart leaving everything behind, so do not be attached to anything.

It is a certainty that this series of verse will not hold meaning to anyone but those open to the buddhist tradition. Most do not believe in rebirth or reincarnation. Myself, I find it simple and easy enough to believe. The law of entropy, a bastion of scientific theorem, makes it quite clear – energy never dies, it merely changes form. So why then, so hard to believe that we return, in some manner?

Of course, here departs the common realm of possibility, as the difference between rebirth and reincarnation is active ability to choose. The buddhist tradition posits that many enlightened beings can and do choose how and when they return. I cannot be certain, so I do not have a statement of belief on this matter. However, it is certain that Atisha, in writing this piece of advise did, and I honor that belief as best I can manage.

It remains that the rest of this piece of advice is meaningful and wise. there is nothing of this life that we take with us. When at last we shuffle loose the mortal coil, we leave all things behind. What point, then, to attach meaning and interest in any of it? It is transient, a blink of the eye, meaningless but for the meaning others give to it.

Here, I will tell you that I have endured many beginnings in this life. Many times, being knocked to the ground and having nothing but the dirt beneath my hands. Many times, giving away all things simply to sustain the energy needed to continue moving forward. The details are not as important as the statement of its truth — I have learned in direct and very personal ways that nothing lasts, and it is only by being attached to nothing that I have kept my sanity, let alone my motivation to continue trying, continue striving.

This said, I savor every moment of happiness, pleasure, and friendship I find. Each instant of any of these are like diamonds; precious and nourishing and life sustaining in ways that words will never convey.

The sense of being apart, alone and lacking belonging, it is a weight that our human minds often shudder and strain beneath. For this reason, we cling with all being to those things that present closeness, care, and belonging. It makes utter sense, really. How delightful it is to feel a part of things. How lovely to feel care and closeness, eh? And how hard it is to watch friends or family or wonderful presence of these things slide by and slip over the horizon.

But it all does. This is the way of all life. So why hunger and yearn for things to last when we know they cannot? I think the deepest wisdom of this advise is not so much to forget, but to remember. To remember that no thing, good or bad, remains forever. That all things will, eventually pass. That just as we put the sadness and grief behind us, so too, should we put the thoughts of delightful and happy things as being permanent. They never are… and this is not a bad thing. It is simply ‘a thing’, like any other thing, only as good or bad as we make it.

The notion of future lives, I think, assumes we are blessed to have more than one precious human birth. I cannot say I know I will have such auspicious fortune. But in the interest of it being possible, it makes sense to practice as I may, to put all my effort toward the generation of positive, beneficial things, and to strive as I may toward a moment in which all kamma (karma) may be negated and, at last, I, too, may find more than the endless wheel of return and struggle.

Perhaps I will some day be able to bring helpful, beneficial things to many and skillful enough to do so consistently. To be sure, I am a humble and unskillful thing in this moment. It is, however, helpful to think of such ability and to try as I may to work toward it. The world is a suffering and unhappy place, filled with aches and pains unassuaged, plagued by hungers unending and the cries of those who know nothing more or better than to grasp after and yearn for anything other than this moment.

The prayer of the bodhisattava is an eloquent and simple thing — may all sentient beings have happiness and the causes of happiness, may they be free of the causes of sorrow, may they be protected against the manifestation of negative karma and may my presence and activity bring upon me all things intended for them and thus, remove from them the unhelpful returns so they, too, may find enlightenment.

This piece of advise is a powerful motivator, for one who is dedicated to practice. It is good to remember that nothing is lasting or permanent and that there is much wisdom in remembering to let all sense of permanency slip away. When the day comes that I depart this life and its experiences, I can only hope to be wise enough to do so without regret.

There are far greater things to know of life than the sense of lacking. In every moment, I wish and hope only that I live fully, laugh often, love without restraint, and exist utterly in this, as it is, and give no thought to the ghosts of history, the unborn child of the future.