listening to the internet stream, Dallam’s ‘I-sense’. which begins with the statement, ‘something here has gone very wrong.’
chuckling, i agree. oh boy. do i ever.
i’ve been studying the teachings of Buddha most of this weekend. and in tonight’s reading, find a listing of difficulties that one should expect to encounter on the path to sincerely seeking.
as a means of debasing this stubborn ego and also of reminding myself of all of it, along with pressing yet another set of weeds into wax, here, the list, and my own admissions with regard to each.
1. It is hard for a poor man to be generous.
i read this and my initial thought is, of course, money. but in truth, it could as well apply to any manner of giving. i am, of these last years, very poor in many ways. but i think i am likely poorest in spirit.
it IS hard to be generous to others when i am so pointedly, painfully aware of my own poverty. in any way.
where the suffering kicks in depends on the moment.
i hate money, but i like to do unexpected and generous things for others. often, this requires money. there have been many moments (some recent) in which i spent money i should not have simply to be able to be generous to another. at the moment of it, it seems a kindness. but in reality, it is a foolishness. not for what i suffer in the lack thereafter, but for the ego of me that demands the generosity based in desire for the feeling of being generous rather than simply to benefit another.
were i to be truly generous, all such giving would be tempered by the understanding that causing myself suffering to give is not beneficial to another or to me. also, that in most cases, the motivation to generosity is predicated on that pleasure found in surprising another… hence, based in their own suffering, and countering it for one moment, but not in any way more than so… which, here, in the moment of consideration seems more a cruelty than a kindness.
the generousity of the spirit is sometimes harder. not always. it is often easier to give from this place than any other… as all things here are free, costing nothing in the giving, and requiring nothing in return, and this seems a more wise, kind, and compassionate thing.
all the same, even attempts to be generous in spirit are often foxed here by pride, ego, and stubbornness. usually in needing so much to give that no attention is paid to whether or not the recipient wishes to receive. or, more pitifully, caring only for the giving and caring not for suffering or humiliation endured by the recipient in the process.
what kindness i can give to myself in any of it lies in the simple reality that, until very recently, i had not at all thought about this, or tried to look any deeper than the surface. so most of these horrible acts can be attributed to ignorance rather than intention.
but it is small, cold comfort. and, of course, going forward, now seeing at least the outlines of it all, no more this excuse… which is at once heavy and light.
sometimes i wonder if i will ever truly be better, more caring, kinder, less egotistical in this area. sometimes it is very hard indeed not to despair for how clumsy and unable i am at times.
here, i comfort myself with that small qualifier ‘at times’. but not quite enough to trigger pride. i can see how that could happen. ‘hah… well at least i do not do it all the time’… as if doing it at all is ok so long as it is only on occasion.
sigh. moving on.
2. It is hard for a proud man to learn the Way of Enlightenment.
snorting derision at myself. oh boy. sarcasm in effect, internal conversation assumes a very ‘no shit, sherlock’ tone. the deeper i dig, the more of this insidious pride i find. and the more i find, the more i feel hopeless and impotent.
i work to transmute this by reminding myself this too, is ego and pride at work. to remember that the process of discrimination IS the problem. and that remembering a thing with remorse and a resolution not to repeat it is one thing… but flaying oneself with it is another… not only not the point, but actively harmful to the goal.
here, another admission… i find it difficult to balance kindness to myself with the reality of how so many flaws impede every effort i make.
to say ‘stop discriminating and let it be’ is easy enough… words, they are easy. but how do you actually stop? sometimes it seems to simply cast it aside and let it go is ‘too easy’… it feels like a copout, a convenience, a ‘get out of jail free’ card when perhaps i belong behind those bars.
on the other hand, i begin to realize that if i do not let it go, i’m just going to keep running around the damn bush, wearing myself out and getting nowhere whatsoever.
i do not know where the balance in this is. i’m stumbling around looking for it. stubbing my toes on every grain of dust. they seem much bigger in the dark. they hurt. i’m not sure if wanting to do better is bad or good. the constant reminder of how desire creates suffering is almost like feedback here… iterations that confuse.
yes. that is a very apt way to say it. i am often confused by this. but i begin to suspect it is more because i’m wanting to be good rather than i’m wanting to learn. small cough here… that was a bit hard to type. sigh. flash of despair… will i ever learn?
3. It is hard to seek Enlightenment at the cost of self-sacrifice.
hah. how convenient, this one is a directly result of the previous, or so it seems in this moment. oh sure, i say i’m all about the self-sacrifice… but self is a sticky thing. what is odd is that in those moments when i really am detached from it all, it seems so obvious and simple. then i land back in the ocean and lose sight of it all and before i know it, yet another lap and back to the same spot… swearing that ‘next time’, i’ll do better.
but i haven’t managed it yet, have i?
i remember my first discussion with Rinpoche. i was curious and a little disturbed by all the focus on ‘seeking enlightenment’. it so often seems a very selfish pursuit. if this is supposed to be all about helping others, why should i be so obsessed with ‘getting my own enlightement’?
i suppose the answer may well be obvious to you, reading. evidence of my pitiful admission here that it was not to me. not at all.
Rinpoche said to me, kindly, ‘we do not seek enlightenment to benefit ourself, but so that we may better benefit others. we cannot hope to do so without it, therefore it is paramount, the most important thing of all.’
and i just wanted to lay down in the mud and cry until i died. of course it is obvious when someone tells you. how ignorant i am. it is like looking at mt. everest… on pluto… and being told you must reach it. it seems so impossible that you just shrivel inside. all your flaws and faults are capering around the fire of your best intentions shouting obscenities and mocking the little hope for ever being able to benefit anyone.
i suppose if it were easy, everyone would be there and none of this would be an issue. but when i think of my stupidity and ignorance and flaws… it’s just all mt. everest… on pluto… and me standing here, so many light years away… feeling very small… and very weak… and very, very much unable.
Buddha also said, “When a wise man is advised of his errors, he will reflect on them and improve his conduct. When his misconduct is pointed out, a foolish man will not only disregard the advice but rather repeat the same error.”what comfort i can find here lies simply in the fact that, knowing all of this, being there, so small and ignorant and unable, i haven’t given up. i haven’t run away.
i suppose you have to take comfort where you find it.
4. It is hard to be born while Buddha is in the world.
in all frankness, i have no idea what this one means. so ignorant. i will not try to speak to it, since it can only be error and foolishness. perhaps when i understand. if i ever do.
5. It is hard to hear the teaching of Buddha.
i’m tempted to say i am ignorant of this as well. but there is a fuzzy sense that it might mean it is hard to really accept the teachings. and if this is the case, i agree. it IS hard. it is hard to hear these things, know them to be true, know yourself as so thoroughly unskilled and lost, and still keep your ears open.
there have been so many moments when i have serious thought about just forgetting this whole Buddhist thing. it’s painful, you know. i have cried more in the last month and a half than i have in my entire life. hurting. really hurting. seeing over and over again just how ridiculous i am. seeing in moment upon moment how completely lost i am.
it is hard to really see these things and not just… give up.
my effort to kindness to myself in this is to have any belief whatever that i can do this. and in truth, it isn’t belief in myself, it is a belief in the words of these teachers, and the words of Buddha. i no longer have any illusion whatever that i can do a damn thing. except screw up even worse. i’m really good at that.
i try to be kind to myself by telling myself that not wanting to continue screwing up, to commit in every way to striving… these things are worthy. worthwhile.
stopping here for now. beginning to see this is going to be one hell of a long set of thoughts. deciding to break it into four sets of five.
continuing in another post… no delay, just breaking them up for ease of reading.