The Human Dharma

April 26, 2010

It turns out the Grand Poobah religious figure in the USA, Jesus, did some stuff that didn’t make a lot of sense.  The one that comes to mind is getting mad at the fig tree and cursing it to death because it didn’t have any figs and he was hungry.  Um… seriously, Jesus? The tree would have had figs if the conditions had been right.  Wouldn’t it have been better to curse the environment?  Or the fig tree’s health?  The Buddha said that attachments cause suffering.  Jesus experienced suffering because he craved a fig so much he couldn’t stand it.  But taking the story at face value, his craving caused suffering not only for himself, it also killed the tree, so there could be no more figs for anyone from that tree. 

Jesus also rejected his family and said that he had a new family in the form of his disciples.  Buddha did that, too.  In fact, he ditched his parents, wife and kid and didn’t see them for ages.  Later in his life his family became his followers, but he did ditch them and cause them suffering.  Among the things the Buddhist works on is his compassion.  Although he left them so he could figure out the source of suffering and the resolution of suffering, he also caused suffering.

The thing is, these guys were people.  They weren’t gods.  Buddha didn’t even claim to be.  He didn’t even assign anyone to carry on his work.  He said that people need to figure out the way the world works by practicing on their own.  Jesus did claim to be the son of God, as well as the Son of Man, but he was human.  He had faults.  Buddha had faults.  All us people got faults.

As a freshly minted Buddhist I have been thinking about how it used to irk me when Christians edited the Christian story to make it suit their experiences.  A lot of modern Christians actually redefine God to suit their perspectives.  Now I find myself doing the same thing with Buddhism.  I don’t buy the supernatural stuff in Buddhism any more than I buy it in Christianity. 

What I buy is the Four Noble Truths, and how practicing them leads you automatically to walking the Eightfold Path.  Nothing magical. Nothing that requires faith without evidence.  Just walk the walk.

The Four Noble Truths

  • There is suffering (dukkha).
  • There is a cause of suffering (craving).
  • There is the cessation of suffering (nirvana).
  • There is the eightfold path leading to the cessation of suffering.
  • The Eightfold Path

    1. Right View
    2. Right Intention
    3. Right Speech
    4. Right Action
    5. Right Livelihood
    6. Right Effort
    7. Right Mindfulness
    8. Right Concentration

    The intersting thing is that nirvana doesn’t happen in the great hereafter.  It happens here and now when you practice.  Bits and pieces of nirvana start showing up.  The more you practice, the more you get.

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    Dental Dharma

    April 12, 2010

    I have been getting some dental work done.  I needed a couple of crowns.  I hadn’t had anything like that done in years.  About 3 weeks ago the first tooth was shaved down, and I decided I would try to practice meditation while it was happening.  I had some moments of sort of knowing I was breathing, but mostly I tried to avoid choking.  Mindfulness can be hard, especially when you really want to be on a desert island or, heck, stuck in traffic, or anywhere but in that chair.

    This morning it was better.  I figured out how not to breathe through my mouth despite having my mouth wide open, and how to concentrate on my breath while the dentist drilled his heart out.  I also learned to keep my tongue away from any gunk he puts in there- it is going to taste bad, that’s just a fact.  It’s a lot easier to meditate when you can breathe and when the most bitter flavor in the world isn’t eating a hole through your tongue. 

    It was a good practice, though, both times.  Bringing yourself back to the present is challenging when you’re sitting on your zafu in a quiet room, but there is great benefit from learning to control the mind in tougher situations, too.  The fact that for seconds at a time I was able to stay with my breathe despite the drilling and nasty tastes in my mouth helped me understand that I have progressed.  I could never have done that just a short time ago. 

    When Moh Hardin was here in January, he lead us on an awareness meditation, that involved walking up to stuff and just checking it out.  Truly paying attention, letting go of self-consciousness.  It was something I did all the time as a little kid, but hadn’t done, not really, in forever.  It is good. 

    Now I find myself walking up to an iris and really looking it over, knowing that it will only be here a short time and then it will be gone, so now is the time to look and pay attention to it.  Now is the time to wake up.  Or else I take a really good look at the texture of the wall paper in some restaurant bathroom or the dimples and sharp textures of a brick in some wall.  Those things are going to be here for a while, but even they are fleeting. 

    It’s important to understand that I am fleeting, too.  I am awake and aware, but now and only now.  And sooner or later I won’t be awake and aware at all… I will die and become part of the dirt and the bugs and the flowers. 

    I hope someone will stop and look at the dirt I become in a bunch of years from now, and be awake and aware and alive in that one moment in time.  They will not see me or know I used to be made out of that dirt, but maybe they will have a little moment of presence when they will breathe in and find out they are glad they are alive.