Donald the Human Trump Card: One Buddhist’s Perspective…

With each passing day, I find it more difficult to get away from what appears to me to be the “truth” about Donald Trump – and it is this: the man is where he is today, practically in the White House, because not only are the conditions “right,” but also because they’re damned near perfect. Donald Trump was “made in America,” but we simply don’t want to admit it.

Is it not ironic that the man who claims he wants to make America “great again,” is only great because America made him so? Every time we laughed at the “reasoning” behind his exclaiming “You’re fired!”; every time we overlooked his sexism, racism, and xenophobia; every time we called his complete disregard for ethics and human beings in his business practices simple “wheeling and dealing” instead of the hate crimes they were; we contributed to the Frankensteinian creation of the monster Trump is today. It’s vipaka, baby — the “fruit” of our karma…

Everyone is acting as if Donald Trump is some sort of violent, freak accident that “happened” to us one sunny afternoon. Not true. Donald Trump didn’t “happen” to “us”; Donald Trump is “us,” whether “us” refers to you and me, or to the [U]nited [S]tates. He is the sum total of our situational ethic; our refusal to admit to the existence of white privilege; our worship of the failing dollar; and the misinterpretation of the freedom of America as the “free dumb” in America. He was everything that a lot of us wanted to be – and still is. This is why  many of us will still vote for him, despite all of our public protestations, once the curtain closes behind us in the voting booth.

And if you are possibly upset that I used the words “white privilege,” please understand that it was not with anger or “reverse racism.” Any type of unfair advantage, no matter what color the perpetrator, always backfires. So-called “white people” suffer the effects (vipaka) of “white privilege” as much as so-called “people of color.” We cannot judge the intent of all by some, or truly believe, if we know the Dharma/Dhamma, that “evil” ever wins. The Law of Karma is the strictest, most impersonal bookkeeper ever employed. It doesn’t care who you are or what you do. It simply ensures that everything is always perfectly balanced — even when it doesn’t appear to be so…

Just remember this: “The Donald” cares about no one but himself. He doesn’t need you. He doesn’t need anyone – especially now that he has managed to do “the impossible.” And I don’t mean to imply that he’s not a nice person. If he’s a psychopath, and I mean this in the nicest, most clinical sense of the word, he simply can’t help it. Nonetheless, the man can’t manage a business, but we choose to believe that he can guide a nation, and deftly navigate the politics of one of the most complex and critical eras the world has ever known. Good luck with that.

So, please, stop it with the pissing and moaning. You’re not fooling anyone. This “crisis” pales in comparison to the one from which we are only now just recovering: nearly eight long years of an eloquent, educated, articulate, brilliant, undeniably just, albeit “Negro,” man holding the office of president of the United States. Many folks’ biggest disappointment can only be that he did not, in fact, do as they feared: He didn’t take office and treat white people as if they did not exist, or might possibly not have voted for him. He didn’t turn white privilege into “everything-but-white privilege,” he didn’t ignore the pain of the Syrian refugees because he valued the lives of Africans more… If you’re confused by this statement, let me draw an analogy: He didn’t pretend the Rwandan Genocide wasn’t happening because, well, no one who was anyone really cared anyway…

If you are voting for Mr. Trump, I truly don’t think less of you. Our conditioned existence is much too complicated to simplify into categories of any one person’s idea of “right” and “wrong.” Politicians are a special breed, and if there’s one good thing I can say about Mr. Trump, he’s honest about not giving a damn. But if we believe what the Buddha taught about a “conditioned existence,” then we understand that what is happening in the world today is the only thing that can happen, given what occurred prior to now (possibly for immeasurable past eons) and what is happening in the ever-fleeting and ever-changing “now.”

The only card game I ever learned to play was “Old Maid,” and that was in elementary school – many, many years ago. Nonetheless, I do know the meaning of the word “trump,” with regards to “grown-up” card playing. There are actually three definitions, in particular, that interest me, the last of which I only discovered today.

Trump:

  1. a playing card of the suit chosen to rank above the others, which can win a trick where a card of a different suit has been led;
  2. a sound of or as if of trumpeting (the trump of doom);
  3. a dependable and exemplary person.

“The Donald” is the personification of the eternal “trump card,” practically doing whatever he’s wanted, all his life, because he’s always been treated as if he’s of a higher suit or rank. You might call that a kind of “privilege,” with his being a white male being only incidental… And personally, I know people of all colors, ethnicities, income levels, social ranks, gender identities, religions, and political parties who do not think Mr. Trump is the best choice for this country.

We have ploughed, sown, and fertilized the crop we are about to harvest. And frankly, the only thing that truly surprises me about what is happening now is that we are surprised at all.That said, Mr. Trump is not the problem. He’s merely a symptom. Just as there is ‘personal’ karma, there is ‘national’ karma. Presidencies change just as everything else changes.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the last, legally-possible, four-term president, right?

Namaste.

 

 

 

 

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Life is Not a Rodeo (So, Let Go of the “Bull”)…

“Defense is the first act of war. Practice responding with love.” –Byron Katie
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I’ve always been fascinated by the sport of bull riding, but it wasn’t until I googled the “rules of bull riding” that I truly appreciated it as a very apt metaphor for life. According to the rules of the Professional Bull Riders (PBR), a successful bull ride lasts only eight seconds. That’s the goal. Eight seconds. I’d always thought that someone might hold on for say, a minute or two, and win; but it’s not as simple as that. During those eight seconds, the rider must keep one arm secured to the rope, and the other arm in the air at all times. If the free arm ever touches the rider or the ground, during that eight-second span, the clock stops and the rider is disqualified. Even more interesting, the bull, too, receives a performance score. So, a ride is a 100-point event, with each participant being scored from 0-50 points. What this means is that if the bull just stands there for eight seconds, or simply meanders from one end of the arena to the other, even if the rider maintains the required “posture” for eight seconds, for a total of 50 points, that rider is not going to win…

If I’d known this, and had the opportunity to think it through much earlier in life, I might have had an easier time than I’ve had. For Buddhists, the problem of “attachments” is of primary concern. We learn that because we become attached to results, outcomes, and maintaining things such as reputations or relationships that truly need to end, we only end up increasing our suffering. Believing that things and people should be and act only in ways that we approve is a function of our own egos and insecurities.

Giving the finger to the person who cuts us off on the road; making a snide comment to the man who walks through the door in front of us, but doesn’t hold it for us (not recognizing either that we are “ladies,” or that it’s just the polite thing to do); or perseverating on the person who seemingly dislikes us for no reason (even though we know that we are the nicest people in the world) causes us stress not because those people are jerks, but because we are invested in the only “right” version of how things should be – our version. Yet, believe it or not, most other people are just as invested in their versions of “reality,” and for some inexplicable reason, holding the door open for you has absolutely nothing to do with their happiness. Their happiness.

Throughout my life, I’ve had a repeated, unpleasant experience that I would guess it’s fair to say happens only to women. I even remember the first time it happened – back in 1995. I was walking home from a friend’s house through the downtown portion of our city. Even though I lived in Michigan at that time, I still walked like the New Yorker I am, now. I needed to cross a busy intersection and was rushing to get to the corner so I could cross with the light. I noticed a rough-looking man sitting in a doorstep smoking a cigarette, to my left. I didn’t know him, and it didn’t occur to me to greet him. After I’d passed him, and was about 30 feet away, he said, “Hello, sexy!” I decided to pretend that “sexy” wasn’t my name, and didn’t really feel like stopping to converse. The light changed, and I started to cross the street. The next thing I knew, he had run into the middle of the intersection after me, getting in my face and calling me an “uppity bitch,” for not acknowledging him. I was stunned motionless for a moment, but when he started to reach out for me, I screamed and swung my book bag at him. The light had changed back, but traffic remained stationary, and this must have given him a clue that if he was going to attack me, he’d have to do it in front of a whole lot of people…

Since then, I’ve noticed that though getting up and assaulting a woman for not returning a greeting is not common, waiting for her to walk several feet beyond, and then saying “hi” is. It would be just as quick and easy to say “hello” before the woman passes, but to wait until after she passes is a control issue. You see, some people can only get a feeling of being someone through other people. Bishop Desmond Tutu famously said, “A person is a person through other persons.” Somehow, I don’t think he meant it in this sense. So, if an “attractive” woman stops, turns around, and returns a stranger’s greeting, he thinks he must really be “something.” Never mind that she might be late for work, or that it’s late at night, the streets are empty, and he and she are the only two people on the street – and she’s scared; he expects an acknowledgement… There’s the expectation that he should be able to turn, “heel,” or pull you up short, as if you were on a leash. Yet, he doesn’t even know you… And if you were to stop and acknowledge him because you thought he was cute, or whatever, that is how he’d treat you as his wife…

The Buddhist path is about learning to “let go.” We need to let go of presumptions, expectations, the demands of ego, and the feeling that everything that happens to us is “personal.” It’s not all about “us.” We see ourselves as being one way; yet, others don’t see us that way, at all. If we really were the “nicest person in the world,” everyone in the world would like us… If we were “hot” as all that, we’d never be upset that that man or woman whose attention we desired didn’t even give us a second look because our “hotness,” an “indisputable fact,” would have protected us from that indignity… All of these wants, desires, expectations, and even, demands, spring from our need to be affirmed by external sources. This is what “attachment” does to us…

Life is not a rodeo. It’s not all about holding on as tightly as we can, for as long as we can. The reality, if I may be so bold as to use that term, is that it is much harder to let go for eight seconds than it is to hold on. Truly, in this crazy ride we call life, we can’t even begin to accrue points until after we let go, and those first eight seconds have passed. When a co-worker makes a smart remark, specially tailored to wreck our day, we can either latch on to that remark, thus escalating the situation, or we can “let go” and let peace begin to happen. And when we are no longer concerned with racking up that 50 points, the bull we’re riding won’t be doing it, either. This is not to say that life will become easier, or necessarily feel easier, but only that we’ll become something, and someone, more than “just along for the ride”…

A bull ride isn’t expected to last very long (though it probably seems like forever), and the expectation is that we will fall off, repeatedly, and keep getting back on until we no longer can. If bull riding is an apt metaphor for our lives, we need to let go of the bull…

 

Detaching by Debriefing: Life as a Part of Meditation…

Release through discernment begins by pondering various events and aspects of the world until the mind slowly comes to rest and, once it’s still, gives rise intuitively to liberating insight (vipassana-nana): clear and true understanding in terms of the four Noble Truths (ariya sacca). In release through stillness of mind, thought, there’s not much pondering involved. The mind is simply forced to be quiet until it attains the stage of fixed penetration. That’s where intuitive insight will arise, enabling it to see things for what they are. This is release through stillness of mind: Concentration comes first, discernment later. –Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo

I recently participated in a mediated discussion with a group of women. Some of the women were offended that other women in that group were, seemingly inexplicably, not speaking to others in that same group. Interestingly enough, the majority of the women who often don’t speak when spoken to, eventually synopsized the situation by claiming that the women who were offended by not being spoken to should “stop taking things so personally.” One “non-speaking offender” said, “My life is complicated; I have problems; and I don’t always feel like speaking. It’s nothing personal. You should just understand that I don’t  have  to speak to anyone when, or if, I don’t want to.” Yet, this same woman was upset that the people to whom she formerly refused to speak, simply because  she  was in a bad mood, later refused to speak to her once she felt like speaking!

Please, don’t apologize. Take a few moments to reread what you just read. I have ruthlessly edited for simplicity’s sake; yet, I, myself, still can’t understand, or believe, what I’ve just written…

Now, for the really freaky part: There were two group facilitators, and each of them agreed with this woman. They claimed, that they, too, often had bad days where they didn’t feel like speaking, and because of this, it made them more “compassionate” when they encountered others who were not speaking because, obviously, they were in a bad mood. And because of their ability to be understanding and compassionate, if someone who refused to speak to them yesterday speaks to them today, they speak – because they’re just that “big.”

I had a problem with that – and I said so. I think they’re driven not by compassion, but by self-indulgence or Self-ishness  (in the Buddhist sense of the word). It seems to me that the women who were upset, if they were truly “compassionate,” would have been much more understanding, rather than complaining about being treated as they treated others. They were offended that certain people no longer spoke to them after they had previously squashed those people’s sincere greetings, or inquiries as to their health, or worse, stared them down with utter hostility because of being in a “bad mood.” In other words, they want the right to be rude, simply because, like a toddler, they don’t “feewul gwood,” but once they feel better, they believe it is everybody else’s responsibility to make sure that their happy state of mind continues by indulging them – even though they are incapable of paying anyone else the same courtesy. Additionally, they lack the understanding that other people’s words, actions, prejudices, etc., should not ever be the foundation for our “happiness”…

Compassion is complex. It is much more than “feeling sorry for someone.” In fact, I believe that ‘compassion’ would be concerned for another’s feelings at all times, no matter how it was feeling that day. I also believe that compassion would not want to hurt someone in a way that it truly understands “hurt” can be conveyed. So, this experience got me thinking about the sinister power of emotion. What follows is my actual post for today, the one I would have liked to have written without this seemingly circuitous introduction. This is what I would have liked to have said had we not all had to simply agree to disagree and drop the topic…

I have worked in the retail industry for the past four years. If a customer walks up to me, needing either information, or just feeling like shooting the breeze, and I am in a bad mood, I don’t have the option of pouting and not speaking. I didn’t have that option when I taught in the classroom, or when working at a service desk, either. I believe that most people would agree with me, here, and say that obviously, the whole “not-speaking thing” doesn’t apply to professional situations. Consequently, my question is “So, we can only abuse the people we love, or with whom we live, or upon whom our financial security does not depend?” Please. Think about it.

Emotions (how we feel) are not “us.” They don‘t have to color our lives. We can observe, but yet not be or become, those emotions. Emotions are not inescapable or inevitable; yet, if we treat them as if they are, they become not only “habit,” but also our prison. And ironically enough, we, too, can become the prison of emotion. We “store” these emotions/feelings (particularly the destructive ones) in our backs, arthritic fingers, necks, shoulders, and even breathing capacities.

Meditation facilitates our learning how to distance ourselves from emotion/feeling in a direct, purposeful way. I’m referring to detachment, not psychosis. Through the practice of meditation, we learn to conduct that same kind of observation in our daily flight; in the waking moments of a fitful sleep; and even as we are doing the seemingly most un-meditative things, like participating in an unfriendly discussion, or actually confronting, with scientific objectivity, our own pain, depression, fear, bitterness, or feeling of having been wronged. Oh, wait a minute, the latter is actually very “meditative!” It’s just not possible to do it in a detached manner until one first learns to meditate. And after benefitting from the discipline of meditation, when one feels wronged or hurt, they are less likely to want to hurt back, or to feel their hurt in a self-destructive way. Non-meditators call this type of observation or internal review “obsessing,” “brooding,” or “perseverating on the negative,” and rightly so, because in their case, that’s exactly what it is.

And then there’s the day, sometimes only after years of meditation, that you realize that the former “you,” when faced with a particularly trying situation, would have literally killed yourself, or most definitely “acted out” in ways that would have brought numerous and immense complications to your own life, as well as the lives of others, thus increasing your karmic debt load, exponentially…

Now, you are, at least, a little bit freer to be more compassionate; less judgmental, and poised on the precipice of promise…

Yep! That’s it for today! If it helps, I’m glad. If not, that’s understandable because as the Buddha said, each person must travel his or her own path. So, I’ve written this only to reach out and communicate the lessons in a personal experience, not “save” anyone — no one can do that no matter how hard they try. Liberation is a blossom of personal experience. Or so I have heard…

Namaste.

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Reference:

Dhammadharo, A. L. (1979). Keeping the breath in mind & Lessons in samadhi. Valley Center, CA: Metta Forest Monastery.

 

 

 

 

Henri Bergson: The Jewish Christian-Convert Philosopher Who Reverted to Judaism Then Died Before Discovering He Might Have Been Buddhist…

“Homo sapiens, the only creature endowed with reason, is also the only creature to pin its existence on things unreasonable.”

–The Buddha, I mean, Henri Bergson

“To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.”

The Buddha, I mean, Henri Bergson

“The present contains nothing more than the past, and what is found in the effect was already in the cause.”

The Buddha, I mean, Henri Bergson

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Dr. Henri Bergson (1859 -1941) is one of the most famous, influential philosophers of the 19th and 20th centuries about whom many remain uninformed. As a young man, he would win a prestigious award for his solution to a mathematical problem that Pascal had claimed to have already solved, but to which he, unlike Bergson, somehow, neglected to ever publish his own solution. Then, despite Bergson’s promise of brilliance, something apparently went quite wrong because though he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1927, it was for, of all things, literature, not mathematics. What went wrong, you ask? Well, Bergson eventually made the shift from “hard” math to the subject matter most of our parents warned us to avoid lest we receive no financial assistance from them in the pursuit of our own university educations: the humanities.

In 1889, 38 years prior to winning the Nobel Prize for Literature, Bergson would be awarded a doctorate for his thesis titled Essai sur les données immediates de la conscience (Time and Free Will). In this work, “Bergson offered an interpretation of consciousness as existing on two levels, the first to be reached by deep introspection, the second an external projection of the first.”1  Nonetheless, his forays into the wilds of consciousness were hardly unique. Buddha Gautama had claimed, some 2500 years prior, virtually the same thing. Additionally, Bergson’s views on free will and determinism, though significant, also echoed his predecessor, the Buddha. Again, in Time and Free Will,  he stated: “Consciousness indeed informs us that the majority of our actions can be explained by motives. But it does not appear that determination here means necessity, since common sense believes in free will.”2 The Buddha said as much in his exposition on the ‘five (s)kandhas,’ aka ’five aggregates,’ in which he described the relationships between the “processes” of form, feeling, perception, volitional formations, and consciousness. Admittedly, the concept of “free will” gets much trickier in the Buddha’s exposition, but I suppose that’s because he wasn’t a “modern” thinker, right?

Throughout his career, Bergson would accrue numerous awards, prestigious posts and faculty positions, as well as one of the most prestigious distinctions of all – fierce opposition by the Catholic Church. Having been heavily influenced by the works of such authors as Darwin, with whom he disagreed in significant ways, Bergson would come to develop a different concept of evolution, as evidenced in his 1907 publication,  Creative Evolution. Nonetheless, in 1940, Bergson would do the unthinkable and not only abruptly and completely renounce all of the aforementioned honors in opposition to the Vicchy government’s offer to grant him a special dispensation from their anti-Semitic laws, but also register himself as a Jew. Now, that’s what I call making a point. And what was truly interesting about this tact was that despite the decidedly Buddhist bent of his own theories, not to mention his albeit non-practicing but Judaic background, he’d actually become a Christian by then, which didn’t do much for his credibility… So, Dr. Henri Bergson was a Jew, who converted to Christianity, then reverted back to the Judaism he’d never practiced, just to make a point – even though he was more Buddhist than many Buddhists then, or now… And sadly, for the last decade or so of his life, he suffered from crippling arthritis, eventually dying of bronchitis.

But wait, how’d Bergson acquire his Buddha-like rap if he didn’t study Buddhism? And there does not appear to be any great discussion of his doing so. Perhaps, during his excruciatingly ardent, brilliant, detailed inquiries, he simply stumbled into ‘Truth,’ or the so-called ‘Universal Law of Nature’, which, incidentally, is the foundation of Buddhism, itself. This is why the Dalai Lama XIV said, “If scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims.” Hello, Dalai! That’s something to think about! Contrast this with Hebrews 11:1 of the Holy Bible, New Testament, which defines faith as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”  And then there’s the Buddha, himself, who warned us in his Kalama Sutta to take nothing at face value, or on blind faith, even if those very words had departed from his own lips. In the preface to his translation, from the original Pali, it states:

The instruction of the Kalamas (Kalama Sutta) is justly famous for its encouragement of free inquiry; the spirit of the sutta signifies a teaching that is exempt from fanaticism, bigotry, dogmatism, and intolerance.

In a fundamentalist Christian world like that of the Reverend Fred Phelps of GodHatesFags.com fame, Dr. Bergson is a *&%$#@ Jew who almost made it. In a Christian world, Dr. Bergson is either a failed-Christian who almost made it, or possible one who did “make it” because of an exceptionally merciful and loving God. But in a Buddhist world, Dr. Bergson, whether he was a ‘declared’ Buddhist, or not, could be a[n] potential [arahant], a once-returner, or simply a buddha honing in on his final liberation, though not yet for many lifetimes. In other words, he, at the very least, touched on deep truths with which many of us still struggle today, Buddhist, or not. And he appears to have expressed them brilliantly.

Dr. Bergson’s memory has endured significant obscurity, considering his worldly and spiritual accomplishments, and he’s also met with as much ridicule as respect. For example, Bergson’s “intuitionist philosophy” inspired respected philosopher, Bertrand Russell, to opine:

“Intuition is at its best in bats, bees, and Bergson.”

But as Bergson, himself, said:

“Some other faculty than the intellect is necessary for the apprehension of reality.”

The Buddha, I mean, Henri Bergson

And  that’s  precisely  why Buddhists meditate!

Shalom.

And of course, as always, Namaste…

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Other Suggested Readings:

1“Henri Bergson – Biographical.” Nobelprize.org Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 8 Sep 2015. http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1927/bergson-bio.html

2”Henri Bergson” at
The Information Philosopher, http://www.informationphilosopher.com/solutions/philosophers/bergson/

Gunter, Pete, A.Y., “Henri Bergson” at
http://petegunter.net/philosophy/henri-bergson/

Freedom: Illusive or Elusive?

“Only a man himself can be the savior of himself, who else from outside could be his savior? With oneself controlled, one obtains a savior that is difficult to find.” (Dhp XII:160)  –Translation of The Dhammapada by Narada Thera.
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When someone insults, hurts, or “makes” us angry, and we react in kind, we often express our regret by saying, “Look what s/he made me do!” Then, we wonder,”How could they have done that to me?” In truth, we should be asking, instead, “Why do they have more control over my emotions/actions/kamma (karma) than do I?”

While I ‘know’ this on ‘good’ days, I sometimes demonstrate, by words or actions, that I’ve forgotten the same, i.e., haven’t yet  realized  this.

No one can “make” us anything but dead; and even then, we do not ever truly die. Nonetheless, ‘knowing’ is not enough, and thankfully, this, in itself, is a realization…

Namaste.

Nothing Whatsoever Should Be Clung To…

There is nothing more self-centered, selfish, or needy than the human infant. It assumes that it is the center of the universe, and cares nothing for you, except for your ability to provide and cater to it. Supposedly, as we reach such human milestones as “toddler-hood,” puberty, and the ‘teen years,’ we gain more independence and maturity. Then, once we become adults we are to “put away childish things.” Yet, for many people, this never occurs. Instead of going from infancy to adulthood, we go from infancy to “enfantcy” (i.e., enfant terrible).

Instead of expressing maturity and independence, we simply grow older and, instead, remain just as needy but in different ways. Instead of a diaper change, a butt rub, a warm bottle or breast, or a pacifier while sitting on a shaking knee, we “need” other people’s admiration, agreement, acceptance, fear, friendship, fairness, or love. This state of “need” is called ‘craving’ or ‘clinging.’ Clinging is, in part, “all about *me,* and as stated by Ajahn Buddhadassa:

The spiritual disease of our time is the disease whose germ lies in the feeling of “we” and “ours,” “I” and “mine” that is regularly in the mind… So it follows that all unenlightened people must experience this feeling of egoism arising continually… It is the greatest danger of our time (from Essential Point of the Buddhist Teachings).

When the Buddha still walked the Earth, he was asked if it were possible for him to succinctly sum up the essence of all his teachings. He answered in the affirmative. His response was “Sabbe Dhamma Nalam Abhinivesaya.” This is the Pali for “Nothing whatsoever should be clung to.” The Buddha discovered that “clinging,” conditioned by “craving” was (and remains) the most deadly infectious disease known to humanity. And except for engaging in meditation, active mindfulness, and study, there’s no other method of “treatment.”

Now, for some examples of clinging:

To want some situation, or some person, to remain always the same is clinging. Conversely, to want some person, or some situation to change is also clinging, but to something or someone that does not presently exist but that you would prefer, or like to exist. And either way, we can never be “happy” because in the first situation, we will always have the nagging fear that our perfect situation/person will change; and in the second, we’re simply afraid that it/they will never change. The problem with both these perspectives is that everything always changes because of ‘impermanence.’ Impermanence is the “theory” (until we realize it for ourselves), that everything is ‘impermanent,’ and this is applicable even to ‘permanence.’

Subsequently, depression is clinging. Complete self-assurance is clinging. Resentment is clinging. Contentment is clinging. Arguing (to be ‘right,’ or to avoid the embarrassment of being ‘wrong’ is clinging). Happiness is clinging. Sadness is clinging. Anxiety is clinging. And anger is clinging — to name just a few examples.

Now, imagine how different life would ‘feel’ if we didn’t always need things or people to be a ‘certain way’ in order to support our self-centered, egoistic need to have things our way. Imagine if we took this a bit further, and looked at the Buddha’s statement that there is no “self” to defend, or be fearful for (yes, that’s another post), and we lived our lives in the dispassion that comes with  experiencing the Truth. If we can do this, it’s called nibbana (Pali), or as it’s more commonly known, nirvana. Many people think that Nirvana is some place, or something that happens after one dies. This is not the case. Nirvana is freedom from suffering in one’s present lifetime. No informed person has ever claimed that one had to “die” to attain nirvana.

Imagine how different we would feel if we weren’t so deeply offended by such insignificant events as someone walking in our “lane” on the sidewalk (making us have to walk around them, yes,us — can you imagine?). Or imagine how differently we would feel about everyday life if we didn’t become upset or offended that that “ingrate” didn’t say “thank you” after we held the door open for them because we’re such nice people. In truth, if we were that nice, holding the door open for someone would be its own reward — and we wouldn’t need their thanks to make us feel like good people… i.e., is it our actions, other people’s recognition of our actions, or the intentions of our actions that make us “good people?” The answer to these questions being quite obvious, let us now consider the chained, imprisoning effect of always wanting and needing approval, acceptance, and recognition from everyone, even complete strangers! And this is how we go from being self-centered infants to self-centered adults.

A doctor or midwife or police officer cuts our umbilical cord — and we spend the rest of our lives trying to find someone else to whom we may reattach it.

Please note that I am in no way saying that I am there, “all that,” or anywhere near being free of “clinging disease.” Far from it. I am simply one more pilgrim on the journey to, hopefully, enlightenment. In closing, the Buddha said,

I teach one thing and one thing only: suffering and the end of suffering.

So, let us begin to end it…

Namaste.

There’s Always A Choice (Even if you can’t imagine what it could be)…

I’ve come to the conclusion that it isn’t our lives that are “messed up,” but rather the choices we make regarding how we we will conduct our lives.

And this reminds me of a quotation from one of my favorite books, Man’s Search for Meaning, by the late Dr. Viktor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, and Holocaust survivor:

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

Dr. Frankl chose to live, in the same Nazi concentration camps that took the lives of his family and friends, and share with others what he’d learned about coping, survival, and the irrepressible, inextinguishable human spirit.

Namaste.