Sunday, June 17, 2007

About Those Crack Dealers...

.... Our voluble correspondent, George, seriously mistakes the Buddhist view of happiness if he believes "there are many crack dealers... that are happy doing what they do." Not to mention the child molesters. The Buddhist view insists on the primacy of doing no harm--to oneself or others--a condition that hardly applies to either crack dealers or child molesters. True happiness, as I understand it, in the Buddhist view, is achieved by doing the hard work needed in order to learn to relinquish all attachments to passing pleasures and satisfactions, as well as all aversions to unpleasantness and pain. Happiness, then, has nothing whatsover to do with the illusory pleasures of material life or the satisfaction of desires. Happiness is precisely about liberation from such things.

That said, I have no wish to get into the argument about the relative value (or "truth") of different religions. It's not particularly useful or productive to argue about beliefs--especially those that are so passionately held. I'm with James in making a case for tolerance and mutual respect. And I react quite negatively when I get the sense that someone is trying to shove THEIR belief down my disbelieving throat. In a word, I gag. Otherwise, if a person wants to believe that the world was created in seven days (or six, if you discount the day of rest) six thousand years ago, so be it. He's welcome to his belief. I happen to think that such a person is willfully blinding himself to a universe of fascinating science and impoverishing his access to the wealth of human knowledge. Too bad. In such a case, I have to say that while I respect that person's right to believe whatever he chooses, I reserve the right to disrespect the content of his belief. By analogy to what some Christians profess: love the sinner, hate the sin. Except that, I see it, willful ignorance is not sin. It's just willful ignorance.

Which brings me to morality. First, do no harm. Everything fall in place behind that single tenet. I don't believe that morals are "established by God." But I hope and believe that God would agree with me on that general principle. Think about it.

Ah, yes. My sit today. I returned to my Sunday sitting group for the first time in several weeks--and brought my cough along with me. Within two minutes, I was disturbing everyone else's peace along with my own, but Ricola rode to the rescue and kept me quiet for the rest of the hour. A wandering mind, of course, brought more or less successfully back on track by renewing attention on the breath. This Buddhist meditation practice is hard work, I promise you. No wonder that Bhanta-Ji, our visiting monk from India, talks so often about "effort." Don't know about you, but I find it hard to discipline my unruly mind!


Anonymous said...

I think the hardest thing about disciplining my mind is that often times I feel it's right and necessary to be thinking, analyzing, and questioning all the time. In almost every facet of my daily life things go more smoothly if I relax and live in the moment, but too often I find myself wondering what would have happened if such and such a detail were different. I then have to make a mental note to bring myself back to a sort of "Don't worry, be Happy" philosophy. Mindfulness and living in the moment, while sublime, really DO require a lot of effort!

Great discussion in the last post, by the way!

Mikael said...

I'm not there yet either, but I will say this but I'm experimenting with the thought of giving the mind a wide open space lately. In this case, a delicate holding of the awareness of the breath is the experiment.

I find the 10 stages of taming the bull quite useful.

All very interesting.


Robin said...

Metta makes one a pure font of well-being and safety for others. Just as a mother gives her own life to protect her child, so metta only gives and never wants anything in return. To promote one's own interest is a primordial motivation of human nature. When this urge is transformed into the desire to promote the interest and happiness of others, not only is the basic urge of self-seeking overcome, but the mind becomes universal by identifying its own interest with the interest of all. By making this change one also promotes one's own well-being in the best possible manner.

PeterAtLarge said...

Robin, good to hear from you from Singapore! Thanks for the comment. Mikael, Thanks for the referral to the taming of the bull--a beautiful series of images and texts. I'll make a point of checking into it further. Best to all, PaL

Richard said...

"In such a case, I have to say that while I respect that person's right to believe whatever he chooses, I reserve the right to disrespect the content of his belief."

I have to say Peter, I agree with you on this one!

I also find I have terrible trouble keeping my mind still during meditation, though I find a simple breath counting from 1 to 10 does help.