Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Webs We Weave - Dharma talk

The source of human suffering is not the world or external conditions, but the way that we think. The human mind weaves a complex tapestry of concepts and beliefs which eventually ensnares its owner. Buddhism teaches us how to see correctly, through the prejudice of our thoughts.

Introduction and sound engineering by Tom Eunsahn Gartland.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Death by any other name

If you pay attention to the English language, it would appear that no one dies anymore; they "pass." In Western culture's attempt to remove all aspects of unpleasantness from life, "death" has become an insensitive, uncouth, unspeakable word. To me, "passing" sounds like another attempt to disguise the reality of the human condition. People don't die; they "pass."

When I was growing up in the '80s and '90s, "passed away" was in common usage. The preposition "away" suggests a movement outside of the body, but not anywhere in particular, in the sense that when someone's body dies, the person dissipates...away.

I kind of like that. When life ceases, the person scatters, in a manner of speaking. In Buddhist terms, when conditions no longer exist for life to continue, what we conventionally called the person, ceases. Dissolution occurs.

But the single-word "passing" implies a movement into some other ethereal realm, naturally inviting the notion of a soul that transmigrates to another plane. It's funny how adding or subtracting one word can change the meaning entirely.

These kinds of cultural euphemisms, in my opinion, are misleading and possibly even counterproductive. They attempt to couch the undesirable aspects of life--old age, sickness, death, taxes, Republicans--with soft, meaningless platitudes like "passed."

I understand that people avoid the word "death" to protect the feelings of the bereaved; however, tossing around this hollow euphemism could produce the exact opposite effect. Changing the name of death won't alleviate the pain that surviving family and loved ones feel.

People die. Pets die. We all die. There is nothing morbid this. It's a fundamental fact of existence: all that exists will perish.

Buddhism doesn't try to soften the whips and scorns of life; rather, it thrusts us right into the thick of the human condition, and insists that we take a long, hard look at what it means to be alive. We all have an expiration date. Nothing lasts forever, not even the sun. So how can the knowledge of our own mortality give us a more meaningful life? Who is the one that will die--or stated another way, who is the one that is alive? Who am I?

Facing death can awaken us to our own interconnection to other beings, for the deeper I peer into my co-called "self," the less solid I appear. Rather than a substantial entity, all that I see when I investigate myself are relationships.

We are the entire web of life and death. Why on earth would we want to conceal this rich fact, I have no idea.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Know Your Master - Dharma talk

Awakening doesn't erase delusion; it clarifies it. The first step in liberating ourselves from the prison of ignorance is recognizing delusion in the first place. When we just see--without the need to respond--the destructive patterns of thought and emotion that ordinarily dominate our lives, we experience freedom.

Introduction and sound engineering by Tom Eunsahn Gartland.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Accept the Roads that are Open

Image result for road closed

So much of human suffering, I believe, results from our inability to accept the options that we actually do have, as opposed to those we want to have. We want to attend College A, but have been accepted by only Colleges B and C.

This is the quintessential human dilemma: we want what we don't have, and don't want what we actually do have. The moment an option presents itself, it loses its luster. We strive for a position, title, relationship, or object, and once it becomes available, it's not so appealing anymore. Instead, we'd rather dwell on imaginary roads of opportunity.

Perhaps its biological, an impulse to possess more (and more and more and more). Either way, we waste so much time dwelling on options that are simply not available to us; when we should, for purposes of practicality, be paying attention to those that are present.

Why dwell on the fact that we didn't get the internship when we have another interview later this week and work in two hours?

Besides the satisfaction from emotional sulking, what good is there in wishing for options that don't exist? If I want a new car but don't have enough money, I can stamp my emotional feet or consider what options I do have: such as saving my money, buying a used car, taking out a loan, and so. These are actual possibilities that reflect option I do have.

Fantasizing about winning the lottery is just a waste of time and a form of self-punishment; it's far more productive, realistic, and healthy to focus on what options I actually have. Dwelling on how unfair I think life is or the way that things should be is fruitless, and the cause of so much unnecessary suffering. If disappointment is a mental wound, then entertaining options that don't exist is the equivalent of picking at the scab.

Over and over and over, as we say to ourselves, "Why did I take this way to work? If only..." "

If only doesn't matter because it doesn't exist, yet. And if and when it does come to fruition--you get the acceptance call from the internship because the other candidate declined, for instance--then we can consider that as a possible choice. But there is no point whatsoever indulging fantasies about options that don't exist.

Concentrate on what's real, strive to make your vision of the future a reality, and quit fixating on roads aren't open.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

It All Leads to This - Dharma Talk

In this Dharma talk, I discuss how all roads in Zen lead back to this present moment.

Introduction and sound engineering by Tom Eunsahn Gartland.