Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Desire Part One (of a zillion)

Desire. What can I say about this that hasn't been said a million times before? Not too much. But there is one point that is important because it is a trap that I fall into time after time again.

I have an unwanted desire, realize it, label it and immediately proceed to concluding "I must rid myself of this desire."

On the face of it, it's pretty easy to see that I'm just replacing one desire with another.

Yet, the hard part is that even while I am aware of this, I really just don't get it. In other words desire is a really, really, ultra-amazingly subtle thing.

There is nothing wrong with desire, per se, at least I know that much. And intellectually, I can recognize that I would be better off accepting my desires as they are and not adding layer after layer on top of them, but nevertheless this is what I do--like I am on auto-pilot. I guess the more you get used to doing something, the easier it is to keep on doing it. There is a certain psychological momentum we're dealing with here...

So, over and over again I am usually either drawn to one extreme or the other: feeding my desires with hedonistic abandon, or crushing my desires with a fascist zeal. And the whole craziness of it all is that even if I am "aware" of it--I can't even be sure of that awareness because it just might be a false awareness created by my unseen desire. That is why it is such a subtle thing.

Balance is needed.

Another reason that it is so subtle is that all of the expressions of this desire are not usually even expressed in the "real world". The part that actually ends up being expressed in the actual concrete world is just a small fraction of what is actually going on, expressed in the "real world" only as electrons whizzing about within the lump of fat we call a brain.

Just because it is not actually happening in the "real world", though, doesn't mean it is not happening at all. Furthermore, it is the root of what does happen in the "real world".

So just how can we keep from falling into the trap of more and more desire? By being aware of what makes us fall. And by getting up again when we have fallen. There is a Japanese proverb that states: "Fall seven times, stand up eight."


"Rather than just seeing(what is going on), we act upon what we notice instead: 'I shouldn't be wanting pizza. I must stop this desire for pizza.' This very reaction is already more craving. We're desiring an end to desire. We're doing the usual thing again--reaching for, insisting, grabbing. This is bondage, not freedom. This is a subtle but crucial point. There is no bandage to use on this problem that will not itself be the same problem over and over again...

The only way to eradicate this problem is to see it
(for what it is) and thereby no longer feed it."--from Buddhism Plain and Simple by Steve Hagen

"By eliminating disturbances we redouble the disease."--Cho Setsu (quoted by Master Dogen)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Why the Hell am I Doing This?

For as long (not very) as I have been doing zazen (sitting meditation) a certain line of thought inevitably pops up: "Why the hell are you doing this?... What is the point? Ooooh you're gonna get all enlightened, totally zen..." Stuff like that.

"If you expect something from zazen you have created two goals: zazen and the purpose of zazen. If you want to do zazen, just do zazen.

Perhaps you may ask 'Why should I do this?' When this happens, what you must do is just forget any expectations you have about zazen and just sit."

--paraphrased from Steve Hagen's comments in You Have to Say Something by Dainin Katagiri

"To some people, thinking about how to solve all the world’s problems might seem very important, how to help all the people in the Third World, how to set the world right. Compared with these things, watching our breath seems insignificant, and most people think, ‘Why waste time doing that?’

People have confronted me about this, saying: ‘What are you monks doing sitting there? What are you doing to help humanity? You’re just selfish, you expect people to give you food while you just sit there and watch your breath. You’re running away from the real world.’

But what is the real world? Who is really running away, and from what? What is there to face? We find that what people call the ‘real world’ is the world they believe in, the world that they are committed to or the world that they know and are familiar with. But that world is a condition of mind.

Meditation is actually confronting the real world, recognizing and acknowledging it as it really is, rather than believing in it or justifying it or trying to mentally annihilate it."

--from Now is the Knowing by Ajahn Sumedho

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Retire the Eye

It has been a good avatar. But all things must pass.

I've always liked this particular Escher. Acknowledging the "darkness" within.

It's also a good representation of Buddhist wisdom:

In life, death.

We are but walking skeletons.

Here is my new avatar.

If you look really really close you can see the little skull in his eye too.