Sunday, June 26, 2011

Swallow Squabble

(Photograph "Swallow Squabble" by Barbara Scoles)

Verse 33 from The 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva

When you squabble with others about status and rewards,
You undermine learning, reflection, and meditation.
Let go of any investment in your family circle
Or the circle of those who support you -- this is the practice of a bodhisattva.

There comes a point at which you know you have to take practice seriously.

Maybe that moment comes when you realize that no amount of meditation is going to stop you from dying. Maybe it comes when your heart breaks, perhaps for the first time, at the destructiveness that pain and struggle wreak on people. Maybe it comes when you see that all your reactions to the ups and downs of life serve no purpose at all and there is nothing to do but open to what life brings you.

Your personal agendas suddenly seem small, petty and irrelevant, being, in effect, no more than efforts to avoid the challenges and vicissitudes of life. Or your idealism and other preconceptions about how the world should be may strike you as overwhelmingly grandiose, arrogant, and pretentious.

At that moment, your concerns about status and your desire to be rewarded fall away. You continue to do what is needed to earn a living and provide for those close to you. You continue to work and enjoy art, music, or writing, the joy of nature, and the warmth of family. But you see that all efforts to gain attention or recognition just undermine your efforts to be awake and present in your life. They are, in the end, mere compensations for a fear of death, unmet emotional needs, or the desire to be someone.

Take a moment right now and imagine that you are going to die in one minute. Wherever you are when you read this, stop. You are going to die in one minute. What do you do? One minute. You don't have time to call anyone. You don't have time to settle your affairs. You don't have time to resolve any problems. However you are, right now, this is it. Wherever you are, right now, this is it. You have one minute and then your life is over. Tick, tick, tick, tick.... Done.

How did you spend the last minute of your life? Were you consumed by anger, jealousy, greed or pride? Were you racked by pangs of regret? Did you think about conversations you wished you had had? Did your mind run around trying to figure out who to call or what to say? Probably not. You probably just sat there, in shock, possibly awe, and a little wonder, and perhaps at peace. Isn't peace, and the freedom that peace brings, suddenly very important?

Acute awareness of our mortality, more vividly than any novel, poem, or movie, can free us from the pulls, the tugs, the seductions and squabbles that ordinarily consume us. Compassion and faith can also do this. Each of these paths reveals a way to be awake, aware and at peace in any moment in our lives.

What would it be like to live this way?

Yesterday I resigned the chair of the Buddhist Hospice Trust, a position for which I was ill-equipped and in which I was not effective, although I did my best. I shall continue to do my best to uphold its unperishable values, and to fulfil its noble aims, in whatever further capacity I am fit for, if there be any.

Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact.
Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.
-- Marcus Aurelius

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