Posted by: Upāsaka | 09/20/2018

The Perils of Anger

Last night, after a long day at work I arrived home to an empty house. I texted my wife to find out if dinner needed to be made, made it, took out the garbage and changed the laundry. I was feeling pretty self-satisfied when she called me to come move the car she just parked in questionable spot near a hydrant.

I cannot tell you how parking in Manhattan gives me anxiety. Even after almost two decades of living here I have never gotten used to it. So, I run to get the car while she and the two year old literally stand in the space. To my horror I see a car has pulled up and put on their blinkers, attempting to take the spot she’s holding. I’m seeing red and mindfulness has evaporated like morning dew on the hood of a car in the desert sun. I pull up spitting like a cat (not cursing thankfully) and I’m afraid he’s going to do something crazy as I pull in, nose first to the spot. My wife runs in as he and I exchange barbs and I try to park the car better while trying to make sure he can’t wedge himself in.

So, I call the cops. The ask for a description so I get out to get a look at him. I see he’s a car service driver and they ask for a description. I saw he looks to be Muslim guy to which he accedes. The next part has left me feeling particularly ashamed although I’m not sure why. I said “How is it your deen to attack and threaten women and children?”

At some point my wife returns and starts talking to the guy, it is clarified that he wasn’t threatening her, they were simply arguing about the spot. Seeing all of this from afar I let my fear and anger get the better of me and create a situation that could have ended very badly.

In the end, I was able to send him on his way with the promise that I would let the cops know it was a misunderstanding and I apologized for my overreaction. Perhaps ironically, one of the people I was attempting to protect ended up attacking me for it and cited my reaction (perhaps rightly) as evidence of my anger issues.

This morning I discovered my wallet had been lost and, for whatever reason, my mind connected my transgression with the loss as a kammic result. Whatever the case, may I never again allow anger to cloud my perception again and if it does may I remain as immobile as a block of wood.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 09/19/2018

Going Forward

It seems to me that fighting fire with fire just ends up burning the whole house down and certainly doesn’t accord with my own understanding of the Dhamma (as limited as that is). When I think about how the Lord Buddha handled insults (see this sutta: https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn07/sn07.002.than.html) I realize that I simply don’t have to accept them. The problem lies in the fact that, when my wife insults me I believe her.

If it’s the case that I believe her then surely that calls for reflection and introspection. One of the common criticisms I hear is that I’m not acting very Buddhist by being uncaring, unkind or downright mean. This seems to strike a chord in me (and she clearly knows this) as I often fear that I am not handling a situation skillfully. So, what to do?

It seems to me that I first need to remove the barb of pride and admit to my real and imagined failings. Yes, I may not be handling this situation as well as is possible and I apologize for any hurt I have caused. But, I am doing the best I can in the moment. In short, acknowledge, apologize and advance.

What about the myriad cases where I feel I’ve done nothing wrong despite wracking my brains and checking my conscience? The excerpt from the sutta linked above will be my standard in all other cases:

When this was said, the Blessed One said to him: “What do you think, brahman: Do friends & colleagues, relatives & kinsmen come to you as guests?”

“Yes, Master Gotama, sometimes friends & colleagues, relatives & kinsmen come to me as guests.”

“And what do you think: Do you serve them with staple & non-staple foods & delicacies?”

“Yes, sometimes I serve them with staple & non-staple foods & delicacies.”

“And if they don’t accept them, to whom do those foods belong?”

“If they don’t accept them, Master Gotama, those foods are all mine.”

“In the same way, brahman, that with which you have insulted me, who is not insulting; that with which you have taunted me, who is not taunting; that with which you have berated me, who is not berating: that I don’t accept from you. It’s all yours, brahman. It’s all yours.

“Whoever returns insult to one who is insulting, returns taunts to one who is taunting, returns a berating to one who is berating, is said to be eating together, sharing company, with that person. But I am neither eating together nor sharing your company, brahman. It’s all yours. It’s all yours.”

Posted by: Upāsaka | 09/17/2018

Happy Uposatha — Purity of Heart

Unfortunately, these qualities of the heart are conditional, for they depend on a tender web of beliefs and feelings — belief in justice and the basic goodness of human nature, feelings of trust and affection. When that web breaks, as it so easily can, the heart can turn vicious. We see this in divorce, broken families, and society at large. When the security of our food source — the basis of our mental and material well-being — gets threatened, the finer qualities of the mind can vanish. People who believe in kindness can suddenly seek revenge. Those who espouse non-violence can suddenly call for war. And those who rule by divisiveness — by making a mockery of compassion, prudence, and our common humanity — find a willing following for their law-of-the-jungle agenda.

This is why compassion based only on belief or feeling is not enough to guarantee our behavior — and why the practice of training the mind to reach an unconditioned happiness is not a selfish thing. If you value compassion and trust, it’s an imperative, for only an unconditioned happiness can guarantee the purity of your behavior. Independent of space and time, it’s beyond alteration. No one can threaten its food source, for it has no need to feed. When you’ve had even just a glimpse of this happiness, your belief in goodness becomes unshakable. That way other people can totally trust you, and you can genuinely trust yourself. You lack for nothing.

Purity of heart is to know this one thing.

https://www.dhammatalks.org/books/PurityOfHeart/Section0004.html

Posted by: Upāsaka | 09/16/2018

Resolved

Yesterday I told my wife that, as far as I was concerned, our marriage is over although I would stick it out for the next sixteen years until our youngest turns eighteen.

Initially she retorted that she had come to the same place years before but all day long today she has been alternating between belittling me and throwing my practice in my face. How can I be a Buddhist when I’m so unkind she asks. Or she’ll tell me how much work I’ve got to do. Well, on the first count she’s wrong but on the second she’s quite clearly right.

It’s interesting trying to negotiate this new arrangement but I’m done pretending I’m in a loving relationship. It’s abusive and I now have to formulate some healthy boundaries. As bad and contrary to popular wisdom this may sound I think a big part of this is refusing to talk as nauseam about this fiction called “us?” And why is that? Because even after years of counseling nothing has changed. What would need to change is anterior to speaking and that just doesn’t seem to be in the cards.

In real life, what this will look like from the outside won’t be drastically different from what it is now. I won’t be sleeping in the same room (which is something that I’ve been doing for months anyway) and I intend to swear off any attempts at physical intimacy with her or any other woman ever again. I think a big sticking point for her will be when I refuse to go on family vacations but we shall see.

Maybe she’ll decide that divorce is the best course; I can’t stop her but there’s not much else to lose. I can live anywhere and don’t care about travel but she does and the kids’ standard of living certainly stands to suffer. I feel as if I’m being selfish but I need a way to psychologically disconnect from the constant criticism and invective. Maybe I am failing as a father. Maybe I am a hopeless Buddhist but I certainly don’t need someone’s contempt to help me see the light.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 09/14/2018

Without Regret

How quickly delusion takes over the mind. One moment the mind is headed straight along the path to purity and the next it’s chasing down shameful sense desires.

How easily do I fall prey to daydreams and reveries, forgetting that at any minute death can come to sweep me away. And, when it does, with what object in mind will I meet it? If I am to be brutally honest I fear that my mind will be overcome by shame and sin. And the remedy? Nothing short of constant mindfulness.

When I watch the mind I see that the faculty of wisdom is still immature. It does not yet immediately perceive sense pleasures as painful and aflame. Only with effort can I feel and see how I’m burned time and again by following the paths of desire. But, for that I am grateful and by means of it I can at least make progress even if it takes lifetimes.

May I ever be heedful of my mind state in the light of death and rebirth.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 09/13/2018

Glacial

It occurred to me as I sat trying to follow the breath at the nose this morning that forty minutes a day is an almost infinitesimally small amount of time compared to the eons spent heedlessly wandering through samsara. When considering the fact that this mindstream has been reborn through infinite expansions and contractions of the universe it’s hard to be too hard on oneself, especially having chosen the lay life which makes finding time to practice doubly hard. So, I’ll keep at, always trying to see more clearly, practice more and for longer but knowing that I have billions of years of conditioning to fight against. It’s no wonder that I can stay with the breath for only one minute out of forty five.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 09/11/2018

Sexual Misconduct

Last night I shared a post by the Venerable Subhuti Bhikkhu (Bhante Subhuti) in which he discusses the meaning of the Third Precept. Clearly, much of what he said is anathema to current, Western ideas of sexuality and sexual liberation but it all struck home for me.

For most of my adult life, I have been fascinated in one way or another with women and sex. I have spent countless hours thinking about both and, before marriage, actually pursuing them. And, what do I now have to show for it? An addiction to the sense pleasure and an inclination that, if followed, can only lead me downward.

Perhaps the most poignant reflection discussed by Bhante is the fact that current sexual mores and practices are very new indeed and depend on this whole, unstable edifice of mass consumer capitalism to exist. Once the idea of material plenty evaporates and hardships begin, childbirth will again be fraught with mortal perils for mother and child. Without easy access to birth control and to abortion, how liberated will anyone truly be?

I, too, have at times bemoaned the date of a sexless marriage but, as I have been coming to see recently, this supposed curse truly is a blessing when handled correctly.

May I practice the path of brahmacariya well.

May I never be separated from the Dhamma.

May I always be reborn in favorable training circumstances.

May I enter the Stream in this very life.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 09/10/2018

Theravada Buddhism and Sex: Sexual Misconduct

Theravada Buddhism and Sex: Sexual Misconduct

https://americanmonk.org/theravada-buddhism-and-sex-sexual-misconduct/
— Read on americanmonk.org/theravada-buddhism-and-sex-sexual-misconduct/

Posted by: Upāsaka | 09/10/2018

Feeling Sorry

It’s been awhile since I’ve done this but I completely missed the Uposatha observance yesterday. Talk about a global lapse of mindfulness. Anyway, as the title of today’s post implies, I’ve been feeling sorry for myself because of an apparent slight.

You see, I’ve been a board member of an organization and my responsibilities have been to update the site and manage communications. With the changing of the guard, a new commissioner and a new platform a number of things changed and I’ve been finding myself increasingly out of the loop. Really though, I have only myself to blame: I have never been able to make it to board meetings and my remote style doesn’t seem to work with with the new commissioner. So, why is it that I feel so hurt about it? Obviously, I’m holding onto ideas about being liked, being seen as competent and responsible. Once again, I’m mooring my well being to the vicissitudes of life so it’s best to purify my intentions and act accordingly while unbinding myself from praise and blame.

It seems too that there is a thread of wanting to be accepted and to feel a part of something that’s causing some pain. I assume this because thoughts about my aunts and cousin ignoring my texts keep arising along with the thoughts about the board. Really, though, this is no different from wanting to be praised and not blamed.

May I purify my intentions and conduct while fire bearing that which I have too little wisdom to dispel.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 09/07/2018

Falling Off the Renunciation Train

I can at least take comfort that I didn’t break any of the Five Precepts but I certainly did eat a whole bag of peanut M&Ms and broke my brahmacari commitments.

And why? Because I just didn’t have the wisdom to resist. Still, I was able to watch the mind as it first played with and then circled the ideas of these desired objects so there is at least that.

It is clear, however, that it will necessarily take more precious time to get back to where I was and I have detonated any calm I was building up. How can I expect to progress when I can’t control my impulses at the most basic of levels? I can’t and I need to remind myself of this when I spend a half an hour struggling to cut a path of clarity through the jungle of thoughts that crowd my mind.

Nothing to do now but pick myself up, dust myself off and begin again. What other option is there when the gaping maws of hell lie beneath our feet?

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