So much stress in work. I feel miserable only when I allow self-pity and self-righteousness to take over. The more I am, the more I suffer. But even during those dark moments – everything is different. Even when I suffer, I am suspicious of my suffering. I get up before 5AM every day so I can be in work at 6. After over 9 hours in front of the computer, my forearms are tense and hard. I have to put my glasses on so I can recognise letters and numbers in front of me. But my mind is sharp. Spinning. Analysing. Calculating. A few times, shortly before leaving for home, I thought to myself, “My God, how will I be able to come down?”. On my way home I listen to podcasts about Dharma.
I have discovered John Haspel. He runs a web-page and a podcast called Becoming Buddha. He has published a few books. I feel that I am re-discovering Buddhism. Does my Buddhism strengthen my ego, making me more of, or weaken it, making me less of? This is a question I have been asking myself recently.
There are parts of Dharma I have not paid much attention to, dismissed them even: rebirth, karma, dependent origination. I looked at them as unverifiable claims such as the idea of heaven in Christianity. What John Haspel is saying is that those terms are grossly misunderstood. Dependent origination and resulting re-birth describe the creation of deluded self in each instant. Karma is the tendencies of our mind unfolding moment by moment regulated by our current level of mindfulness. (If there is no permanent, fixed self then what is carried to the next life anyway?) Sunyata (emptiness) is a state where self-referential thoughts have ceased. Thanks to John I have also revisited Anapanasati Sutta. My meditation is as if there was no meditation at all.
This helped me to reconcile the following contradiction: why am I able to verify some of the Buddha’s claims through investigation and observation (Four Noble Truth, Marks of Existence) and others I am supposed to take on faith (karma and rebirth)?
(If dependent origination is a creation myth – then it is not very useful to me. If it, however, describes how a self is created moment by moment through ignorance of Four Noble Truths then it bears a powerful message: each moment contains the potential for the change. On a mundane level: in each situation, thanks to mindfulness, I can decide whether I will be a victim or will I be at peace, and what karmic imprint I will create.)
But if Buddha’s teachings are only concerned with this life, this present moment, then what about life after death? But what if Buddha was pointing out to a state where those questions are no longer relevant and valid?
I am re-discovering music of Tori Amos. I used to listen to her a lot, like every-single-day-for-a-few-years-straight a lot. Now when I am 37 years old, those albums I listened to when I was a teenager still give me chills: Boys for Pele, OK Computer, Mellow Gold, Sin/Pecado, Dummy, Murder Ballads, White Pony, Vs, October Rust.
After I finished meditating this morning, I opened my eyes and looked at my hands as if they did not belong to me. I raised them and as soon as I did that the sense of ownership came back. I didn’t feel my hands at all while I was meditating. I didn’t feel my body. I just felt my breath. My irrelevant thoughts shimmering in the background. I meditated in the kitchen. I didn’t bother using the meditation cushion. I sit on a kitchen chair most of the times. I definitely look less professional.
I had a look at Brad Warner’s YouTube video about Noah Levine. A bit of Dharma-beef going on there. I don’t want to be an (air quotes) Buddhist anymore.