29 Mar.

I like walking my dog beacuse I like walking. And I like my dog. My dog is the happiest creature I have ever met (except for my daughter – up to the age of 4) even though he doesn’t even own a pair of pants.

I enjoy our walks also because I can be alone in nature. I am perfectly happy like that. But on one such occasion last week I thought about the work and I felt miserable. I thought to myself: am I stressed now on this beautiful Saturday evening because I have just discovered an immediate danger I need to avoid? Or is because my body is reacting to thoughts about past and potential threats as if they were real – simply because my brain hasn’t been taught to tell the difference?

On Friday and Saturday, I woke up at 2AM. Mornings are the worst. Immediately after I wake up, negative thoughts overwhelm me. I used to say Nembutsu to calm my mind. But what John Haspel says makes so much sense to me – if something wasn’t taught by Buddha, is it worth practising? Must Dharma be manipulated in order to be helpful? So I stopped saying Nembutsu. (Also – that awkward 35th vow!) When I woke up the other morning, I tried to occupy my mind with mindfulness, but my mindfulness was not strong enough. So I started repeating Noble Eightfold Path. Not as a mantra, to divert my attention, but as a reminder. And it worked. A few minutes of that helped me to remember Dharma. (How can I apply Eightfold Path in my life if I don’t know it? How can I understand the arising of suffering if I don’t know and understand the links of Depended Origination?)

On Sunday, I realised that I just could not go on like this anymore. Being stressed all the time. Not sleeping. I looked into my mind and saw fear and hatred, rejecting and clinging, the desire to control and fix things. Why won’t I simply trust the Buddha? Why won’t I let go? Why won’t I do what Buddha said? Instead, I try to resolve the problem of Dukkha my way.

Over the past few days more opportunities to feel stressed and worried… About things, I have no control over and which outputs I cannot know. Even though the voice in my head (not literally!) was shouting: “Think about it, think about it, find the solution, find the solution, prepare, prepare, prepare!”, I asked myself a question: are those thoughts skilful or useful, are they within the Eightfold Path? I felt such great confidence in Dharma that I simply abandoned them and rest assured that the advice Buddha gave is true. It was a bit like bungee jumping.

What I mean is I didn’t feel that I shouldn’t be thinking those anxious and stressful thoughts. Rather, that I don’t have to think them.

I don’t have to.

10 thoughts on “29 Mar.

  1. Adrian,

    If the nembutsu was working as a parikamma to calm your mind, why give it up? You can also use “Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa.” I often use it in place of a mantra if you like and it is ripe with meaning. Wishing you peace and contentment.

    Metta,

    Mike

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Mike. Your words are always very appreciated and respected because I know that you are speaking from the position of experience, knowledge and compassion!

      The main reason is: I am worried that by practising Nembutsu or any other form of meditation not taught by Buddha I am missing out on the opportunity to practice what Buddha taught. Nembutsu is wonderful. I admire and envy people who receive and can sustain faith. But my mind just can’t fully enjoy this practice without having absolute proof that the practice is genuine and true. I am not saying it isn’t! I am saying that my doubts are.

      I want to invest time in understanding bare Dharma. What is that Buddha taught and will it work for me? And what I am learning, to my delight and surprise, is that – if we strip down Dharma from anything that can’t be verified by one’s own experience, that is supernatural, ceremonial – what remains is very practical and down to earth.

      I don’t think I want to associate myself with any school of Buddhism. What I am realising is that the dukkha arises from the desire to be more of this or more of that. I want to be less of anything.

      I will continue to tap into the great wisdom of my favourite schools (Zen and Chan, Tibetan Buddhism and Pure Land). The wisdom that is like balm for my heart, like music to my ears.

      But as far as the practice goes I want to do what the historical Buddha taught. If what the Buddha taught is not effective – then how can any other method be?

      Like

  2. That whole not sleeping with the mind whirring into gear is tough. I get that a fair amount these days even after two decades of meditation. Sometimes reading will get me back to sleep after an hour and a half or so, which helps.
    I hope you don’t feel you have to have the whole twelve-fold chain mapped out in your head in order to be able to practise. I still struggle to list out the eight-fold path without some careful thought. Sometimes these things will come to mind, and sometimes you will find that when you look at the list, you have been doing pretty well and things fall into place. As long as you keep going, something will happen!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! For me it is the other way around, I have no problem falling asleep, but once I wake up even for a second during the night, regardless of the time, I am doomed. But it only happens during the periods of stress and worry. So I have hope that if I learn how to  react to external conditions skillfully I should be fine. Luckily, it doesn’t happen all that often, but when it does it wrecks me. I can go on without food, fun, money, company of others, but take away my sleep and life becomes a nightmare.

      I actually feel that I should have all those lists mapped out in my mind. (Someone once said: “Christians love Jesus, Buddhists love lists”.) When I used to look at my human experience I saw uniqueness, originality, specialness. Those lists help me to see that indeed there is nothing special, unique and personal in my experiences. It is just a mix of very common ingredients that form my self, my life, my happiness and misery. I find great relief in that. When I put apart my experience using those lists – there is nothing left but the list. So where exactly are I and my experience (good and bad)? Is it in the fifth skandha? In the third link? In the seventh path? In the first hindrance? It seems to be nowhere. I make it somewhere.

      I just want to see where it will take me. I am sure it won’t cause me any harm, and perhaps I may even learn something new along the way. I am very pleased with my meditation practice, but my daily life, which is very fast paced, is where I need some help, guidance, framework, and this is where, I am hoping, those lists will come handy.

      Apologies for the long response, but I have been thinking about those things a lot lately. Thank you very much for your comment, Sir! It is amazing that other people find it worthwhile to share their experience and knowledge in aid of such an unskilful person like myself!

      Like

  3. Great post Adrian!

    Actually, I’m a fan of your writing in general. I’m a co-owner and editor at The Tattooed Buddha, an online publisher. Your writing really fits with the overall atmosphere there. If you’re interested in submitting something, feel free to contact me.

    – John

    Liked by 1 person

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