Saturday, November 16, 2013

shalt's and shalt-not's

Written elsewhere in response to a query about the Christian shalt's and shalt-not's:

John -- I have several disaffected Catholic acquaintances -- some priests and ex-priests -- who express similar misgivings, not always in the same format as yours. Christianity can go pretty heavy on the rules and regs, but if it hadn't, how could the Vatican have become the richest corporation in the world?

Some Christians come to Buddhism with a sense of relief. Buddhism is not threat-based: You won't go to heaven if you do it and you won't go to hell if you don't. What a relief! But far from making things easier, at first this can make things worse: If there are no chiseled rules and regs, guess what -- it's your responsibility! For anyone who dares to practice, this can be pretty daunting and pretty scary stuff ... where's my back-stop?! Where's my support system?! Where's my god?! Where's my virtue?! Where's my ticket to heaven?!

Luckily, Buddhism has various formats or disciplines. And discipline largely means doing what you might otherwise not do or not-doing what you otherwise might. And it is within this realm that the thou-shalt's and thou-shalt-not's can creep in all over again. New spiritual outlook, same old gold-star or black-mark shit.

For my money, it is meditation practice that breaks this good-dog-bad-dog cycle. Not overnight, perhaps, but a bit at a time. Sit down, shut up, erect the spine, sit still and focus the mind ... day after day and week after week and year after year.

Don't say what happens, see what happens. Yes, there is discipline -- thou shalt and thou shalt not, however politely clothed they may be -- but there is also a recognition that starts to take hold in meditation: There are things to do and there are things not to do ... and that's all there is to it. It has nothing to do with holy or unholy or right or wrong or better or worse ... just things to do and things not to do. Why? Because things are more peaceful that way, more in accord with the honest life all around ... happier, I suppose. No one who's happy asks someone else whether s/he is happy or not. S/he already knows. Happy is happy, peaceful is peaceful ... though of course it may not make you the richest corporation in the world.

No comments:

Post a Comment