Monday, 5 July 2010
TIME TO RECYLE THE SELF! For Permanent Sustainability
There is much talk nowadays of sustainability, we use the term to imply a means of living, which is in broad harmony with our natural environment, treating the earth as our best friend, and only taking what can be put back again and renewed. As a profoundly sensible and ethical way, to achieve a balanced and lasting solution to the ills that beset our wonderful planet, the practice of sustainability and permaculture, seems to be an eminently sensible way forward.
Everyone who has embraced this compassionate and selfless approach way, realises, that, given the limited and dwindling resources our planet has to offer, there can be little option for humanity as a whole, than to sooner rather then later, adapt such a lifestyle, and to live in harmony and peace with nature, rather than seeing it as yet another resource to plunder for personal pleasure.
But, there is yet another approach that we can adapt, one that brings lasting inner change, a method that sustains all of our actions and deeds, in a way that is no longer based solely on self-interest. And if embraced, will transform our every waking moment, so that our actions flow from a well of compassion and selflessness, where we develop an understanding of our deeds and how they constantly affect our life situations, both positively and negatively. where our activities benefit all of the sentiments beings, who share the planet with us.
We become gardeners, as it were, where we cultivate the mind, allowing it to develop its natural state of balanced awareness, a state that is usually covered in a covering of dust.
We realise in fact, that we have, for so long, based our whole life around a selfish, self seeking ego, that is, in fact, our own worst enemy, a self grasping and self cherishing attitude, that has formed the basis of our actions and has hindered our development, as aware and liberated beings. By changing the way we deal with ‘self,’ we become natural guardians of the earth, for there is no longer a duality of earth and self. We care for the earth, for we are the earth! there can be no seperation in an enlightened mind.
Choosing this approach requires a real revolution of mind, though, a “turning about in the deepest seat of consciousness,” as Lama Anarika Govinda puts it. We all know, that by using the appropriate tools, we can achieve the best results for our labours - the more we put in, so the more we get out – Similarly, I think, that by using the right tools, in our day to day experiences, we can also expect to get more out of our life, especially in our interactions with other beings, with whom we share this planet.
Immediately after Sidhartha Gottama, who became known as the Buddha (Enlightened One), gained liberation from suffering and delusion, he delivered the first discourse, to his followers. The teaching concerned mankind’s eternal dilemma, that of dissatisfaction, and contained very precise and practical advice, that anyone could put into practice, who wished to gain release from the pain and woes, which are so interwoven in human existence. This teaching is the cornerstone of Buddhism and became known as ‘The Four Noble Truths,’ it points out that we are all suffering and that this suffering is caused by desire or attachment, a constant, fruitless search for satisfaction, in which the resulting reward, is merely the launching pad for a further round of suffering. Only by letting go of attachments, can our true nature shine though. All of us experience frustrations and pain on a daily basis, we all seek happiness, health, and want to get on with our friends, family and neighbours, but somehow we never quite achieve real inner harmony. The last noble truth, provides the means to achieve this harmony and end suffering, by way of a practical and non - dogmatic approach, by following eight principles known as The Eight - Fold Path. A ‘middle way,’ of living, perched firmly between extremes.
At this point I should point out that I do not wish to preach any belief system or religion. In fact, It’s doubtful if one could even refer to Buddhism as a religion, in the usual sense! For the Dharma (Reality), is really more akin to an atheistic approach to live, having no truck with supreme beings, or rituals, but a simple method, anyone can use, no matter what ‘path,’ they ascribe to, to gain release from the constant round of frustrations, common to us all The Eight - Fold Path is a recipe, for a totally different approach to the problems we face. And all of us, whether we subscribe to a particular spiritual teachings or not, can utilise this approach, as we continue our journey towards a sustainable future, based, as it is, on an enlightened approach to all of life. Buddhists will never take themselves too seriously either, discovering much humour and delight in daily living situations.
As its name implies, this path consists of eight imperatives, each of which we called ‘Right,’ i.e. Right Speech, Right Livelihood and so on. When we talk about ‘Right’ we don’t mean right, as opposed to wrong, but ‘right,’ meaning ‘what is.’ Being right, without a concept of what is right – complete openness to the situation. Completeness needs no relative help; it is self-sufficient, precise, and direct. Life without clutches, straightforward. Life is pleasure, life is pain. Giving up wanting to be in control of situations.
This isn’t the place to expand too deeply on this particular teaching; there are many excellent sources, where anyone wishing to follow this up could peruse*. But, it is worth chewing over one or two of these imperatives, which, if applied, can greatly help us in our efforts to live a more peaceful existence.
As Chogyam Rinpoche writes, “‘Right View,’ is the ever-present awareness of impermanence, it simply means to see and to understand things as they really are. To see things through, to grasp the impermanent and imperfect nature of worldly objects and ideas. View is a matter of concepts. We meet someone in the street, and we freeze. Not only do we freeze ourselves, but we freeze the situation as well, the space in which the person is walking towards us. We try to conceptionalise the situation - is this person a ‘friend,’ or an ‘enemy?’ We have created a frozen space of fixed ideas – this, as opposed to that – the person is walking through a frozen situation. We enter any situation, completely free of opinions or concepts; we are meeting this person for the first time, free from the past.”
Another of the imperatives of the Eight Fold Path is called ‘Right Effort’- effort means energy, endurance, exertion. If you enjoy your situation, take joy in it. Being present fully, with delight, with a grin on your face! The situation is here and now, it’s very creative, humorous and constantly enjoyable. It’s beautiful, direct and simple - natural openness. We see the situation in that moment. Right effort, is providing space, beyond discursive thought. We don’t let seductive thoughts distracts us. As an old Zen master once put it, ‘When I wash the dishes, I wash the dishes!’
Mental energy is the force behind right effort; it can occur in either wholesome or unwholesome states. The same type of energy that fuels desire and aggression, can also fuel self-discipline, honesty and kindness.
The last imperative of this path worth considering, deals with work, ‘Right Livelihood,’ means not being involved in anything to do with hope, fear or clinging.
In order to live, we need to survive. We need a roof over our heads, food and warm clothes, the rest is just desire. Work arises naturally out of our relative situation, it’s just organic. Right Livelihood - earning your money, living your life. We have to relate to the whole process, as the energy of making a living, involves us in so many situations, that we have to relate to the whole thing, the whole life situation.
All of us involved in sustainable living know that we are doing what we can to make this word that much better, not just for our fellow beings, but for all of those who will come after us. There is a term that can express this commendable and noble way of life; it is the way of the Bodhisattva, someone who vows to forsake personal liberation, until every other sentient being has gained her or his own liberation. The Bodhisattva is an inspiration to us all; s/he offers support, where it is needed. This selfless act springs from a deep well of compassion for all beings, and for the endless round of sufferings all beings endure.
By changing oneself, one automatically changes the world, for here all dualities, of self and other, mind and matter break down. The world is understood as nothing more then our own projection, the creation of mind. We finally achieve that harmony with life, we have long sought, for now we are at harmony with our self.
One last thought, aversion, can be as just as much of a trap as attachment, as we tread the path. Vowing to renounce the world will only cause us more confusion. Walking a middle way avoids such dualities and is a more sensible approach, for remember, samsara is nirvana, and nirvana is indeed samsara! Instead we can promise ourselves not to become too attached to possessions, money etc. Just working with what is in front of us will do!
* For an excellent explanation of the Eight Fold Path, one may read ‘Dharmas Without Blame’, by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche.