A correspondent recently wrote to me as follows:

"When you talk to me about grief you never say stuff like 'This is all just a figment of your deluded conditioning.  Grief isn’t real.  Well, it’s only real in relative terms anyway.  If you could just practice harder and maintain the appropriate view you would regain equanimity.  And besides, focusing on your own grief is breaking your Bodhisattva vows: you should be focused on the universal downgoing of suffering...' I can’t recall you ever saying anything even remotely like this..."

I take it that the writer is quoting what has been said by another teacher consulted - perhaps by several. The reason that I am recording this is that this type of attitude is quite common in the Buddhist world. It is all part of the fallacious attitude that thinks that when one is sufficiently enlightened all emotion will fall away.

If one encounters a teacher who talks in this way, one can, of course, examine that teacher's own emotional life, which should, logically, not exist. Such a teacher should certainly not, for instance, have a sexual partner and would be indifferent to fame and fortune. Generally, one finds great inconsistency here which implies that the person giving the teaching does not know what he/she is talking about.

The aim of Buddhism is not an emotionless state. The goal of unselfishness does not imply becoming an automaton - quite the reverse. This fallacy arises from the observation that such an automaton would embody some of the Buddhist vitrues, such as indifference to fame and gain, but so would a rock. Some people then go so far as to say that the aim of Buddhism is indeed to become a rock. Rocklikeness is sometimes required, but not as a general model of personality. The bodhisattva has rocklike courage for the sake of all sentient beings, but this is not because he has a heart of stone.

Those who are really indifferent to fame and fortune are not so because they have become emotionless: they imply have a less selfish emotional life. All-pervading love is not love for an abstraction - it is love for particular persons of flesh and blood. Please do not do the kind of practice that suppresses your natural feelings and makes you indifferent to the suffering of real people. Do not so dwell in the here and now that you forget about people suffering in some other place and cease to remember those who lived and died.

The aim of Buddhism is not the abolition of grief. Rather the opposite. It is to be so touched by the deep pathos of real life amidst real people that one comes fully alive, sharing in joy and sorry completely.

In the modern world we have developed chemical medicine to a high pitch. When we go on to use this medicine to suppress inconvenient emotions, we are abusing these great discoveries. When we turn spiritual practice into an imitation of such suppressant chemicals we are going off the track completely. Buddhism is not an attempt to outdo the misuse of medication.

So, yes, it is true, I never say anything remotely like that. Namo Amida Bu.

Views: 229

Replies to This Discussion

Namo Amida Bu. Thank you.

Thank you Dharmavidya.

Years ago I did not like buddhist people and my idea of buddhism had to do with these sort of fallacies. I was blessed by having the opportunity of encountering buddhism through you and then I was surprised because I discovered it was so human, real and wholehearted...Definitely I was inspired by it in a way that I would never have imagined.

Namo Amida Bu

Thank you for bringing Buddhism down to earth and that you show me that there is a way to life were we don't have to become a cold rock. That it is ok to have feelings and disturbing thoughts. NAB

ah. well said David...the emotions we all feel identify us as humans, and even when we "curtail" negative emotions like anger and pain...we know that they emerge when attachments are strong and letting go take an extra, mindful effort involving compassion and understanding.....Namo  Amida Bu

RSS

Events

ITZI Conference 2019

Subscribe to ITZI Conference Newsletter

* indicates required

Blog Posts

The Buddha, Season 1, Episode 1

Posted by Geeta Chari on June 29, 2018 at 9:21 1 Comment

I have been watching The Buddha on Netflix, and although I came well-prepared to scoff, there is a surprising amount of food for thought from a Pureland perspective. What follows is a review of the Pureland touches in the episode, coloured inevitably by my upbringing in India, although I have now lived in Britain for more than half my life.

The scene opens in the republic of Kapilavastu, depicted as a green and pleasant land, with the Himalayan mountains as a backdrop. (I was…

Continue

Nembutsu Question

Posted by Dayamay Dunsby on April 20, 2018 at 8:22 1 Comment

I found this in a book that I'm reading. It has challenged my current "understanding" of the Nembutsu. I tend to think of the name itself as salvation and the bridge to the Pure Land...

"...Nembutsu is not a means to gain salvation but a reflection of it. Shinran acknowledges there is nembutsu without true entrusting because he lived in an environment where nembutsu was recited for benefits and merit. By itself it cannot produce true entrusting. Nevertheless, they are inseparable as…

Continue

Shinran and Ippen

Posted by Dayamay Dunsby on April 16, 2018 at 8:00 0 Comments

On Saturday evening our regular study group met on Skype where we looked at and discussed material from "No Abode", a beautiful book about the life of Ippen, ancient Japanese Purland master and "The Essential Shinran" which documents the life of Shinran Shonin, one of Honen's most famous disciples. We had a very stimulating discussion which I enjoyed greatly. We will be meeting again on Saturday 19th May at 9pm British time. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to join us.…

Continue

Buddhism Day

Posted by Andrew Ralph Cheffings on March 28, 2018 at 15:46 1 Comment

I wasn't getting as much done as I intended to or 'needed' to in my previous mode of moving between lots of different activities, so I decided to devote one day a week to a particular activity, and this week I'm doing a Buddhism day. I've finally managed to get started on Vow 22, then I did some online research and catching up with mostly Buddhist emails, then I wrote a dharma talk. I plan to do a service run-through later. It's certainly easier for me to get things done this way. Namo Amida…

Continue

© 2018   Created by David Brazier.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service