Okay, Buddhism can definitely be a buzzkill.
The short answer is that you can’t fix it. No one can.
Or, the more optimistic version is that the only fix is to give up trying to fix it.
It seems to be a pretty common impulse among humans to want to fix what is wrong with the world, whether your own world or the entire world.
But you can’t. No one can. The world is a flawed place and we only torture ourselves by trying to fix it.
That’s not to say that we should not take what steps we can…
Ajahn Sumedho says he stopped teaching meditation techniques because doing so fed the misperception that Buddhism is about getting something you don’t have, or getting rid of something you don’t want. His favorite phrase is, “It’s like this.”
He says consciousness is impersonal and does not judge. You don’t have to like or approve of everything that comes up, but don’t judge it regardless of what you think about it. Don’t think about it at all. Just allow it to arise and pass away, which it will of its own accord.
He says if he told you that you are…
Explaining this consciousness stuff is difficult. The, um, well, it’s not really a thing, the experience, maybe, defies description. You definitely know it when you do, um, experience it because it feels like an infinite space inside your head that is at once totally empty, but also indescribably beautiful and a source of endless happiness.
Sounds pretty good, huh?
It is what we call “the deathless,” or “nirvana,” or “heaven,” if you prefer a non Buddhist term. The Talking Heads sang about it:
Popular culture is actually brimming with Buddhist reference if you pay attention.
In Buddhism, consciousness is primary. This is actually consistent with the proposition, current in western culture since Albert Einstein articulated it in 1905, that energy and mass are interchangeable. What is counterintuitive, perhaps wildly so, to us humans before we awaken, is that energy matters more than matter.
Until you have meditated consistently for a long enough period, you likely perceive your body as the most basic fact about you. Certainly, it is the most obvious fact about most people.
One really fascinating effect of a consistent meditation practice, however, is how you start to notice that you usually notice…
We don’t hear much about this point. We do hear that following the Buddhist path requires courage. We do hear that one major impediment for many people to awakening is fear.
But the Buddha himself must have been fearless. He gave up his comfortable life as a prince to find the solution to the problem of human suffering. He became a wandering mendicant, which was a pretty common way to live at that time and place, but still, far less secure than the life of a prince in a palace, or three palaces, as Shakyamuni Buddha had before he left.
The Buddha was a genius. Whether he was a genius before he awakened is not terribly interesting. He clearly was a genius after he awakened. He suddenly knew everything humans can know.
Talking to experts can be difficult in the specific sense that they can forget what it’s like not to know what they know. They have to try to gauge their audience to make sure they include enough information for whatever they are saying to make sense to non experts.
You’ve no doubt heard the cliche that you should not compare yourself to other people. This is a set piece of the self help industry, which can sound a lot like Buddhism at its best. This one is a cliche because it is true. Don’t compare yourself to other people. Every person’s karma is unique and you cannot have anyone else’s life. Play the hand you’re dealt.
The good news is that the universe agrees. …
Call it a two step. No matter what comes up, however hilarious or horrible, do the two step: accept it and witness it.
You don’t have to act on it. You may think that you want to torture puppies. You likely will not actually torture any puppies. Hint: don’t torture puppies.
But also, from the Buddhist perspective, don’t judge yourself for having the thought. It’s just a thought. Thoughts are wispy and ephemeral, unless you grab them and make a huge story out of them. You are not a horrible person for having horrible thoughts.
The witness to a crime…
If we were not, we would not be here.
The Buddha lacked the distinctively psychological perspective and vocabulary that comes naturally to people in the United States in the 21st century, so he did not put the point this way.
But to say that we are all awake, we just don’t realize it, is tantamount to saying that we are all in denial. We have the capacity to end our suffering, but we fail to avail ourselves of it.
“Denial” means to ignore an obvious truth in a desperate hope of maintaining one’s comfort zone.
Buddhism points up our perversity…
Uppity gay, Buddhist, author, historian.