Archive for the ‘buddhism’ Category

Dear Jesus,
I’ve been thinking alot about anger lately. I think it’s probably because I’ve been angry alot lately. More so than usual, and it’s not some teen angst type of anger, it’s an anger you feel burning in your gut. You see, without divulging too much, about a month ago I found out someone I’m related to by marriage was doing something he shouldnt have been doing with an under age girl in the family (he wasnt doing what youre thinking he was doing, but it’s still pretty bad). When I found out, i wanted to drive over to his house and give him an old fashioned beat down, but my wife forced me to weigh the consequences (as she usually does in these situations). Now I’m normally a peaceful guy, who considers himself somewhat level headed, and allows things to slide off his back without bothering him too much, but this….. this has actually been boiling my blood for well over a month now, and when I think of this person, I get angry all over again. So I guess this brings me to my question, which is when does anger go from righteous to rotten? When does anger go from something that should cause you to act, to something that eats away at your soul and ultimately ruins your life?

I am intimately acquainted with living in anger. I spent most of my teens and 20’s living in it and glorifying it. Whether it be on a personal or societal level, i was pissed off. I was mad at my dad, i was mad at society, I was mad at fate. I thought i had a right to be angry, and in some cases i did have that right, but ultimately i started to learn that anger, while it may come from a righteous source, if not addressed or channeled properly, would eventually eat me up. And it was eating me up. I was not able to see the world outside of the context of my anger, and it crippled my ability to be open to people, to trust people or believe in possibility. It got to the point where it was affecting all of my most valued relationships, and I realized I had to reckon with it or I would slowly die a bitter, pathetic death. So I started trying to change my outlook and attitude on life, and sure enough, as I would take small baby steps in this, the universe would let me know I was on the right path.

Fast forward many years and here I am. I still have many challenges with anger, but it doesnt define my world like it once did. But then things like this guy doing his thing happens and I am immediately taken back to that place where I am anger incarnate, and although it is a righteous anger, I realize that this time something is different about it, like maybe this time there is an important lesson for me hidden inside it. You know you can usually sense when a life lesson is coming because there are signs pointing to it from all directions. Sign 1 for me came when i stumbled upon a quote from Hermann Hesse, author of the book Siddartha, which i finally read last year (20 years after it was assigned to me in High School). The quote was If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn’t part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us. Something struck me about this. If i hate someone who does bad shit, who is a religious hypocrite, who does more damage to his family than good, how is it that I hate that in myself? I dont do any of that crap… I dont even want to be around that. But ever since reading that quote I’ve been asking myself “what about him makes me so angry, and what is it in me that i see a parallel to, and to a lesser degree, what about myself do I want to destroy so bad?”

Fast forward another few days and I stumble upon this website about Christian Meditation. I’m a big fan of eastern meditation, while being pitifully inept at it. I’ve always seen a parallel between meditation and a spiritual connection to God. In fact if you look at the great teachers of all our worlds religions, one parallel you can find in most of them is that they spent a good amount of time in meditative isolation, Jesus preferring solitude on the mount of olives, Mohammed retreating to the cave where he ultimately was given the Koran, Buddha Gautama under his tree and so on. Anyways, the site on Christian Meditation put some concepts together that were just kind of fumbling around separately in my head. One such concept was the idea of self mastery. Obviously when you think of self mastery, you think of disciplining your body to the will of your mind, but it really hit home the fact that I need to discipline my mind as well. in fact self mastery needs to start with the mind. And while I may go through this world controlling my anger externally, what good does it do me if it still causes havoc internally. So here I am hating this guy in my heart, and suddenly i have an epiphany about the true nature and purpose of meditation, regardless of creed or faith, which is to let go of the unhealthy desires of our hearts, for it is in these desires that we create our own suffering. I needed to let go of my anger. This was gonna take practice. But whenever I’d find myself hating this guy, I would remind myself of this epiphany and I found that i was hating him less as the days went.

Still, I kept thinking about the Hesse quote and spent time wondering how it was that i hated myself by hating him. Then it hit me on the way home from work one day. In my head i pictured myself trying to kill this person, and then asking myself why i hated him so much as to try and kill him, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I hated him, because I hated that same potential, that same possibility of doing every one of those bad things, in me. you see, this guy isnt too different from me. he’s a musician too. he’s a father. he’s actually a somewhat likeable guy outside of all the bad stuff, but the difference is he succumbs to his basic desires and impulses. And when i look at him, i see that same potential for me, because the only difference between him and I is that I chose not to do the same things he did today. Will i still choose this way tomorrow? I’d like to say yes. But who knows. I hate him because what he does, and what he is, appalls me, but on a deeper level i think it scares me because I fear making those same choices. And what does fear usually manifest itself as? Anger… Hatred… Yoda was right all along.

Strange thing the mind and the heart. After that day I found that i didn’t really hate the guy anymore. I actually feel more pity for him than anything. I know that he will continue to do things that will make me mad in the moment, but it will dissipate. I wont feel the need to harbor anything against him or fantasize about beating him up. I’ll remember that the only differences between us are the choices we’ve made which either build us up or destroy us. I’ll recognize my potential to choose the path of destruction, and pray that I choose that path of life. And then maybe I’ll pray that he stops choosing the path of destruction as well. The great thing about being who we are is that we have the power to change. Self mastery.

Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

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Dear Jesus,
I was at the grocery store the other day heading over to the dairy aisle, when I saw two boys, both around 5 or so, pushing their parents shopping carts towards each other like on a two lane road. The boys had steered their carts a little too close to each other and slightly bumped each others carts. The boys looked at each other and then began trying to push the other’s cart to the side and it basically devolved into a pissing match between two 5 year olds whose parents had to come and force the kids to stop. Funny thing is that, when you think of it, we, as a species, never really outgrow that mindset of aggression and confrontation. Yes we may learn to curb it, or channel it differently, but mankind is still trying to smash his neighbor with a shopping cart in one way or another. Literally and figuratively. Yes, folks, for those of you who think that people are born naturally good, filled with goodwill towards his brother, think again. Don’t call me a pessimist, call me a realist. And while people are not born innately good, they are however not born innately evil.

It’s funny. Without getting into the semantics of defining “good” and “evil”, I think we are born with the capacity for both good and evil, and most of us spend our lives teetering back and forth between the two. I’m not afraid to say that I have done some pretty evil shit in my time, but I have also done some pretty decent stuff too. Now evil doesn’t necessarily have to be killing someone with an axe. It can be as simple as lying about something to affect a different outcome of a situation, or any number of things. I prefer to call a spade a spade, and can recognize my capacity for wrongdoing, and the struggle within to stay on the straight and narrow, and my often pathetic failure to do so. I recognize the comical condition we are born into for what it is. Our flesh vs. our spirit. Or the Id and the Super-Ego. I love how Buddhism recognizes that this is the eternal struggle, and that only by shedding the Id, or letting go of these desires within ones self, can one truly become enlightened or free. I think that this is what modern Christianity has lost or forgotten. There are parallels between Biblical Christianity and Buddhism that I think many would be surprised to find. Not just in the teachings of Jesus (who I think is the great Buddha), but also even in the old testament. In fact a very Buddhist like saying is attributed to God himself in Genesis in the story of Cain and Abel, when Cain gets angry because Abel’s sacrifice is deemed more acceptable to God. The verse goes “Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

You can easily find more parallels. You just gotta look. But I digress. Back to the discussion of being born good or evil. Sadly, like most things in life, it’s not so black and white. we are born into the grey area, and it’s the choices we make in life that either gradually turn that grey into white or black. Or it just stays grey. As for me, I wont pretend to be something I’m not. I’m a stumbling fool, who, like a dog returning to it’s vomit, has a terrible tendency to repeat the same mistakes over and over, which I guess brings me to my point here. See Jesus, without you I think I’d be fu…… er.. screwed. Knowing the things I do WITH your presence in my life, scares me to think of what kind of shit I would do WITHOUT you in my life. I often think that when I first met you at 7 years old, it was really out of your mercy that I was so young because you saw what and who i would become without you. So much has happened since then too. I have been through times of great doubt, and times of spiritual discovery, and I feel you have walked with me every step of the way, and carried me for much of it. And it is in this knowledge and understanding that I see your existence and work as the gift that it is, because without you i’m lost, and i dont mean lost in some silly, feel-good superficial, churchy way, but lost in an “I’m sooooooo fucked” metaphysical, quantum mechanical, sub-atomic way. Knowing I’m such a screwup, I’m banking on you, and your mercy in the end. Because honestly, that is all i have to stand on. Nothing I do can undo the wrong I’ve done. But because you forgave for once and for all, for all time, I am free, because i’m not bound to my sin. And while I continue to walk with you and get to know you even better, I will continue to grow and change, and slowly my grey will not be so grey, and over time, the mastery of self, the letting go of the Id, will get easier and easier. And Christ will be in me, and I in Him.

Dear Jesus,
I’ve been kind of down lately. Been thinking alot about the plight of mankind, and our obvious inability to not continually smash our heads into a concrete wall. Meaning, our inability to not make the same stupid mistakes over and over. Wasn’t WWI supposed to be the war to end all wars? Great marketing, but poor execution on that concept. Why is it that there are living breathing people just outside my door who not only dont have a place to live, but dont have anything to eat today. And why am I not tripping over myself to go out and help them. Am I that calloused? Is my heart that hardened? There is a voice inside of me that tells me that everyday I go to work and make my little bit of money and come home, I am being duped by the ways of this world; that I am accepting a less meaningful life. Of course now there is added meaning to it since i have an 8month old but still, there is a part of me that says I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing. That I should be doing something to help people, that I should be being more like Jesus. That reminds me, I dont get all these “Christian” right wingers who are violently opposed to healthcare reform. They are spitting such virulence about how Obama is going to make this a socialist country by introducing social health care yadda yadda yadda. All I have to say is wouldnt Jesus want you to help your neighbor? Even if the bill was socialist, which it isnt, whats wrong with that? Whats wrong with helping those who need it? You say you follow Jesus right? then do so. Hate to break it to you guys but Jesus was rather socialist himself. So follow him, or not. Dont pretend to be one thing and do another. Thats what I hate about America and why i dont go to church. Because its phoney, sleight of hand, bumpersticker theology, with wolves leading the sheep through fear and hate. Mainstream American “christianity” bugs the shit out of me because I dont see the “christ” in it at all. maybe i’ve just been to the wrong churches, but I feel more at home with honest to goodness, devout muslims and truth seeking buddhists than the self professed “christian nation”.  Anyways, back to the subject. I dont think this world will improve it’s situation without divine intervention. It’s nice to think about everyone getting all Star Trek like and the world uniting under knowledge and science, but it wont. as long as there are humans, there will be greed, unmet desires, and ultimately atrocity committed upon each other. God help us all. God help me.