I’ve just read Dan Dennett’s Freedom Evolves, and am very convinced of his naturalistic take on evolution, the freedom it gives life, and how that freedom eventually became the most important kind of freedom, the kind that humans deal with. And deal with we do.
About a year ago, I went to visit a local temple for the first time. I was greeted by a friendly monk and he showed me the grounds. He had big ears and a warm smile of ease. Soft spoken as he was, the howling wind and chimes made it difficult to say much, so we decided to sit down. Settling in the main hall, I was struck by how simple it was. Nothing more than a small living room with a bare rug over a wooden floor. There was a moderately sized statue of Gotama against one wall, a bench and clock against another, and a short coffee table in the middle.
I sat and faced the venerable, who was no more than three feet away, as he gave a short dhamma talk. While his talk on the importance of kindness was good, he actually didn’t have to say anything. From the moment he let me in, showed me around, and sat down, his kindness and simplicity radiated. It seemed to me he lived and breathed with complete sincerity, just as he spoke. He was the very image of what he had taught. We could have just sat there and said nothing and it would have been just as nice.
The venerable then guided me through meditation. After tapping the bell, and throughout the meditation, he would occasionally utter the words, “May I be well, happy, and peaceful.” After some time, it would be extended to parents, teachers, relatives, friends, indifferent persons, enemies, and all living beings. For twenty minutes that’s all that mattered, sitting and hearing those words.
Wind blowing, chimes ringing, clocks ticking, my thinking, all subsided. All of it drowned out in the silence and in the soft words of love. I could not find anything like this in my books. Such lightness must have been what it was all about.
I had my first taste of freedom.
Dearest Dharma Folk Readers –
[Cute community nickname pending]
I would love to tell you much more about God and his creation of Buddha statues, as indeed I will, but I’ve been extremely swamped at work as of late and the `ol writing machine isn’t working like it used to at the moment.
However, in an extremely precedented occasion, I would like to take such a moment and try to turn it into something to ponder about, and it is this: When there is too much going on in your life, and something has to give, what is the first thing to give?
Earlier I was thinking of asking such a question about Buddhist practice specifically, but I think that the larger question is a lot more interesting and a lot more indicative of Buddhist lives anyway.
For me the first thing to go, when time is not enough, is often reading, which was a bit of an alarming thing to me. I suppose it has to do with the fact that information and ideas can do very well to simmer for a bit instead of being constantly and consistently piled on.
So, when something has to give in life, what do you give up first?