The True Dharma has Disappeared
01 Oct 2015 09:03 #100655
Somebody posted this dharma talk by Thanissaro Bhikkhu on DhO in the thread discussing the recent Jack Kornfield interview, as another polar extreme to JK. I think it merits its own discussion topic, as there is a lot here. Whether it is a polar extreme to JK is almost besides the point, but it is interesting.
The True Dharma has Disappeared
03 Oct 2015 12:44 #100677
I think this is about the worldviews and goals with which people conduct their practice. What amazes me about it is how clear-thinking he is. He gives us a strong and lucid critique of new ages type approaches. I still haven't listened to the second half of Kornfield's interview, but I will venture to guess that Tom's claim that this talk is a polar opposite is based on Kornfield's "multi-faceted jewel" analogy. Thanissaro Bikkhu doesn't allow us to get off the hook with comforting metaphors, or the old "we are all one" talking point. If we are interconnected (and of course we are), it's because we're all part of a sinister feeding system in which one being gets to eat at the expense of others. To try to say we are all one with any other meaning would be to claim that when you or I eat, others will be filled as well. Obviously this is not what happens.
I remember Kenneth's narrative about how for awhile he would experience a feeling of universal consciousness in meditation. It was beautiful, but in the end it was nothing more than a highly refined constructed mind state. I was threatened by that conclusion and wanted to resist it, but Thanissaro more or less says the same thing. So if you go about practice with a "we are all one" worldview, you're likely to want to rest in beautiful mind states. This is not the same thing as real freedom. Real freedom is beyond the cycle of dependent origination.
So, a couple more details: a participant asked about rebirth. Thanissaro says that to adopt a belief in rebirth, to start with that assumption, will affect how we view our actions in the world. If we think we will have to inhabit whatever world we help create, we will want to take extreme care in how we behave. If, for example, we go about wrecking the world, we will live in a wrecked world. If we act on greed, we will be hungry with no hope of fulfillment. He's not saying this is limited to this life either, but advocates believing we will be condemned to be stuck there in another life. Some of us may find a similar motivation for care in wanting to leave the world in good shape for the next generation, either our own children or others.
The point, then, is that what we believe affects how we behave. There was another question about what Thanissaro means when he says we find freedom by leaving the feeding system altogether; does he mean we have to let ourselves starve? That's not quite it. He means we take ourselves out of the system of needing to exploit others in order to feel good, at least at one level. I'm reminded of a song by the Eurythmics, "Sweet Dreams are Made of This":
I like that way of seeing it. I do have a problem at the moment of knowing how I can act in an essentially unjust world. I saw a video of a dog rescue operation in India, showing the transformation of a dog that had been left discarded by the side of a road. It was heartbreaking, because it shows so clearly what a beautiful creature a healthy, happy dog can be, and yet so many billions, trillions of creatures are left for dead, creatures of every species. And here I am, savoring my freedom, at least for the moment. I could say that there is absolutely nothing better than this, that if I were to have to live 20 more years as an invalid and yet have this freedom, I would accept it gladly. And yet, how do I contribute to making the world better for others? Thanissaro Bikkhu says by showing them how to get there. He speaks of the gratitude one owes one's teacher, and I feel that gratitude for all my teachers, everyone here, for Kenneth and Beth, for Abre, for Mark Nunberg here in Minnesota, and of course for Daniel Ingram. What can I do for others?
I guess maybe it's time to send in a donation. That's a good start.