the Universe and the Monk

“It’s truly a sight to see when the inhabitants of any planetary civilization cross the tipping point and begin to individually accept complete and eternal responsibility for their own happiness.

Yet, this hardly compares to the mountain quaking, body shaking, polarity-flipping, hero-making occurrences that transpire when such inhabitants graduate to accepting complete and eternal responsibility for their every twinge of unhappiness.

Yeah, the second one is a lot trickier.”

Regular readers of this blog know that I get a daily email from The Universe, and I got the one above just the other day. Yes, THE Universe, and sometimes they are so right on it’s scary.

I’ve noticed over the years (and yes, also in myself, but not so much anymore) how many times people blame others for the troubles in their lives. “If only” we had the right man, the right car, the right clothes, the right whatever. “If only” we had done one thing over the other. “If only” we had the money to do whatever.

As I stood in line at the supermarket today I noticed the tabloids and the magazines like Oprah’s and others, and every one of them screamed a message that somehow WE ARE ALL LACKING. IF we do THIS, we will get THAT. That’s probably why I’ve never seen the movie “The Secret” although everyone raves about it….because to me the premise seems to be that we are inherently lacking in abundance so we must “manifest” it. That’s nice, but how about first living your life with an attitude of abundance instead of living like you’re missing out on something?

As for myself, yes, I’d like to live in Northern California instead of Northern Illinois (for the most part because I love the ocean), but when I look out onto my gardens, I feel absolutely blessed for what I have and where I am in life. Grace is not something we’re going to get unless we realize that we are already surrounded by it.

I’ve begun studying the Buddhadharma one-on-one with a Theravadan Buddhist monk, in the traditional way. Our next meeting will be about the First Noble Truth and the teaching about dukkha. Bhante said that although dukkha is often translated as “suffering”, the actual translation of the word is “unsatisfaction.” He said that people have a hard time being told that they “suffer”, especially people who think they have a “good life.” Sometimes a “good life” for people means having lots of stuff and the ability to get the next best thing. But how many people are satisfied? I always throw this question out to my students: why is it in a country that has so much food, so many opportunities to stay fit and healthy, so many things that can make us “happy” (do you really think any other country has so many choices in toilet paper?), why is it that so many are so sick and unhappy? I saw a headline today about the increase in antidepressant use among Americans.

Yes I know that horrible things happen to many people like sexual assault, abuse, the death of a child or another loved one. I am a survivor myself. But still…we do not have to suffer. What is the difference between two concentration camp survivors who both suffered the same tortures and who both lost their families in front of their eyes…what kills the heart of one and makes the other become a Nazi hunter?

A wise-ass Buddhist (not me) said that life sucks but suffering is optional. I say, life is suffering but pain is optional.

Bhante said that people don’t like to be told that they suffer because “suffering” is a dirty word in America. When we think of suffering we think of someone lying in bed dying from AIDS or a half-dead dog in an Indian street or a homeless person. That certainly is suffering.

But all of us suffer on a daily basis from our own dissatisfaction, wishing that our reality was something different from what it is, with the idea that there is always something “out there” that will make us happy or at least happier. Even yogis. Always searching for the next best thing instead of being still and knowing that it is already perfect.

“Happiness is your nature. It is not wrong to desire it. What is wrong is seeking it outside when it is inside.” –Sri Ramana Maharshi

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3 thoughts on “the Universe and the Monk

  1. This is reminds me of what I read on the internet the other day, don't remember where it was, but I was looking up frugal food: Someone wrote about a guy who was complaining about how it grew up so poor that sometimes he had to eat bologna for both lunch and dinner. The writer commented, only in America do the poorest eat meat twice a day! That definitely helps put things into perspective.


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