Monday, August 26, 2013

In the readiness of time.


The nobody wins way.

Throughout life I’ve been bothered when someone would tell me go here or do that without giving me any clue of how. I was sometimes amazed by their advice but disturbed when left to figure out the how on my own. “Just say no” didn’t cut it for me. I’m a pragmatist and not afraid to say when I need help. Perhaps it’s expecting too much to suggest that others might benefit as well if only they too would lose the macho attitude of I can do this by myself without help from anyone else and ask for help concerning the how to.

For some days now I have continued down a path of saying that while suffering is what everyone wishes to avoid, there is much of value about suffering that results in transforming our attitudes, how we experience our true self, and the probable impact on the world. But until now I have left out the how to. The time for completing this journey is now and today I want to pave the way with a few preliminary comments.

First is what Winston Churchill (among many others) said: “People will only change when they have suffered enough.” Until then, as previously pointed out, we are not encouraged to go through the necessary rigors to change in a positive way. Often times during one of my classes a student would say, “I don’t suffer so why would I choose to alter my satisfying life style to go through these rigors.” In essence they echoed the observation expressed by Chan Master Sheng Yen: nobody having good dreams wants to wake up. Only when they have nightmares are we eager to do so.

Motivation is fundamental and rare are those who can look down the road and see where it leads. One day our body will die. One day we will all experience illness. One day we will lose a loved one or a career that sustains our families and us. All of us suffer. One day the unavoidable comes to our door.  Over a year ago I wrote a post called The Four Horses of Zen that reflected on this conundrum, as expressed by the Buddha in the Samyutta Agama Sutra. He told a parable of four horses, to illustrate the same sorts of people. There is an excellent one, a couple of lesser horses and a bad one. He said the best horse runs before it sees the shadow of the whip.  The second best will run just before the whip reaches his skin. The third one will run when it feels pain on his body and the bad one will run after the pain penetrates into the marrow of his bones. Unfortunately I was a bad one and endured much pain before changing.

For some curious reason Winston Churchill seems to be popping up recently. He commented on our stubbornness and said of us, “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing—after they’ve tried everything else.” That was me. After everything else failed, I was ready to become a student and only then did the teacher appear. When our methods of self-service continue to lead us to suffer over and over again it becomes clear that egotism fails. Then our moment of truth finally invites us into the realm of unity.

So much for preliminary comments. Tomorrow I’ll suggest the how to prescribed by many enlightened beings that worked for me and more than likely will work for you too.
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