23 October 2008

Letter 3.73

(Culled from Thailand's English-language press, came the last news from that fabled land, as my legman was about to take up his new Sri Lankan beat. 'Khomeini objects to the bureaucracy because they are competent,' 'We didn't recommend it, we didn't approve it, we simply endorsed it.' 'No one told them what they had done wrong apart from performing official duties.' Former Prime Minister Moraraji Desai, 84, says the young generation should not feel discouraged, because India cannot get worse and the situation can only improve. 'We have kept going downhill for the past 2,000 years and now we have reached rock bottom. There is no way except to go up. So don't feel discouraged,' he told a meeting of his Janata Party youth section in Bombay. -- Húm)

Someone from Radio Thailand came through and asked me to write some 'Five minute pieces on Buddhism'. I bet he's sorry now!



Can we be at peace? Not only with others but with ourselves? Is it possible? Or must we always make war with ourselves, always separating what we want from where we are? For a long time now we have been at odds with ourselves, restless and dissatisfied. For a long time now we have filled ourselves with praise and blame, attraction and aversion, love and hate. For a long time now we have found ourselves as if entangled, caught up and not free, and we haven't found any way that didn't lead to new entanglements, new bonds. New entanglements? Not really; just variations of the same old entanglements and bonds, the ways we've been confined all our lives. So: we haven't even found a way that didn't lead to old entanglements, old bonds. Can we do so now?

Can we do something new? Something truly new? Enough of the old: entanglements, loves, hates, dissatisfactions. All of that is just different ways of being filled with ourselves. Perhaps filled with ourselves to do good, perhaps filled with ourselves to do bad, but always full. Can we, instead, be empty? I don't mean empty of everything whatsoever: that's too difficult. Let's just say, can we be empty of ourselves? Everything that's not ourselves can stay: that's not our problem, we don't have to worry about what's not ours. Others can take care of that, or we can take care of it later, So first let's just deal with what is ours. And let's try a brand new way of dealing with it, something we may never have tried before. Okay?

Let's make things simple. Do just this. Let's close our eyes and empty our hearts of everything that has to do with 'me' and 'mine'. Nothing more than that. It's that simple. If we see a revolting sights -- say, a decaying corpse -- we can easily avert our eyes. If we smell a bad smell we cover our noses. There are lots of bad smells around, but when we can avoid them it's certainly more pleasant to do so. If we accidentally touch a hot stove we pull our hand back quickly! So let us turn away from these thoughts of 'me' and 'mine' in the same way, just as if we touched something burning, or smelled something foul, or saw something revolting. Do this right now, please: don't wait. In the next minute you may be dead. Then you will have missed the chance to do something truly new.

Close your eyes. That way it's simpler. Forget about what your ears hear. Pay no attention to smells, tastes, touches. If the wind touches you just let it be a touch. Don't take it to be my touch, 'Oh, the wind is touching me!' It's just wind touching skin. It's just a perception, just like a rock is just a rock. Don't make it more than that. Let it be simple. Any time you see a complication, watch out! That's a good hiding place for 'me' and 'mine'. 'Me' and 'mine' love complications, so if we are to succeed in this new thing we'll have to avoid complications. Wherever there's a complication, that's the old way. Leave it be! If you try to 'do' anything with it you'll just make it more complicated! Treat it like you would a tangle of barbed wire. Did you ever try to untangle a bunch of rusty old barbed wire? Hopeless, isn't it? So leave all that aside. It's hopeless, these complications, so let's empty ourselves of it all. We can do that; just let the mind turn away from it, let the mind turn away from everything that's the old way, the complicated way, the way of 'me' and 'mine'. Okay?

So... What's left? Is it like we expected or like we didn't expect? If it's like we expected, we've probably made a misjudgment, because what we expected is the old way. Only if it's what we didn't expect can we know that this is, for us, a truly new way, a way we've never before imagined. If it didn't work for you then try it again. Keep trying it until it does work. Keep trying, because there's really nothing else worth doing. Everything else is the old way, the way of dissatisfaction. Maybe even trying is the old way too, but if it works, then it won't be the old way any more, the way of dissatisfaction. Then it will be a new way. So keep trying.

Only one thing to remember; don't be like a man looking for silence. Everywhere he goes there's too much noise for him, and as he goes along he keeps shouting, 'SILENCE!' at the top of his voice. But he can't find silence anywhere. Don't be like that. But then this man, one day he stops calling for silence, and he hears that it really is quiet... everywhere. That silence, that's not what he'd been expecting, is it? He'd always thought that silence had a voice. But it doesn't even have a name. Or if it has a name, it's a name that's not spoken. 0rif it is spoken, it is said without echoes.

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