On Letting Go, Part VIII: Denial

With such a plethora of psycho-babble invading even common speech it is not surprising that the term Denial is most likely to evoke images of people who cannot face some form of dysfunctionality within their lives.

It is not my intention to dismissively disregard this blind spot that has such great potential for preventing us from being fully self-actualized human beings…far from it, but there is another aspect to Denial that is the primary focus of this post today.

My concern regards the denial of Pleasure in the name of higher consciousness and spiritual development.

The Precepts of Buddhism warn of the deleterious effects of Sex, or Drugs, or strong Drink as regards achieving Enlightenment, as well as the usual admonishments against Stealing, Lying, and Killing.

I have spent quite a few years studying Buddhism in its many forms, and the longer I pursue it, the more convinced I become that I am really not a very good Buddhist at all, despite the fact that I still regard myself as a spiritual person in many ways, although I am not the least inclined toward Religion.

There seems to be almost no end in the conflicting views I have regarding spiritual matters.

For one thing, although I am an Atheist I believe in the persistence of the soul, by which I mean that mysterious twenty-one gram quantity that would appear to constitute what we refer to as the vital life force that leaves us when we die.

There seems to be some emperical data to suggest that it may persist in a somewhat cohesive and coherent form after it leaves the body.

I am inclined to believe that this essence may be passed on and recycled, but I hold no hopes for any conscious memory of past lives beyond the occasional déjà vu, intuition, “instinct”, pre-cognition or the seemingly inexplicable recognition of people, places, or events.

There is also the matter of Universal or Cosmic Conciousness, One Mind or Common Mind. Sometimes it seems as if thoughts have wings that carry them like bees from flower to flower.

But the emotional crutch of believing in Re-incarnation has no appeal to me. From my perspective, it is just another way of diverting our attention away from the reality of our inevitable mortality.

I don’t know why people keep saying things like “I want to come back as a cat…” (or anyone other than themselves for that matter). What difference does it make? I see little evidence that most people learn from their mistakes in this lifetime, let alone from some previous lifetime.

I am disinclined to feel any comfort in the belief one way or the other, and gave up all hopes of Heaven a very long time ago.

So you could say that I believe in ghosts, but not in angels…at least not the kind in which we were taught to believe in Sunday school…(the notable exception being that several times in my life, I have met women who inclined me to challenge my disbelief…sometimes even with all our clothes on).

For the time being, this is my Kharma. I accept that, and realize that it is subject to change accordingly.

My initial introduction to Buddhism, the Hindu faith, and Vedic traditions, as well as Hatha Yoga came at about fourteen years of age, and was principally centered around both Mahayana and Hīnayāna Buddhism as practiced in India.

My childlike acceptance of Christianity had become untenable and I felt compelled to search for deeper meanings and a better understanding of the nature of my existence within the universe.

Later, I was introduced to the Tao, as well as Chinese and Japanese Buddhism, although the primary focus of my studies has centered around both Korean and Tibetan Zen Buddhism.

One of my issues with religion has been the requirement to believe in some sort of Supreme Being…a God who requires worshipful devotion. It may sound ironic, but for years I prayed for my faith to return without success.

Soon enough, I will be addressing that issue, but not today…at least I hope not today. Not because of some distinct or nebulous fear of a judgmental and wrathful God…it’s just that I still have a lot of things I want to do before it’s time to pick up the check.

Even in the absence of a God, the pursuit of Enlightenment, Deeper Meanings, or possibly even a sense of Purpose and Higher Consciousness remain, shimmering like the vision of a distant oasis in a desert of existential banality.

If they too should prove to be a mirage, the realization of just what it is…what it means to be alive will be my reward.

As marginal as that may sound, it is still better than tacitly accepting second-hand fairy tales from those who would pretend to know things that they admit they cannot comprehend in order to justify throwing your life away now for a promise of Heaven tomorrow.

A central premise of Buddhism is that all Desire is followed by Suffering…OK; I get it. If you are so consumed with desires that require reciprocation to the point that your self-awareness is no different than a dog chasing his own tail, it is the same as it is with any and all attachments.

After all, in chasing your own tail, you are following an asshole.

This series of posts entitled “On Letting Go” is concerned with exactly that…our Attachments, Addictions, Illusions, Falsehoods, and other Paucities of the Truth.

The eventual goal in Buddhism is to evolve to the point where one is “like a mirror…red comes, there is red; a man comes there is a man, a woman comes, there is a woman; Life comes, there is Life; Death comes, there is Death.”

“Everything is just this…only this…just like this.”

Most forms of Buddhism have a hierarchy of beliefs, characters, patriarchs, names, mantras, and sutras with various degrees of emphasis on one feature or another.

That was what led me to Zen Buddhism. I neither seek a Buddha to worship, nor to whom I would be inclined to pray, or beg forgiveness.

It is likewise unacceptable to entertain the thought of a god that would command me to either kill or die in his name.

Also, the Tibetan Zen Buddhists are less likely to condemn  sexuality, especially the followers of the Shambhala order popularized by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche.

Of course Tantric, or Sacred Sex is a practice that is blessed in its own right, even amongst infidels.

But nonetheless, there is always controversy whenever any Buddhist cleric is discovered to have indulged in sexual relations, drugs, or alcohol.

Indeed, all religions seem to be infused with this preoccupation with the denial of sexuality and the suppression of Pleasure.

I don’t care why right at this moment. There has been plenty enough written on why it is believed it has to be this way.

I disagree.

My concern is for Higher Consciousness…some call it Enlightenment. How can anyone expect to comprehend or understand what it means to be alive without joyously and consciously participating in it?

As for Enlightenment, the more I seek it for myself, the more elusive it will become and evade me forever. OK…I get it. You can’t hurry the process, and you won’t find it sitting at the feet of any teacher. No matter how much you learn, you must experience life to know it.

I have learned to just be, and as enlightenment comes, accept it with loving-kindness, knowing that it is not everything…there is always more.

If a time should come when my desires for sensual and sexual pleasures should disappear, it will undoubtedly make sense if that is the right thing for me.

Although Sex and Love are separate entities…they sure do seem to make such a nice couple.

Love (or Sex) and Jealousy arise from our expectations of others. Most people love selfishly…they expect obligatory reciprocation from those whom they love, and may even come to hate those who do not return the favor in like kind, as if Love implies Ownership, as well as a form of control by virtue of obligation.

Buddhists aspire to gain enlightenment, in order to save all beings, bringing world peace through selfless love.

There is a Zen Koan: “How many people does it take to achieve World Peace?”

The short answer is one.

All existence is created within the mind. If you just learn to accept all beings with loving-kindness, in the place before thoughts or words, we are all of one mind, and there is no disagreement, like two mirrors facing each other.

Sorrow comes, we feel sorrow. Joy comes we feel joy, not just for ourselves, but for everyone. Through Dharma Action we learn as we teach. When we encounter deluded individuals who are suffering, we suffer for them; and we aspire to act in ways that will show them the way out of their suffering.

It is even said that a true Buddhist would venture into hell to save a fellow human being.

It may not be eternal and everlasting happiness, but at least there is Peace. I get it.

I have no doubt that the institution of Jealousy could have a great deal more potential for impeding Enlightenment than Pleasure could.

Jealousy is indeed an institution within our culture whose major economic concern is for generating mindless consumerism that plays upon our insecurities as well as our seemingly inbred potential for jealousy, envy, fear (especially of aging), greed, and covetousness.

And of course, the attorneys make no end of profit from it.

Ironically, Lust is the very first on the list of the Seven Deadly Sins, but Jealousy is not even a runner-up.

This is another of the points that need to be acknowleged. Jealousy is not a simple emotion, but rather a complex inter-dependent series of neurotic manifestations of fear, envy, covetousness, and insecurity.

It is a learned response that is programmed into us as a part of our culture that is in fact, not endemic to all cultures.

Anything that can be learned can be unlearned. Even the most conflicted Humanist can be taught through the right sequence of stimulus-response mediated experiences to abandon learned neurotic beliefs and behaviors.

The point being that sexual pleasure does not necessarily pre-dispose one to suffering. On the other hand, no good can come from the denial of healthy desires.

Desire may lead to suffering, but Denial is suffering. The satiation of desires is more likely to lead us to develop sufficient objectivity about our desires so that we can respond to them like any other basic need.

The Buddhists say “If you are tired, sleep; if you are thirsty, drink; if you are hungry, eat.”

To that I would humbly suggest adding “If you are lonely or depressed…love selflessly…and if you are horny…fuck like there is no tomorrow….”

(Tomorrow never comes, no matter how many times you do.)

The Past is a memory…a dream of what was, as full of regrets as it is of complacent reveries of past achievements and Glory Days long gone…or the smell of grandma’s cookies…not bad, not good, but gone; full of “the pain of remembering”.

The Future is a dream of what has not yet happened…whether a portent of joyful anticipation or fear, it is a dream of a dream.

The ever-present-never-present present moment is an illusion that is gone as soon as it appears. It is created within our minds.

I say “Govern yourself accordingly….”

Namasté

नमस्ते

Chazz Vincent

08/08/2015

4 Responses to “On Letting Go, Part VIII: Denial”

  1. I like your humored one liners.
    I’ve wondered about the detachment aspect of Buddhism in the light of not suffering if you are detached BUT what is the purpose? Enlightenment? Detachment alone can relieve me of some sorrows but I think new sorrows would spring up. I just don’t have the perspective to believe that we are meant to live unattached to people so we don’t suffer. We are animals with instincts of family or community for the most part. There are exceptions but I can’t see any value in becoming like a mirror because I am human. I think I’m just in agreement with what you have written about. I like your point about the satiation of desire leading to a deeper understanding. I think denial – clear cut denial of sexual identity outside of some Christian religious sects is oppressive and shaming in a deeply disturbing and judgmental way that stunts a person’s growth rather than believe in the power of their spiritual accuity. Who knows?!

    • People are not the problem…the problem is with words, labels, cultural biases, prejudices, normative “values”, or anything else that creates opposites, like night/day, man/woman, black/white. empty/full, hot/cold, good/bad… attachments to those things, anything that invites an argument. If we let go of our strong opinions about what we like or don’t like there is little need for arguments.
      The mirror image is about reflecting what comes into our sphere of influence with acceptance and loving-kindness.
      All of it is an exercise in a way…I don’t value it as an end unto itself, although it took me a very, very long time to recognize that.
      Thoreau went into the woods to separate what was essential to life from what wasn’t important, but people seem to think “well…he came back to the world” as if he had been wrong in going to the woods in the first place.
      I have been re-thinking a great deal about where my journey has taken me.
      Zen is like a wheel…it leads back to where you started, but you are changed in the process…sometimes you end up doing the same things you did before, but for different reasons, and in the process, you get different results.
      I have recently come to recognize how those “one-liners” come about.
      I try not to write more than three or four sentences per paragraph, to keep it more “digestible” and it almost always find that it requires either a summation, or some kind of balance.
      They are not initially meant to be funny, but that is just the way my mind turns, so I see the humor in it after the sentence is on the page….I’m glad it gives you pleasure.
      I am by no means detached from my life…I am full of deeply passionate desires, but I try not to let myself be ruled by them. If I can learn to actualize my visions into something that resembles reality to me, I enjoy it without guilt or shame, because I knew the price I would pay for it before I started…that doesn’t mean I don’t make mistakes, but I don’t start out trying to lie, or steal or bamboozle my way in or out.
      And if it doesn’t happen, then I am still OK. I never stop asking “who am I?” even though I have a pretty good idea…it’s just not something that can be described with words, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real.
      Thank you for the feedback, Jayne. I appreciate your thoughts.
      XO,
      Chazz

      • I’m getting a sense that detachment is a state of being, not an indefinite way to live. I can understand that state and I believe I am at my most receptive, accepting and curiously satisfying mind when I am detached and observant…all energy going to intake each moment as it happens. To feel an experience like ears hear music… all separate yet all one…like the air we all breathe. xoxo, J

      • Yes. It’s all about not being attached to words, and labels that lead to pre-judgment….being open to each experience as it comes to you…it’s not your parent’s life…it’s your life…just this…only this. No one can tell you what something is without polluting your experience to it.
        In your heart, you already know. 😉
        XOXO.
        C.

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