Observations of a Recovering Buddhist: II


It has been over a month since I initially conceptualized the title of this most recent series. It will become a semi-regular bi-line, much like This Thing We Do with Words, or On Letting Go.
The idea came all at once, but how it was that I should be able to convey its meaning was not easy.
I still sit. I still meditate. This is not a renunciation of Buddhism.
What then, is it?
I have faith that you will be able to decide that for yourself.
Many years ago, a long-lost brother of mine, full of new-found enthusiasm, suddenly broke eight months of silence to announce that he was, as of that date, three months clean and sober.
Of course I was happy for him; in over a decade of shared unbridled decadence, I had witnessed a nearly unbroken series of relapses from any number of addictions.
I had always believed in his natural state of brilliance and shared the passion with which he experienced life.
We were brothers of circumstance and of mind. We shared a love of poetry, a fascination with Zen, and The Transportation and Treatment of the Sick and Injured.
We were brothers…for a time. I did not think it was as circumstantial or conditional as it may have been, but I wish him well.
I still consider him to be my brother.
As he launched into an energetic and lengthy description of his meeting places, his sponsor, and how in addition to his five daily meetings, he still managed to participate in other various twelve-step activities.
I congratulated him sincerely and enthusiastically.
Eventually however, I had to ask: “So now what are you going to do?”
“I just told you…”, but before he could completely repeat his accounts of the exploits of his deprivations, I broke in again.
I repeated “But now what are you going to do?”
“WHAT THE FUCK IS YOUR POINT?!” he snapped; I was no stranger to his frequent irritations over many of my comments.
On occasion, he had voiced his opinion that he was not the only person to find many of my remarks insensitive, or anti-social, yet the bond of friendship and mutual respect for the traits we admired or points of view we shared continued to enable our mutual tolerance.
“I understand that recovery is a life-long process, but NOT being an addict isn’t a full-time occupation; it is a laudable accomplishment and I heartily applaud your strength and perseverance…but while you are in recovery, what are you going to do?”
“What do you really want?”
“How are you going to get it?”
“When you get it, what are you going to do with it?”
(I have often been told I have no filters between my brain and my mouth, and back then, there were some who might have been prompted to question whether I suffered from Asperger’s.)
He hung up the phone and disappeared again for over a year. He later told me that he attributed his relapse to my insensitive questions, which it appeared, he was not ready to address.
I suspect that the real problem was that he wasn’t able to imagine anything he wanted to do more than to not be an addict…this is understandable on a certain level; being an addict had taken over his life more than once.
Our culture programs us to strive to achieve.
Just as it is the journey, not the destination that is most important, the importance of our achievements is all too often measured in the pay-off we get for them.
Once he had achieved his goal of sobriety, there was no continued pay-off in the denial of his desires, which still remained, and it was infinitely more pleasurable to be an addict.
Given the two choices, why bother to get clean and sober if all you get is a chip?
Suffering follows all desires, but denial is already its own suffering.
What is the difference between no desire and indifference or apathy?
You can’t spend your entire life sitting beneath the Bhodi Tree.
Choose your passions wisely so as to embrace their concomitant suffering in a manner befitting anything so precious.
A death, lost love, or a fall from grace were all preceeded by joys at least equal to the pain.
There is great beauty in both sorrow and pain, but it can only be experienced by remembering; by recognizing its dialectical interdependence to its opposite.
By embracing it you experience a joy that cannot be known if you run from pain, or divide everything into good and bad, thinking you can escape either.
Buddha did not strive to be the Buddha, and more than once, he admonished his followers that the answers they sought were not to be found at his feet.
Buddha was always Buddha, but when his followers tried to be the Buddha, they set themselves upon a journey to an unreachable destination, charted by a map drawn by the fool they had made of themselves.
“If while traveling along the road, you should meet The Buddha, you should kill him and feed his body to a hungry dog.”
If you label and objectify anything you limit it into lifeless non-existence.
If you believe you have attained or achieved enlightenment, you kill the ever-questioning mind.
Realizations are fine and beautiful events. Epiphanies are but a momentary joy that are meant to fade into the background of everyday Zen.

Enlightenment is not the Everlasting Kiss of True Love.

“Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei….”
Chazz Vincent

3 Responses to “Observations of a Recovering Buddhist: II”

  1. I have wondered if there would be great benefit to become monk-like. To live as teachings profess, in the wisdom of seemingly stronger and definitely wiser people than I can attempt to be like. It sounds like way to live life well but then I come to my senses and see the abyss between living life and mimicking life. Besides, mimicking has no deep incisions of life’s fantastic realizations. You only get those taking your own steps and I’m too attached to this place where we learn by doing and in this way, we gain pain and pleasure which we can learn from. No one else can teach you in this way.
    Your questions to your friend were too much for him to comprehend or ponder. He was still attached to only his outcome. How could he top becoming sober? He’d have to really think of something incredible then, no? What is the NEXT thing to achieve? I agree that our culture looks for results in this way and there are results to be had but it doesn’t align in a wholesome, spiritual way.
    I was thinking of surrender today – surrendering myself to what a relationship is, on its own, as opposed to what I can twist and bend myself to create it to be. I can bend and make it be “nice” or I can let it be as it is and move on accordingly, accepting it as I would a wild berry bush in the forest.
    In my mind, surrendering has a bad reputation for being a bit cowardice until I relate surrender to that of pleasure. Surrendering myself to pleasure is a much better way of broadening my tact to surrendering to life’s situations and moving on from them.
    In life, there’s a current to ride and I believe that current is a way of living, of surrendering, of praying even.
    Metaphorically, we live life in ways like we listen to music. There’s listening with your eyes closed, listening while you’re occupied with something else, listening with intent to understand the composition itself, listening to judge and compare it, listening for specific inspiration of all sorts of things, listening to remember or relive a time and one of my favorites is listening to simply feel the next note and where it takes my mind.
    I’ve been gone for a while but I had a hankering to read your posts tonight. I babbled a bit. xo, J

    • Babbling can be very creative, as well as inspirational….
      As for Music, the playing is perhaps most alive in the Here and Now, and affords little attention to be spent in ruminating in the past, and of course listening as you feel each note and living in that moment, fully engaged is to tap into our collective consciousness and immortality.
      One of my primary points regarding what lies beyond even Buddhism is that we need not mortify the flesh or its pleasures. All desire leads to suffering, yes, but denial of desire is its own suffering in and of itself.
      Aruvedic Buddhism is more sexually repressive than Zen, but even Jack Kornfield and Soen-Sahn we reputed to have taken lovers, although it was not public until after their deaths, or at least much later after the fact.
      Chogyem Trunchpa Rimpoche, a Tibeten was completely upfront, and a bit of a madman, which was not well received by many of his contrymen.
      And then there’s Tantric…so no Jayne, yoou not only do not need to have an aversion to any of it as long as you practice lovingkindness completely in the present moment.
      And as far as surrender, you literally have to loose your mind to experience the Now. To give up the addiction to thinking, which is the real source of the false ego created by the mind and thinking to experience your true self…your one true face, as it is often said.
      I believe…I KNOW deeply within my own inner self, my being, that one does not need to renunciate Life…in fact, it is quite the opposite.
      Whether you call it surrender or acceptance of everything; to embrace pain and suffering as inevitable consequences is to experience great beauty in all things.
      I don’t say these things to feed my ego; after all, I am only paraphrasing ALL of it from many sources, perhaps in a creative manner, but I am only a messenger, a vehicle, like a madman running the streets babbling echolalia generated by whatever bounced back from the ionisphere. The town crier on Acid, maybe.
      It’s all been said before, but until it is felt, no words can transmit the Dharma.
      Your babbling tickles my inner self and thank you for that.
      Someday maybe I can return the favor, but if and when that happens, it won’t be later…it will be now.

      • I knew I would touch on the heart of the matter with you. Town Crier on acid…maybe Verbal artwork blending Renoir, Caravaggio and Kandinsky…maybe
        That’s already too much thinking : )

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