June 03, 2007

"Oh, Cookies!"

Today I took a cookie. They were provided for the participants in the Sacred Path program and set out in the dining tent. I knew they were not intended for me, but I took one anyway. They were chocolate chip after all.

Greenfrog also chose today to Asteya, non-stealing, in his blog, In Limine. One of the Five Precepts commonly found in Buddhism (emphasized in Theravada) is not taking that which is not offered and is analogous with Asteya. So, in a karmic way, I got my hand caught in the cookie jar.

He also wrote on the subject of politeness, which brought me back to an article of Chogyam Trungpa's which I just read today. It is part of Dharma Rain: Sources of Buddhist Environmentalism, an anthology, but if my memory serves it is taken strait out of Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior. Chogyam Trungpa says:

"Being gentle and without arrogance is the Shambhala definition of a gentleman. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, one of the definitions of a gentleman is someone is not rude, someone whose behavior is gentle and thoroughly trained. However, for the warrior,gentleness is not just politeness. Gentleness is consideration: showing concern for others all the time. A Shambhala gentlewoman or gentleman is a decent person, a genuine person. He or she is very gentle to himself and to others. The purpose of any protocol, or manners, or discipline that we are taught is to have concern for others. We may think that if we have good manners, we are such good girls or good boys; we know how to eat properly and how to drink properly; we know how to behave properly; and aren't we smart? That is not the point...

"Good behavior is not meant to build us up so that we can think of ourselves as little princes or princesses. The point of good behavior is to communicate our respect for others. So we should be concerned with how we behave. When someone enters a room, we should say hello, or stand up and greet them is a handshake. Those rituals are connected with how to have more consideration for others. The principles of warriorship are based on training ourselves and developing self-control so that we can extend ourselves to others. Those disciplines are important in order to cultivate the absence of arrogance."

As I sat and read this under the shade of the pine trees, Nick came over to sit with me. We chatted for a few seconds, then Daniel came over to sit with us in order to speak to Nick. Both apologized for invading my space. That thought had never occurred to me. "It's okay. I don't have any space," I told them, but it felt good that they were concerned. They are good warriors.

I think these two things are flip sides of the same coin: 1) being polite, considerate, and respectful of others, and 2) renunciation or the complete sharing of ourselves ("our" space and "our" stuff) and the breaking down of barriers between ourself and others. This includes the idea of possession, "mine," and privacy.

Chogyam Trungpa: "...What the warrior renounces is anything in his experience that is a barrier between himself and others. In other words, renunciation is making yourself more available, more gentle and open to others. Any hesitation about opening yourself to others is removed. For the sake of others, you renounce your privacy.

"The need for renunciation arises when you begin to feel that basic goodness belongs to you. Of course, you cannot make a personal posses out of basic goodness. It is the law and order of the world, which is impossible to posses personally..."

Not to say one should be a doormat, let others steal all our possessions, or invade our space all the time. But wouldn't it be nice if we had such a generosity of spirit, such equanimity, that when people did act in such a way towards us it did not cause us suffering? And wouldn't it be even better if we had both the perfect wisdom and compassion to know what to do and say in those situations to get them to stop and wake up? (Because if they act in such a way towards us, they are sure to act so towards others with less generosity and equanimity.)

Surely, if a four year old can do it, so can I.


greenfrog said...

Chogyam Trungpa: "...What the warrior renounces is anything in his experience that is a barrier between himself and others. In other words, renunciation is making yourself more available, more gentle and open to others. Any hesitation about opening yourself to others is removed. For the sake of others, you renounce your privacy.

This is the most beautiful articulation of renunciation I've ever read. (*goes to read recently purchased copy of Shambhala*)

Monica said...

The Shambhala tradition is specifically a lay tradition, so in many ways I think it makes much more sense to Americans, who are so much less inclined to become clergy. In the majority of Buddhist traditions, renunciation is very different and a more traditional renunciation which includes worldly goods, family, and other forms of aestheticism. Chogyam Trungpa makes clear that this is not the renunciation of a Shambhala warrior.

In many ways, I think this is a truer renuncation, but also a more difficult one. In comparison, I think giving up, say, my hair for example, would be easier than giving up all the barriers I've created to protect my heart. When becoming a monk or nun, giving up one's worldly possesions is a step towards the same kind of openness of heart Chogyam Trungpa is talking about, but it's a baby step. Trungpa is asking us to jump (he actually speaks of it as jumping or leaping) without using the stepping stones found in traditional renunciation. But he also tells us, shows us even, that it can be done and he has faith that everyone is capable of it.

That is so fabulous to me!

greenfrog said...

So much of my life is focused on economically providing for myself and my family that I tend to look at what I think of as real renunciation from a distance considerably greater than the length of my arm.

That experience, in turn, tends to depress me, as it leads me to wonder whether I'm just engaged in fantasy when I pursue meditation and Buddhist instruction, but unwilling (even unable?) to make the commitments necessary for the path I think I want to travel.


Monica said...

I know what you mean, but this is where faith comes in. Not faith in a God (though I am certain that helps) or in fate, or even in teachers or the Dharma itself. We have to have faith in ourselves.

When I first began meditation, I HATED it. However, I believed firmly that it was both good and necessary. I didn't push myself to meditate. I had faith that there would come a time when I would naturally WANT to meditate, that I would even enjoy it.

Even before I was Buddhist, and I had many questions but no answers (now I have many more questions, but, oh well) I had faith that eventually I would be able to figure it out. I had faith in my own ability and capacity. Then I found Buddhism and the Dharma held two and a half thousand years of thinking on the very subjects I had been working on for less than twenty. Most importantly, they told me to have faith in myself. Test, try, they said, you can figure it out.

So when I get discouraged and think I have so far to go, or that my life doesn't measure up to the kind of practice I know I'm capable of, I just remember this:

We are all Buddhas.

Stuff said...

I've only read one of Trungpa's books - 'Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism'. It was fantastic. I've brought some other books of his, but so far haven't been able to get into them.

I remember at one stage, I was so confused about Buddhism - I should act this way or that way - but yet I acted very poorly. His Spiritual Materialism book suggested giving up completely, which I did for a while, and felt so much better. Then I could get back into it all with less attachments - that book was fantastic.

Er, anyway, going off topic a bit, sorry :(

greenfrog said...

I understand this from your note:

The universe is knowable (enlightenment/end of suffering is possible), and we can align ourselves with it (there is a dharma/path that leads there).

Thanks, Monica (Buddha). :-)

Monica said...

There's about a hundred million paths that lead there. :-) Ain't that cool?