02 July 2010

Dharma Gates

The Maha-Rahulovada Sutta contains a brief formula that, seems to me, captures the essence of the renunciant life: "This is not me. This is not mine. This is not what I am." Recalling these lines allows one to put the thing back down, to set the momentary idea one has of oneself to the side, to let go of the situation that is causing one such pain, such pleasure, such preoccupation.

It is a difficult practice, of course, and I see the wisdom in pursuing it in an eremitic or cenobitic setting. Not that attachments won't arise; but they will likely be fewer and farther between than in everyday life.

Which brings me to this crazy life of trying to pursue this practice in the context of family, work, social life, grocery stores, retail outlets, and all the rest. I'm finding that there is no rulebook here, no "three robes, one meal and you're done." And there isn't even the rule that one should practice in this way. Others will piece this life together differently.

But for myself, I'm finding that I more and more frequently feel the need to stop, let go of the grip, and move on. When I don't, I see almost instantaneously the suffering that arises – for myself certainly, but also for others, for things, for the world. I can almost watch the suffering unfold, and then I know that I had the chance not to set this into motion, but did all the same. And then the next situation arises, the next moment appears, and another dharma gate opens wide.

The way to Taishan? Straight ahead, of course!

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