06 May 2011

Darlin', You Can't Love Two

I'm given to understand that in the Pāli canon one finds the recurrent pairing of saddhā and nekkhamma, or faith and renunciation.  Going for refuge to the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, so the tradition goes, means at the same time not going for refuge to something else. A variation on this pairing is present in the Christian tradition as well, particularly in the rite of baptism, where the candidate both professes faith in the triune God and at the same time rejects satan, his works, and all of his empty promises. 

Leaving aside things like jukai ceremonies and baptisms, this pairing pervades every moment of everyday life, and this is where the rubber hits the road.  Which shall it be, clear Mind or habit energy?  If I take refuge in the one, I am saying no thanks to the other.  Which shall it be, the Dharma or my ego projections?  If I take refuge in the one, I am saying no thanks to the other.  Which shall it be, the corporate wisdom and compassion of the Sangha or the demands of the peer group, socio-economic stratum, civil society or nation?  If I take refuge in the one, I am saying no thanks to the other.

There's a tendency in the Mahāyāna to say that we don't need renunciation, since, in the vast realm of the absolute, clear Mind is habit energy, the Dharma and my ego projections are one, and the Sangha includes every individual and group without restriction.

As soon as I live completely in the vast realm of the absolute, I'll be happy to buy the argument.

It is true that renunciation is not one of the pāramitās in the Mahāyāna, but traditionally it does gets subsumed under kṣānti, or patient forbearance.  It doesn't matter which list it is or isn't on.  The point is that relying more and more in one's life on the Three Treasures will necessarily mean relying less and less on the comfort of the ego support structures one has become accustomed to.  And, like any shedding of the ego support structure, it's likely going to hurt, at least at first (hence the connection to forbearance).  

I don't know about others.  I just have a sense deep down that my further Yes's to the Dharma are going to require more No's out of me than I've been able to say just yet.   Having my cake and eating it too is not at all what practice is teaching me.

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