18 January 2012

There is No Thing That Clings to Us

This one I chanced upon:
There is the case […] where a Tathagata appears in the world, worthy and rightly self-awakened. He teaches the Dhamma admirable in its beginning, admirable in its middle, admirable in its end. He proclaims the holy life both in its particulars and in its essence, entirely perfect, surpassingly pure.

A householder or householder's son, hearing the Dhamma, gains conviction in the Tathagata and reflects: 'Household life is confining, a dusty path. The life gone forth is like the open air. It is not easy living at home to practice the holy life totally perfect, totally pure, like a polished shell. What if I were to shave off my hair and beard, put on the ochre robes, and go forth from the household life into homelessness?"

So after some time he abandons his mass of wealth, large or small; leaves his circle of relatives, large or small; shaves off his hair and beard, puts on the ochre robes, and goes forth from the household life into homelessness.

When he has thus gone forth, he lives restrained by the rules of the monastic code, seeing danger in the slightest faults. Consummate in his virtue, he guards the doors of his senses, is possessed of mindfulness and alertness, and is content.
Samaññaphala Sutta
I was chatting with my Dharma brother this morning after sitting, and I made an offhand reference to the "householder life is cramped" line.  He said that he thought "sticky" was a better word than "cramped."

I'm not one to revise the World-Honored One's words generally, but I have to give my Dharma brother the nod here, at least as far as my own life is concerned.  It's my attachments, those things that stick, that get in the way.  Sometimes prying loose the adhesive is a lot of work, met with resistance, oftentimes with as many failures as successes. Like when taking the wrapping off some product, and a bit of the clear stuff sticks to your fingers, and no matter how hard you shake them it won't seem to come off, coming to the end of attachments can be downright maddening.  Although we wouldn't say "polished shell" today (Teflon® would be more like it), the aspiration of being free of encumbrance continues to animate the pursuit of the holy life now as then.

Ordaining is certainly one way to do this.  But if by "householder life" we don't focus as much on the sociology (job, family, social station) as on as the dynamics at play (freedom to act according to desire and impulse and whim and fancy) then abandoning "householder life" is something for everyone, whether lay or home-leaver.  It's the restraint of the freedom to act according to desire, etc. that opens wide the vistas of emancipation.  A follower of the precepts, then, whether they be 10 or 16 or 48 or 250 in number, renounces "business as usual" in the world and, in so doing, begins to dissolve the bonds that cause suffering.

Maybe others have an easier time aligning their lives with the Dharma, but I just can't imagine walking this path without the guideposts the precepts provide.  Does this mean I don't fall short?  Of course not.  But when I do, I don't need to scratch my head for very long to figure out where my suffering is coming from!

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