15 May 2012


Benedict, that mastermind of structured religious life, acknowledged that one might well choose to live as a hermit, but he pointed out that a hermit would be exposing himself to psychological and spiritual danger if he did not first become firmly established in the cenobium.  Without having come to understand deeply his participation in a wider community, without having internalized the cadences of contemplative life, the alonetime the hermit enjoyed would quickly become the stage on which all manner of fantasies, temptations, unhealthy mind states, and the like would make their appearance.

And why?

Because, shy of deep and great awakening, we need to have our arrogant asses kicked and our fearful egos comforted every once in a while.  If no one is around to do that for us, we'll get crazy, stupid, envious, depressed, odious, despondent, etc.

It's certainly no accident, then, that the Buddha left two lifestyle choices to those who would practice the way: either become a renunciant in the community of fellow renunciants or become a householder in the company of a fellow householder.  Both provide a context in which one is held accountable for the precepts.  Both provide a structure of support and encouragement.  Both provide a means to see oneself reflected in the lives of others.  Both provide a wide open field for the cultivation of the pāramitās.

It finally dawned on me this past week that part of the reason I'd been going stir-crazy and getting crabby of late is because I find myself neither a renunciant in a community of fellow renunciants nor a householder in the company of a fellow householder, and I'm so far from deep and great awakening that I'm nowhere near in a position of being able to live a healthy hermit's life.  If I'm going to live up to service to all beings, I'm going to have to take a little better care of this vessel of the Dharma.

You'd think I'd have figured that out by now!

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