My Uber driver, Mohammed, aged mid-fifties at a guess, has been working Uber (in Manhattan) for only ten days, but already he is over it. Not that he has any choice as he has had no job for the past two years, but he is considering his options all the same. Minimum pay, long hours, he grumbled, though he was pretty cheerful considering. “Money doesn’t buy happiness, but I still need some.” He rubbed his hand over his belly and said, “You can feed this hell but it’ll never be enough. We carry our hell around with us.” “Yeah, and our heaven,” I agreed. “True, but people pay no attention to that, they are too busy feeding their hell.”
We looked out of the window at the crowds hurrying along 7th Avenue. “Look at everyone running around, all feeding their own hells,” he said. “Money, power, whatever, it is never enough.” “It’s like a black hole,” I offered, “insatiable. But our heaven is like the sun, always radiating outward.” He liked that. “Where are you from?” I asked, and he said Mars. He pointed out that it was discriminatory to assume everyone from Mars was green with antennae as opposed to just like me, especially as I have never met a Martian before. And of course Martians can be called Mohammed.
But right now, Martian, Muslim, Buddhist, Republican, Democrat, rich, poor, male, female, everyone, we all have the choice to feed our heaven or to feed our hell.
Continuing from this article. This second type of self-confidence is the thought:
I can conquer all my delusions; they will never conquer me.
And if we internalize this, identify with this warrior mentality, then the more things go wrong the stronger that motivation becomes – as they say, when the going gets tough, the tough get going.
Moment or movement?
I was in NYC during the inauguration and aftermath, when large marches took place in Washington, Manhattan, and all over the world. And the day after the Women’s March, a CNN headline questioned:
“Moment or movement?”
Which got me thinking not just about whether these political activities were going to sustain themselves past the next few weeks to resolve the world into some lasting change, but more importantly whether our meditations were.
Have you ever had any nice moments in meditation? Positive insights and/or feelings of joy or peace or empowerment? Connection? Glimpses of the possible?
Are these moments quickly forgotten and just occasionally revisited, or are they part of progress, a forward movement in your mind?
Probably your answer will depend on how consistent you are – there is no substitute for consistency. In all my decades in this Buddhist meditation tradition, I have observed, the people who seem to get the promised, deep results from meditation are — funnily enough — the ones who do it.
Consistency relies on effort or enthusiasm and, as Shantideva points out, effort includes self-confidence. At this time I think our self-confidence has to grow, a lot. Wisdom and empathy rise up! Destroy the delusions of selfishness, greed, intolerance, and ignorance.
Someone told me, “I was so positive after that march! Everyone was so positive! But, just two days later, and this relentless news is depressing me so much. I feel powerless again.”
Are you addicted to the news? Do you approach it with a feeling of indignation, quite sure that you are going to find something maddening … and sure enough … Are you turning to the news to scratch an itch, or for some perverse stimulation? And the more you watch, the more anxious or disheartened you become, the more de-motivated and helpless you feel? It drives you crazy, yet still you can’t keep away from it?!
Too much news doesn’t energize us but makes us passive because we can’t control the world and so the daily or even hourly repetition of news about things we can’t do a whole lot about grinds us down. We can end up frustrated, pessimistic, and desensitized, not to mention hopelessly distracted — perhaps seeking comfort and reassurance by talking only to people who agree with us while tempted to shout everything and everyone else down.
There is a balance between staying informed and being a news junkie. My suggestion? If we are feeling helpless, we need to get control back. And that means control of our mind. So we could spend at least as much time applying the solution (meditation) as we spend skimming over the problem (checking our news feeds).
As a friend put it, the news fuels his compassion but right now his gas tank is overflowing. We know there is a problem to solve. We know we have to do something creative. But nothing exists in a vacuum. We don’t need endless bitty demoralizing factoids – we need context, we need perspective, we need the big picture.
This would be the picture of samsara. Samsara sucks and always has sucked. And if we have delusions and contaminated karma we are as much part of samsara as anyone else — responsible for what appears to us, for what is happening. We are part of the problem, not part of the solution.
We need a life less ordinary.
Delusions are our enemies
We need to say this to ourselves over and over again ~ “Delusions are the real enemies of all living beings”!!
We could be the most powerful and wealthy person on the planet and still feel insecure and slighted, still feel tense and miserable, still feel dissatisfied. Greed and narcissism are insatiable black holes. Dislike, pride, and intolerance will find enemies, detractors, and inferiors wherever they turn. This is just as true for us as for anyone else.
Delusions can be very powerful – the self-cherishing of just one person, for example, can help demean a nation and create dangerous disharmony and distrust — this has happened many times the world over. Dharma is meant to be used as a mirror, though, not a magnifying glass. If we resent shows of narcissism and power-hunger, for example, we can separate the delusions out from the person and use this appearance to increase our own humility and contentment. We are then becoming part of the solution, not remaining part of the problem.
And virtuous minds can be even more powerful than delusions. Just look at the legacies of Gandhi, Mandela, Martin Luther King. Just look at what great holy beings have pulled off in all traditions. Just look at what Geshe Kelsang is pulling off as we speak – I have seen with my own eyes over the past 35 years how he has helped and is still helping hundreds of thousands of people every day. We need the confidence that as soon as we control our delusions and master ourselves we will straightaway be helping both ourselves and the people around us and indeed our whole world, both directly and indirectly. What an incredible, hopeful example we could be!
We need to change if we are to be lastingly happy. We can’t stay with self-grasping, self-cherishing, and negative actions and expect a good life. Living with delusions life after life has always been horrible, and as soon as we get rid of one problem there is always another waiting to take its place.
There is no point in judging others – it just leads to anger and pride upon pride, “I am so much better than him/her!” We can instead spend at least some of our discrimination focused not on the faults of others but judging our own faults, which will result in a peaceful mind intent on real liberation.
So my feeling is that we can campaign, canvass, sign all the petitions that drop into our inbox, attend demonstrations, call our representatives, stand up for fairness and tolerance – and all that can be well and good, probably we need this, to exercise our freedom of speech and uphold our democratic values as we each see fit. There are outer problems and inner problems, after all, which need fixing in different ways.
But the only march that will lead to actual freedom is the march against our delusions.
Over to you: comments are invited from Martians, Muslims, Buddhists, Republicans, Democrats, rich, poor, male, female, everyone.