It was something akin to being hit in the face by a hockey puck shot by Crosby, why do we make it so complicated? I’ve spent the last week for an hour or more a day conversing with Buddhist monks who have dedicated themselves to their religion, which to be clear is nothing at all like most religions filled with all the right vs wrong, condemning and all that other unneeded filler. Their duty is to help create peace on earth as one monk Chophel Gyatsho explained to me, it’s that simple.
Being one year his elder we were able to converse quite freely and productively about Buddhism, life, and the problems of the western world and the rest of the planet. As a monk he struggled with some of the same issues I do in that we are both fed up with the old way, we are ready to bring in the new way of doing things. He explained the need to bring the teachings of Buddha or any other teachings for that matter to the youth of the world that preach positivity and above all love and compassion toward all sentient beings.
Simple or easy are not words I’d use to describe finding your way in the western world and as I continued to converse with Chophel and give him numerous examples of our complexities he remained consistent in his answers to my questions. If you’re like me you’re trying to find your way, you’re trying to make some money to get some food, buy some crap, and just be happy. With the root problem of almost all scenarios being the acquisition, growth, and protection of money. Most may differ in this way from me being that I need less, I don’t really need expensive tv’s, fresh white nikes, or possessions of status and you shouldn’t either. However I do want some expensive objects, like a truck and a snowmobile to go play on so I’m probably no better. Buddhists say that “Desire is the root of all suffering”, so beyond the fun stuff what about food and water? We have to desire that to live.
Trying to find loopholes in a practice, philosophy, religion, or way of life that is so pure is very difficult. All questions were answered more than adequately despite his less than perfect English I learned It is ok to desire food and water, we need it to live, “it is our bodies fuel” Chophel said. It is when we take it one step further and forget to be grateful for what we have we step into the desire, which leads to suffering.
Buddhism holds the precept that all sentient beings on this earth are the very same because whether dog, man, ape, rabbit, cow, chicken, fly, ant, or anything else we don’t want to suffer. With animals for the most part suffering mostly relates to the body, being that no fly wants it’s wings ripped off nor cow to live a life of torture to eventual slaughter.
Humans however differ in the fact that we mostly suffer mentally, how many among us are free from self torture? How many among us dont’ feel alone at times if not more often than not, fear what others think, fear being different or being ridiculed? It is the product of social conditioning of the west we are ingrained with these deep unconscious problems that are so hard to shake.
Most people who take up the practice of buddhism or study the philosophy agree that it has a simple and effective answer to help relieve suffering. I want to emphasize “help relieve suffering” because life is suffering according to buddhism. Although it may sound negative it’s true so we must learn how to deal with it effectively. The simplest answer they provide comes in two parts and I will add onto the second. The first is realize we are not separate from one another, we are all connected, and with this realization make all your thoughts and actions focused on the good for all not just yourself. Begin thinking and making decisions based on the good of everyone and not just yourself.
The second part (of which there are many more) to helping relieve suffering is the path to an empty mind. This subject can be so deep it can easily fill a library wall to wall with bookss. I however love to simplify things until they cannot be simplified any further and here is my interpretation of how to achieve the above statement and allow it to have a positive impact on your existence. To acquire an empty mind or quiet mind is to know yourself, it is to begin looking within for answers, it is to not fear the future or dwell on the past. An empty mind is a present mind, it is here and now, not looking for what else but rather looking at “what is” and not allowing our minds to carry us off into any number of directions. It is to become aware of the true power of the present moment, the true power of yourself, and the power of the universe. You can learn to begin quieting your mind by the practice of meditation or simply reminding yourself to remain present throughout the day, possibly while eating or walking. Little by little you will become more present, focus your attention to the positive, focus on your thoughts and feelings and don’t let them take you places you don’t want to go, quiet your mind.
“Do not dwell on the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment”