We Worry About Things That Don’t Last


This short essay is for the wobbly spiritual seeker. The one who finds himself repeating again and again the same old mistake, namely, thinking the world of things, known as samsara, will ultimately pay a reward for his good efforts. It is, as the title suggests, for those who worry about things that don’t last.

Gamblers are, in my opinion, the model of worrying about things that don’t last. They rely on two types of reinforcement (that which strengthens a behavior), unpredictable and intermittent; both of these qualities increase the gamblers tendency to place another bet. There is a third factor that is part of the gambler’s matrix; a problem with impulse control. This third factor is an inability to restrain and resist an urge (desire). This factor represents a form of spiritual blindness. Impulsivity lacks a long view of the consequences in the face of an urge; instead of resisting the trigger, the gambler pulls it.

The gambler model is a characterization of the common man who is caught in the fires of worldliness. He is not to be thought of as other; in fact, he is best understood as us….those of us who worry over the things that don’t last….those of us who return again and again to the trough of the material world believing it will feed our hunger. For those of us who see the cycle, but pay no heed to reality, the hunger and thirst will continue. We play with fire again and again.

We, which I mean the unawakened, are bound by the lure of our unpredictable blinking hopes of finding lasting satisfaction in a broken world. The more times we fall prey to our hunger and thirst, the more our impulse control weakens. Repetition is, after all, a basis of mastery; making us masters of ignorance. We suffer in like manner with addicts of any ilk as epitomized by the familiar and hackneyed definition of insanity; doing the same thing over and over again hoping for a different result which is attributed to Narcotics Anonymous.

We fail to heed the proverb once bitten, twice shy. In many situations our drive to get what we want emboldens us to press on in the blinking, alternating lights for a fleeting payoff.

The trouble rests in our lack of discrimination; discrimination being the inability to see the real from the unreal. We are drunk with hope that we will indeed get blood from a stone and that our desires will once and for all be fulfilled in a broken world. Our inclination to stay drunk is compounded by the promises and propaganda of the world. We are inundated by such bilk.

We want the fruits of our actions in quick fashion. And if at first you don’t succeed —- try and try again. Instead of a sober stop, we wobble on. When we don’t succeed we are told to pick ourselves up and give it another go….a common and often misguided phrase of encouragement to remain attached to the broken world.

When we worry about things that don’t last, we are playing with fire. We need to stop. Examine our self. We need to be able to see that our yearning will never be fulfilled in the material realm. It is broken and operates on unpredicatable, intermittant reinforcement and turns us into gamblers of the worse kind.

Every day we live we have a chance to awaken. In order to awaken we need to be able to discriminate between the real and the unreal. Unfortunately, our eyes are covered with conditions that prevent us from seeing the real from the unreal. The conditions are the dust in our eyes and the dust must be wiped away.

We sober up and are humbled by the inevitable falling apart of all the things we hold dear. We begin to wipe away the dust from our eyes because we realize attachment to and desire for the things that don’t last is the cause of our suffering. This realization is wisdom.

We no longer place our bets on things that fall apart. It is simple cause and effect; don’t place your finger in the flames of the world. Non attachment is a requisite for the wobbly seeker. When we see the world through awakened eyes and we do not discriminate with worldly measures. We see what is real and eternal rather than seek a reward in the temporal. When we find the eternal we, the little self, vanishes and we are who we are.

There are rewards in the temporal, but they are temporary. When we know they are temporary we become guests and not the owners. Guests are not attached. They come, stay for awhile and leave. If they begin to grasp and cling to things, they become thieves. If they disrespect the things, they become incorrigible, unable to be corrected or reform. If they hang around too long, they begin to stink, decay and fall apart.

Our problems are anchored in the temporal things. Check this out for yourself. Look at what rattles you, what upsets you. It is most likely attached to some temporal reality of the body, the mind, the mental formations of work, power, wealth, relationships, things which get old, decay and fall apart. Learn the lesson of disappointment and turn your attention to the eternal, to that which lasts and offers eternal peace. Begin and continue in that direction. Remember we are all in a leaky boat that pushes off from the shore only to sink a few lengths out. Don’t waste time betting on gains from the material world. Take a good look at the disappointment that comes to awaken and heed the wisdom it gives.

Give up the gamble —- turn around —- look to the Source —- see through the glitz of getting gold dust —-gold is dust after all.

In plain words….Sober up!

by Fashi Lao Yue

Image Credit; Yao Xiang Shakya

The Zen Buddhist Order of Hsu Yun: Zen and The Martial Arts isn’t a blog. A problem that could use some Zen elucidation will get the needed attention. Contact us at yao.xiang.editor@gmail.com.

Remember, the Path’s two important rules: Begin and Continue.

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