Lesson 3 – Part B
The Realization of Suffering is the Beginning of Wisdom
“…you can’t ever use a gift unless there is an atmosphere of confidence.”
Sr. W. Beckett
A Teaching of Adharma and Dharma
Two leaders, about to lead legions of men into war, a war where every man will be killed, are visited by a Divine messenger. The messenger goes to the first leader – to see if he can teach this leader the Way. When approached, the first leader tells the Divine messenger, ‘I know what is right from wrong, I don’t need to be taught what is right and wrong. I know what my problem is – I don’t want to do what is right. I know what I am doing is wrong, but I can’t stop myself. I cannot control myself. I don’t want to.’
This leader, let’s call him the Miscreant suffers from wanting whatever he wants. In other terms, he is a man, a human being, living at the instinct, material level of existence. There is little to no restraint.
Then, the Divine messenger goes to the other leader, let’s call this leader the Courageous. At first, the Courageous says the same thing as the Miscreant. He knows right from wrong, but there is a big difference between the Courageous and the Miscreant. The Miscreant, cries that he can’t help himself – the passions rule and he is unable to stop himself. AND he chooses not to stop them. He wants to continue on as he is. But…the Courageous confesses his situation – ‘this is what I do,’ followed by a question, ‘how can I stop?’ and then a plea. ‘Help me to change.’ Underlying the Courageous choice is humility – that virtue of a warrior horse; the meek, disciplined being who is willing to be trained in order to face the battles of the world.
The Miscreant confesses ‘this is who I am,’ but he identifies with the passions – frozen and stuck in this concocted identify he chooses the world of passions. He hides. Does not want to stop. Does not ask for help. Unable to ask a question or make a plea for help he stays entangled in the temporal things; satisfied in his concocted self.
The Courageous chooses to ask for help from the messenger of God – the Miscreant does not. The Courageous wants to STOP the passions from running the show – he prizes something more than the worldly passions- seeks help.
Most of us face such a spiritual crisis – we hear the Dharma and face a choice between the Divine message or the worldly one. The world is powerful and pulls on the mind all the time, even if we do not know it. Moment by moment we choose between the Divine message and the world. And for many of us, we feel caught up in the flow of not being able to stop ourselves from doing what is wrong. We see the world as all there is – material, concrete and a place to go after the things of the world. But – there are those of us who are more like the Courageous – we see where we are and recognize we are stuck and need assistance. Spiritual help.
The power of choice is given to all of us. We are making a choice in every moment. We, too, have the power to choose NOT to give way to the passions of the mind and body – pleasure, fame, gain, praise, notoriety and so forth. But we, like the Courageous, need to recognize where we are, confess our resistance and seek help. To ask what must we do? To ask in all sincerity – what must we do?
Imagine confidence (faith) in this truth as a spiritual gift – an atmosphere where we confidently stand upon it as a spiritual principle worth trusting. We choose to stand and remain standing in confidence on the gift that everything is a moment of choice between ignorance and awakening. We practice to meet with gratitude, moment by moment another chance to practice the Divine message. And when we wander off – we make it difficult for ourselves and others, but we can stop, turn around and choose to return to the path.
It requires hearing, listening and knowing the teachings. Once we know the teachings, we are able to choose to renounce self-interest, to choose to let go of the obstacles in the Way and to meet what comes as a gift to do the work of a spiritual adept.
All of us face this challenge – of being taken captive by the passions – from anger and greed, to stinginess and vanity and the many iterations the passions take. Without confidence (faith) we cannot use the gifts of the moment, without confidence and awareness we risk getting entangled in the world.
The Cloud of Unknowing makes it clear and simple. How will you follow the Divine message offered? The answer is choice – choose to get free of the ignorance of the concocted self – and…
“Do not get entangled in things that are temporal and created. Let created things be.
Fix your mind and feelings on things above.” (The Divine messenger)
How do you do that?
Study the self – the self that is an entangler extraordinaire – the one that wants what it wants when it wants it – the self that is undisciplined, reckless and unable to control the desire of the passions (sense doors). The one that believes that the grass is greener in the temporal world is a troublemaker who pulls us, time and again, into the worldly affairs as the place of salvation, when in reality it may be pleasurable, but it is the way of the Miscreant.
Remember, in order to do the work, we realize suffering as the beginning of wisdom, we pay attention to what comes into our life, meet it with attention and awareness and respond to it with the power of choice. The choice between following the entangler’s message of self-interest (what’s in it for me) and the Divine messenger (don’t get entangled in the temporal things).
Most of us need help to do this – teachings and practice – it’s a choice to seek help – a choice of confidence in the teachings (which are many) a choice to practice with everything that comes into our life as a Divine message. We are given this choice over and over until we take out last breath.
May all beings realize the emptiness of the three wheels, giver, receiver and gift.
Author: FaShi Lao Yue
Image credits: Fly, 2019
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