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Advice from Shantideva

February 24th, 2005 Leave a comment Go to comments

“When you want to move or want to talk, first examine your mind. And then, with firmness, act in the proper way. When you feel desire or hatred in your mind do not act or speak but remain like a log.”

It’s ten days since I have posted to freedomforall.net and in some part that is because I have the above quote from Shantideva pinned under the screen of my computer. The quote reminds me to “keep it simple stupid” and this has lead to a questioning of the purpose of this site. freedomforall.net is an enquiry into personal and social freedom from habit and history and ignorance and desire. It is about our times and not about them. It is about truth.

Yesterday I spent part of the day with an old friend whose problems are in many ways worse than mine. He suffers HIV and a terrible addictive streak which has left him almost unable to control his life. We went out to buy some things and found ourselves in a shopping estate off the motorway. My friend spent money on bits of computer equipment he doesn’t need because the money in his pocket is more dangerous to him than anything. “Someone told me the quickest way to healing is to ask myself ‘am I being honest with myself?’”, he said.

That’s a question I have been asking about this project freedomforall.net. Am I being honest with myself? I think this is the greatest question we can ask for only if we are honest with ourselves can we be honest and real with others. Sometimes it seems we live in a society that has as it’s bedrock self-dishonesty. We see politicians brazenly lying, fudging and smudging the truth. We hear our parents lie to us about why we have to go to bed, the existence of Santa Clause and much else given in the name of childrearing.

The honest question I try to ask myself is how can I add to peace in the world. So far the only honest answer I can offer is that I must find peace in myself. Like most people, even most Buddhists, I am highly fragmented and able to lie to myself comprehensively. Shantideva’s attitude of immovability and My friend’s attitude of aiming for self-honesty combine very nicely into a meditative pact with self which I think can be greatly helpful in this endeavour.

In the name of honesty I have to admit the other reason I haven’t posted for a while is that my mind has been elsewhere. Actually it’s been quite a long way away, in New York, to be precise. Indulging itself in daydreams and hopes and desires, all centred around a certain New York Weblogger whose attitude, intelligence and photo conspired to lead me off into Samsara once again. I just wish it wasn’t all such fun, although in any case, relationships do not necessarily have to be ruled out and nor are they essentially samsaric.

It is the sense that one is going to be saved, have one’s life put right or made complete by the establishment of a new relationship that is the big lie in this arena. This leads to cathecting of the “love” object with those highs generated by daydreaming. This is the feeling most people have when they enter a room where the love object is present: contact with the person upon whom such grandiose fantasy has been projected leads to an uprush of endorphins and a resultant feeling good. “Oooh it must be love”. No stupid, it’s just more habits.

Love is the work you do to go beyond yourself in serving others. With this one I am entirely with M. Scott Peck. Love is work. Love is remaining like a log when you feel desire or hatred. The only problem with this as a working definintion of love is that you have to totally let go of self to attain it. I think that’s why Nirvana is better translated as “extinguishing” than “enlightement”: extinguish self and there is only love. Unless and until that is the root of action, you are stuck in the wheel.

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