The Middle Way
Zen Spot #64 — Mindfulness, meditation and what I don’t believe about the Buddhist path February 4, 2018 00:05
Against the grain
Like almost every aspect of my life, and since I was a child, I am a contrarian. My belief that, if a majority of people agree on something — anything — there must be a flaw in the trend, is a belief to which I am committed. Perhaps more precisely, I hold the belief that when science is not involved, humanity almost always reaches the wrong conclusion. The empirical is the exception. Global warming is a perfect example of a correct group belief.
When a person tells me they believe something simply because they believe it, I run for the hills. Religion in particular. Even Buddhism. I believe in The Four Noble Truths, The Eightfold Path, The Middle Way and how these three ideas translate to living a mindful life, but it basically ends there.
I’ve chosen to write this essay because I believe there is a small minority who believe as I do, but are concerned about voicing their opinion.
I am dirty. The world is dirty. My mind is dirty from a lifetime of exposure to messages of how I should be. It’s the kind of dirt that can never be completely clean. There is no starched white shirt of the mind. The idea of impermanence, in this case, is true in that, every day, I have to get up, go down to the river, beat my clothes against the rocks, bring them home to hang in the air, then iron them. The work must always be done.
I was hoping to do it once.
Most practitioners are not monks in temples. The world is loud. Silence, true silence, is something that happens in short bursts. Often a room or a space or a mat is dedicated to practicing meditation in almost complete silence. Practicing mindfulness is just one part of the Buddhist path. The need for right mindedness happens when someone cuts you off in seventy mile per hour traffic, or when a child is having a tantrum or when a dog is barking incessantly at night.
I fail every time.
Perhaps more than anything else on this list, I disdain dogma. Rigidity is the bastion of those who judge one’s path. It is binary. Life is not binary. It is judgment — plain and simple. There is no one way to pursue The Four Noble Truths, The Eightfold Path and The Middle Way. Understanding history, ritual and readings is important but, in my experience, they represent 10% of the equation, not 90%. Never ignore them and never rely on them.
The end result is the only thing that counts. Are you moving toward inner peace — no matter how slowly.
The more simple one’s life, the more one can more easily practice mindfulness. That said, simplifying one’s life is very hard, especially when one of life’s greatest gifts is involved — children. Children come before mindfulness and meditation most of the time. They shorten the time needed to practice but that doesn’t mean one is not progressing on the path if one can only practice infrequently.
Frequency, purity, silence and dogma are not the measure.
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What are The Four Noble Truths?
- The truth of suffering
- The truth of the origin of suffering
- The truth of the cessation of suffering
- The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering
What is The Noble Eightfold Path?
- Right view
- Right intention
- Right action
- Right speech
- Right livelihood
- Right effort
- Right mindfulness
- Right concentration
What is a Dharma Wheel?