– wait for the punch line (thanks to Jim Rajju Pandu)
Volume 13 issue 120 of the Santa Monica Daily Press begins with an article by David Mark Simpson about how kids learn. He quotes UCLA professor Dr. Megan Frank who states that after a year of kindergarten children are actually less able to solve problems than when they started the year. Children are natural problem solvers, we start life with an incredible capacity to learn and create. After having our innate sensibility sand-blasted and buried by mind numbing experiences it is up to each of us individually to dis-cover it again. Maybe this is not so different than the life cycle of a butterfly. It can’t be easy to change from caterpillar to pupa to the supreme harmony that is a butterfly. It isn’t easy to grow in any life.
Look at the unusual case solved by physicians because they watched the TV show ‘House.’ We learn through entertainment, games, storytelling. People have been telling stories and making up games to play for millennia, even millions of years. This is how a mystic learns and teaches, without force, without a pedestal or an agenda but with free inquiry. Follow your bliss, allow happiness to be the guide, stop chasing the butterfly and it comes to sit on your shoulder. Developing intuition, gentle persistence and sustained application in meditation and off the cushion is the key to teaching or leading self and others along the way.
So many people in so many different walks of life, not just Buddhists, tout submitting to discipline and ritual as necessary for the eradication of self that quells attachment to desires. The trouble with this is that the number one function of body - mind is to survive and it will sacrifice curiosity, compassion, and generosity and choose denial over discernment in order to survive. When these get burnt or buried the loss is bitter and the reaction toxic. This is why we must be ever so gentle, mindful of the playful inquisitive and happy nature of original mind. When we sit down to meditate the first thing to do after assuring that the body is not going to distract us it to let the kids out to play. That means that just like kids spilling out onto a playground at recess the mind must allow thoughts to roam free, with minimal supervision. The Buddha found the way to enlightenment, entering the Jhannas as a child sitting at ease under the mayapple tree while waiting and watching as his father did what he did. We recreate the essence of the circumstances in our own way when we walk the true path. This purifies the emotions, straining out the three poisons (anger, greed, delusion.) This approach to meditation should follow us off the cushion and into daily life 24/7. Kindness must begin with ourselves or we will never see how unkindness to ourselves spills out onto others. This is the Ripple Effect, a quantum field phenomena, provable in physics as we know it today. It can be verified but not quantified because we have no way of measuring what is effected, our body mind is too limited to be aware of what is around us unless we become enlightened and then perhaps…However we can accept that coming from the roots of happiness (generosity, compassion and discernment) the outcome will be beneficial.
So that is the way of the Mystic. It is organic and all natural, pleasant and delightful. Conflict can arise if we fail to follow the middle way and get attached to rites and regulation. The Buddha taught about the many Hindrances that obscure the path of practice and the remedies to address each one so we are not on our own figuring these out. For the Mystic knowledge is a minefield and the sweeper is discernment developed in meditation. This is from the Buddha Dhamma, it is not new, not untested, nevertheless the Buddha also taught us to question and try the recommendations for ourselves to find out what is right for us at this moment, in this place and time, for ourselves not others. We cannot find another’s path or techniques and must rely on the understanding that each of us has Buddha nature and will grow best independently interdependent.
The present day model of residing in monastic communities year round is less conducive to the Mystic path of practice. In the Buddha’s lifetime, and we presume for long afterward, the ordained Sangha dispersed across the countryside for most of the year. Reconvening when the weather was bad to avoid causing difficulty for the lay Sangha and themselves. This is a practical approach to the practice. Control and responsibility is centered in the individual. Hierarchy and leadership developed from humility and accountability, which has not always been respected by since then. Corruption is part of the human condition or how else could we aspire to nobility?
This method of learning through trying different approaches, seeing what doesn’t work and applying what actually works or satisfies one person at one moment in one place, is being rediscovered today by science as so many other aspects of the Buddha Dhamma are. The key to achievement is flexibility, being willing to change with the variables. Sometimes this means setting aside what was once accepted and effective for some at a different time and location and sometimes this means resuming practices that worked well in different times or locations. Always we are guided by the basic principles that form the foundation for practice, the Four Noble Truths.
Now for the punch line: three guys are building a bridge, they are halfway across the span and sit down together for lunch. The first pulls out a baloney sandwich and says “I am so sick of baloney, if I have baloney in my lunchbox again tomorrow I am going to jump off this bridge.” The second one pulls out a baloney sandwich too and says, “Me too, if I get this again tomorrow I am jumping off too.” The third one pulls out the same thing and agrees it would be the last straw for him too. The next day when the lunch whistle blows, the three sit down together at the center of the bridge, dangling their feet over the water below. The first guy pulls out a sub sandwich and says, “Now that’s more like it!” and starts to eat. The second guy pulls out a cheeseburger and says, “Oh yeah, my favorite!” The third guy pulls out a baloney sandwich, looks at it miserably and jumps off the bridge. The other two look at each other and one says, “ I feel sorry for him.” The other one nods and says “I really feel sorry for him, he packs his own lunch you know.”
That’s how it is for all of us, we pack our own lunch.