Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Jewel in the Garbage

We went shopping yesterday. I had to pick up a prescription and there were a few items we needed. One of the items was a backup camera for the truck, because twisting in my seat to see behind when I back up is playing fits with my crooked spine.

Unfortunately there were no backup cameras to be found. As I turned from the counter at the last store, after being told they would not have any more backup cameras delivered until late March I was tempted to complain, but I thought of a quote I'd recently posted, "Not wanting something is as good as possessing it." - Donald Horban

I looked across at the vast selection of merchandise in this enormous store and thought, "There's nothing here that I even want! That's as good as having everything in the store!

So we have everything. Some people are dubious that a 240 sq ft house could possibly contain all the needs, let alone the wants of two people and a large cat. But I need to go through and purge. We have so much unnecessary stuff that it's appalling. We can't find things when we need them.

Leo points out on mnmlist that finding a particular book in an unorganized library can be difficult, but when you have five books it's no longer a problem.

It's weird, when I meditate I feel an urge to simplify, to purge the flotsam and jetsam from my life. I've been meditating a good deal in the past week. I find the news out of Haiti acutely painful, but I can cope with painful.

What I find hard to cope with (and thus the need for vigor in meditation) is my own anger at remarks made by people like Pat Robertson, Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh, who, in turn, blamed the people of Haiti for the earthquake, advised Americans not to donate to relief efforts and said that President Obama is exploiting the crisis merely to seek favoritism among Blacks. No, actually my anger is directed at them, for their arrogance and their contempt for the agony of other human beings.

But the Buddhist is taught that the difficult is the best teacher, and so I should bow in gratitude to these three men who have provoked my outrage, and shown me so clearly that we - they and I - suffer from the same kleshas. (If that's not motivation to practice then I cannot be motivated!)

The kleshas are also called the five poisons and are:

  1. Passion (desire, greed, lust, etc.)
  2. Aggression (anger, hatred, resentment etc.)
  3. Ignorance (bewilderment, confusion, apathy etc.)
  4. Pride (wounded pride, low-self esteem etc.)
  5. Jealousy (envy, paranoia etc.)

Buddhism teaches that the kleshas can be pacified. They can never be completely eliminated, but if you can learn to recognize them in your own thinking, and realize how they poison your life and make you unhappy, you can train yourself to reject them until they lose their power over you.

The response of the enlightened mind toward the three commentators would be one of compassionate sorrow. They create their own hells of negativity. They are held prisoner by their own kleshas, as I am held prisoner by mine.

Buddhist teachers often tell of a beggar who finds a priceless jewel in garbage dumped by the road. I never quite understood that until now, but the pile of garbage represents the foul poisons of the mind, the self-righteousness, the anger, pride, jealousy and paranoia we create (and dump on others); then we find the priceless jewel of humility and compassion, right in the middle of our own garbage.

There's no denying the garbage, but the jewel allows us to see that everyone has the same jewel buried in their garbage. Instead of feeling angry and self-righteous when others spew garbage, we can fervently pray that they wake up, discover their own jewel and find happiness through compassion.

There's the intent to be compassionate, and then there's compassion in action. I love this example of compassion in action. As of today the folks at Shelterbox have distributed 3300 Shelter boxes in Haiti. Each has a tent which shelters ten people, beds, blankets, cooking utensils, dishes, a stove, equipment for purifying water, mosquito nets, and tools. In short the basic necessities of life for 10 people for six months. Wonderful!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We at this house are finding that with keeping a photo gallery with one photo to represent each day has taught us to look at the world around us more deeply. Each day it is just one photo. It makes us look more carefully at the definition of what makes a photo worth keeping.

Purging those shots that didn't work leaves us free of data clutter.