This is only the first week of reading “The Center Within” and this was a great chapter. I loved how simple it all was to understand. I am a big believer that the middle path is something that should be so simple to understand that people think it’s anti-climatic. “Simple” should be an overstatement.
The first thing that was talked about was awareness, but I prefer to use the word “understanding”. Its the first part of the 8-fold path. Some say that its the most important one, because if we don’t understand things, we can’t move forward and learn from any of the others. We must become aware of what is happening around us. What are we feeling? Why? Is it connected to another feeling or event? Everything is interdependent, its just a matter of finding the connection. Some other crucial aspects of understanding include impermanence, acceptance, and appreciation.
Enlightenment cannot be understood conceptually, it must be understood experientially. When you try to conceptualize and intellectualize something, you lose it’s savor. Imagine the most powerfully emotional experience you’ve ever had. It could be a marriage, a birth of a child, a death, a divorce, anything. Now try to convey how you felt to someone else. They almost certainly will not understand how you felt, because you have taken what you have felt inside and have attached labels (words) that cannot accurately convey what the feelings mean. The same can be said about how enlightenment feels. It is something that cannot be accurately described. It must be felt.
I loved how Rev. Kubose talked about what a gassho means. Its still a pretty foreign concept, but I am starting to warm up to it after this explanation. Simply put, a gassho is an outward and physical expression of respect and equality. I also loved how he said that peace begins with gassho.
I grew up in a religion that had a very set path that was prescribed for everyone. Deviation from this path was highly frowned upon. However, after I left this religion, I learned that a “one size fits all” is a bad approach to life. We are all different. We have different strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, talents and incompetences, interests and disinterests. There is an infinite amount of combinations, and you are the result of one of the infinite combinations. Conforming the miracle that is you to a set path does yourself a disservice. You should live your life as how you want. Get tattoos, drink coffee, go sky diving, create art, love the people you love, and don’t regret a second of it. Life is a canvas, and you paint it with experiences. You as many colors that you like as you can.
“To go empty handed” is a concept that I’ve loved. I’ve heard many people who are new to Buddhism ask if it is appropriate to have goals in life. I tell them that it is very appropriate. Have relationship goals, career goals, financial goals, personal goals, as many goals as you can find! When you put forth effort into something you want to achieve, you better yourself as a person. However – if it doesn’t work out, don’t force it. If you always though wanted to be a police officer, but you would make a better graphic designer, don’t force yourself to be a police officer. Don’t be attached to things because “that’s the way they always have been” or “how they need to be”. Things change and life can take unexpected turns. Be like water and flow where life takes you.
- Life is a canvas, and you paint it with experiences. You as many colors that you like as you can.
- A gassho is an outward and physical expression of respect and equality.