37 Practices-Practice #9

The worldly pleasures we pursue in the course of our lives can vanish in an instant, like dew on the tip of a blade of grass. There is greater satisfaction and lasting bliss to be found in walking the spiritual path and awakening the Buddha within.

Lama Das’ Commentary:

It’s foolish to turn away from the path of awakening merely to fulfill our quest for pleasure. No matter how good something looks, feels, sounds, or tastes, this pleasure will last for little more than a hearbeat. Enlightenment, on the other hand, brings us freedom and bliss.

Self-Examination:

Am I too easily distracted by “cheap thrills” or am I able to keep my eye on the bigger picture?

Shihan Henderson’s Commentary:

In today’s world we are bombarded with stimuli from every corner trying to distract us into buying the next “cool” thing. We all have experienced the thrill of buying that “cool” thing only to be let down afterwards, our expectations outweighed the benefits of the purchase. But what about other purchases we make in our lives, purchases that are made in place of true spiritual growth. In the example above it is obvious. We purchase a new product, or worse, something that is outright detrimental to us, like: alcohol, drugs or pornography and we try to fulfill a void with them. These so called “pleasures” are deamons in disguise, not so much because they may be illegal or immoral but because they simply block us from progressing spiritually.

Now many people think that spiritual growth should be all warm and fussy, but that just isn’t how it usually happens. Usually we need to overcome something that presents itself in our life as a roadblock. Something that actually blocks our progression down the path. These roadblocks can be overpowering. Some are nusances of behaviour that we must change, while others are habits and addictions that we must overcome.

Often overcoming these bad habits and addictions means accepting the truth that we are not stronger than the force of gravity that pulls us into these behaviours. Once we are mature enough to accept the fact that we can’t do everything on our own, then the ground is set for spiritual growth. Overcoming any obsticle is a form of spiritual growth.

As mentioned, there are many types of obsticles, from the minor distractions of consumerism to the major distractions of the lure of drugs and addictions. How we overcome these distractions is determined on how we look at ourselves, the world we live in and the determination of our life goals or greater purpose. When we can feel deeply inside that we as individuals are better than the obsticles that present themselves we take the first step in putting those forces in their rightful places. The Buddha instructed us to follow the middle road and this means moderation. Overindugence and complete abstenance are not the answers as they build up a relianace, one in a positive way while the other in a negative way.

Having the realization that we are better than the negative habits we have, and understanding that these negative habits should not define who we are for eternity than we can look beyond them. We can start our spiritual journey. In some cases we will require the help of others, perhaps professionals dedicated to helping people in need, in other cases we can overcome behaviours through the discipline of our own will. One must realize that finding outside help is in no way a defeat. Think about a person or a family that perhaps is always in debt and simply can not see the ligth at the end of the tunnel. Something is wrong but they can’t seem to find the answers on their own and so each week, month and year is overshadowed by the omnious cloud of debt preventing them from living a spiritually fulfilled life. Constant financial worry prevents them from growing and can even tear the family apart for good. Reaching out for help in the form of debt restructuring and perhaps even declaring bankruptcy may at the time seem to be a defeat but at the same time may be the first step in being able to turn the corner to a better life. This change wouldn’t have happened if the person or family hadn’t decided not to do the same thing going forward, that is: ignore the fact that a serious problem existed and that healing steps were required.

Debt is the negative consequence of worldly pleasure the same as alcoholism and drug addition, but there are others: laziness, over indulgence in food and/or sex, the list goes on. Of course, no one is perfect and we all are guilty of overindulgence of one type or the other. What we need to do is simply recognize the negative effects that these overindulgences have on us and make a personal declaration to try our best to put them aside and to walk our spiritual path. Our Budo studies can help us with that.

Everyone can change. It is the underlying tenant in Budo studies. Everyone no matter what level they are at can gain a sense of understanding and self mastery through the study of Budo. But unfortunately the pleasures mentioned above, even though they are fleeting they are powerful and they work at knocking us off the road of self-mastery and thus off the spiritual road. So we must be ever diligent to identify when they are at work and when they are having an influence on us. We need to use our Budo training to help ourselves to stay away from these pleasures and reduce their temptation and wasteful effects on our lives. Budo can teach you to kick and punch and gain self mastery in the physical world. But it can also teach you to kick and punch in the psychological world and tame the negative impulses you might have so that you can continue on your spiritual journey. This is the true road of all Budo students and masters.

Budo Self-Examination:

Do any of your “pleasures” or over indulgences get in the way of your Budo studies. Do you find it impossible to get up on a Saturday or Sunday morning to attend your Budo studies because you were out late and were consuming too much food and alcohol? Do you find your attentiveness in class difficult to hold because you are over interested in members of your class of the opposite sex? Do you try to replace your Budo lessons and exercises with fast solutions that aim at teaching something similar in 10 easy lessons? Don’t be fooled by these things and see them for what they are: shallow and empty and unltimately “uncool”.