Tuesday, October 4th
- Martin Goodson

"U - Turn If You Want To..."

Forthcoming events for w/c 3rd October 2022

Black shoes standing on asphalt



The UK Government's U-turn on the central tax policy of its recent mini-budget was a reminder to me of the difficulty that we can have of knowing when to keep pushing at something and when to stop, particularly when outcomes are uncertain.

I recall many years ago hearing the mother of a teenage boy who said he was unhappy at school and wanted to move, but she was ambivalent about it. For her, she did not want her boy to be unhappy but on the other hand she was worried that she might be allowing him to avoid something that he could learn to overcome and thus mature, if he stayed and faced his problem?

This happened as part of a group therapy session and the amount of opprobrium she got for not immediately taking her boy out of school shocked me at the time and still does to this day.

I had no doubt of her sincerity for the wellbeing of her son and could see the very real dilemma for her in wanting to balance two ideas when the outcome was uncertain.

You don't have to be a Buddhist to know that a powerful idea can blind us. When we hear of highly educated people being sucked into a cult or being conned out of money we might wonder how it is possible? But education is no substitute for wisdom. When I use the word 'wisdom' I mean it in the specific context of being able to see clearly.

The Sanskrit work for delusion or ignorance is avidya. This has the same root as the Latin videre - to see; and means the same thing. The 'a' negates the term and so the connotation is not being able to see things clearly - the image for this term on the outer rim of The Wheel of Life is a blind man, which makes the same point symbolically. In other words we are all blind at one time or another.

In Buddhistic terms the attachment to 'I' skews our seeing because of the emotional underpinning of the attachment.

When a passion flares, consciousness becomes narrowed and this curtails what can be seen by a person taken over by a 'fire'. When 'I' am angry I become fixated on the object of 'my' anger. The same is true when anxious or desirous, nothing else seems to matter and my thoughts keep returning to the object of desire again and again. This fixity is caused by the attachment to the 'I' who desires, who is angry or worried, the thoughts that repeat ' I can't' or 'I won't' or 'I must have' is the karmic activity that keeps the whole complex going and charged up. When it does run out of steam the pattern is laid down in the store consciousness (alaya) and is resurrected when the conditions are right in the future.

Letting go of this 'I' is the same as repentance, an unpopular term these days in our constant desire to be affirmed in all things. There is a koan that goes: "Boil a hammer at the top of the temple pole". It refers to a time when a mistake is made, how to respond? If there is a self that is sensitive over its status then 'I' may just double down on the mistake convinced that I will win in the end. Sometimes, though I may not know if it is a mistake or not, but being worried by 'doing the wrong thing (and how it might reflect on me), let-go too early and thus an opportunity is lost. Either way, in both these examples the problem is created because 'I' am front and centre. It is about how it affects 'me'. Hence why in Buddhist practice letting-go of the delusion of 'I' is key.

To see clearly, then, is to be free from the delusion of 'I'. What is the medicine for this? Our daily life practice of giving myself away into what at this moment is being done anyway. Saying 'Yes' to the needs of the situation that includes, though not exclusively, one's own needs too. This is right relationship.

Once, I heard Master Daiyu tell someone who was facing a problem at work with another person; to excuse himself and go and bow nine times in a private place and then return and look once more at the problem. However, she said, in those bows you must lay 'I' down fully so as to see the situation clearly. She promised him that if he could do this then the answer would come from the situation itself and not from him. At another time, she told someone who wanted to know what she should do in a particular circumstance to ask not what 'she' wanted but what did the situation want? This person told me that shift of perspective helped her widen things out and the answer came swiftly.


Forthcoming Events

We are back this week to our regular Thursday evening live-streamed Zazen meditation at 1900hrs BST. You will find the link on the meditation page.

Next Monday we will have our follow-up tutorial on form practice, which will be the first of our regular Q&A sessions for people who want to discuss experiences and difficulties with their daily life practice or Zazen practice, so come along with your questions and look forward to seeing you there. There will be a short presentation to get things going but this is for Dharma Centre members to join an and 'own the space' as they say. Monday 10th October 2022 at 1900hrs BST.

The Zoom link will be posted in the Telegram page, so sign up to our chat room if you haven't already.