Clinging To The Pot
It's getting near noon. I'm going to be real hungry. Maybe I'll have a hamburger. No, wait, I haven't had pizza in a long, long time. Yeah, pizza with extra cheese and black olives! Or I could go to that Greek place next door and get some real olives, nice, salty, kalamata olives in a feta cheese salad--and some good garlicy hummus...Baklava, too, for dessert. Nice honey dripping baklava, sweet as rocky road ice cream. Ice Cream! Hey!.....
We chase chimeras like this in our head all the time and it leaves no space for us to even get acquainted with ourselves. Buddhist meditation has lofty goals, realization, complete enlightenment, and so on, but its starting point is just getting acquainted with yourself.
This is a long process, and, at every level of experience in meditation practice, there are revelations about the inner difficulties we make for ourselves by our cravings for things. Some very advanced practicioners spend years in completely isolated solitary retreat, living an extremely spartan and reduced lifestyle, and doing almost nothing but meditating.
Tibetans call such hermits “repas”, meaning cotton wearers, because they often wear only the equivalent of one double-wide percale bedsheet. One of the greatest of these, Milarepa, had a iron pot in which he cooked the nettles every day that were his only food while meditating in his cave. In time a thick green scum lined the pot's entire interior.
One day the pot got loose and went over the cliff, shattering on the rocks below. The iron burst into shards, but the green scum stayed intact, holding the outline of the pot. When Milarepa saw this, he realized that he had still been nourishing a hidden craving to keep his pot and, really, the pot was no more than the nettle scum, which no one would crave at all. By understanding this, his craving was broken, just like the pot, and he achieved a deeper level of meditative realization.
The cravings, gross or subtle, are always with you, even in the hermitage. They say the nettle relic still existed somewhere in Tibet before 1959, even though by then it was 800 years old.
If the Chinese haven’t destroyed it (they destroyed an immense amount, no matter how much they use the remnants now to attract Western tourists), the relic probably still exists, a monument to the ultimate worthlessness of any worldly craving.