A Straight Shot of Politics

A blog from a gentleman of the Liberal political persuasion dedicated to right reason, clear thinking, cogent argument, and the public good.

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Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

I have returned from darkness and quiet. I used to style myself as "Joe Claus", Santa Claus’ younger brother because that is what I still look like. I wrote my heart out about liberal politics until June of 2006, when all that could be said had been said. I wrote until I could write no more and I wrote what I best liked to read when I was young and hopeful: the short familiar essays in Engish and American periodicals of 50 to 100 years ago. The archetype of them were those of G.K. Chesterton, written in newspapers and gathered into numerous small books. I am ready to write them again. I am ready to write about life as seen by the impoverished, by the mentally ill, by the thirty years and more of American Buddhist converts, and by the sharp eyed people [so few now in number] with the watcher's disease, the people who watch and watch and watch. I am all of these.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Clinging To The Pot

One of our major spiritual problems is that we want so much. There is a constant chatter of undefined desire going through our heads almost all the time:

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.

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