Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Who Ordered this Truckload of Dung?

I was just listening to a talk by one of my favorite Buddhist teachers, Ajahn Brahm.  Ajahn Brahm is a UK-born monk of the Thai Forest tradition who lives in a monastery near Perth, Australia. 

During the talk, Ajahn Brahm told his well-known parable about the truck of dung arriving at your door. I cried when I listened to the story, it resonated with me so strongly. So, I thought I'd transcribe it for you all. Enjoy!

(Warning: there are a few swear words in the story...)

Who ordered this truck-load of dung?

Life is like this.  You’re sitting in your monastery, or you’re sitting at home or in your office, and then someone delivers you a whole truckload of shit.  It’s right in front of your house or office. 

There are two things about this delivery of shit in your life.  The most important thing is, you did not order it.  Life is like that.  ‘Why me?’ you say. You didn’t deserve it, this thing just happened to you.  You didn’t order it and you’re not responsible for it.  

But, the second thing is that no-one saw it coming so you can’t ring up someone and get them to take it away.  You’re stuck with it.  So the first thing is that these things can happen and no-ones to blame.  And the second thing is that you’re stuck with it. 

But, there’s something you can do with the dung. You can find the nearest garden, and dig it in.  It takes a lot of hard work to dig in the suffering, the disappointments, the diseases, the tragedies of life. But you’ve got no choice.  

Actually you have got a choice, because what many people do with the dung of their life is to put it in their pockets.  They put it in their handbag, they shove it up their shirt; they carry it around with them.  You lose a lot of friends if you carry around shit. So, you should dig it in your garden. It’s hard work – maybe you only do half a bucket or one bucket a day, but you dig it in. 

And after a while, we call it the miracle, the miracle of Dhamma (of truth).  The miracle is that after a while the dung has disappeared and in its place you have the most magnificent garden.  It’s the garden of wisdom, of courage, of compassion. Not just the kindness and compassion you get from books – but the kindness and compassion you get by embracing, understanding and digging in your problems.  

This is the garden of the heart. 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A place with no preferences

 Tricycle Magazine is a Buddhist magazine with an excellent, interactive website.  In their book club section they are currently hosting a discussion of Toni Bernhard's book 'How to be Sick'.  Pop on over to read excerpts from Toni's book and participate in a very interesting discussion with her.

Yesterday Toni asked, 'Do others think it's possible to come to a place where it's "okay" to be sick -- where we would have "no preferences" (to quote the third Zen patriarch) as to whether we were sick or healthy?'

An interesting question! 

I'm not sure about whether I could come to a place where it's OK to be sick (or, to be more specific, a place with no preferences). I think it's possible, but it's not what I've experienced yet.

What I'm investigating at the moment is whether I can come to a place where I don't have a preference about whether I feel it's OK or not OK to be sick.

Here's what I'm exploring...

If I have a day when I feel miserable, bitter, and very ungrateful about being sick...should I feel a preference that this day not be that way? Should I feel a preference that I feel at ease and peaceful being sick? Or should I have no preferences ?

For me, this exploration is very rich. I'm suddenly allowing all these really difficult feelings to flow through my body - boredom, frustration, anxiety about the future, terror, emptiness, and despair. I know this all sounds really miserable, and not like 'good news' at all, but I have this strong feeling that allowing these feelings to flow is really my path.

At the moment I'm feelings in the depths of despair becuase I am just sitting in the 'soup of my suffering' and experiencing a great helplessness. I'm experiencing what it's like to stop the fight and just allow whatever is happening to happen. This is why I haven't posted on this blog for a while, because I've been feeling an almost crushing sense of despair and depression.

Whilst this feels terrible at the moment somewhere deep inside I know that I just have to keep going. Although my mind tells me that acceptance will lead to an eternal, never-ending despair, I have read enough Buddhist books to have at least an intellectual understanding that I really just have to keep going.

So today, I think my practice will be to lie in bed and not have a preference that I feel one way over another way.

Metta to all on this very difficult journey (called life).

Gili Air - a tiny island just off the coast of Lombok.

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