Have you noticed that Theistic religions often end up in fragmentation? A few hundred years on from their starting point there are lots of groups and schools of thought all claiming to worship the same god. When you point out to someone that their god is the same someone else’s with whom they disagree, they don’t want to know. They want god to be the way they see him. They want their view of god with the good bits they like, not the parts that others emphasise. And so they split off and keep separate and they think their path is a better path, a truer way.
Spiritual teachings and teachers can be like this too. A genuine teacher won’t sugar coat or avoid difficult issues just because their listeners might find it unpalatable. Those who want to be popular like to make out that you can have your practice your way; you don’t need to compromise or give anything up and of course people like to hear this. Attachments are called attachments for a reason. We don’t want any hardship, any real challenge. We want to add spiritual practice to our lives, we don’t want to have to give anything up for it and certainly not anything we really like.
Well if you feel like this, like you want Truth but you want it your way, like a fast food commercial, then take comfort from the fact that you’re in the majority. There are millions just like you. But that’s the only comfort on offer I’m afraid. It should be fairly clear, even to a cursory assessment that truth won’t bend or break. It can’t be distorted or deformed to suit this person or that person. It’s not a personal thing so it can’t be fitted conveniently into a lifestyle. So now that’s unpopular and it isn’t surprising at all that most people don’t want to hear it. They’d rather go from one teacher to another cherry picking the nice bits that agree with their preferences and ignoring or avoiding the bits they don’t like the sound of.
Practice is more than just an armchair inquiry into what’s real and what is not. It’s not that that’s a bad starting point but it has to become more than that if it’s to lead anywhere. We’re talking about seeing fully and clearly the nature of this human experience in the knowledge that seeing this will lead to us letting go of our attachments.
We will have to investigate and spend time looking at the unpleasant aspects of this experience, our anger, our lust, our desires, our greed. You’ll have to realise and accept that you have a limited time to see these things, to see your fear of losing them. This can all, start to sound a bit negative but are you really going to be 100% positive? Don’t you realise that balance comes from the middle way between these two?
To see this we have to support our practice by keeping things simple and clear. Stop whatever will cloud your clarity. Alcohol and ‘recreational’ drugs are hindrances you don’t need. Spending hours in needless distraction on social media or gaming is not necessarily time well spent. If you know this, if you see it, then act on it. Act on it now, not in some imagined future time.
This isn’t always going to be easy, you have to give things up that don’t support your practice and cultivate the things that do. That won’t accord with your preferences. But if you always accord with your preferences where will that lead you? It’s a childish way of thinking. A child doesn’t want healthy food, they want sweets. They don’t want exercise they want to lay about and please themselves. They don’t want to go to school or learn things, they think they’re fine as they are. Our bodies grow but so many of us don’t fully shake off these childish habits. There’s always tomorrow to start because the conditions aren’t quite right now. The conditions may never be right but if we see what has to be done then do it. If you don’t, if it’s too much trouble, if you’re just too attached to this life of socialising with alcohol, watching the TV, playing on your computer, shopping and a million other things then fine. You have a free choice. But be under no illusion where this choice will lead you. And it won’t be to Truth. Unpopular message ends.