You know whats hard about being a Buddhist? Having to look at yourself with the same clarity that we usually reserve for the rest of the world. After all, its super easy to see how everyone else in the world is fucked up, shit it seems like 90% of the conversations I hear or find myself in somehow involve this very topic. For better or worse (though i know its really better) once you start to sit and try to be awake to reality you see your own part in all the things that you despise about everyone else!
I was just on my favorite bulletin board (www.tattoodles.com if you must know ) and in thread after thread there is crap posted that drives me up a wall. Intolerance, judgemental-ism, political partisanship, generalization, misinformation, elitism, class-ism, etc. etc. etc. and it occasionally drives me to distraction. Fortuneately when i start to get indignant that part of my brain that has been trained to look at the world without bullshit pipes up with “you’re doing the same thing right now, jason” and its like that big old bag of hot air and anger gets popped.
I used to be the Conan of internet arguing, now im (aspiring to be) the Gandhi I suppose. Shit.
Part of it is that I dont want folks to be suffering, and watching people pile delusion after delusion on themselves makes me wince. Why drive yourself nuts over something that, really, means nothing. Why post the website of some awful shitty tattoo shop that is 300 miles away from you? Yes their work is atrocious, but you dont have to deal with it at all except to make yourself feel superior. Still, who am i to say? Here I am judging people because they are judgemental! The ego driven mind is slippery and it will come at you from any underhanded path to make you pay attention to it.
One thing I have noticed is that a good friend of mine who usually meditates a lot has let up. At the same time he has gotten more and more angry about the world, more prone to making generalizations, and rationalising his bias. it really hurts because Id like to tell him how i feel but its really, (really really really) not my place to do that. I love this person like a brother and I hate to see him suffering, but if my life has taught me anything its that I cannot fix anyone. . . and that its hugely egotistical to assume that anyone needs to be fixed!
All I can do is take refuge in the lesson that the Buddha taught. Namely, if you want to make the world better you can only do that by starting with yourself. Its hard! it seems so much easier to fix what is outside than what is inside. When i take a good look, though, i realise that the ONLY thing I have the power to alter for the better is my life.
When Zen hit China the earliest monk dudes used to write and lecture over and over again, “turn the light of awareness around”, back at ourselves. Where it belongs. The Flaming Lips framed it another way with the title of their song “Egotripping at the gates of Hell” (from the amazing album ‘Yoshimi battles the Pink Robots’) According to Buddhism heaven or hell aren’t places you go, they are places you are. When I dont meditate regularly, when i forget the precepts, when i let my ego trip run my world its not long before i find myself in hell, a real suffering burning hell. I suppose if you wallow in hell long enough it starts to feel like home, but I’m spoiled, I’ve had a taste of being heaven. I cant go back to enjoying my time in hell, so i have to keep doing the not so fun (but ultimately really fun) work of making heaven right here and now.