Wednesday, August 13, 2008

If Buddha had a Scoot

Fatherhood has put a serious dent in my blogging, but not in my thinking, the B.S. -ing philosophizing part of my brain has gone into overdrive, I just have little time to record it.

Recently though I received the following email from Booboo Tannenbaum, and I thought I should share it. I'll comment on it in more depth in a later post.

Dear Honky-Tonk Dragon--

I bounced onto your website the other day while doing a search on a
winter Dianese jacket that my husband is crazy about, but obviously
can't afford ($1200?! zoinks!). But right away I fell in love with
your blog.

I also really like the song for your new daughter, Zoe, that Mark
Hinkley sang at your baby shower from your most recent post. Thanks a
bunch for sharing it, and congratulations on this transformative and
joyous new stage of your life.

While reading through the recent entries, you had one in May about
Buddha being a Dead-beat Dad. I read it about a week ago, and it's
been kicking around in my head for the last few days especially. I
know you weren't attacking Buddha, Buddhism, or religion in the post
itself--in fact, I quite agree with you completely that our families
are especially ripe circumstances for us to recognize and work with
the challenges of our egos, or our self-centered thinking. And I hope
you don't think it's presumptuous of me to write you about this
(especially if you're not interested in further conversation about
it), but the Buddha's teaching are all about the middle way, or the
"Middle Path".

Buddhism doesn't advocate withdrawal from the world, but recognition
that the world does not exist as we think it does. The Buddha's
teachings are very staunch in advocating the dangers of extremes--even
his years of ascetecism, before his enlightenment, are examples of how
dangerous and damaging living in circumstances of extremity or
polarity (whether physical, emotional, or intellectual) can be. In
this way, most Buddhists would say that the path of the Buddha, the
middle way, is about being *in* the world, but not *of* the world.
It's like when you're out in your scooter in bad traffic--it sucks,
and you could let that ruin your day (be *of* the world), or you could
let go of the busy traffic, the heat, the stagnant air. What can you
really do about it but control the way you think about and respond to
the experience? You could be mad and angry, but who suffers for
that--just you and your ride, and anything else in your day or your
life that you let that anger infect. (The Buddha said that being
angry is like holding hot coals with the intention of throwing them:
the only one who is hurt is yourself).

So, in regard to the Buddha and his family, I wanted to send along a
short but (I feel) edifying from a text that discusses the Buddha's
spiritual path and responsibilities as it relates to his family, wife,
and child:


The Buddha experienced his worldly life as a prince, husband and a
father before his renunciation and he knew what married life entailed.
Some non-Buddhists say that Prince Siddhartha was selfish and cruel
and that it was not fair for him to desert his wife and child. In
actual fact, Prince Siddhartha did not desert his family without a
sense of responsibility.

He never had any misunderstanding with his wife. He had same love and
attachment towards his wife and child as any normal person would have,
perhaps, even greater.

The difference was that his love was not mere physical and selfish
love. He had the courage and understanding to detach that emotional
and selfish love for a good cause. His sacrifice is considered the
more noble, because he set aside his personal needs and desires in
order to serve all of mankind for all time.

The main aim of his renunciation was not only for his own happiness,
peace or salvation, but for the sake of mankind. Had he remained in
the royal household, his service would have been confined to only his
family or his kingdom and that is why he decided to renounce
everything in order to gain enlightenment and then to enlighten others
who were suffering in ignorance.

Thus one of Buddha's earliest tasks after gaining Enlightenment was to
return to his palace to enlighten the members of his family, including
his wife and son. Buddha served his family and paved the way for their
salvation, peace and happiness . Therefore, no one can say that Buddha
was a cruel or selfish man. With his high degree of spiritual
development, the Buddha knew that marriage was a temporary phase,
while Enlightenment was eternal and for the good of all mankind.

The Buddha knew that his wife and son would not starve in his absence
and that other members of his family would willingly look after his
dependants. When He gained Enlightenment, he was able to give his
family something no other man could have given, namely the freedom
from slavery to attachment.


The context in which I tend to think about it is like this; think
about the love you have for your spouse, and especially for your new
baby girl. Now imagine that you feel that kind of deep,
indiscriminate, selfless love for all other living beings,
including--and this is the hard Hard HARD part--people you have
difficulties with. This was the path of the Buddha, to attain
enlightenment for the benefit of all other beings, and to cultivate
love and compassion for everyone, everyone, by eliminating the mental
obscurations which prevented him from experiencing the wisdom of an
enlightened mind. Then, having attained this, he dedicated his life to
teaching others how to do the same.

Like you said in your comments, "coming to terms with that which is
bigger than ourselves" is of immense importance in this life. In this
way, the Buddha had to think "bigger than" himself, his family, his
wife, his child. This is not to diminish their importance to him, but
to emphasize the great responsibility he felt for helping all other
beings, that in previous lives they had also been his family--mother,
father, wife, son--and that he owed them all the benefits of his
liberation and enlightenment, too.

For the last 2600+ years, those who have studied the Buddha's
teachings (the Dharma), are still benefitting from his teachings;
finding at least peace of mind and sometimes--as in the example of the
Dalai Lama--working more largely for peace in the world. If nothing
else, we owe the Buddha's wife and son so much gratitude for their
patience (another teaching of the Buddha's) during the years of his
absence while working toward attaining enlightenment.

Self-sacrifice is hard. But when it helps others, somehow it gains new
value and meaning. Especially when there's love involved, and a loving
compassion that wants others to be free of all suffering. But you're
about to have a chance to practice some self-sacrifice with your new
Zoe, and I have no doubts that it will be Worth It. :)

All best wishes,
Booboo Tannenbaum
Alabama (a different kind of honky-tonk, no?!)

Booboo also wanted me to mention the quotation about Siddhartha Gautama comes from here.

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