Kleshas and Tanhas

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Posts Tagged ‘Noah Levine

Lions, Attachment, Punching a Pooch

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I needed something to be my next blog post victim as I headed north on my Amtrak trip back to Philadelphia; some topic would become my prey. Something easy, agreeable-like when a lion catches an antelope; it’s right because it’s natural. Hmmm, I thought. What’s my blog’s antelope? What’s shooting fish in a barrel for me?

People. An easy target. Look at how pathetic we are capable of becoming. And I’m not pointing out any physical qualities that would suggest our devotion to brand-names, cosmetics, and semper-updatable-technology. No, if I was to go after that topic, that would be like kicking a kitten, punching a pooch, or stealing candy from a baby. I said antelope. That lion has to burn some energy in order to catch his next meal! So I hope what I have to say next doesn’t come off as a kicking a kitten tone.

Attachment. The word doesn’t really seem like a “buzzword” as it does in Eastern religions. I think we tend to see it as a negative harm (not always) when someone becomes too attached in a relationship; “attached at the hip.” Yet,  Buddhism likes to state that the Second Noble Truth (of reality) is the origin of suffering derives from attachment. So, as we  humans, we have so incredibly and profoundly discovered that what we don’t like, we don’t do. What tastes bad doesn’t end up in our mouths a second time. Genius. We evolve. In the instance of attachment equivocated with suffering, we would conclude that we sever all of our attachments to things, peoples, and emotions.

that doesn't taste good

It’s a pretty tall order, hence, so many Americans turn elsewhere for a more comfortable interpretation of reality. (Still, in Christian language, actions deemed as sinful fall into this larger category; the harmful effects of attachment. In this instance, Christianity uses the language of lust, envy, and greed to name a few.) “When greed is our motivation, no matter how much we have, it’s never enough…When generosity is our motivation, we can find satisfaction in the simplest of things.” (Noah Levine, Against the Stream, 97.)

Last night on the Amtrak, I witnessed a lot of needless attachment; individuals being overly possessive of seats, luggage space, and leg room. And I’m not describing the people who just kicked back and relaxed once on board. I was guilty of this too; throwing a bag on the seat next to me to avoid any confrontation with any passerby that even dared to sit next to me. In this scenario, as well as more instances than we would like to imagine, our relationship of attachment to comfort causes suffering. “We begin to understand that clinging, attachment, and aversion are the primary causes of the extra layer of suffering that we create for ourselves.” (Noah Levine, Against the Stream, 85.)

okay, so it wasn't this crowded...

This is where I think my example of shooting fish in a barrel is appropriate. We can clearly see that in blocking the seat, we are being greedy and self-satisfying. And while my focus in this little piece isn’t about to go into depth on what the harms of attachment are, we can deduce that greed and self-absorption have a negative effect on our relationships. By perverting our relationship of attachment for comfort to serve our own needs, we ignore or blot out the needs of others. In this example of the Amtrak, individuals just walked to the next car for the next open seat. No serious harm was done unto the other passengers; most-likely inconvenience at the most.

Yet, beginning with the small things, our relationship with attachment to emotions and desires could cause us to become acceptable of larger hurts produced by unhealthy relationships. Sexism, racism, and social injustice are just a few to name. We like to turn that blind eye that we often turn when we experience something that is morally wrong. What enables us to do so is our subtle but continuous establishment of a sickened relationship of attachment to others. It’s not obsequious to say that a small hurt will lead to a larger one if the smaller one is continuously exacerbated. Pick a healing scab, and you aggravate it to the point where it bleeds fresh blood.

So we are pathetic. Especially when we look around for the origins of the negative ISM’s (like the three mentioned above,) we point fingers and ask questions about slavery in the 19th century that distance us a great deal from the racial tensions that thrive today. There is no mystery where our problems come from; especially those that revolve around relationships.

 

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Written by Jack Viere

November 28, 2011 at 3:48 pm

A Sense of Community

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Noah Levine really hits home the significance of community in spiritual circles in his Against the Stream. “Both inner and outer spiritual rebellion are relational experiences. The revolution cannot take place in isolation.” (Levine, 80.) While more moderately faithful may find the terms rebellion and revolution nonreligious, maybe even irreverent, I find that in this specific instance, his use of such irregular diction stresses a point of emphasis. Spirituality is in itself a rebellion. Metaphysics can be seen as an attempted empirical explanation of the unseen, rationality we possess. (But really, who can pull that out of their brain prima facie?) But believing in the unseen, nontangible stuff that quite a few people believe in could not succeed if there were no communities. Being radical takes a toll on you. You need a support group.

While in Western circles, the Catholic Church can be seen as the initial model of spiritual communities, I find this Buddhist point of view capable of tying down some loose strings many nonbelievers (and believers in some instances) may have with communal religion. Levine holds that communities must consist of believers “of both more and less wisdom and compassion than ourselves.” (ibid.) I think for many, those of us in, or having been through any higher education, understand the significance of those who possess more wisdom than us. They are our teachers. They hold the keys to knowledge. Their past experiences have led them (or not) to become more compassionate towards others.

But what about those who have less wisdom and compassion than us? This still might be easy to answer; they can teach us as well if we choose to respond “with understanding and friendliness.” (Levine, 81.) And in the instance of those with less compassion, which I find somewhat more difficult to answer the above question, friendliness really becomes difficult to embody.

Yet, when the going gets tough, such as it does when someone is being a jerk, Levine points out: “community allows us to put into practice wisdom and compassion toward all beings-even the annoying members of the revolution.” (ibid.) I find this the point of emphasis in Levine’s point on community. Personally, I have taken it for granted that my “community also serves as a teacher by challenging us in the places where we get stuck.” (ibid.)

This would be one of those loose strings I mentioned. I don’t think people, myself definitely included, would be able to make the hard right without some sort of support system. What makes spiritual communities stronger and more dedicated is the interlinkage of faith. And in some instances, which I have found while participating in other religious practices that are not of my own faith, you still share that same faith in something unseen (most of the time) that cannot be explained in plain rhetoric.

Believe in the believers!

Written by Jack Viere

November 13, 2011 at 4:49 pm