. . . to become a “nicer” person. Mainly because I’m not overly concerned with any and everyone’s assessment of my character. Ultimately these perceptions make no impact on my quality of life.
But it is worth pointing out that over the past couple of weeks I’ve engaged in very non-Buddha like behavior, chiefly my refusal to bite my tongue when I perceive that someone has been discourteous, dishonest, inconsiderate, lazy, or trifling. I’ve conveyed opinions like this in the past, which resulted in the voluntary dissolution of a job, a creative partnership and, to a lesser degree, romantic entanglements.
It is my belief that when you are born you sign a contract, and that contract is to move forward. You have no choice in the matter. For better or for worse you are always growing. The complex series of cells and other materials that form you never stay the same from moment to moment. Life and the world will not slow down in order for you to play catch up. This, of course, is no excuse for your impatience with others to manifest itself in the form of hostility, but there comes a point where you are compelled to stick to your guns and stay on a path. The path always moves forward. You cannot return to a moment ago.
And this is The Challenge that I face regularly.
I pursued the Dharma to deal with disappointment, reduce stress, and to not obsess over matters that ultimately have no bearing in my ultimate happiness. I pursued the Dharma in order to avoid the pettiness of others and of myself. I pursued the Dharma in order to make informed choices that would result in satisfactory outcomes, and to attain wisdom. I pursued the Dharma in order to understand that while I cannot control the actions of others, I can control my own actions. Perhaps I’m doing it wrong.
There is a perception of Buddhism that leads people to believe that we are constantly sitting in the full lotus with our eyes closed and grinning and chanting while the entire world around us crumbles. The attainment of inner contentment is hard work, and it is no easy feat to avoid succumbing to human whims. It is not easy, particularly for people like me, to pretend everything is all good when it’s not. The Challenge is reconciling a commitment to honesty with a further commitment to do no harm and keep things, in a sense, peaceful.
Buddhism is not a walk in the park. It is not a refuge for the cowardly or the lazy or for people that want to attach themselves to a religion or philosophy that will offer them free reign to do as they please. It is an endless series of making choices and determining when it is the right time to be truthful and how. It is a constant cycle of risking becoming stressed-out when your goal is to avoid stress. It is a practice of deciding when to let go, even when letting go results in complications that start the cycle all over again.
Buddhism is knowing when to shut up. I’m still trying to figure out how to shut up.