If you’ve never considered the monastic life, try moving from a large home with generations of family stuff to a much smaller one. The idea of owning only a couple of robes and begging bowls becomes enticing.
In the older-tradition Theravada Buddhist temples and monasteries, the pressures of daily life are kept to a minimum so that the monks and nuns have maximum time for quiet reflection and meditation. Often, the food is donated and prepared. The major meal is consumed by noon, with no more eating for the rest of the day. Work assignments in the afternoon include cleaning and and maintenance of the housing, followed by tea and an evening formal meditation session.
Then it’s early to bed, early to rise, with meditation before and after breakfast.
Closet space is not a problem.
When my wife and I moved in 23 days ago, there were so many cardboard boxes everywhere that our 60-pound dog couldn’t find a comfortable place to lie down. With considerable help from friends, we’ve cleared a living space that suits us, and we’re down to a couple dozen remaining boxes. Of course, at any given time, something we desperately need is somewhere on one of those boxes. Yesterday’s crisis was trying to find the land survey we received at the real estate closing. Never found it but got a copy from the firm that handled our closing.
Do I really need more than a couple of robes and a couple of begging bowls? I do if I want to live in what Buddhists call the relative world — the world where we own cars, renew our license plates, pay personal property tax, file deeds, get building permits, buy solar panels, claim charitable deductions, keep health insurance in force for our families, and vote for politicians who will disappoint us.
While I’m not a fan of classifying Buddhism in three distinct schools, it is true that in Theravada, enlightenment is pursued mainly by the monastics. Practitioners of Mahayana and Vajrayana (the later schools) generally believe that enlightenment and Buddha-hood are available to those of us who live non- cloistered lives.
But how do we maintain our mindfulness and our wisdom amid real estate closings, tax season, and, oh yeah, grief? I think the answer comes from connecting with the spiritual, connecting with Buddha, or God, or whatever word you use. If you’re a Buddhist or a pantheist, you know that what you call divine is in all things, even the post office change-of-address form.
As I grieve over the losses in my life, the impermanence that has made my body old and taken so many relatives and friends from me, I look out my office window and see the leaves beginning to bud on the tree. That’s impermanence, too, as the dormancy of winter yields to spring.
And I connect with the Buddha — not just with the Buddha out there in the tree, but with the Buddha in me, to my own Buddha-hood. I connect with the universe.
And I awaken.
— Mel Pine (Fearless Lotus)
Copyright 2016 © Mel Harkrader Pine