Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Living in a material world - Part I

Let’s assume for a moment that you are a gourmet cooking enthusiast and some how you came into the possession of a rare 16th century recipe. Let’s say “Turkey a la pilgrim”
You are all excited and you want to cook and taste the turkey.
You start reading the recipe and it says:
“Get your musket and go in the forest to shoot a nice medium size wild turkey.
Get the turkey home and start a large fire in the kitchen. Put a large cauldron of water to boil. Meanwhile go to the back yard garden and pick up the following fresh vegetables and herbs. Come back to the kitchen and start plucking the turkey using the scolding boiling water… etc, etc’ You get the point.

As you start reading the recipe you realize you have a problem.
You don’t live in the 16th century anymore. You don’t have a musket, wild turkeys probable don’t roam in your back yard and probable you don’t have your own vegetable and herbs garden.
What do you do?
Do you start planting your own garden or do you go to the nearest supermarket for the ingredients you need?
Of course you will go to the supermarket; after all you are interested in cooking the turkey not in reliving the 16th century life all over again.

Now, let’s say that you are not interested in cooking but rather in spiritual enlightenment.
You pick up a book like “Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse and start reading.
What are you going to do after wards; are you going to shave your head, dress up in a yellow robe and go into a forest to live with the wild animals, or are you continue living in your house?
You might say; “don’t be ridiculous, nobody goes in forests anymore to look for enlightenment” but that is exactly what many students of Buddhism are doing. They are trying to imitate and replicate what Buddha did 2600 years ago.
So here is my question to you; Are you interested in attaining enlightenment or a 2000 years old life style?

Let me put it the other way;
If Buddha was alive today, would he have a job, a checking account, credit cards, pay taxes or refinance his house - assuming that the interest rates go below 5%, or would he live on the streets beggars bowl in his hand?
If Jesus Christ lived in today’s world, would he have a driver’s license, would he be driving a car, or would he still go from town to town per pedis apostolorum?

Is enlightenment a thing of the past, or is it possible to attain enlightenment even living in a material world?
Can we translate Buddha’s recipe for enlightenment and adapted to our modern life or do we have to go to India and join the Buddhist monks?

What do you think? What is your experience on the subject?


Sumiran said...

This is my first time visit to your post. I feel your 'Zen' passion.
I strongly believe that to attain the truth, it is not necessary to leave the family and society. There are many instances of such cases. Even buddha time, there was an enlightened mystic called Vimalketu who was farmer/business man at that time. he was harsh commenter to the Buddha's disciples (even great one used to hesitate to face him) and buddha always loved to send his disciples to him for getting them matured

The Acolyte Tao said...

Nice post, however I do feel you can attain Enlightenment in a materialist world as long as the possessions and the ego don't own you. Jesus lived in society and taught and Buddha was only out for 40 days to meditate, then they were in a materialistic society teaching. Its not what is in the environment, but what you make out of the environment.

Chatty Crone said...

Well, life is hard and so is making choices. Life is ALWAYS about choices.

I believe that you have to take some time 'out of your life' to try to 'find your life'.

Sometimes life takes a hold of you and you have no choice how you live it. You just hang on.

Other times you just have to live your life the best you can and accept it.

Life is work - but it's fun work. Interesting work.

As Jesus said - it's hard for a rich man to go to Heaven - because of his priorities.

I appreciated your Blog reply today. I appreciated the fact that you 'got' it and that you didn't try to 'fix' my sadness and that you even understood the sadness.

I know the sadness will go in time - if I just let it be and go through it.

Then something better will be there.

Psiplex said...

Thank you for the post Budhha. Really, I think that in the act of grace, we are chosen in the mystery of existence. IF we even have the smallest component of desiring to be whole, to be one with love and truth, grace brings us the beings and opportunity to fill that path. If we in our journey in the body/mind can come to the truth of our true nature, that we can dissolve the falseness of a mind made reality, we will come to know we are on the path, are the path we are that. Nothing a personal 'I' can do to achieve enlightenment as a tangible acoutrement or fixed position. Surrendering to the Source and accepting our true self, our Buddha nature, completes a circuit from before the physical body/mind became a personal 'I".

ChocolateCoveredVegan said...

Haha your comment on my blog about oatmeal made me laugh :o).

Isn't it a fun food?!

Ted Bagley said...

The recipe is for one who is not one and yet wishes to become one.
The one's who are being one have no wish to not become one and have no need for a recipe.

Wizard said...

Actually India and Jerusalem are wonderful places to visit and see, full of wonderful people and excellent food. I believe the only path to enlightenment is by listening and it doesn't matter where you do it in the forest, in your car on the highway, in a temple or on a rock concert. Seeking and listening do not require a certain lifestyle or dress.

Tamara said...

I am new to meditation and I have recently fell in love with the library so that I can study out beginners mind. I have yet to have a guru or to give up my worldly possessions but I know those practices is not what I want to attain. I want peace and joy that mindfulness offers. I also want to get to know myself in a new light. I am all for simple living but i don't feel that I have to give up cable tv to attain it. I want to become more aware in Metro Detroit, and I want to become a business and home owner and I don't think that any of those things are at war with each other.

I still have a lot to learn but what I am excited about my spiritual growth thus far. If I have one lesson to share to would be that trying to imitate spiritually because I preconceived notions will not make you more spiritual. Enlightenment comes from your own soul and it comes from many different approaches, so stop trying and just be.

Barry said...

If the enlightened mind is dependent on outside circumstances, then it probably isn't worth very much.

On the other hand, if enlightenment does not depend on circumstance, then it doesn't matter where we go or how we live.

The Clandestine Samurai said...

This is an argument that's been going on ever since the onset of modernism. And I suppose, many have tried to use PostModernism in arts in order to display the terrible consequences of onset.

I am very liberal, so of course I will say that you can very much attain enlightenment in today's world. Enlightenment occurs in principles and lifestyle, both of which are ideas that transcend. Material objects do not transcend.

I think I have "Siddhartha" and will add that to my book queue to read now that you've mentioned it in this light. But to answer your question, you don't need to go into the forest with a yellow robe, etc. But some people connect to the supernatural that way. Everybody perceives enlightenment differently.

As far as Christ and Buddha living in today's time, I don't think that's question that can simply be answered. Both of those being were quite powerful, so it is likely that some of today's times and culture would bend to them. At the same time, I don't think it would be so surprising or secular to see Christ checking his Facebook page or reading the last Harry Potter whilst quietly sipping Black Tea at the nearest Starbucks. These things are not immoral.

The Clandestine Samurai said...

I meant to additionally say that imitating and replicating Buddha does not mean doing exactly what he did 2600 years ago, it means realizing his core principles and practices in today's context.

Ted Bagley said...

Is it listening,
or hearing and telling back?

Brad said...

I hear you on this. Though I think for some people 'living the life from 2000 years ago' helps them attain that enlightenment. No?

Ted Bagley said...

"If I could just be someone else..."

Ted Bagley said...

These thing are not immortal, but do they need to be cause for identity? You are very liberal so you can do anything you want to for the common good as long as it doesn't hurt anybody, or what? I have to agree, everything in modern times is bending to the Buddha and Jesus except the rejection of position part. We've replaced that with professions.
Meaning is the material for action. To think and speak on those thoughts is to be a materialist, eh?
I'm glad you came along.

Ted Bagley said...


Buddha said...

@ - Sumiran – this is what I believe too and I hope some day I will attain enlightenment. Thank you for stopping but and for your wonderful comment!

@ The Acolite Tao – That is the path I am searching for. The fact that I did not find it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

@ Catty – what a wonderful insight! I have to meditate on that.
Thank you for being my friend!

@ Psiplex – Wow! I had to read your comment several times. There is so much wisdom in your words.
Thank you for sharing!

@ Chocolate Covered Vegan – I love chocolate and your blog is the ultimate chocolate authority!

@ Ted – Buddha spent many years before becoming enlightened.
I am not the one and I never claimed to be the one.
I am just a seeker on my enlightenment journey.

@ Wizard – Listening – reading your comments in this case – it is what keeps me on the path. I welcome your wisdom as I welcome anybody that wants to share their experience.

@ Tamara – “Enlightenment comes from your own soul and it comes from many different approaches, so stop trying and just be.”
See, you are half way there. It took me years to find out that!

@ Barry – If I was Buddha of Hollywood I wouldn’t have any questions.
The problem is that after I log off my blog I am just a husband and father of 2, tied in circumstances.

@ Samurai – Our journey to enlightenment is full of peril. We need a Samurai with a sharp sword to chop the head of ignorance, whenever it’s poking out its ugly head from the dark corners.

@ Anonymous – I can’t link to your blog. Please leave me your URL.

@ Brad – Really? Name one!

@ Ted – You are somebody else!
2nd Don’t mess with the Samurai! – You’ve been warned.

Talon said...

Thought provoking. I'm a practical person so I like to think that I seek enlightenment as I go about my usual day-to-day activities, participating in the modern world, and taking opportunities to slip to a quiet, natural world when the opportunities arise...and when I can't escape the hustle and bustle, I can do it mentally. I'd like to think that Jesus would be down with the internet...I would think he would want to communicate with people in the manner with which they were accustomed.

Talon said...

Oh, and I forgot to add that, for me, enlightment is a journey and not a destination (because I don't think I'll ever in my lifetime be able to reach it) and it's the twists and turns that make the journey interesting for me. Like reading thought-provoking posts like yours.

footiam said...

Good question. I bet life is different from lifestyle.

Aggie said...

Is enlightenment necessarily a goal in itself? Isn't everyday living enlightenment? Whether we struggle with understanding it's outcome (short term) - it cannot be changed or altered. We therefore can only ponder and reflect on what has been (long term) in an effort to understand the where/why/how from here?

The Clandestine Samurai said...

The comment thing on my blog is fixed. I tried to set it so that the comment box is embedded under each post, like how the Brazen Teacher has it. For some reason, it never works on my blog.

Ted Bagley said...

You're the one, the whole one, and nothing but the one.

Buddha said...

@ Ted Bagley – since you believe – I mean are totally convinced that; “You're the one, the whole one, and nothing but the one.” I think you should worship me as the God I am. You can start by sending me 10% of your income.

@ Talon – I don’t think I’ll be able to reach it either but it is a good destination to aim for.

@ Footiam – Absolutely!

@ Aggie – If you turn on the TV all you can see is war, famine, greed and corruption, rape and murder.
Enlightenment should be our everyday living but that is not the way it is.
So what should we do?

@ Samurai – It worked! Thanks!

Anne Partain said...

Hi, I love your question. I am not very familiar with the Budda's teachings. I have followed my own voice. It leads me out of sleep. Sometimes I have to really listen to find it, but if I want to I can hear. So why would a certain degree of Buddist teachings be any more valuable than another degree? There are many paths because each one, if he be on this path, follows himself.

Anne Partain said...

It seems like every time I get an image of how somebody else's journey looks, I am not looking at my own path. I think this desired state, vibration, idea, works out to be different for each one of us.

Ted Bagley said...

Only 10%?

Ted Bagley said...

Can we both be one together, though? That would be better.

C. Om said...

Excellent metaphor. I agree 100%. Check out this post I did last month from a similar point of view:


Ariel said...

lol, what a great metaphor.

It's such a joy to watch the way people search for enlightenment.

It's also fun to hear people say "Don't search for it because you already are it" and then others respond, "Okay cool, so now what do I do? What traditions and rules should I follow?"

Guysssss, you're so silly... :)

Brenda|Soul Realignment said...

Great post!
I do not believe we need to renounce material posessions in order to achieve enlightenment. Divinity is all around us; We each can choose whether to find it in the beauty of nature, the joy in our child's eyes, or the engine of a porsche! If a person feels they need to retreat from the material to engage with the Divine, then that is there path. Our reality is whatever we choose it to be!

Lydia said...

pedis apostolorum! I googled it to see what in the heck it meant and the first hit on the list was.......
YOUR BLOG! Best info I could get online was that pedis means "a louse" and I couldn't find anything on the other word (without paying for a translation). So enlighten me!

I think that the stress and noise and chaos of daily living makes it more difficult to practice. When I get out to the desert I'm so much closer to the source it seems. But given that we must make do with the circumstances given to us practice we must...and if we attain enlightenment under these conditions, well, I guess Buddha would approve. :)

Brigit said...

Hmm...I left a comment here the other day. It seems to have disappeared into cyberspace. What is enlightenment? When you realise you don't have to climb the fence all the time - there is a gate!? When you realise that all the possessions you have worked hard to attain don't make you happy, giving them away does? Is it the ah ha! moment or the humbling experience felt deep within your heart?

I think enlightenment means different things to different people at different times in their lives and can be achieved just as differently in different environments.