Say you have a phobia about spiders, or you hate spinach, or you simply can’t live without your smartphone. Are any of these things your real identity? You might define yourself as a spider-spinach-hating-technophile, but the reality is that this is just a veneer painted over your real nature.

 

By Ivan Latham

So much of our trouble as a species arises from our unruly thought-life.

We attach so much attention to the mists that form in our mind that they acquire a certain substance, solidify, and slam down into our previously calm mentality. We become preoccupied with their intrusion, filled with angst at what they represent, and disturbed by the waves they cause. We obsess to the point of total distraction.

Fear and fantasy, expectation of good and bad, the craving for the unwholesome and even the wholesome—when the mind is hankering so much after a certain object—sweating to achieve it or sweating to avoid it—then this is suffering. We may not realize it, and indeed millions upon millions of us have wandered in ignorance of the fact for years.

There was no understanding that every single aspect of what we call our personality was built upon these vapors that actually have no substance at all except that which we attribute to them. But, we construct a whole edifice of them, creating a citadel in the mind populated by the features that we think comprise who we are. We call the complete construct: myself, but it is a delusion; a convincing lie.

Say you have a phobia about spiders, or you hate spinach, or you simply can’t live without your smartphone. Are any of these things your real identity? You might define yourself as a spider-spinach-hating-technophile, but the reality is that this is just a veneer painted over your real nature. These fears or fixations initially arose as concepts in your mind that you latched on to. It was suggested to you that spiders are awful; you tried spinach one time and thought it vile; the TV adverts insinuated that gadgets bring happiness.

Every single thing that you believe makes that you “you” is a phenomenon of the mind. Thoughts exist, and experiences exist, but they have no existence separate from the mind. The mind is the source of all that we are—that calm sea we mentioned earlier. But, the sea is prone to ill-weather: a breeze arises, grabs our attention, becomes a gale and whips up a storm. The unwary mind is swept along by it.

Mental disturbance is a fact of human life. One cannot make a conscious effort to resist its arising otherwise one simply creates more suffering. Resistance is indeed futile because this merely adds more friction to the mix. We must neither resist nor encourage. Acceptance of suffering is essential, for it will come. But when those vapors arise in our minds, and with them the threat of a storm, we acknowledge them, but then let them pass. We do not attach any attention to them. Using this mindful acknowledgment, we can plunge beneath the wayward currents of thought, reinforcing our awareness, and helping us to maintain our connection with our true state of mind.

Of course, this is a temporary solution only. It’s a coping strategy, and a very worthwhile one. But, the wheel of Samsara rolls on, and we learn only to be comfortable for a period of its inexorable cycle. I feel that it’s impossible to be liberated from Samsara by these means during this Age. With practice, we can escape the wheel of suffering. How many trips around the block have we all made? Too many to reckon. That’s why I practice Pure Land and seek aid from Amida Buddha: Namu Amida Butsu!

 

Ivan Latham is a writer, blogger and Pure Land Buddhist in the Shin tradition. He is also the founder and administrator of the online Sangha of Joyful Entrusting. Originally from the UK, he lives in Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany, with his wife, Julia, and their three children.

 

 

 

Photo: pixabay

Editor: John Lee Pendall

 

Did you like this article? You might also like:

 

 

What is Crazy Wisdom?

  By Daniel Scharpenburg   Crazy Wisdom was a term coined by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, one of the major figures in bringing Buddhism to the west. He described it as an innocent state of awareness that is wild and free, completely awake and fresh. It's a spiritual...

The Protester’s Guide to the Eightfold Path

  By Dana Gornall Voices seem to be growing more heated everyday. Millions of women (and men) are preparing to march all over the United States in solidarity, and it's right now that taking a moment before we speak, write, comment or act can make all the difference....

More mindFully Human, Less A**hole (The Reason I’m Retiring the Gonzo Buddhist)

  By Brent R. Oliver When I first asked to write for The Tattooed Buddha, I knew what I would offer: entertainment value. I had been contributing to one of the big Buddhist publications and, while I wasn’t particularly well-known or well-loved, I’d carved out a tiny...

Ask A Zen Teacher? Don’t Kill? But I Have Bugs!

  By Daniel Scharpenburg This is  a regular column where I answer questions that are sent to me. As a spiritual teacher, I am often asked many questions and I’d love to have an opportunity to answer them all. So, send me some questions. You can send them...

Comments

comments

The Tattooed Buddha

The Tattooed Buddha was founded by Buddhist author Ty Phillips and Dana Gornall. What started out as a showcase for Ty's writing, quickly turned into collaboration with creative writer, Dana Gornall and the home for sharing the voices of friends and colleagues in the writing community. The Tattooed Buddha strives to be a noncompetitive, open space for the author’s authentic voice. So while not necessarily Buddhist, we are offering a dialogue that is aware and awake to the reality of our present day to day, tackling issues of community, environment, and compassionate living.

Latest posts by The Tattooed Buddha (see all)

(Visited 139 times, 1 visits today)