FOR THE NUCLEAR AGE (5)
Translated by Santikaaro Bhikkhu
In this matter we have our easy-to-remember metaphor: we live in this world stupidly, like fools, like worldlings; and so we get slapped left and right, right and left, endlessly. Or, we could say that with every inhalation and exhalation there is liking and disliking, disliking and liking. We get slapped for this reason and that: now something about our children, now something with our husband, now something with our wife, now something about our possessions, now something about our honor and fame - nothing but what is ready to slap us silly. Getting, we are slapped one way. Losing, we are slapped the other way. Getting leads to love, through which one stupidly sinks into attachment. Losing leads sadness, crying, and moans of despair. Here we have both liking and disliking.
DUALITY TORMENTS THE WORLDLING
When the mind is on such a low level that it already is liking or disliking something, take a good look and see if that isn't the same as being slapped left and right constantly. When eating delicious food, we get slapped by satisfaction with the deliciousness. When eating unpalatable food we get slapped by anger and aversion. We can say that this is more pitiful and sad than pity itself. The natural state of worldlings, of those who don't know anything, is a life comparable to being slapped left and right all the time by the things that come accompanied by their opposites.
There are many things which form pairs of opposites or dualities. The first set has already been mentioned- liking and disliking. Then there are gain and loss, victory and defeat, having the advantage and being disadvantaged. There are many pairs, many dualities, dozens of them, and each is a pair of slaps in the face. That is, they bite a person's heart on both sides because they are dualistic. Dualities have two sides, and whichever side comes by, it bites in its particular way. So if we aren't bitten this way, then we're bitten that way. Life goes on like this until we strip it all away by saying, "That's just how it is; it's just that way. It's idappaccayata just like that; there's no I-ego nor things of mines, no me nor myself." When there's no I, no self, whose face is slapped? Because there's no self to have its face slapped, there's no slapping, and thereby there's no condition in which the mind is tormented and suffering.
THE MOST URGENT OF ALL
Is this matter as urgent and pressing as nuclear matters? Think about it. Is this matter as urgent and all-important as the issues of the nuclear age? Anyone who sees the truth of this will realize that this is the most urgent issue of all. We must resolve this problem before the body dies. But most people don't see at all, and so are careless. They cover their ears and close their eyes heedlessly as if nothing were happening. In laughable situations they laugh, in tearful conditions they cry. Laughing and crying, crying and laughing, as if it were nothing.
They aren't aware that their lives are the same as being slapped in the face. Yet one who studies the mind, who reflects upon mental matters, who already has knowledge and understanding of the mind, will have observed that the mind is attacked from two sides: the side leading to liking and the side leading to disliking. The side of liking affects the mind in one way and the side of disliking affects the mind in another way. But fools don't know this. And why not? Maybe because their skin is too thick. They have no awareness. Their nervous system knows nothing about what is going on, because they're totally lacking in genuine wisdom of Dhamma. It's as if their skin is so thick that they can't feel anything. So we must scrape off the ignorance and thickness. Then, as it becomes thinner we'll gradually come to know these things. Whether or not this condition is as urgent a matter as our nuclear problems is something that you must decide for yourselves.
If we understand sunnata (voidness), the condition of being void of self because there is only idappaccayata (the law of conditionality), there is no self (soul) to be slapped in the face, no "person" who exists to have his face constantly slapped left and right. This is the fact of the matter. Whether it is urgent or not is for you to consider for yourself. If we practice by comtemplating these truths - just impermanence, merely not-self, just such, only natural elements, purely idappaccayata- in the ways that we've explained many times, that will be the end of self. The self gradually fades and disappears until there is no self whatever to be slapped in the face. That's it. The matter ends here.
These days this world is in a state of becoming more and more stupid. No one believe me when I say this. You who are listening, do you believe that the present world is in a condition of increasing foolishness? We don't notice because we only look at those areas where man is clever in material knowledge. People are most clever at making strange, new things that we must buy and must use. Even these video cameras, although an example of the cleverness of modern man, demonstrate that the situation is becoming more and more stupid. These things are totally unnecessary. Why do we let them cause so many difficulties? We surely don't have these wonderful things in order to know Dhamma. They're only used to fall into deeper infatuation with beautiful and delicious experiences. These magical things are crated for humanity to grow stupid and sink more deeply into the mire of delusion. Everything that is considered clever in this scientific age, all these marvelous instruments, when seen from a foolish perspective are thought to be examples of human intelligence. But when they are seen on a more profound level, they're simply proof of the human stupidity that makes us sluggish, that enamours us with all this, that keeps us stuck here, and that is nearly impossible to get free from.
We can summarize this point by saying that the modern world is in a state of accelerating stupidity regarding the creation of pace. We insist on the qualification "regarding the creation of peace." Although this world is increasingly idiotic, in the area of cretaing crises it is increasingly clever; it is quite talented at starting more complicted and troublesome disasters. This is the sort of progress we have. So whether people go to the moon or who-knows-where, they aren't going for peace. They do these things for reasons of war and increasing affliction. Thus, we must say that the world is becoming more stupid regarding peace. A correct method is needed. Don't become foolish. Don't sink into stupidity, but become more genuinely intelligent. Don't bother with unnecessary matters. Don't create unnecessary things. As for the unnecessary things which already exist, use them for peace.
All of the luxuries and conveniences with which we fill the world answer only to our defilements (kilesa, e.g., greed, hatred, fear, worry, ignorance). They support people's defilements and make people selfish. For this reason, all of the cleverness does nothing to create peace. All of the fine things, new products, expensive goods, and magical inventions only make people more stupid than ever. They lead people to infatuation with things that bind and attach the mind. Thus, there is no dawning of wisdom, no abating of the ignorance. This is what makes me think that samatha-vipassana is necessary for the nuclear age.
Actually, there is some understanding in the world; some people have some sensitivity regarding the situation. They try to free people from dukkha, to get people out of dukkha, but they can't get people out from dukkha, because they don't understand the cause of the problem. There are too many things that have been made to mislead people and sink them in the mass of dukkha, more than too many. Consequently, if samatha-vipassana isn't enough, isn't strong and sharp enough, it won't be able to destroy all this stupidity. As worldly progress develops to whatever degree, it increases our idiocy toward the world at least that much. Thus, that which can solve the problem and protect the world, samatha-vipassana, must develop and increase accordingly. So we have said that a system of transquility and insight is necessary. This system of practice must be correct, fast and able to keep pace with the material progress of worlding, for they become ever more thoroughgoing worldlings by their developing cleverness in deluding themselves.
Humans get dukkha, difficulties, and troubles from their own foolishness. They make the problems themselves. Is this point too profound for people to see? Why do they continue amassing hassles and difficulties until they're so afraid that they can't sleep at night? This is the result of stupidity of their own making. They don't know what something is, and are consequently afraid of it.
A PIECE OF ROPE?
To explain this Dhamma point we have an interesting metaphor. Both Buddhists and Vedantists tell of mistaking a rope for a snake, then falling into dukkha because of the stupid snake thus created. That is, in the moonlight at night, when it is dark and difficult to see, there is a coiled piece of rope lying on a path. A man comes walking down the path. There isn't enough light and the man thinks the rope is a snake. He jumps suddenly and cries for help. He created a "snake" for himself. The stupid man creates the stupid snake, then he is troubled and frightened by it. He doesn't even know that the snake isn't real, that it has no mouth or fangs. He wholeheartedly believes that it's a complete, 100% snake, which strikes terror into his heart. There he stands shaking and calling for help. So it is with humans these days. Lacking sufficient light in their minds, they conjure up dangerous things which leave them shaking in fear.
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