January 13, 2010

Paying Our Debts

The Buddha praised the practice of meditation as a way of paying homage to the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha that was better than offering material objects. The practice of training the heart to reach purity pleased the Buddha because it is the way by which a person can gain release from all suffering and stress. The Buddha taught us to meditate so that we can free our hearts from their slavery to the defilements of the world.

We're still not released from suffering as long as our minds still have worries and concerns. Being a slave to our concerns is like being in debt to them. When we're in debt, we have no real freedom in our hearts. The more we pay off our debts, the more lighthearted we'll feel. In the same way, if we can let go of our various worries and cares, peace will arise in our hearts. This is why the Buddha taught us to center our hearts in concentration so as to give rise to stillness, peace, and the inner wealth with which we'll be able to pay off all of our debts. All our burdens and sufferings will fall away from our hearts and we'll enter full freedom.

- Ajaan Lee, "Sowing the Seeds of Freedom" (Spring 2008)

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dress's picture

lease come over and tell us how to live.” But I’ve been to Asia, and they’re just as screwed up as we are. And there’s some real wisdom in our culture; the West has a tradition, too, of compassion and wisdom. And some people who aren’t even religious have it. When I was in Asia I totally did whatever an Asian lay person would do—I have the deepest respect for this tradition—but Asia does not have a monopoly on kindness. In Asia, being a lay person is—from the point of view of meditational practice—considered second-class. I personally think that the monastic life does optimize your possibilities for breaking through to awakening. But it’s by no means a guarantee. Most monasteries are hardly crammed full of enlightened people.

But we need a teaching that addresses the lives we actually live. We do need to handle money. We are in relationships. We do need to eat more than once a day. The problem isn’t eating or sex or money; it’s that we don’t know how to use these energies. The monastic strategy is: Don’t touch christian louboutinit; it’s dangerous. So the monks don’t handle money, etc. To me that’s not in-and-of-itself particularly holy. It’s a strategy—a monastic strategy to get free. I’m all for it—if you’re going to be a monastic.

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