I have been continuing on my choice to live a more simple and clear path, it has been going well. I have been sober for almost a month now (man, time is going by really fast) and I must admit that I am feeling a difference, the biggest being that I am able to sustain a more dedicated practice. It is must easier to stay focused on meditation when you are not buzzed out almost every evening, I am able to see why the Buddha had included avoiding substances that can lead to heedlessness. For those of you just tuning in, I have been doing this little “experiment” to help me feel more grounded and centered, and also to develop a more solid and deeper practice. The only time that I felt the most dedicated is when I was taking the Group Facilitator and Meditation Instructor training with Noah Levine in LA, during that year I followed the Five Precepts and lived a more simple life out of default (four trips to LA will make someone live more simply to be able to afford the plane tickets etc.). For those of you who are not familiar with Buddhism and meditation practice, the five precepts are what most laypeople will follow to facilitate practice. Monks in Buddhism usually follow more precepts, it can vary in numbers depending on the tradition and lineage (for example, in Zen it is ten), I find that five is enough to incorporate in the world, we don’t have the advantage as householders to submerge ourselves in a community like the monasteries.
The five precepts are:
1. Panatipata veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
I undertake the precept to refrain from destroying living creatures.
2. Adinnadana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not given.
3. Kamesu micchacara veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
I undertake the precept to refrain from sexual misconduct.
4. Musavada veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
I undertake the precept to refrain from incorrect speech.
5. Suramerayamajja pamadatthana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
I undertake the precept to refrain from intoxicating drinks and drugs which lead to carelessness.
These are simple rules that help us live a moral life, but it is easier said than done! I actually have no problem with the first three, I am vegan so killing is not an issue with me. I know that we can get into the debate that I must kill some bugs when I am walking around the city, or that I killed carrots and other veggies to make food (why is it that people always use carrots as their example of vegetables? I wonder if people related to them more because they are yanked out of the ground by their “hair” or whatever.). Stealing has never been an issue with me, except maybe for the one time that I stole a chocolate bar as a kid and my dad made me go back to the pharmacy to give it back to the store clerk (a life lesson that I will always remember, always easier to do this as a child and not an adult, feels like it was such an after-school special sometimes). The closest that I get to this one would be downloading music on the internet, but I find that this is still a gray area. I find that this has just become a new version of the classic tape trading that I use to do when I was younger, except that this is not just with friends but with the world. I also don’t partake in sexual misconduct, this is a greatly debated and gray area of the precepts, I will write about this some other time. I am reading right now the new book by Brad Warner which is talking about sex in Buddhism and focuses greatly on this debate. I can, however, guarantee that there has been no misconduct on my part, even if sometimes I kind of wish that I could.
Gossiping I must admit is the hardest precept to follow, it is crazy how we gossip and don’t even realize it. I had a very difficult conversation with someone this weekend, I had to clear up somethings with this person about why we no longer do a meditation group together. I had always thought that this was already clear, but I guess I tried to spare this person’s feelings to the point that it was hard to understand what I was saying. I find that skillful speech has always been tricky, taking the gloves off when talking to someone is sometimes the best thing, but not the easiest. When I decided to do this, it was maybe too late and has definitely caused a rift, this person has stated that they no longer trust me and we are no longer friends. I am glad that things are clear, no matter the consequence, and now I can move on and focus on what I am doing. This is something that I feel I will always be working on, if you are reading this and thinking “it is easy to practice right speech and not gossip about anyone, etc.”, for the next week try to note every time you gossip about someone or pussy foot around something with someone to spare their feelings, you will be surprised by how long your list will be! The more I become mindful of this, the more I surprise myself by how much I do this.
The last precept has been going well since I have decided to cut out alcohol and drugs out of my life, but when I was drinking I must admit that it is challenging. We have all had the nights that we wish could not of happened due to a drunken mistake, being accountable for the actions that we do while intoxicated is an ordeal most of the time. I don’t think that I need to explain the merits of this precept in living a moral life, or at least, we all know someone who would be ready to vouch for this.
I think that I have babbled enough for now, I should get back to reading the new Brad Warner book. I will be doing a review of this book on Full Contact Enlightenment, my friend Tanya’s blog, you should really check it out. Tanya is one cool person, and she has really great things to say on Buddhism and anything that can relate to the Dharma Punk nation and way of life! Check it out and stay tuned for my review, lets hope that I make Tanya proud!