Piya Tan’s Reflection & sutta class: 9 May 2018 (Wed)
From The Minding Centre (TMC) @ Shenton House
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REFLECTION R551: “Do bad mindfully” (To download PDF).
[Click here for past Inspirations; Revisioning Buddhism & Index of Reflections]
Do bad mindfully
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affluent Singapore, the mass media often report on criminal offence by
executives, doctors, lawyers, academics, Christian pastors and Buddhist
monks for which they had to serve prison time. These are
professionals—can we then say that a professional is one who does something better for more money? But “better” here can refer to both good actions as well as bad ones.
has taught us to survive the harshest natural and human challenges, but
we have yet to learn to overcome some of our criminal habits. Such
habits do not sprout up overnight, but have been learned and conditioned
from our past. Basically, we have never really been taught about right
and wrong, good and bad. Or worse, we are actually drilled that in our
rat-race society money is might, and might is right.
moral habits have to be taught from young in a loving way. The key
teaching on this early training is found in the Amba,laṭṭhika
Rāhul’ovāda Sutta (M 61), where the Buddha basically teaches his own son
Rāhula to examine himself on a deep personal level—his thoughts, speech
and deeds—if any of it will harm himself, others or both. “Both” here
is a term for society in general and today we would include the
how the Buddha teaches young Rāhula. The Buddha does not command him:
Don’t do this, or don’t do that! Instead he is taught to be curious
about his mind, speech and body. Let us apply this principle in some
Smoke and drink
I was I teenager I smoked because my peers did; when I was older I
drank with western Buddhist friends. As I learned to enjoy the smoke, I
noticed that it hurt my eyes, it smelt like an unwashed over-used sweaty
towel, it made me cough, it tasted like chemical. I easily gave it up. I
enjoyed the drink while I was at it, but it actually tasted so bad, we
seem to seep just a bit each time as a dare; I wondered why anyone drank
back, I realized I had used some sort of mindfulness approach. I was
being curious about the bad habits I had. I did not really fight them,
but wondered why I even thought of doing them. The question now is how
did these bad habits start? Perhaps we had an urge, or we wanted to get
back at someone, or we were simply bored.
Learning by imitating
notice something or someone doing something, and thought it was worth
copying. For example, we notice that when we show anger people were more
likely to agree with us. So we learned a trigger, behaviour, reward,
repeat. This is just how our karmic unconscious works. Once we get
angry, we will get angry again. Once we give in to desire, we will fall
for it again. Once we show fear, we will show it again. And so on—this
is how our latent tendency (anusaya) builds up and grips us ever tighter. Again and again–that’s samsara.
know that being angry, falling into lust or showing fear are not
helpful, even bad. This is called self-restraint or cognitive control. Hence,
we need to know our habits on a deeper level. Notice the urge, get
curious; feel the joy of letting go; and repeat. This way we don’t have
to force ourself, but to be disenchanted, even disgusted, on a gut level
so that we are not inclined to do it again. This is naturally letting
we are brave enough, we may even smile at a silly habit–call it by its
name. Don’t call it by your name; then, you will own it forever. The
inner smiling–the Buddha smile–is disarming. It means we do not fear
the enemy; we befriend it. These are little miracles that bring us
closer to the Buddha.
sustained–makes buddhas. Then, we keep on making and befriending our
mistakes for countless lives until we have done them all–even breaking our hearts, losing our limbs, losing our heads life after life after life.
Then, we’re done, ready to awaken from the dreamy sleep of endless
failing, falling and fleeing, into the bright light of beauty and truth.