Thursday, August 10, 2006

Need to return borrowed reading material prompts blog entry

Film at 11! No, really: Favorite Neighbor lent me two issues of tricycle a few (3, 4, whatever) weeks back, and I need to give them back. So I skimmed back through to see what had grabbed my attention the first time.

First, from the Winter 2004 issue, a conversation between Pema Chodron (imagine umlauts on those o's) and The Venerable Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, who from his photo is awfully cute. But I'm not supposed to mention that about anyone with "The Venerable" in front of his name, am I?

(From these digressions, you can see why meditation is a challenge for me...where was I again?)

This conversation was about guiltlessness--the particular challenge for Western students of Buddhism. I know from my own experience, guilt is big. My particular brand: Scandinavian-American-Lutheran-well-educated-child-of-working-class-parents-who-worked-their-butts-off-guilt.

Dzigar Kongtrul explains that this guilt is rooted in Western epistemology that clings to a notion of a unified self. So it's not just the doctrine of original sin, which Buddhism has no use for, believing instead that "the mind by its very nature [is] pure and enlightened." See, guilt causes us say we're bad: when I do something inappropriate or hurtful (like forget a coffee date with a friend, or tell a lover her new glasses are ugly), I think I'm bad.

Buddhism reminds us that there is no "I"--no "bad me" because there is no "me." No stable, unified self to bear this burden of built: "Understanding that there is no solid, singular, or permanent 'me' makes it possible to accommodate whatever arises in life without feeling so intimidated by our experience, without rolling over like a defeated dog in a dogfight," he explains. Instead, "Mind is innocent but influenced by ignorance and wrong conceptual beliefs that project a self."

And while I'm not sure I'm ready to follow this line of thought down the whole "What about Charles Manson" rabbit hole, I do think this offers an interesting way of thinking about my own attachment to guilt.

He distinguishes regret, which "is a function of mind's intelligence," from guilt. Regret demands that we confront our error and seek change. Guilt wallows in itself.

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