I take refuge in dharma (the enlightened way of understanding and living)
In wriggling back into a kind of writing life, I’m feeling drawn towards Sunday meditations. I miss the 5 am dharma talks by Yeshe Rabgye. Even though they were online, I liked the fact they were live. Perception matters. And in some ways, it was a perfect combination of community and solitude. On the pillow in the living room with Leonard curled against my hip, and E. sleeping downstairs.
It shouldn’t be so difficult to take responsibility for noticing and creating the circumstances for specific experiences. Here at the desk in the bibliotekette, Leonard is curled against the wheels of my office chair. He’s willing to be quiet.
I am struggling with my personal contradictions: the love of rules and a rebellious, questioning nature. There are 250 precepts for monks, 348 for nuns. It figures there are more constraints for women. I am considering my need for a few, significant frames right now. Not 348 of them, though.
This morning I read the phrase “original sin” and began questioning my own understanding of the idea. In my memories of melodious Baptist sermons, it was clearly defined as sex: Eve “ate of the tree”, they realized they were naked (gasp), had garden-destroying sex, she got pregnant, and then screamed her head off “in childbirth”. One of her kids killed the other. I supposed it should be “one of their kids”, but my memories are a mash-up of 70s Saturday morning cartoon imagery, Baptist and capitalism’s misogyny, and Jacobean phrases. Thou shalt reek less of animal baseness by flooding thy wah-hoo with perfumed chemicals daily. I was original sin. While Adam only had to “deal with it”.
I was always confused about the tree of knowledge. I figured that was integral to my sin, too. My desire to find the answers to “Why?” and “What’s that?” that didn’t seem to fade despite repeated slaps upside the head. The animal in me was sin. The intellect in me was sin. The Catch-22 on the curriculum.
This morning I realized that I can read the Garden of Eden story through a secular Buddhist lens. Eating of the tree of knowledge, Eve ate the fruit. Which was not fruit of her labor: Eve is also a fruit of the tree of knowledge, and by attempting to put herself above the tree – above nature, through intellectual distance, she divorces herself from nature/life. She forgets who she is. Her unnatural perspective shreds her experience into harsh elements: bitter without sweet, a sting without a numbing.
There is a Buddhist metaphor of the human as a car. How many pieces are taken away before it is no longer a “car”. There is never a “car”. My grandfather warned me against philosophy and said there was no “God” in it. That makes sense to me now in a way it never did before.
What do we know of human experience (what can we understand) if we spend all of our time staring at a carburetor, mistaking it for the car?
I’m off for a run on the beach. Days like today the air is as wet as the sand and when the tide flows in over my bare feet, everything seems the same temperature.