[Summary: Short look at the role of practise in obtaining the ‘Unconditioned’. Refers to a point raised on one of U Vamsa’s ‘New Age Myths’ talk. Sutta quote on the topic]
You’ll never get to heaven in a biscuit tin ….
‘cos a biscuit tin’s got biscuits in …
Last month Venerable U Vamsa gave a talk on ‘new age myths’ – a list of ideas floating around amongst spiritual seekers that do not gel with Buddhism. We posted the list up in the blog HERE, mostly for those who attended the talk. It would have been nice to follow up some of the myths, as opinions can vary. For instance, several of us hold German teacher Eckhart Tolle in higher regard than perhaps the speaker did. Marcus picked up on item 5, which deserves some consideration.
Myth number five reads:
One can indulge, think, serve, chant et al. one’s way to enlightenment
What was the Buddha doing under the Bodhi Tree??
To indulge ones way to enlightenment? I have heard this too. Some people hold that you cannot transcend your desires, and nor should you try. You should indulge them until they fall away naturally. Particularly this is applied to sexual relations, as a way to have ones cake and eat it.
To serve ones way to enlightenment? This is Kamma Yoga – enlightenment through service. Service is a good way to develop compassion, but it can rapidly replace the goal of Enlightenment, and becomes an end in itself. If service could make you enlightened perhaps Mother Teresa would have had a better handle on practise than Buddhism. Yet she was full of doubt – something blogged on at littlebang HERE [or “Blagged on” as the WordPress spellchecker suggests sarcastically]
One cannot chant oneself to Nibbana. This is summed up by the Buddha’s teaching on attachment – there are four kinds of attachment, and one is to rites and rituals, which cannot purify you, or reveal the Unconditioned. People used to tell the Buddha that bathing in this or that river washed away one’s sins. Similarly today, many think if you are not baptised you will go to hell.
Yet this is not to say that service, chanting, thinking etc. cannot be used as tools. Like all Dhamma they need to be used wisely. If grasped wrongly, like grasping the wrong end of a snake (Buddha’s own analogy) they will do more harm than good. The Sutta Nipata has a comment on this:
I do not say that you can attain purity by views, traditions, insight, morality, or conventions: Nor will you attain purity without these. But by using them for abandonment, rather than as positions to hold on to, you will come to be at peace without the need to be anything. SN V 848
In the end you have to empty out everything, including all the Punya (merit) you have made. All positions, attainments and practises, like the biscuits, have to go in the end.