A tangle within, without, lo!

[Summary: a look at the entanglement of this generation. How can we carry on the traditions of the great monks and teachers who have passed away?]

A tangle inside, a tangle outside

This generation is entangled in a tangle.

This modern era with its superstores and super-gadgets, consumerism, commercialism and materialism, with endless distractions at the flick of a button or mouse – how can anyone become enlightened? It seems so much harder to practice in today’s environment that in times of old. No wonder there are no more arahants around to inspire us.

There was a recent generation of great monks – Ajahn Chah, Mahasi Sayadaw, Ajahn Mun; and more sages in the wider field like Ramana Maharshi, Krishnamurti … Now it is left for our lesser, later generation to cherish our memories and struggle along as best we can without them.

The old ones now have passed away,
The new ones do not impress me much,
Today I meditate all alone
Like a bird gone to its nest

This lament of a monk remembering his former times seems to encapsulate just how much of a tangle this generation is in.

Christianity too feels the pinch:

more sins reign in these days than in any past age .. justice has perished, all peace is broken

The earth and the sea are full of robbers and the great part of mankind is disposed to evil

Back to Buddhism. Said one angelic figure:

Those monks in the past who were disciples of the Buddha were happy. Without greed they took almsround, without greed they used lodgings. They understood the impermanence of things and saw the end of dukkha.

This generation make bad men of themselves, living amongst people as men of improtance. They crave what their neighbours have, and eat until they drop.


Is this generation really entangled in a tangle – have we been born 2000+ years too late?

The sentiment that we live in an age of degeneration is, frankly, as old as the ancient generations.

The first quote is from the Brahmana Samyutta – the third body of Buddhist scriptures, and is, to the best of our knowledge, 2500 years old.

The second quote, of the old ones having passed away, and the new generation not being so impressive, is attributed to Ananda, the Buddha’s attendant, at the age of 120, some 40 years after the passing of the Buddha. The full stanza reads:

My companion has passed away,
The Master, too, is gone.
There is no friendship now that equals this:
Mindfulness directed to the body.

The old ones now have passed away,
The new ones do not please me much,
Today I meditate all alone
Like a bird gone to its nest

The ‘more sins reign in these days’ quote is from Roger Bacon in 1271 and the following quote by Francesco Datini, merchant of Prato some time in the late 1300s.

Finally, the ‘angelic figure’ is the young deva Jantu who appeared to a group of chit chatting monks to remind them of their goal. Again this is in the Samyutta Nikaya, and is thus 2500 years old.

Rose-tinted Spectacles

People of all ages have looked to their father figures as more saintly then themselves.

But there is an alternative view : humans are now freer, fairer and more peaceful than ever before. Our societies have gained stability, and there is less and less room for exploitation. Certainly we have much improvement still to make, but for most of us we are able to divide out from our days leisure time, that factory and mill workers even 50 or 100 years ago were not. We have access to information, and can maintain the health of our bodies to a much higher degree than was ever before possible. There are no more excuses. This generation is in as much of a tangle as any other, but at least we have the chance to carve out for ourselves both time and place to ‘disentangle the tangle’.

I know of no other quality that conduces to confusion and the decline of true Dhamma as negligence [A I.12]

This theme of being all-a-tangle, will be explored in depth next month at the WBU, May 4th, 12 noon, by the speaker David Holmes. He will look at some of the reasons that humans become ‘tangled’ and how to undo the knot. Details of this event will be posted up closer to the time.


About Cittasamvaro

Auto blogography of an urban monk
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