Notes on Disenchantment
The first part – the rest will follow in a few days….
Choice of Topic
We have looked at many of the classic teachings of Buddhism – mindfulness, right efforts, pleasure principle … and ventured into defense mechanisms in so far as they relate to Dukkha. Disenchantment is a topic that is rarely covered in Western Buddhism, for no particular reason. Perhaps Westerners are already disillusioned with life, or maybe already have a tendency to negative emotions like depression and guilt. Disenchantment is an aspect of Buddhism that appears continually throughout the suttas, in many forms, and also makes for an interesting change of topic for those who have heard and read lots on the majour themes.
The Pleasant Aspect
One way many people interpret spirituality is that they should be looking on the bright side of everything. And pretty much everything does have a bright side if you are willing to look for it. It is the “turn that frown upside down” mentality. But to always be positive and chipper about life??? An admiral quality, but in Buddhism we do not want to try and make everything so pleasant. There is the aspect of things where you become fed up with life, disillusioned and tired of things. Counting this attribute as a spiritual quality is uniquely Buddhist. It is something to be developed.
Usually we accept that starting out on the path of meditation involves developing good qualities such as compassion, energy, kindness, peace, wisdom etc.. but when it comes to meditation the beginner is often dismayed to find that the qualities of mind that they are faced with are anything but beautiful. The mind is unruly and definitely not peaceful. It jumps around in agitation or lapses into drowsiness and it will not stop running away with itself. The beautiful states that do arise in meditation are the resultant states, not something that you are ‘doing’ at that time.
It is working with the discomfort, with the unruly mind that the meditator needs to aim at. The basic technique is to hold the intention, the consciousness, back in self awareness, restraining it from flowing outwards through one of the senses. That is, you do not let the consciousness drift away into the enticing thoughts that arise in the mind, or the sounds from the past, future or present that you like or dislike. And so on for the other senses. Every time you catch your mind losing self-awareness, you gently note that distraction and bring the attention back to the meditation object. This is the work that needs to be done. This is your work and your task in meditation. If the mind stops still and becomes bright, happy or any other desirable state, that is really the result of having put in the work. So often people are dismayed with the unruly mind, and think that ‘meditation’ is enjoying the happy states. So the meditator can see that in truth not everything is pleasant, nor should we try to make it so.