What's wrong with living a "normal" life?

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Re: What's wrong with living a "normal" life?

Postby Mukunda » Fri Jul 09, 2010 3:08 pm

bodom wrote:I find it ironic that those who are the most critical of lay practice, who seem to think that progress is only possible if one is a world renouncing monastic, are householder's themselves.


And I find it ironic that those who believe renunciation is unnecessary are those deeply involved with the world and sense pleasures.


:anjali:
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Re: What's wrong with living a "normal" life?

Postby altar » Fri Jul 09, 2010 3:34 pm

This is hardly ironic that those who are involved in sense pleasures are least likely to recognize the importance of renunciation. Maybe the word you are looking for is "suspect"?
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Re: What's wrong with living a "normal" life?

Postby Anicca » Fri Jul 09, 2010 3:46 pm

Howdy y'all
Mukunda wrote:
bodom wrote:I find it ironic that those who are the most critical of lay practice, who seem to think that progress is only possible if one is a world renouncing monastic, are householder's themselves.

And I find it ironic that those who believe renunciation is unnecessary are those deeply involved with the world and sense pleasures.

I agree that renunciation is key, but even with renunciation there is still a reliance. If only indirectly all a monk's requisites rely on money being used somewhere in the chain of events. They may not drive but still rely on transportation (ever moreso in this day and age) - etc.

Please excuse this mangling of Dhp IX 124 as it helps make the point: The hand without the wound is safe from the poison - but to think that allowing others to handle the poison for you protects you from the affects of the poison is mistaken. Indirectly, that hand, if it has a wound, even though others handled the poison, still feels the affect of the poison.

To sum it up - defining "normal" as having a wounded hand - some (many? - most?) monks live a normal life in the monastery. "What's wrong with living a normal life?" is that there is a still need for healing. Living in a home or a monastery makes no difference.

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Re: What's wrong with living a "normal" life?

Postby bodom » Fri Jul 09, 2010 4:30 pm

Mukunda wrote:And I find it ironic that those who believe renunciation is unnecessary are those deeply involved with the world and sense pleasures.


No irony there. I could be wrong but I dont believe you are ordained Mukunda. If you believe renunciation so key to realization why not ordain? What are you holding on to? If practicing as a householder is so inferior to practicing as a Bhikkhu why waste your time? If you are unable to ordain due to responsibilities, circumstances etc. why not follow the advice the Buddha gave to householder's in similar situationsto the best of your ability? Why such insistence on renunciation? Of course it is the ideal way and strongly recommended by the Buddha but it is not the only way to practice. Renunciation of unwholesome mental states is far more important than renunciation of material things. As the sutta I quoted above states there were many, many householder's "leading the holy life,partaking of sensual pleasure's" and still attaining stream entry.
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: What's wrong with living a "normal" life?

Postby PeterB » Fri Jul 09, 2010 4:40 pm

Well said Bodom.
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Re: What's wrong with living a "normal" life?

Postby mettafuture » Fri Jul 09, 2010 5:11 pm

Wind wrote:hi mettafuture

I think a normal life is all wrong for you, so why not give away all your possessions, starting with your ipod to me. :D

Nevahhh! :jedi:

On a serious note, nothing wrong with it as long as you continue to do good, avoid doing bad things, and purify your mind. :)

Agreed. And thank you, and all, for the bits of wisdom.

I've already renounced most of my possessions. I only have the things I absolutely need like a bed, couch, computer, desk, dresser, bookshelf, iPod :D, and so on. When people visit me they usually think I'm either just moving in or moving out because I have so little. But I like it this way. With fewer possessions, there is less to worry about, less to keep track of, and less to worry about replacing.
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Re: What's wrong with living a "normal" life?

Postby Laurens » Fri Jul 09, 2010 5:45 pm

No there is nothing wrong with it at all, and I think you're getting the wrong end of things if you think that.

You don't have to abandon a "normal" life to be a Buddhist and it is never encouraged. If you're teacher is encouraging this then you ought to research them, cause teaching such things sounds pretty cultish to me.
"For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring."

Carl Sagan
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Re: What's wrong with living a "normal" life?

Postby Sobeh » Fri Jul 09, 2010 5:49 pm

I agree that the problem is only in the question; the householder life isn't wrong, it's simply not as efficacious as the life of a renunciate in terms of the Path. Giving up the householder life is therefore encouraged and enabled, but the idea of "wrong" simply does not occur.
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Re: What's wrong with living a "normal" life?

Postby Lazy_eye » Fri Jul 09, 2010 6:35 pm

Hi Mettafuture,

I thought you might find the following quotes of interest; I've found them helpful.

The first is from an influential Burmese monk who studied with Mahasi Sayadaw as well as S.N. Goenka:

Dr. Ven. Rewata Dhamma wrote:The [Dhammacakkaappavattana] sutta says that one who has gone forth from the worldly life should not indulge in sensuous pleasures. The question, therefore, arises whether ordinary worldlings may freely enjoy sensual pleasures. Since the gratification of sense desires is a human preoccupation, the Buddha emphasized the Middle Path. When one lives amidst wordly surroundings, one can enjoy sensual pleasures with wisdom; but one should avoid habits which lead to craving. The householder whose practice is serious should try to rein in and diminish his or her desires and observe the third moral precept from misuse of the senses.


And this from Bhikkhu Bodhi, in "Lifestyles and Spiritual Progress":

To make clear the choices facing the lay follower we might posit two alternative models of the Buddhist lay life. On the first model lay life is seen as a field for gradual progress toward the goal through the development of wholesome qualities such as generosity, moral virtue, kindness, and understanding. The immediate aim is not direct realization of the highest truth, but the accumulation of merits leading to a happy rebirth and gradual progress toward Nibbana.

The second model recognizes the capacity of lay followers for reaching the stages of awakening in this life itself, and advocates strict moral discipline and strenuous effort in meditation to attain deep insight into the truth of the Dhamma. While there are in Buddhist countries lay people who follow the path of direct realization, their number is much smaller than those who pursue the alternative model. The reason should be obvious enough: the stakes are higher, and include a capacity for inward renunciation rare among those who must raise a family, work at a full-time job, and struggle to survive in a ruggedly competitive world. We should note further a point of prime importance: this second model of the Buddhist lay life becomes effective as a means to higher attainment precisely because it emulates the monastic model. Thus, to the extent that a lay follower embarks on the practice of the direct path to realization, he or she does so by conforming to the lifestyle of a monk or nun.

These two conceptions of the lay life need not be seen as mutually exclusive, for an earnest lay follower can adopt the first model for his or her normal routine and also stake out periods to pursue the second model, e.g., by curtailing social engagements, devoting time to deep study and meditation, and occasionally going on extended retreats. Though a monastic lifestyle might be more conducive to enlightenment than a busy life within the world, when it comes to individuals rather than models all fixed preconceptions collapse. Some lay people with heavy family and social commitments manage to make such rapid progress that they can give guidance in meditation to earnest monks, and it is not rare at all to find sincere monks deeply committed to the practice who advance slowly and with difficulty. While the monastic life, lived according to the original ideal, may provide the optimal outer conditions for spiritual progress, the actual rate of progress depends on personal effort and on the store of qualities one brings over from previous lives, and often it seems individuals deeply enmeshed in the world are better endowed in both respects than those who enter the Sangha.


Metta,

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Re: What's wrong with living a "normal" life?

Postby Lazy_eye » Fri Jul 09, 2010 6:39 pm

Hi Mettafuture,

I thought you might find the following quotes of interest; I've found them helpful.

The first is from an influential Burmese monk who studied with Mahasi Sayadaw as well as S.N. Goenka:

Dr. Ven. Rewata Dhamma wrote:The [Dhammacakkaappavattana] sutta says that one who has gone forth from the worldly life should not indulge in sensuous pleasures. The question, therefore, arises whether ordinary worldlings may freely enjoy sensual pleasures. Since the gratification of sense desires is a human preoccupation, the Buddha emphasized the Middle Path. When one lives amidst wordly surroundings, one can enjoy sensual pleasures with wisdom; but one should avoid habits which lead to craving. The householder whose practice is serious should try to rein in and diminish his or her desires and observe the third moral precept from misuse of the senses.


And this from Bhikkhu Bodhi, in "Lifestyles and Spiritual Progress":

To make clear the choices facing the lay follower we might posit two alternative models of the Buddhist lay life. On the first model lay life is seen as a field for gradual progress toward the goal through the development of wholesome qualities such as generosity, moral virtue, kindness, and understanding. The immediate aim is not direct realization of the highest truth, but the accumulation of merits leading to a happy rebirth and gradual progress toward Nibbana.

The second model recognizes the capacity of lay followers for reaching the stages of awakening in this life itself, and advocates strict moral discipline and strenuous effort in meditation to attain deep insight into the truth of the Dhamma. While there are in Buddhist countries lay people who follow the path of direct realization, their number is much smaller than those who pursue the alternative model. The reason should be obvious enough: the stakes are higher, and include a capacity for inward renunciation rare among those who must raise a family, work at a full-time job, and struggle to survive in a ruggedly competitive world. We should note further a point of prime importance: this second model of the Buddhist lay life becomes effective as a means to higher attainment precisely because it emulates the monastic model. Thus, to the extent that a lay follower embarks on the practice of the direct path to realization, he or she does so by conforming to the lifestyle of a monk or nun.

These two conceptions of the lay life need not be seen as mutually exclusive, for an earnest lay follower can adopt the first model for his or her normal routine and also stake out periods to pursue the second model, e.g., by curtailing social engagements, devoting time to deep study and meditation, and occasionally going on extended retreats. Though a monastic lifestyle might be more conducive to enlightenment than a busy life within the world, when it comes to individuals rather than models all fixed preconceptions collapse. Some lay people with heavy family and social commitments manage to make such rapid progress that they can give guidance in meditation to earnest monks, and it is not rare at all to find sincere monks deeply committed to the practice who advance slowly and with difficulty. While the monastic life, lived according to the original ideal, may provide the optimal outer conditions for spiritual progress, the actual rate of progress depends on personal effort and on the store of qualities one brings over from previous lives, and often it seems individuals deeply enmeshed in the world are better endowed in both respects than those who enter the Sangha.


It might also be worth taking a look at the last chapter of Walpola Rahula's "What the Buddha Taught," as well as the section on lay practice in "Access to Insight".
Metta,

LE
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Re: What's wrong with living a "normal" life?

Postby bodom » Fri Jul 09, 2010 6:40 pm

:thumbsup:

Thank you for posting these.

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: What's wrong with living a "normal" life?

Postby bodom » Fri Jul 09, 2010 6:55 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:It might also be worth taking a look at the last chapter of Walpola Rahula's "What the Buddha Taught," as well as the section on lay practice in "Access to Insight".


Good suggestion. I would also recommend Bodhi's In the Buddha's Words as it contains a whole section of sutta's given specifically to householders. Another great book of Buddha's instructions for householders:

The Buddha’s Teachings on Prosperity: At Home, At Work, In the World by Bhikkhu Rahula Basnagoda
http://www.wisdompubs.org/pages/display ... n=&image=1

and also

Buddhist Ethics by Hammalawa Saddhatissa
http://www.wisdompubs.org/Pages/display ... n=&image=1

Here is a list I compiled of sutta's and articles for householders:

Suttas for the Householder
viewtopic.php?f=14&t=259

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: What's wrong with living a "normal" life?

Postby kc2dpt » Fri Jul 09, 2010 8:26 pm

mettafuture wrote:What's wrong with going to school, getting a degree, working hard to earn a stable income, starting a family, enjoying the good, and learning how to tolerate the bad?

It appears to me that such a lifestyle is inherently unstable and therefore inherently stressful.

mettafuture wrote:Is the "worldly life" really that bad?

Obviously not. If it was that bad then no one would want to do it.

mettafuture wrote:I never said I found my life "completely fulfilling."

I have heard the Buddha taught a way to a goal which he described as completely fulfilling.

Sanghamitta wrote:Its all about odds and priorities.

This says it about as well as it can be said, I think.
- Peter

Be heedful and you will accomplish your goal.
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Re: What's wrong with living a "normal" life?

Postby chownah » Mon Jul 12, 2010 2:55 pm

mettafuture wrote:Thank you all for the great advice and references. You've given me a lot to think over.

Here's my theory: I think renunciation is highlighted so frequently in the suttas because the Buddha saw it as the way to live a completely pure and spiritually "dust free" life. However, he never completely condemns the householder's life. So the level of dust you're willing to deal with or tolerate is up to you.

chownah wrote:If you find nothing wrong with living a "normal" life and find it completely fulfilling then -

I never said I found my life "completely fulfilling."

why are you wasting your time reading Suttas?....

Because I have learned a lot from reading them.

Thanks for your reply. You are correct in that you did not say if your "normal" life was fulfilling or not to any particular degree.....is it?.....do you find a "normal" life fulfilling to some degree?....or to ask a related question, do you find something lacking to some degree in a "normal" life?

About renunciation, my view is that the Buddha saw people whose paths were along the lines of being "holy" people and he saw people whose paths were along the lines of being "householders" and in his wisdom he saw that different teachins were needed for each of these types of people so he just made his teachings so that both of these peoples conditions were met with advise on how to attain the goal.....but that's just my view and I have no Theravada reference that suggests this or supsports this.
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Re: What's wrong with living a "normal" life?

Postby manas » Mon Jul 26, 2010 1:28 am

Yes, that question troubles me from time to time. The things that are most important to me, such as meditative awareness, and peaceful reflection (I don't always have these things - I am a lay person with two dear children) - these peaceful, simple things are not praised by popular culture, or in the media (other than in a superficial, sentimentalized way). So sometimes I also feel like 'a fish out of water' in this sense-enjoyment driven culture we all live in. Because what the Buddha points to looks beyond appearances. Yes, to live an ordinary worldly life, not wisely reflecting as we live it, is not the same thing as living the Dhamma.

But the Buddha was a very practical person. He did not say that everyone should ordain, after all if everyone did there would be no-one to feed all the monks and nuns! Its simply reality that we all have different karmic influences, and will as a result have to practise the Dhamma in a way suited to our own acquired nature. So yes, he advocated ordaining for those that could make that commitment (or even just try it out for a while and see what happens), and for others he recommended being the best lay Buddhist you can, as another noble alternative rather just 'going with the flow' that is ordinary, unreflective worldly life.

You can be a lay Buddhist and have a nice house, car, loving partner (hard to find, but I wish you luck)...so why not have it all? Buddhist laypersons are allowed to make use of these things, so long as in our enjoyment of the above we do not kill, lie, steal, misuse sex, or take drugs. Now that still leaves: walks in the forest, nights out at the movies, snuggling in front of the fire together...I mean, use your imagination, it leaves lots of 'normal' things that you can still do! But the difference is that you will avoid the harmful consequences of unvirtuous behaviour.

Hope that was helpful in some way. I really do understand where you are coming from with such questioning. That answer is the best I can come up with. :)
The greatest warrior of all time turned out to be the most peaceful one.
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Re: What's wrong with living a "normal" life?

Postby Vepacitta » Wed Aug 04, 2010 6:53 pm

Hey - I don't think there's anything wrong per se with a "normal" life. However, if you think about it - trying to tread the "ariya path" is pretty difficult within the "worldly world". It's difficult enough for bhikkhus and bhikkunis - read some of Ajahn Sumedho's funny stories about his travails as a younger monk in The Mind and the Way (and other articles which you can google). Read all about the strife as to Bhikkuni ordination. I remember a Carmelite Priest telling me about his 3 year vow of silence retreat at some out of the way monastary and that he had a constant urge to want to choke a certain brother monk who slurped his porridge!

Everyone - even the renunciates - are "samsara-ing" (I'm experimenting with Aj. Thanissaro's suggestion to use samsara and nibbana as verbs).

And - here in my so-called "normal" (rolls over larfing) life - although I don't think there's anything "wrong" - I do note that it's just sooooo easy to cling-on to things (and not in a good way - kaplah!)

So, the establishment of the Bhikku/Bhikkuni sangha was a way to help those to really let go - because there's nothing much one has to hold onto in that sort of life experience - and yet there's still "Klinging-on" in that lifestyle.

It's our underlying tendency to identify view, to doubt, to rules and observances, to have ill will, etc etc that gets us and being in the household life it's so easy to get 'caught' to 'kling' to all the shiny things (or even) noble things and causes.

I don't recall the Tathagatha saying that any of this was easy - but then I certainly haven't read the entire Tipitaka :namaste:

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