alan wrote:I was thinking about you lately BlackBird. Welcome back. Do you care to elaborate?
In order for one to see just how addicted one is to sensual pleasures, you first have to remove them. Forest monasteries in Sri Lanka do a bloody good job of this. So much so that the most exciting part of my day was breakfast - Because it included some sugary milk-tea mixed with malt extract. We had an evening Puja from 6 - 8:30pm each night, which you we're expected to attend. It was pretty painful sitting on that hard floor chanting for so long, I always used to console myself that getting through Puja meant that I could then go to sleep, and after sleeping I'd be able to have some milk tea. Sitting through Puja was just a way to get closer to the milk-tea.
The spartan environment is deliberate, the Ven. head monk is quite a fan of Ajahn Chah and has taken several pages out of his book in this respect. The purpose of course is that if you're thrown into the deep end, you'll either sink or swim. In such environments you need a good support network and mine disappeared on Carika before the rains began. Sensual pleasures don't stop at the physical though, as the Buddha states it is what is pleasant through the 6 sense doors, mind of course being the 6th. The Buddha also mentions in the suttas that for one man sensual pleasures experienced through the eye may be the highest, the most sublime, while for others it may be sounds, tastes etc etc. I found out during my stay in Sri Lanka that for me, mind objects are the most pleasant. To fill the void of physical pleasures, my mind turned back to life in New Zealand, my home, visions of sitting in the sun smoking a cigarette, a coffee, watching a documentary. I saw my wallet that Mum had given me when I was 13 going mouldy beyond repair and it sounds silly, but I become so bloody frustrated at that, I just wanted to go back home where it was nice and pleasant and I could do what I damn well wanted. No more mosquitos, no more cockroaches, no more scorpians, monkeys or biting ants.
At this point I have to interrupt myself again to kick some Dhamma - The way I see it, one of the principal ways in which craving hijacks cetana is that when you're contacted by an idea through the mind door, I.e. a modification of your existence - A move from point A to point B if you want, that move will either appear as pleasant or unpleasant. If it is pleasant then there will be an urge towards that idea, as that reality appears to provide more pleasure than one's current circumstance. If the feeling appears as unpleasant or more appropriately providing less pleasure than what is present in one's concrete reality, then there will be an urge to keep away from that reality, to be free of it. Both attempts at modification are nothing more than dukkha itself. So there is this constant duality in the mind between what is currently present and the possibility of what could
be present and thus there is a sense of lack, of dissatisfaction.
In allowing the mind to wander into these ideas which appeared so pleasant, I could escape from the dull monotony of my present situation in the cell, but the more I allowed the mind to gorge itself on these pleasant ideas, the more I wanted to be free of my present situation in the cell. I began calling my Mum and talking with her from my cellphone, Mum of course really wanted me to come home - She had a tough time with the idea that the only way she would ever see her only son was to visit him in a strange country where she would have to be supervised by another man. I told mum I was having thoughts of coming home, and so it progressed from there, Mum eager to offer me a free plane ride home, food on the table, all the trappings of our fantastic standard of living. I was sold on the idea.
One might ask - Well if you we're supposed to be meditating so many hours, why did you let such thoughts take control? Well in reality, if you're not used to meditating all day then it can make you very tired. Sloth and torpor became a real trouble for me there, so I would maybe have a good mediation session every 3 or 4 days. You might think that observing silence all of the time would help quiet the mind, but for me I just ended up talking to myself. Not literally, but the internal monologue went into over drive to compensate for the lack of expression.
This is the first time I've written this out this way, because It's only now starting to crystallize for me what exactly 'went wrong'. I think if I had my chance again, I would have left the forest monastery earlier, and gone to the suburban monastery where I spent my final month at. As it happened, no sooner had I booked my plane flight than I wanted to stay on at this suburban monastery. But when I reflect now, I can see that I wanted to stay because the conversations were pleasant, the library was pleasant, the living quarters were pleasant, the freedom from puja was pleasant, the idea of becoming a monk, with all the respect one receives, was pleasant. I wanted to stay because of these pleasures of the senses.
Hope that's not too terse.