One thing that bothered be a little when I was in religious circles, and bothers more now, is the idea that we are born sinners. The Bible (at least the way it was taught in my circles) says that we are born into sin and there is nothing you can do about that. It was passed down from Adam and Eve. So, we need Jesus to save us from our sin nature and the consequences that come with that nature. We are broken and need Jesus to fix us.
When I started learning about Buddhism and other eastern traditions, I noticed that much of the teaching is just the opposite. For the most part, the things that I have read teach that humans are born with an innate goodness. Many times, that goodness gets covered up with various types of abuse, neglect, mental illness, etc. But deep within us remains that innate goodness.
I’m reading a book by Brother Phap Hai called “Nothing To It”. It’s very good! There is a section of the book that I have read several times now. And will probably read, and meditate on, many more times. He is talking about how we tend to look outside ourselves for happiness, peace, and joy. We look to things or people or food or alcohol or money or fun… And these things can be, and often are enjoyable in the moment. But it’s really just a temporary fix. He talks about how we think that we need one more condition, just one more thing. If we hold this attitude, however subtly, we practice life not by deeply trusting in our own innate goodness and the innate goodness of others, but rather we see ourselves as “broken”, as needing to be “fixed”. He mentions a teaching from the Plum Village chanting book that reads, “Our mind is always searching outside of itself and never feels fulfilled”. It’s always running after the next thing. He says that this is where the Buddha’s teaching is really radical, because the Buddha basically tells us, “You do not need even one more thing; you are already what you want to become.”
Wow. What a difference that last statement makes. I already am what I want to become. So now, instead of seeking for something that I think is not there or that I don’t have, it becomes more about uncovering and discovering who I already am. That’s pretty cool! I do want to mention that by saying, “you are not broken”, that does not ignore the effects of hurts and abuse and the other kinds of negative things that people have experienced in life. And, it also doesn’t mean that seeking outside help from a friend, doctor, counselor, medication, etc, is wrong. All those things now become tools to help uncover and discover who you really are. It’s a subtle shift in the way we think and look at things, but I think it can make a huge difference. It takes me from thinking that I’m broken and I need this and that to fixe me; to thinking that I’m already who I want to be, but I might need help to see that more clearly.
I’m going to be meditating on this for a while and see what kind of changes happen in my life. “You do not need even one more thing; you are already what you want to become.” The thing that first comes to mind for me is alcohol. I’m not judging anyone for drinking alcohol. I don’t think there is anything wrong with drinking for lots of folks, but for me, it’s become a problem. I’ve managed to decrease my consumption quite a bit from where I was not long ago. But I am still struggling with stopping completely. I understand that my body and mind crave the alcohol because of the chemical effects that come along with drinking. But there is also a part of my mind that says, “Alcohol will make it better!” Whatever “it” is. I wonder what would happen if I said to myself, “No, it won’t make it better. I do not need even one more thing; I am already who and what I want to become”? I’m pretty sure that the cravings will not instantly stop. But from that different perspective, I think it will help. I’ve also sought outside help, and will continue to do so. But now it’s not about fixing the broken me, it’s about finding people to help me uncover and discover who I already am.
It would be interesting to have several folks think on this throughout their day as well and see what kind of changes take place, if any. Maybe give it a shot for a while and let me know what happens. I’ll do the same. 🙂