Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Happiness is a side effect... Let Freedom Ring!

It's got to be about freedom.

I was looking at this today. Specifically, I was bringing the best teachers ever to walk this earth to mind, and asking myself how they pointed out this way of living as awakeness. It's quite an activity, actually bringing to mind the superstars of wakefulness and comparing yourself to them. It's thrilling and inspiring, and also scary; it has the potential to sound cocky, even like you've gone right off the deep end. People have been ostracized and even killed for talking like I'm about to talk, for heaven's sake.

It's also a perfectly reasonable thing to do. If you bring to mind your own work on this earth, whatever that might be, isn't it a great idea to emulate the best and brightest? If you are an aspiring quarterback, wouldn't you benefit by studying Peyton Manning's methods, tactics, capabilities, and strengths? Not to become a blind imitation, but wouldn't you do so to determine how you might benefit by incorporating the best of what you see into your own unique way?

So bringing the best to mind, and pondering how they pulled off such spectacular teaching, I found the following:

The Buddha invited us to Be Awake. The name Buddha is nothing more or less than the Sanskrit term for The Awakened. He didn't call himself The Happiest or The Peacefulest. When he saw what he saw, he found himself so transformed that he felt it important to rename himself, and he called himself The Awakened. His description, and this is the best I've gathered from all the third generation reading I've done, admitting freely that I haven't studied the direct translations much; his description of the transformation was having been liberated from that conditioned belief in himself as one bound by the suffering inherent in this conditioned way of being. (What a Catch-22, eh?) For the Buddha, it's about freedom. Freedom accompanied by a big side order of happiness.

Jesus offered salvation. What do we need to be saved from? Can I put it in the following way?: We are saved from all the conditioned habits and patterns, labeled sin in most people's understanding and languaging of Christianity, that leave us feeling separate from the direct experience of the Divine, or the direct experience of God, in Jesus' language. How are we saved from all these? By forgiving ourselves and others of the painful conditioned habits and patterns we all share and instill in each other. Recognizing the depth and breadth, the pervasiveness, the universality of these conditions, and the fact that we're all co-creating the very system of it, forgiveness is almost moot. We are simply saved by the realization that since we're all in the same boat, nobody's any better or worse off than anybody else and let's just give up all this judging and self-recrimination. Let's all grant ourselves our own freedom, and in doing so we naturally and instantly grant everyone else the same. What happens when we stop judging ourselves and everyone else for all the stuff we literally can't help happening? There is a huge sigh of relief, and I mean HUGE. The first time I experienced it fully, I couldn't stop laughing at myself and the world, and this was in the middle of a silent retreat!

Let's look at an even more modern example: the Dalai Lama. Here's his Facebook post (yes, the Dalai Lama is on Facebook, and he wants to be your friend!) from September 23rd:

To be kind, honest and have positive thoughts; to forgive those who harm us and treat everyone as a friend; to help those who are suffering and never to consider ourselves superior to anyone else: even if this advice seems rather simplistic, make the effort of seeing whether by following it you can find greater happiness. 

Sure, the Dalai Lama most often speaks in ways that point to developing and supporting happiness for ourselves and others. Nevertheless, look closely at this quote. Isn't he saying that, to attain happiness, we need to give everyone their own autonomy and full worth? "Treat everyone as a friend" and "never to consider ourselves superior to anyone else," what are these but instructions to stop the attack and defense mode of living?

I say, announce the  universal surrender and liberation already and enjoy some peace, and yes, happiness that is not dependent on the vastly inferior and impermanent stuff you've been trained to believe in. Go after real freedom, and notice how much happiness comes along with the bargain. Seeking after happiness is a fine way to get started, but if it remains your only goal, you may have some hard falls in moments when it feels as though happiness is nowhere to be found. Freedom is always available. Granting yourself the freedom to be exactly who and what you are, even feeling not at all happy, this gives you a strange and paradoxical gift of being perfectly happy in your grief, or fear, judgment, whatever. (And just to reassure you, you'll find that the grief or fear or judgment doesn't tend to stick around very long, when you grant it true freedom to be. It only stays if you hang on to it or try to get rid of it. That's going back into that damnable Catch-22. Don't fall for it!)

Being perfectly free and happy while prideful or fearful, or joyful for that matter, being free in all conditions feels so open and fine that you stop needing to manipulate conditions around you to support that old habit of material-based happiness. So no more falsely manipulating people or possessions to find happiness. Imagine the energy you would free up for yourself if you retired from THAT job! Yes, you'll still interact with the world, still do whatever you do to eat and such. But you'll have freed yourself from the vast majority of the work you currently do. It turns out that it's really hard work, staying in judgment, scrabbling after and constructing possessions, conditions and relationships that you keep believing are the source of your happiness, even though they never, ever deliver in a lasting way.

Free yourself. Notice when you're experiencing limitation, and ask yourself if you can be free instead. You don't need to go anywhere else to be free. You don't need anybody or anything else to be different. You don't even need anyone else to be any more or less awake to their own freedom than they are right now. You just have to give yourself your freedom. Give everyone their freedom, to be as free or as confused as they are. Make freedom the top dog. Really give yourself and everyone else their freedom. It's infectious. Try it just even a little, and see what happens to your attitude, to what comes out of your mouth and where your feet take you. Try it and see. See if you awaken. See if you're saved. See if you feel the direct presence of God. See if you experience a form of happiness unlike any you've consciously felt before. And also, see if you start to act in ways that eliminate all the old questions about the right way and the wrong way.

This is the most important part. It's frankly the only thing that works. Try it and see for yourself. You know you want to!

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