Email Instructions & Eastern Answer
>1. Grab the nearest book.
>2. Open the book to page 23.
>3. Find the fifth sentence.
>4. Post the text of the next three sentences in your journal along with these >instructions. Don’t dig for your favorite book, the cool book, or the intellectual >one: pick the CLOSEST.
These were the instructions from and email friend for what sounded like a fun game. It sounded unusual, and when I followed the instructions, the results were rather humorous. You see, the closest book to me at the time happened to be my copy of “The Teachings of Buddha”. Here’s what follows:
“Indeed, it is very difficult to understand the world as it is, for, although it seems true, it is not, and, although it seems false, it is not. Ignorant people can not know the truth concerning the world. Buddha alone truly and fully knows the world as it is and he never says that it is true or false, or good or evil. He simply portrays the world as it is.”
That’s a pretty good lesson, I think. No judgment calls, no high-falutin’ declarations of what is or isn’t proper. A simple presentation of actual reality. This is the way it is.
So why did I have a copy of this book close at hand. Because as I present myself to the world in an attempt to find a new job, I find myself facing a planet which seems to be constantly in turmoil. I’m not talking about the political state of things, or the fact that every employer wants experienced personnel but doesn’t want to give it. No, what I’m seeing are a lot of people who are killing themselves in high-stress environments to grab as much wealth and material possessions as they can before their neighbors grab them first. The old, “Those Who Have the Most Toys Wins” attitude. An attitude I just don’t understand.
Buddha didn’t understand it either. Maybe the fact that he came from a wealthy background helped him to understand that having a lot of money didn’t make any difference. He realized that what mattered was the core of the person. If your heart was filled with avarice, that would never be satisfied no matter how much money you had. That makes a lot of sense to me.
“Having it all”, or, “The American Dream” are phrases we hear a lot of today, especially in the business world. I suppose that stands for the big house, the fancy car, a six or seven digit salary, big-screen TV, etc. All the possessions you could want, and the ability to throw money at your problems. But, I don’t want that. I never did.
No, I have always been more attracted to “The French Dream”, which is probably not something you’ve heard of before. In essence, the French Dream consists of securing a sufficient income and retiring to the country where one sips wine, chats with the neighbors, and enjoys good books and ignores the rat race. It is a life in which one accepts the world as it is, not as how you think it should be in relation to you!
The French Dream is centered not on personal conquest, but in the triumph of the individual. What you do is create a social dynamic in which you further the mind and the soul rather than getting wrapped up in material goods. The latter point is critical!
Buddha believed that suffering was inherently tied to the possession of material things. If your feelings were wrapped up in material goods then the core self never emerged from the wrappings of ego and the Id. As the individual continued to long for things like new cars, flat-screens, costly jewelry and new shoes the core part of the self became ever more strangled. This is the side-effect of the American Dream. “Having it all” is a race down a long track lined with credit cards and collection agents urging you on. I’m reminded of an old cartoon where a woman gets a store credit card and is being encouraged to use it. She holds up her nose and starts to walk out, and then spots a new pair of shoes. “Well, maybe I’ll get this….and this, and this, and that, and THAT!” Eventually she goes hog-wild to the admiring glances of a couple of sales clerks. “New credit-card?” asks one. The other clerk nods and says, “Yeah…isn’t it beautiful?”
The French Dream offers contemplation, quiet, and the satisfaction that the best things in life are still free: sunsets, relaxation, books from the library, and hours of uninterrupted sleep!
Soi, while the rest of the world is running around chasing its tail, I’m going to be snoozing in a hammock after reading a collection of Voltaire.
That, to me, is the ideal life, and I think Buddha would approve.