Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Are we stuck?

A slight diversion here from my normal posts, or at least what has recently turned into my normal routine of posting.

Last night just before bed I picked up my copy of the Majjhima Nikaya to continue my reading of all its suttas from beginning to end. I am up to MN 14, the Cula-dukkhakkhandha Sutta, or The Lesser Mass of Stress. I was struck – nay, stunned might be the more appropriate term – by a paragraph in the sutta, which I present now (the text below is from my hard copy of the Majjhima Nikaya, while the link I provide is to a different translation that has some minor differences).

The sutta describes Mahanama, a householder or layperson, approaching the Buddha with the question of why, despite understanding what the Buddha teaches, does he continue to experience greed, hatred and delusion. To this question, the Buddha replies with:

“Mahanama, there is still a state unabandoned by you internally, owing to which at times states of greed, hate, and delusion invade your mind and remain; for were that state already abandoned by you internally you would not be living the home life, you would not be enjoying sensual pleasures. It is because that state is unabandoned by you internally that you are living the home life and enjoying sensual pleasures.”

Is the Buddha saying that the only way to completely rid myself of greed, hate, and delusion is to abandon the householder life, to give up my “normal” life, and become a monastic? Because if I don’t, will I will always be tethered in some form or manner to feelings of sensuality and desire for sensual pleasure, and as long as that connection exists, will I always have greed, hatred and delusion?

In other words, because I choose to live my life as a layperson, I am stuck in this cycle of samsara? There’s no getting out of it?

I guess I already knew this. I have stated before that I have no real interest in becoming a monk because I do enjoy sex, I do enjoy traveling and seeing things, I do enjoy good food and good company, I do enjoy good music, a good book, and vigorous ride on my bike along the lakeshore – I enjoy all these things. But because I enjoy all these things, I will always feel greed, hate and delusion?

Am I stuck? Are we all stuck because we opt to live life as lay people?

1 comment:

  1. Is it impossible to pull off the great escape as a house holder? No, I don't think so.

    Ridiculously improbable? Yeah, I think so. I can't imagine a scenario in which you would be able to enter into extinction and be any kind of decent husband/wife/father/mother.