Buddhist teachings and my life – Joe Roy

We asked “What for you is the essential teaching of Buddhist practice and how does it influence your life?” Here are Joe Roy’s thoughts.

Recently I’ve been drawn intermittently (between bouts of scatterbrained inattention) to these lines from Kahlil Gibran:

“Love one another, but make not a bond of love.

Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of my soul.

Fill each other’s cup, but drink not from the same cup.

Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.

Be as the strings of the lute, that stay alone, yet quiver with the same music.”

To me, they seem to echo the Tathagatha’s teachings regarding the nature of attachment. Whenever I attempt to sit in zazen, a fraction of my thoughts, in the midst of the chatterings of this monkey mind, approach a semblance of wholesomeness.  In such fractional moments, there is a certain mulling over this “moving sea” and its accompanying waves. As elusive as they are, these thoughts do trigger a feeling that engenders a sense of peace (whatever that may be). Of course, the other side of this momentary sensation is the reality that it is dissolving, even as I glimpse it. I confess that at this juncture a twinge of sadness at its demise does afflict me, but then again it’s all grist to the mill of this practice, which I guess is the influence that it has upon me.

I suppose part of me also wonders whether this teaching can really be termed an -ism? Our modern linguistic parlance is adept at suffixing a body of thought as

-ist,  or an -ism.

It amuses me to consider the hypothetical situation of Mr Siddhartha Gautama being in our midst, more than 2500 years after he first started thinking about these things, and maybe having a little chuckle to himself at the way in which we’ve “-ismed” him. If I may take this train of thought a step further, then maybe this form of categorisation itself develops a subtle attachment. In the sense that, in my more wholesome, skillful moments (as fleeting as they are), I may be susceptible towards attaching to an idea of Buddh-ism, which surely diverts me from the core of the teaching? It’s at moments like this, I say to this self (whoever that may be), “Pull yourself together, mate!” and alight on the next station of distraction that comes along the path! And so the damned train trundles on, with a knowing sideways glance at whatever there is…