So, it's Monday and the start of my second full-week as a pious follower of the Buddha. The more I read and come to understand the Dharma, the more I am able to let go of many things that have always been pressing on my mind. That, however, is not unique to Buddhism, but religion in general.
I woke up this morning at 5:00am; fully rested and looking forward to my day. My throat was slightly sore throat and am not sure if it's from my diet, my excessive amount of talking, the kids or the seasons changing. I'm thinking it's the latter. Korea inched towards Spring this year at a sloth-like pace. Seriously, it was horrible. It was almost enough to convince my wife to move to Florida. I'd choose Miami is I could. I think I'd like the diversity, although salsa dancing is far too sexy for my body. I'm more of a hippie-shake kind of guy.
Despite my possible illness, I simply sat up in bed, crossed my legs, locked my hands and began to meditate. Don't get me wrong, I still dislike Monday mornings as much as ever, but I'm trying to be more realistic (and not blindly positive) about it. I can't change the fact that I have to work. Buddha says,
"There are five things which no one is able to accomplish in this world: first is to cease growing old when he is old; second, to cease being sick; third, to cease dying; fourth, to deny extinction when there is extinction; fifth, to deny exhaustion."
While it has a "death and taxes" feel to it, the message is solid. I can't change the fact that I have to work. Wasting energy on this simple and undeniable fact is useless. If I were to imagine the opposite --no work or a day off work for false reasons-- I would only benefit in the short term. That is, it would be gratifying (not satisfying) like smoking, watching television or drinking booze, but what are the consequences of following through on such behavior? I'm not saying watching It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (a personal favorite) is going to affect someone's life all that much nor do I think it's bad to lament waking up on Mondays. What I do think is that it's useless to whine about the things that are uncontrollable, especially when all other options will lead to much more suffering.
The meditation was a short one; only ten minutes, but it was enough to kick-start my day. My wife was already in the shower. She can wake up in less than a minute and be in the shower. It's not that she's a morning person -she's not, but more that she's Korean and has issues with wasting time. Or perhaps I should say with the illusion of wasting time. After making coffee (for her), I turned the TV on and switched to channel 820 -that's the Buddhist chanting channel and one of the perks of living in East Asia. There's also a Christian choir channel, so I'll be fine down the road.
After a few morning bows to my Buddha statue and with the music still on in the background, I opened my laptop and did my usual thing: Open my Yahoo! homepage to see the trending topics (most of which are so because the voyeur in everyone is clicking on names in hopes of a death report), NYT, WaPo, Kos, Talkleft and TPM. Buddhism has not changed that. I'll always care about the future of my country.
After getting my fill of progressive politics, I took a quick gander at Drudge. It was pretty bad. I left the site before becoming unnecessarily angry. I jumped over to one of my Korean news resources and stumbled upon an article that discussed the rising trend of Korean meth use. I wasn't all that surprised by the news, but it made me think of myself, a former marijuana-user.
First of all, marijuana-users are the most self-righteous criminals in the world. I know some might hesitate to call them criminals, but let's face it: until it's fully legal, millions of people are causing millions more in their life to suffer from their poor health and legal decisions. Luckily, I was one of the few out of my group of friends to avoid punishment for such behavior. After coming to Korea, I quit. It's been nearly four years since I smoked regularly and even though I'll always have a special place in my heart for the plant, that ship has sailed.
And now more than ever, I realize how selfish drug abuse is. Just to be clear, I will never back down from the very urgent need to decriminalize drugs. I will always support any politician and bill that proposes such a policy. Abuse is different than use and even though marijuana abuse is a medical gray-area, I can say that my use certainly caused other people to suffer. How about that kid in high-school that I convinced to smoke for the first time? Where is he now? Did my actions change his condition for the better or worse?
What Buddha is stressing is common sense in how we live. He's not threatening punishment and he's not smiting people. He's laying out what we all know inside and then offering some tips. The Dalai Lama admits that he "doesn't know how to solve the world's problems", but he does know why they are caused: ignorance.
The problem is that people oftentimes choose to ignore those reasonable voices because they are without support, an aggressive following or iconic status. Buddha has that status, but sometimes gets brushed aside by the Big Three.