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Clinging to Buddhist teachings, vs. Seeing reality as it is?
August 24th, 2017

illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)

Clinging to Buddhist teachings, vs. Seeing reality as it is?
(truthful self-examination)

Someone recently asked a few people, including myself, if they clung to Buddhist teachings… it's such a great question to suddenly see Buddhists try to hide their limitations, to obfuscate reality!

On that question, Buddhism itself is very double-edged.

On one hand, the Dharma is merely a 'raft', not to permanently tie oneself to; it merely is a response (hence a specific and conditioned "expedient means") to an observed situation (that a few specific defilements seem common to most / all beings and seem to cause much of the unsatisfactoriness of life). It also is a 'view', to be relinquished. So Buddhism tells its own practitioners not to cling to Buddhism…

On the other hand, practitioners "take refuge" though, i.e. cling to a default response when in trouble, akin to « what would Buddhism say about that? », a default response of "enquiry" (rather than grasping / fleeing)… and this sort of 'reprogramming' of the default response may certainly be seen as a form of clinging, in and of itself. Then any Buddhist pretending not to cling to anything at all from Buddhism would just lie (possibly to themselves).

Same with vows or precepts: even without taking them as absolutes, even taking them as "what just creates an hesitation, a suspension of reactivity and an enquiry", if one carries a moral 'compass', then one's clinging to the compass!

I guess most 'Buddhists' would play on words here, since they 'know' they "should not" cling… so they'll (genuinely) convince themselves and others, that they don't cling or at least cling less than others…

However, a response like « Can I take the Dharma or leave it now? Yes, but I want to take. It's not like I have to take it. » would define 'clinging'!
Of course, no one 'has' to pick this particular object of clinging (the Dharma ) over others; the clinging is found in the "I want", not the "I need" ! Needs were acknowledged as such by the Buddha, cf. e.g. the "four requisites" (food, clothing, shelter, medicine), and Liberation is not defined in relation to needs, it's in relation to cravings, to wants…

Just like "it's just habits" would define "clinging"; habits are at the core of the notion of karma.

Another example of Buddhists playing on words would be to pretend that emptiness prevents clinging, that clinging is merely a delusion, « if the self lacks inherent existence and is constantly in flux, how can the self cling to any other phenomena that itself lacks inherent existence? »
That'd be a misunderstanding of emptiness, since emptiness 'turns' phenomena in processes, thus is precisely what enables 'clinging' (among other processes)! In order to cling, one needs to relate, i.e. one needs to change (a stance), i.e. one needs to not be inherent: emptiness is what makes clinging possible.
No one said 'clinging' equates 'successfully holding on'; the fact that it is unsuccessful creates dukkha, and both the clinging and the unsatisfactoriness (arising from the world not complying to the intention of clinging) are real. Emptiness is not nihilism: "how can the self cling?" is not negated by 'emptiness'.

The original question reminded me of a classic job interview question: « what are your flaws? »

Candidates know that replying they don't have any would be unrealistic for a human being, so they try to come up with a 'flaw' which 1. is not too 'bad', 2. might even possibly be a quality in some context (like e.g. stubbornness can be turned into perseverance and determination)… i.e. the candidates try to come up with a flaw which isn't really a flaw.

And, similarly, all the Buddhists tagged were tempted to admit clingings which were not too 'bad' or too 'severe', and might even be 'wholesome' in some context… But that's the 8 worldly winds at play!

Let's try to see things as they are, then!
That's the goal of the practice, isn't it?

Personally, I cling to every little opportunity in the Dharma to make exceptions… to 'justify' whatever my delusions crave, and to make a narrative according to which it will somehow be 'wholesome'… to pretend I'm still a follower of the Buddha at times when I'm clearly not… to cling to existence ("for the sake of unconditional compassion and love" of course, which looks so much better, doesn't it?)…
And since I'm not binding myself to a specific school, I have a very vast range of contradictory indications, stating any thing as well as its opposite! Many options to "cheat the system": if one school doesn't provide the flexibility needed, another will, and I even get to look well-informed!

I cling to the flexibility and richness of Buddhism, and have aversion for the rigid and/or narrow interpretations of it.
I basically cling to the belief that such a flexibility is a requirement for wise appropriateness, and is therefore a 'solution' to dukkha… as if dukkha had a solution! Even though I know this is bullshit, I still cling to some sort of hope that there's a solution, and I blindly transform one ingredient into the whole recipe!

And I cling to a 'pleasant' life… more pleasant with Buddhism than without anyway, to me, at present.

I cling to the Buddhist corpus and methods, enough to come back to them, on a regular basis, to use them as my primary compass, then stray again and look for excuses within them (and then, if I don't convince others or myself, I can always 'blame' Buddhism for providing unusable or inappropriate guidance)…

All of which, I suppose, is one way to learn how to forgive, how to move on, how to reform, how to enquire, how to try again without dragging past failures along, or inadequacies, or imperfections, and this might well be an effective 'expedient means' but it clearly is also a round-about way, a finger pointing to the moon… i.e. I cling to an unsatisfactory raft, but not just 'any' raft: 'the' raft with the bells and whistles I have preferences for.

Oh shit, did I just sabotage my teaching 'job'?

Well, you may study with people you idealise as 'perfect' (or 'never defeated') —let alone people who idealise themselves,— or with people who withdraw from the world (implicitly trying to fix their circumstances, thus blaming circumstances if they're experiencing difficulties… how awakened is that?)… or you can study with flawed human beings who relate to your struggles.
Your call! I never claimed to be a buddha; the sole question is whether a teacher can effectively support you on your journey, or not; and it's arrogant / delusional to imagine only the best, or a buddha, could possibly help you.

The goal of the Dharma is to "see things as they are", not to fix things.
First, you cannot fix anything prior to seeing it without bias, so the training is about seeing correctly, seeing things "as they are"…
Second, the 'fixing' mentality is the samsaric chase, and it doesn't work: you cannot fix reality so that it perpetually complies to your wishes…
But you can see reality differently, thus relate to reality differently (without disappointment, without anguish, without unsatisfactoriness). E.g. a consequence of the path is that you become able to relate to being a 'flawed' Buddhist, without falling into complacency and without abandoning "right effort" but also without feeling you have to hide / embellish that, without feeling you have to pretend otherwise (just because you label yourself a 'practitioner', a 'Buddhist' or a 'teacher').

#Buddhism #Dharma
Buddhism has no specific guideline on supporting teachers, it simply asks for you to consider causality: if you want this living tradition to survive, how are you participating, in practical terms, to make this happen? Nice words, exposure or social media ‘likes’ might feel good, but they do not actually help with the basic necessities.
Illustration: large bronze figure of Shakyamuni buddha, Tibetan, 19th century, recently auctioned.