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Life comes with bad weather
November 9th, 2017
illustration

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

Life comes with bad weather
(aka. the first noble truth)

For most modern people (apart from some tele-evangelists and politicians), it doesn't exactly come to their mind that if there's bad weather, it has to be some sort of cosmic / karmic / divine punishment against them specifically.
Not only they don't take it personally (even though they may have directly contributed towards it in fact! —e.g. via negligently contributing towards global warming, or electing corrupt politicians), but also they consider that, even if the bad weather is 'local' rather 'global', the said locality should not immediately be interpreted as centred on their person (or 'their' group).

Great!

Now, why is it, then, that pains, diseases, conflicts and other unpleasant events in one's life aren't apprehended with the same attitude?
Why not consider one's back pain in the same way one would consider an occurrence of bad weather?

Bad weather might occur. And, sure enough, bad weather might create constraints, block roads, call for an umbrella or warm clothes… i.e. it might require a wise engagement, a wise response… it's not necessarily ignored! But it's not to be interpreted with a narrow, self-centred attitude either —and maybe you realise that you're wet but OK, but there's still an extra, ethically appropriate response called for (e.g. to help neighbours or refugees in a lot more trouble than yourself).

In the same way, the Buddha experienced back pain towards the end of his life. [The Theravāda commentary explains as purely 'physical' causality, not karmic: a perfectly predictable consequence from years of meditation and of wandering… with no need for some personal, intentional and morally wrong, past event as an explanation… thus refraining from an 'false attribution' logical fallacy, and from the 'fundamental attribution error' discussed in sociology (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamental_attribution_error) ]. And this back pain might have created constraints, limited his movements… but the Buddha did not interpreted it with a narrow, self-centred attitude: selflessness and freedom from individual preferences made him engage with it without taking it personally, without making himself miserable, without 'appropriating' it as 'his' (not appropriating any of the 5 aggregates as one's 'own' is a key to selflessness, remember?)… He didn't let the constraints sway his intention to teach, to reach out, to help; he simply worked with them. That's "freedom from suffering": not letting suffering decide your life for you, set your intentions for you, dictate your 'take' on the situation at hand.

The corresponding attitude is an immeasurable: equanimity. Equanimity co-develops with selflessness… with not-taking-personally what's merely a 'predictable' or 'normal' causal unfolding… with a restraint from appropriating an experience as 'mine' / as necessarily related to 'me' specifically.


Weather forecast illustrates quite well our capacity to foresee how karma will unfold. We have some understanding, we can identify some causal factors, we can discern some patterns and some feedback loops; we can somehow 'predict' the near future… but not too far… and the further we predict, we less reliable the forecast becomes, to a point where it's of minimal use, if any.

The Buddha taught not only that kamma is 'understandable' in some sense —and we can e.g. draw 'precepts' from such a knowledge, or e.g. make ethical choices— but also that it's 'imponderable' —the results of kamma are not to be speculated about. Whoever speculates about them would go mad & experience vexation (AN 4.77).

Why would you imagine our limitations when discerning what caused the present weather (which exact factors? in which exact proportions?) and our limitations when forecasting the weather… magically do not apply when discerning our kamma (individual and/or collective), or when forecasting karmic unfolding?


Don't take any difficulty encountered so personally! Yes, you may have contributed to its arising, but flagellation and guilt at this point won't help anyway… So, take the difficulty as an episode of bad weather. Any consequence of your contribution is quite obviously already unfolding! So the relevant question is: « what now? » There's no point in lamenting about the past, your energy is better used engaging the present ('amending' now, maybe based on lessons drawn from the past, rather than 'rewriting' the past so you may feel better).
Engage with the associated constraints; keep a eye out for sentient beings around who might be in trouble; don't let the difficulty dictate your intention or your final destination (patience, perseverance and wisdom are pāramī(ta), remember?).

Life comes with bad weather (too wet, too dry, too cold, too hot… and changing the weather might kill the local ecosystem, that had evolved to fit the previous climate, even when the new weather may prove perfectly able to support another ecosystem!).
Engage constructively with the bad weather and its consequences, i.e. with "reality as it is": you might prevent some issues, you might repair some damages, you're not powerless… just don't take it personally, at the risk of deluding yourself into misery (and/or of perpetually tying yourself down with mental fabrications about your karma)!
As Subhuti would say:
«
My hut is roofed, comfortable, free of drafts;
my mind, well-centered, set free.
I remain ardent.
So, rain-deva, go ahead & rain.
»
(www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/thag/thag.01.00x.than.html#passage-1)


#Buddhism #Dharma
For fun and somehow related: Andhakavinda sutta (SN 6.13) www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn06/sn06.013.olen.html; Uposatha sutta (Ud 5.5) www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/ud/ud.5.05.than.html; and Dhaniya sutta (Sn 1.2) http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/snp/snp.1.02.than.html
Related earlier post: Debating "The wrongs other people do to us are the direct result of our past actions." gplus.wallez.name/gBnAkroVezT
Image: Tenno-ji Daibutsu, Gokokusan Tenno-ji Temple, Yanaka, Tokyo, Japan © +Lili Florea (muza-chan.net/japan/index.php/blog/tenno-ji-daibutsu)
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: http://www.koan.mu/donate.htm