Friday, January 11, 2019


Reading Me and Shakespeare by Herman Gollob has been wonderful. He found the religion of Judaism that he wasn't really brought up with, and Shakespeare. Reading Shakespeare was part of his spiritual awakening. I started reading Shakespeare last year. The plan is to read through the whole of the plays and poems. I'm afraid this blog is going to suffer as I devote myself to the Bard, but I'm planning a post on Macbeth for Going For Refuge Blog.

Reading the word simony in Me and Shakespeare, I had to look it up: buying or selling of something spiritual or closely connected with the spiritual. Sounds like spiritual materialism to me. I apply all spiritual insights to myself. Projecting them onto others doesn't work, I'm mostly in control of myself. I say mostly because I'm not fully in control of myself and it's really hard to control others, though a positive influence in others through exemplification is not to be sneezed at.

Simony got me thinking how I covet retreats, books, audiences, museums. To me spirituality is living to the fullest (mindfully) and in doing that we're inevitably kinder. Coveting the hyper health of lots of meditation assumes you can't practice deeply in regular life. You can! I was always warned that being in a monastery wasn't as fun as I imagined it, but I still yearn for that life.

I love the Dali Lama saying kindness is his religion. Retreats certainly enhance mindfulness, but the focused meditation wears off and is hard to carry over in the worldly life. One suggestion (by Sangharakshita) is to live in a single sex community, attend the local center, and work in a right livelihood business. That is the equivalent of being in a monastery to some extent. I made the choice to have children and have responsibilities, but that doesn't mean I can't work towards a supportive community.

I can be mindful about mindfulness wearing off after a retreat, and bringing insights from retreats into your regular life. My desire to always be on retreat is a little like my desire to travel. There's a part of it that likes being served meals, and not worry about cleaning or responsibilities beyond exploring. It's not realistic to be constantly exploring and learning and developing insight. After the Ecstacy, the laundry was one of the first books I read on Buddhism. It's a great book and a great slogan for using the Dharma not for escapism, definitely a temptation as I'm a dreamy type.

Awakening The Buddha Within was the first book I read in my conversion to Buddhism, if I don't count all the crazy Zen stuff I read in college that I didn't even understand as Buddhism, and I wasn't meditating. Little did I know was that there is a tidal wave of Buddhism books. While reading is an important part of my practice, I want to apply my Buddhism to reading fiction, history, psychology, poetry and nonfiction.

So what I want is to not buy spirituality but to inhabit, utilize, work for spirituality in all my circumstances, and not imagine more pristine circumstances where maybe there I could pursue this urge. Perhaps that why I find Pure Land Buddhism so distasteful--the idea of putting off that striving--which is probably a misreading of Pure Land. For me Pure Land Buddhism would be about making this world a pure land, though pure is perhaps a strange word. The pure land is an inspirational goal, a fantastic place that captivates the mind, and is very much about the spiritual life. An important aspect of the spiritual life is to strive, even if inhabiting is also important. Start where you is is the drum that Pema Chodron beats on, and it is a worthy drum to beat on. Thump thump thump.

I'm reading Love's Labor's Loss, and it's about, inter alia, the dangers of following utopian ideals. I think you could do worse than Bardolatry. Lowell said Shakespeare is the poet of experience.

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