Dharma teachings are not going to be romantic or beautiful – ho no! The teachings are going to be painful, even invoking paranoia. At the same time, we can work with the situation and find something creative in it.
For many of us, regardless of our politics or our status in society, money is a private thing, sex is a private thing, and so is work. We don’t want to discuss them with others at all. We would like to find something transcendental that raises us above those situations. People don’t want anything to do with death either. Most of us still have the dualistic notion of death as bad and birth as good. That kind of notion is pervasive, and that is precisely why we need to talk about these subjects.
There is a Tibetan saying that it is better not to begin things, but once you begin, you should finish properly.
When you relate to situations directly and simply, you realize that body and mind have a very close relationship. Mind and body are one thing rather than separate. Body is mind, mind is body. The expressions of body are also constantly the expressions of mind. Work, which is an expression of everyday life, brings the body and mind into play equally. We do not have to develop a special philosophical attitude in order to make our work spiritual, even if our activity appears to have nothing to do with spirituality.
The popular, confused notion of compassion suggests a certain idea of charity, which is trying to be kind because you feel you are well off and therefore you should be kind to others who are not well off. You might go off to underdeveloped nations or join the Peace Corps. Your country is wealthy, but those other countries are not. The people are illiterate, so you will teach them how to read and write and how to manage things. In this approach, you actually look down on those people.
Real compassion is not a matter of “I would like to make this person happy by making the person fit into my idea of happiness”; rather, it is a matter of actually seeing that a certain person needs help. You put yourself at the disposal of that person. You just get into a relationship with that person and see where that leads. That is a more demanding and am ore generous approach than following your expectation that the person should end up thus and such a way.
In working with others, the approach of genuine spirituality is to just do it, just help. If you’re doing it unskillfully, you’ll be pushed back. A direct message is there always, unless you are dreaming, in which case you don’t receive any messages. But if you are relating with things directly, even with ambition, that’s okay. There will be messages coming toward you automatically. This could be called genuine mystical experience.
You are good; fundamentally, you are healthy. Moreover, that particular health is capable of accomodating your badness as well as your goodness. When you’re good, you’re not particularly bashful about your goodness, and when you’re bad, you’re not particularly shocked by that either. These are simply your attributes. When you begin to accept both aspects of your being as energy, as part of the perspective of your view of yourself, then you are connecting with the fundamental goodness, which can accommodate all of these energies as part of one basic being.
If you do not feel every step you take, then your pattern of mind becomes full of chaos and you begin to wonder where these problems are coming from. They just spring out of nowhere, because they are a signal that attention is needed.
Particularly people on the spiritual path are in danger of not being able to persevere in the work situation. They can be particularly apt at finding excuses not to work and very clever in developing the practice of laziness. The moment they don’t feel like doing something, the appropriate spiritual quotation comes to mind.
Repression is a very unskilled way of dealing with passion. It is not that there is something wrong with the traditional teachings, but you take them the wrong way. If you panic, if you feel terribly shy about our passion, this doesn’t let you see it. It doesn’t let you examine it. If you do see it, you realize that physically carrying out your passion is not the point. Acting on it seems to be a secondary matter. What is important is seeing the passion clearly.
In the Buddhist monastic tradition, celibacy is a powerful way of dealing with desire, not by suppressing passion, but by examining the mental aspect of it. In the Buddhist tradition altogether, rather than suppressing any desire that comes into your mind, you look at it. you have to become familiar with the desires; then the need to express them physically automatically wears out. You see that the physical expression is no more than an extension of the desire itself – you see the childish as well as the chaotic quality of the expression.
Whenever anything irritates us, it’s trying to communicate with us. Usually we are looking for an answer rather than trying to communicate with irritation. There is sanity operating, but usually we don’t try to learn from that at all. We try to do something with that irritation rather than just relate to it.
Working with money is always part of the psychology or the philosophy of a situation. So we need basic criteria for working with money. Working with money requires discipline to know how much money you need for a week, how much money is required to live for a day or a month. Living in any society requires this process of discipline. We have to work along with the pattern of society. In that context, it seems that a relationship with money is necessary. We have to actually face the whole problem of money as it is.