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DC MISC.

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9-03-11 - A reader comments on giving up worldly desires and DC comments on that

Richard S wrote: Giving up worldly desires...is that like dying?

RS wrote again: Or, do you call that 'living'?

DC responded: I sure wouldn't know.

RS responded to that: Ha ha! How do  you give up worldly desires without dying?  Maybe, that's a better framing of the question.

DC now expounds on this perennial topic.

Since the subject line of Richard's email was "Most important points," I surmised that he was referring to something Suzuki Roshi had said that had been in the recent postings of The phrase most important as found is Shunryu Suzuki lectures. So I went back and searched for "worldly desires" and found that term used in the first of two lectures given at Sokoji in San Francisco on the 22nd of April, 1967. Here's the whole lecture: 67-04-22A where the term is used a lot - ten times. I just re-read it. I love the part where he starts off talking about how people can make their Buddhist study into a worldly desire and arrogantly and unkindly show off their superior understanding and put down others. I deal with that at times, get messages that Suzuki's words here remind me of. It's really irritating.

Anyway, how do we give up worldly desires without dying? I don't think we'll have to worry about it that way. We're always going to have worldly desires. Maybe it's more a matter of balance and timing. The Arhats back not long after Buddha had passed agreed that they all still had some sexual desire. Bodhidharma said that no one had ever become a Buddha except through greed, hate, and delusion. I've gathered these impulses keep arising to some extent in advanced practitioners. Like Suzuki said about thoughts, let them come and go, just don't serve them tea. And if at times we are totally overcome with some sort of worldly desire, that doesn't eradicate our practice. That's what we practice with. I quote Meister Eckhart now and then saying that the key to knowing god is to "Know nothing, want nothing, have nothing." This is the same as Dogen saying to enter the temple you have to give up worldly desires or Suzuki in the first of that lecture saying that if you want to study Buddhism you have to give up worldly desires. But it doesn't mean you don't still have worldly desires, that you don't still know things, want things, and have things." But we relegate our knowing, wanting, and having to the relative, let them shrink some through our mediation and practice so that they're at a tolerable level, and drop them for the absolute. It's the Middle Way. We don't starve ourselves to death in an effort not to be constantly obsessed with food. Worldly desires co-exist with giving up worldly desires. I remember reading somewhere long ago, "The passions are the Buddha." We tame the ox. We don't kill it. Good luck to us all.

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