Worship Script 5
Worship Script (5 of 5)
“Desire as Suffering”
Worship Script (5 of 5)
Chasidic Prayer, Translated by Chaim Stern, #242 in Lifting Our Voices
I am afraid of the things that cannot harm me, and I know it.
I yearn for the things that cannot help me, and I know it.
What I hear is within me, and within me, too, is what I seek.
HYMN #1031 Filled with Loving Kindness
From The Basics of Buddhism” on PBS Website in regard to Thailand's Living Eden Series.
The Four Noble Truths are a contingency plan for dealing with the suffering humanity faces -- suffering of a physical kind, or of a mental nature. The First Truth identifies the presence of suffering. The Second Truth, on the other hand, seeks to determine the cause of suffering. In Buddhism, desire and ignorance lie at the root of suffering. By desire, Buddhists refer to craving pleasure, material goods, and immortality, all of which are wants that can never be satisfied. As a result, desiring them can only bring suffering. Ignorance, in comparison, relates to not seeing the world as it actually is. Without the capacity for mental concentration and insight, Buddhism explains, one's mind is left undeveloped, unable to grasp the true nature of things. Vices, such as greed, envy, hatred and anger, derive from this ignorance.
Excerpt from “Subtle Wisdom: Understanding Suffering, Cultivating Compassion Through Ch'an Buddhism” by Master Sheng-yen
What should we do about all the problems created by our minds? When we experience suffering, it helps to try and analyze it's nature. Suffering can come in the form of greed, anger, ignorance, arrogance, or doubt. When we can reflect on the nature of our suffering, we can greatly reduced it's intensity. Note that Buddhism is not concerned with the causality of a person's delusion and Suffering. It is only concerned with their recognition and elimination. The power to do that is within the mind of the individual.
Greed is the desire to get what we want. An example of greed is the urge to conquer. People suffering from this desire want to increase what they have and to extend their influence. Some strive for fame while other use power to directly conquer those who oppose them. Power struggles caused by this desire may occur amount nations or within families. [...] Such desire to overpower others is, indeed, self-centered.
When greed causes us to suffer, we should reflect: “I am greedy, I have strong desires. This is the source of my suffering.” Then the vexation of greed will diminish.
HYMN #352 Find a Stillness
STORY FOR ALL AGES
The Wise Teacher's Test From Tapestry of Faith Stories
Adapted from a Jataka tale (Buddhist).
Once upon a time on the outskirts of a big city in Japan there stood an old temple. From a young age boys who wanted to study Buddhism would come to live in the temple and to learn from the master teacher, a Buddhist monk.
One day the Buddhist monk who ran this small temple decided to teach his young students a lesson. He gathered them around him, and spoke," My dear students, as you can see, I am growing old, and slow. I can no longer provide for the needs of the temple as I once did. I know I have not yet taught you to work for money, and so I can only think of one thing that can keep our school from closing." The students drew close with eyes wide.
"Our nearby city is full of wealthy people with more money in their purses than they could ever need. I want you to go into the city and follow those rich people as they walk through the crowded streets, or when they walk down the deserted alleyways. When no one is looking, and only when no one is looking, you must steal their purses from them. That way we will have enough money to keep our school alive."
"But Master," the boys chorused in disbelief, "you have taught us that it is wrong to take anything that does not belong to us."
"Yes, indeed I have," the old monk replied. "It would be wrong to steal if it were not absolutely necessary. And remember, you must not be seen! If anyone can see you, you must not steal! Do you understand?"
The boys looked nervously from one to the other. Had their beloved teacher gone mad? His eyes shone with intensity such as they had never seen before. "Yes, Master," they said quietly.
"Good," he said. "Now go, and remember, you must not be seen!"
The boys got up and quietly began to file out of the temple building. The old monk rose slowly and watched them go.
When he turned back inside, he saw that one student was still standing quietly in the corner of the room. "Why did you not go with the others?" he asked the boy. "Do you not want to help save our temple?"
"I do, Master," said the boy quietly. "But you said that we had to steal without being seen. I know that there is no place on Earth that I would not be seen, for I would always see myself."
"Excellent!" exclaimed the teacher. "That is just the lesson that I hoped my students would learn, but you were the only one to see it. Run and tell your friends to return to the temple before they get us into trouble."
The boy ran and got his friends who were nervously gathered just out of sight of the temple, trying to decide what to do. When they returned, the Master told them the words the boy had spoken and they all understood the lesson.
(Optional last line: “No matter what we do, we always have a part of ourselves that is quietly watching, and that knows right from wrong and can guide us if we listen.” This last line may be added if you feel the children need it. Or, allow the clarification to come as you do the follow-up activities.)
“Here. Now. You.” Reflection in Braver/Wiser by Kat Liu
“Breathing in, there is only the present moment. Breathing out, it is a wonderful moment.”
—Thich Nhat Hanh
When I heard the Venerable’s robes rustle at what I estimated to be about forty minutes and yet she did not give the signal that our sitting meditation had ended, that’s when I knew she would take us to the full hour. But my knees were complaining and my mind was bored with counting breaths. What to do in the time remaining? Suddenly a stray thought entered: What if this were your last breath?
Funny thing, I immediately began to breathe slower. Drawing in the air to fill every crevice of my lungs and then slowly pushing it out until there was nothing left to expel. “Well,” I thought, “I must want to live.”
Of course, when I got to the end of that “last” breath I was still there. So I began another breath, still asking, What if this were your last breath? There were flashes of regret—unfinished projects, loved ones grieving—but one breath isn’t enough time to do anything about regrets. There was only enough time to experience the moment, to know that I was there, breathing.
Inhalation. Exhalation. When the moment passed, there was the next moment, and the next. In this way, I spent the remaining twenty minutes entirely in the present.
Outside of the meditation hall, we still plan for the future and think of the past. But so often we replay past regrets and worry about future events to the point where we’re no longer present in the present. As the Venerable says, “We forget that we are breathing.”
When stuck in traffic, waiting in line, or anytime there’s nothing to do other than be present, find a comfortable position in which you can breathe freely.
What if this were your last breath?
Just for this moment, believe that this is all you have. No time to worry about the future or the past. Just enough time to know that you are breathing.
Draw it in.
Savor the sensation of your lungs filling.
Savor your heart beating.
Savor the sensation of your chest relaxing as you exhale.
Here. Now. You.
CANDLES OF JOY AND CONCERN
Those who are so moved are now invited to come forward to light a candle, expressing a joy or concern in their lives. As you do, you may briefly share what it is. We ask that people coming forward speak for no more than a sentence or two, and speak from the heart about issues in their lives, rather than political issues, which we can take up at coffee hour or in the parking lot.
“The Spectrum of Desire” by Gil Fronsdale
Desire is so inherent to the human condition that life without it is almost inconceivable. It is probably more accurate to call us “human desirelings” than “human beings.” Anyone wishing to live a wise life needs to explore deeply the nature of his or her own desire.
A number of myths about desire circulate among Buddhists. A common one is that desire is bad, and a spiritually mature person has no desires. Another is that the Buddha taught that desire is the cause of suffering and therefore all desire, even the desire to practice for liberation, is a problem. But life without desire is not necessarily a good thing: for example, one symptom of depression is having no desires. The Buddha did not teach that desire was the cause of suffering. In fact, he encouraged his followers to arouse ardent desire for liberation.
A starting point for understanding desire is to differentiate between unhealthy and healthy desire. Unhealthy desire undermines psychological health, producing what Buddhism often calls “suffering” for short. Healthy desire can contribute to psychological well-being, happiness, and peace. If we place healthy and unhealthy desire on a spectrum, at one end we have the motivations that lead to some of the worst and most horrific things people do. But at the other end, desire expresses some of the most beautiful and noble aspects of human life.
One way to distinguish the two ends of this spectrum is to differentiate between craving and aspiration. When the Buddha pointed to the cause of suffering, he used the word tanhà or thirst. It represents desire which is in some way compulsive, driven, and therefore not easy to let go of. This kind of desire is often accompanied by clinging, contraction, tension, or pressure.
Craving has its costs. People have destroyed their lives by acting on their addictions. When craving has the upper hand, it is all too easy to make poor choices. Freedom, that is, free will and the ability to choose wisely, is easily compromised. Craving takes a toll on our bodies when it expresses itself as physical tension. And it can take an even bigger toll on our minds: constant wanting can exhaust the mind. Left unchecked, craving can lead to an alienation from our self. Unfulfilled, craving can all too easily turn into frustration and anger.
One of the surprising discoveries that we make in mindfulness meditation is how pervasively and constantly the mind is under the sway of craving. This thirst is the primary reason the mind chases after its own thoughts.
An important function of meditation is to calm down the incessant churning of desire so that we can discover at the other end of the spectrum our deeper wellsprings of motivation. When surface concerns and chatter quiet down, among the beautiful things we can find are our aspirations. The etymology of “aspiration” (like “spiritual”) is rooted in the Latin word for “breath” (spirare). This points to the close relationship between breath and aspiration. Craving tends to contract the breathing; aspiration surfaces most easily when our breathing is relaxed and open. In the same way that natural breathing can’t be an act of will, so too the motivations and sense of purpose that come with aspiration can’t be willfully generated. Staying aware of our breathing can keep us close to what inspires us.
The sensitivity and awareness that come from mindfulness practice support the discovery of our healthy desires and aspirations. Mindfulness not only helps us get in touch with our aspirations, but it helps prevent aspiration from becoming craving. Even though what we might want is healthy and appropriate, if we are not careful, this desire can manifest as craving. Noticing the physical and mental tension, pressure, and uneasiness that come with craving makes it easier to distinguish aspiration from craving.
One way aspiration becomes craving is through expectation. At its best, aspiration has an openness to possibility without a need for anything to happen. This doesn’t mean that we don’t act on our aspirations, but that we don’t cling to their success. There is something satisfying and wonderful in a healthy aspiration that is not dependent on outcome.
If we want to base our lives on aspiration rather than craving, we have to give ourselves time to discover our deepest wishes. Aspiration often arises from a non-discursive part of the heart and mind. Craving and clinging are often tied to the discursive world of planning, thinking, and fantasy, while aspiration is associated with inner stillness and relaxation. Sometimes it is only during long contemplative periods that people discover what they most want to base their life on.
It is also important to respect both ourselves and our aspirations. It is easy to dismiss both our aspirations and the search for them. Believing that we are not good enough, capable, or deserving can leave us feeling unfulfilled and regretful. In the world of aspiration, it is far better to try and fail than to never try.
Buddhism recognizes many beautiful aspirations, including wishes of goodwill and kindness for others, and the desire for happiness and other wholesome qualities of mind for ourselves. Central to Buddhist practice are the aspirations for liberation and for the alleviation of the sufferings of others. However, Buddhism does not require us to desire either of these; when the heart is open and relaxed, these wishes often bubble up. Both aspirations can flow through us without egotism or craving. They can seem so natural that they appear impersonal. Just as water flows downhill, so the unimpeded heart flows to freedom and service. The healthy desire for freedom and compassion can flow like a mighty river that finds its rest in reaching the vast ocean.
HYMN #1009 Meditation on Breathing
Tibetan Buddhist Prayer
May you be at peace,
May your heart remain open.
May you awaken to the light of your own true nature.
May you be healed,
May you be a source of healing for all beings.