The Last Word
It is New Year’s Day morning in Sri Lanka, meaning New Year’s Eve in the West. Right about now, Times Square is filling with drunken revelers, greedy for any excuse to drown their sorrows in intoxication—thus creating for themselves an endless supply of sorrows in the future. Meanwhile, in our forest monastery we are observing a 4-day festival of chanting, fasting, silence and meditation.
This is an unbridgeable cultural gap. The western preoccupation with avarice and exploitation—ever bigger, better, faster—cannot grasp the Eastern aesthetic that less is more, therefore nothing is everything. The value of the Buddha’s breakthrough discovery—ending all suffering by realizing that ‘there is no such thing as a self, or anything related to a self’—is utterly lost on a misdirected culture dedicated to enhancement of the ego by passionate development of ignorance.
And so the end of the year is a fitting time to end this little experiment in cross-cultural communication on a note of warning. In my life I have enscribed and edited millions of words as a professional IT writer, and millions more as a spiritual teacher. Not much of tangible worth has come of all that work. I must confess my inability to break through the hardened Western conceptual barriers—mental blinders I transcended, in many cases, in early childhood.
The world staggers on the cusp of mass psychosis, driven to distraction by the utter destruction of trust in human society by the lack of integrity of the political and corporate misleaders. Their minions not only intercept and listen; they actively interfere to shape the thoughts and lives of lives of people for purposes of their hegemony. The full story of that social manipulation has yet to find its Snowden.
Some advise me that I should not quit writing because the teaching of the Buddha is needed more than ever nowadays, and certainly they are right. But what we need is his complete original teaching, not some speculative neo-Buddhism adapted to venal postmodern sensibilities. There is no Dhamma without the Sangha, the monastic order, and the Vinaya, its austere precepts. But people are unwilling and indeed unable to give up their addiction to sense enjoyment as a condition of advanced consciousness and realization. The social conditioning of materialistic culture runs so deep that, even in cases where people can see the importance of the Buddha’s contribution, they are unable to implement it in their lives. So where is the audience qualified to hear that teaching?
My reticence is informed by meditative experience. There are secrets beyond description that can be learned only by full participation in spiritual culture. There are confidential subjects knowable only through deep longing for the inexpressible beauty of emptiness. There are pearls of truth too precious and important to be thrown to the swine and trampled under their excrable feet. There are treasures too valuable to be wasted on people who would vitiate their worth by stupidity.
What’s ironic is that I used to think all the secrets should be shouted from the rooftops. But my experience is that sharing too much with unqualified people simply makes one a target of envy. Profound truths are better protected in the mountain caves and forest monasteries, kept alive by rare people of strong integrity, and whispered to those sensitive enough to value them, dedicated enough to offer their lives to their service.
The deeper spiritual truths are by nature reserved for those who have earned the right to hear them. And by insisting on maintaining the integrity of the Buddha’s teaching, I have in effect priced myself out of the market. So I conclude this blog, not because of any lack of things to say—quite the contrary, in fact—but because of a lack of readers able to understand properly and respond appropriately.
May you have a happy 2014 full of improved prospects. May the blessings of the Triple Gem—the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha—be upon you and guide your path. May you be free from all lack, fear and doubt in the days ahead, and may you come to complete enlightenment very soon.