Sometimes our bodies seem to let us down. But whose body is this? Sometimes you hear how a persons body is just a vessel for the soul, for one’s inner spirit. This way of thought can provide benefit, as it is a form of non-attachment, which is central to Buddhist teachings. However, it also ultimately falls short in the end. It creates an attachment to the ‘soul’. In Buddhism, sometimes you hear or learn the idea of non-self or that there is no soul.
How soulless! lol.
Of course there is a soul. But what the Buddha taught is that there is no unchanging self. This is called ‘anatta’ and just as ’emptiness’ does not mean ‘nothingness’
, non-self does not mean we are nothing! This understanding can be used to realize how, in Buddhism, the belief of past lives exists. How could a Buddhist believe in past lives if there is no soul to be passed along?! lol. From my understanding, Buddhism speaks of rebirth but not reincarnation. Although they seem to be the same thing, there is a subtle difference. Some would say it is a Buddhist get out clause! lol.
But, whose body do we have? ‘My’ body has sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease, which sometimes hides and pretends to not exist, then sometimes it engulfs my body and makes life difficult. Of course I feel many different emotions, we are all human, and I feel sad, mad, sorry for myself, think ‘why me?’ and lots and lots of thoughts!
Speaking of thoughts, I can feel how my brain chemistry gets affected by the disease, misfiring neurons, and creating floods and droughts of neurotransmitters. Perhaps thats just my mind making a model of what really is happening, but the model fits. It doesn’t really matter, but what is important is being ‘aware’.
Sueng Sahn, a Zen master, once said that a good situation is a bad situation and that a bad situation is a good situation. What he meant, in short, was that if your life is good, you may become complacent and get lazy in realizing your inherent enlightened nature. All that good food and that big house hides the Buddha that you already are! But, a bad situation creates desperation to end the suffering, and they say that neccecity is the mother of invention. Many non-religious people will pray to God when their life is in danger.
Sure, I wish my body was in a better condition, I worry about the demands it places on my family, the limitations of interacting with my 2 year old son. Sure, I wish my body was in a good situation and also my realization of my inherent nature was also in a good situation! lol. Sometimes, of course, people are ‘lucky’ to have the double positive. But, sometimes people have the double negative… bad situation and bad realizations. It can be a self-feeding vicious cycle.
So, it is easy to be sad and mad with my body, but it is empty and I try to think the Universe really does know what it is doing, so it makes my body suffer to help end the suffering of all beings by helping me realize my true nature. So, it is a painful blessing, not something for me to condemn, but also not something to be praised.
Once it has been said that no one became enlightened without circumstances, and for the Buddha himself, this took the form of Venus.. once he saw the planet in the sky.. BAM! He got it.
So, all circumstances can birth enlightenment, so it can happen at any time. Just as a radioactive atom can decay at any moment, only the correct conditions inside the atom will allow this to occur. Some atoms have a greater chance of decaying than others, just as some circumstances in our lives give a better chance of realizing our enlightened nature.
This is why Zen is so very strict and disciplined. It says ‘Hey, the Buddha figured out a good way to see Venus, so lets do that! .. sure you might see Venus if you stare at the ground, but it is unlikely… you would need perhaps a puddle to reflect the night sky or something, but if you look directly where Venus pops up on the horizon, you have a better chance to see it! so lets go!!