Zen and Renunciation


The Word is not the Thing


     We know that right? Most of us who have been processing a meditation practice have read or heard that somewhere. The word is not the thing itself. One way to look at this is the “Finger pointing at the moon” example with which you are probably familiar.  Humans seem to look at the finger and often end up mistaking it for the moon. Even if we see the moon, the finger may not be pointing at the moon, but at the entire universe.

     I just returned from a one day retreat. Most of the day was 45 minute sittings followed by 30 minute walking meditation. During the talk that was given the idea of renunciation was offered. I have heard a lot concerning this topic and I thought I would take a minute to offer my own considerations.

     Renunciation has several connected meanings. (Like so many words do!) Speak up against, avoid, reject, abandon, and reaffirm verbally are some of them. I like to lean towards a combination of two processes. One, is the idea of abandoning something that I find isn’t supporting my chosen direction. I also like the idea of re-announcing a perspective on a process. Making a move in a direction I want to reinforce. Here is how renunciation works for me.

     Let me take greed as an example. It was also the example used in the retreat. I am aware that I am greedy and have a desire to change that. Having this insight, my next consideration is to keep that in front of me. This is problematic for most humans. It isn’t that we don’t understand concepts, it’s that the mind naturally scans for problems, threats, and opportunities. In doing so it moves from focus to focus. We aren’t built to keep single pointed values in our mind all day. 

     I am fortunate that every morning I recite a Daily Recollection. It consists of reciting components of the Buddhist path. It includes the precepts. In doing this daily, I have the opportunity to reaffirm the direction and path I have  chosen. I have the opportunity to have my need to attend to this issue right before me and every morning before meditation I am reminded.  It is comprehensive and I really love the practice of the daily reading. ( The version I use if from the Living Compassion site.  http://www.livingcompassion.org/)

     The next action is in twofold. One, being aware of the actions of being greedy. I find that bringing awareness to the actions of greed are enough to initiate abandoning the action.  Two, is a move TOWARDS being generous and compassionate which to me are the balancing points to greed. I don’t believed in removing something from my life and leaving that hole. There are to many options that can fill that space, I prefer being proactive and moving towards generosity and compassion as a way to replace greediness instead of just trying to remove greed. It feels as though trying to remove anything as an isolated exercise is doomed to failure. The term “Just don’t be greedy” doesn’t mean much in my world.

     So, I am looking to practice being generous and having compassion. And, by doing so the opportunity to be greedy diminishes greatly. By actively embracing generosity and compassion I am reinforcing their position in my journey.

     This seems the way of Zen and the Tao. Everything exists on a continuum. Greed can be from a tiny bit greedy to insanely greedy. Generosity can be a little or a maximum movement. There is no continuum with greed on one end and generosity on the other. One process is not the other process. The reason I add generosity and compassion is because a change is going to depend on the focus of my attention. If I am focused on greed then greed will be there. I may be moving to the minimal end of the continuum but the fact remains it’s still greed. I find it important to remember that one process is not replaced by another process. We diminish our attention on one thing and attend to another. We find those things that are not receiving attention fade. 

     We practice the middle path. This means we don’t attach to negation or gain. We gravitate towards that which supports our genuine response. We accept everything and move in a direction that promotes genuine response. Acceptance doesn’t mean we have to like or dislike. We have to see and coexist that which is in co-existence. Ignoring what is real or apparent doesn’t make any sense if we want to step outside of illusion and delusion. Ignoring what exists is delusional. 

     I think, when acting as a guide, the most difficult concept to accept is that we are not seeking right and wrong ways or paths. We are not attempting to fix or improve anything. We are seek a grounding in our Dharma. Being less greedy and more generous is different than NOT BEING GREEDY AND BEING GENEROUS. The first is a process, the second speaks to absolute states within duality. The first we do as processing humans the second we can only keep trying to attain a perfection, a terminal point.

Be well. 

As always any ideas or comments are greatly appreciated. Learning with all of you is an honor. 


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