The Jedi way and Buddhism - part 4

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09 Jan 2009 21:44 - 09 Jan 2009 21:47 #21282 by Garm

Ultimately speaking, Buddhism takes the perspective that desire is 100 percent natural and incredibly positive. The problem, however, is that unchecked fear and unexamined habit can pervert desire into addictive tendencies--habits which are destructive for an individual, harmful for a community, and disastrous for our planet. What Buddhist meditation necessarily reveals to us, moment by moment, is the problematic nature of our impulse for instant gratification.

By the way Buddhism doesn’t say that you should give up any pleasures: it just says being attached to them isn’t smart.

Anakin loses himself in his quest to be the most powerful Jedi ever. The good man that was Anakin Skywalker is destroyed and he becomes Darth Vader.

This is an example of desire – becoming – this is the near opposite of aversion, aversion is the desire to be rid of something; Becoming is the almost blind quest to attain it. When we pursue ideas of becoming we lose the peace right here and now. Buddhist practice, like Jedi training, is a path of self-awareness and are intended to help us get in touch with who we are, not turn us into someone else. We cannot become anything more than what we already are.

To be free of desire we need to learn to leave it alone and allow it to cease naturally. The practice of recognizing, accepting, and allowing desire to be is how we let go. It is simply dwelling stably with our desire, watching it without reacting. This is an active choice, the act of letting go, and when we release the desire to do something unwholesome we experience a wonderful feeling, but this does not mean that the desire is gone forever. It is only gone for the moment. However, the more the habit of letting go replaces that of attachment the more freedom we enjoy.

Yoda displays letting go in ‘Return of the Jedi’. He has seen the galaxy fall from peace into chaos. He has seen the Sith Rise and the Jedi all but disappear. He knows his life is ending; yet he does not suffer from aversion to the new order. He does not suffer by hanging onto his ideals, or his beliefs. He is able to let go and accept whatever is subject to ceasing. “That is the way of things,” He says, “The way of the force.”

We can also see intention – the desire to obtain, do or achieve something when Anakin states his intention to become the most powerful Jedi ever. Anakin believes that if he could become omnipotent he would be happy and could make the galaxy a better place. He wants power in order to bring peace, to help people and even ‘stop people from dying’.

Anakin did not intend to become a murderer and villain, but because he becomes blinded by the shroud of the dark side that is exactly what his intentions lead him to. We all want to be happy, but often our ideals and perceptions lead us away from happiness. We need to ask ourselves, “Will my present course support my deepest happiness or work against it?” If we don’t mindfully contemplate this question we may end up like Anakin and chase after imagined conditions of happiness, or we can become so focused on a single idea that we become blind to everything else.

The dark side offers Anakin the power to keep his loved ones alive and bring order to the galaxy. He thinks that this power is the only way and until he has it, he will not be happy. Becoming blind to everything else, Anakin embraces the dark side to ‘save’ Padme. Instead it brings suffering to him and to the galaxy of which he is an interdependent part. Anakins mistaken ideals led him farther away from happiness and generosity and deeper into the dark side.

The Buddha offered a parable to show our intentions, once locked into our minds, can pull us irresistibly toward suffering:

Two large, strong men drag another man across the ground toward a blazing fire. The captive cannot break free, and is thrown into the fire.

The strong men represent our intentions pulling us uncontrollably toward unhappiness. We do not want to be tossed into the fire of suffering, but our intentions inexorably draw us there.

That is why we reflect in the way Yoda taught and remain mindful as Qui-Gon so we do not get lost along the dark path of false ideals. We do this by practicing the way of
non-attainment. Sitting in meditation one does not try to attain enlightenment or insight, one simply breathes, concentrating fully on the process of breathing. Through meditative concentration comes insight and awakening.

Yoda says, “A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind. To be aware of our consciousness, intentions and the impact sense impressions have on us it is important to have the seriousness and commitment of a Jedi. If we hope to transform our suffering – these things are required for true happiness just as much as they are for being a Jedi.

But we also need to be careful to not take serious mind too far. It does not mean a harsh meditation practice or straining oneself to attain some special state, insight or power. If we practice in this way, we only make our lives more difficult and less enjoyable.

Anakin did not practice this as Yoda instructed, his desire to become powerful and to do what he stubbornly feels is right set him on a path that allowed nothing short of perfection. Anakin imagines he should be all-powerful and beyond human emotions. His rigid stance about what he should be, coupled with his non-acceptance of failure eventually led him to the dark side where he suffered immensely as Darth Vader.

Many of us live in some way as Anakin. We establish impossible standards of perfection that will not allow failure. When we do fail we feel unworthy and sink into depression, guilt or shame. Forcing ourselves to these conditions only brings us and everyone around us misery.

We must not punish ourselves for failing to be mindful or for being swept away by our emotions. A balance must be found. Failure is how we learn, grow, and understand. From our failures we can see our nature more clearly, and from that we reap wisdom and understanding.

Anakin commits himself to a path of perfection. Such a path does not allow us to be human, to have shortcomings. It binds us to an un-achievable idea.

Anakin has just told Padme about slaughtering the Tuskin Raiders, who kidnapped and tortured his mother. He tells her that although he knows better, he cannot stop from hating them.

Padme compassionately tells him that for killing his mother they have earned his anger. “To be angry is to be human,” She says wisely.

Anakin misses the deeper meaning of her words and says, “I’m a Jedi, I know I’m better than this.”

This is a common misunderstanding that many of us share; we believe that to be better we have to control our feelings like anger and jealousy, that having these feelings is a sign of weakness. We believe that it is not ‘Jedi’ or ‘Buddhist’ (read ‘right’ or ‘good’) to be angry or jealous, so we repress, deny, or fight it. This is an unwise way to live.

It is foolish to control our feelings to this extent, because when we attempt to do so we often end up repressing and causing them to fester and later to erupt in a volcano of suffering.

Anakin’s idea of what a Jedi should be prohibits him from being fully human and he ends up becoming a monster. Anger it is natural human response, but Anakin finds this aspect of his humanity to be a weakness, and later as Vader, he learns to control his anger and to unleash it as a deadly weapon.

If we take the time, with mindfulness and deep looking comes insight into the nature of our negative thoughts and tendencies, and when we understand, we can release them and not be ruled by them.

When we take care of suffering it has less of a hold on us and less impact on those around us. Suffering is a realistic assessment of what it is to be human, but with Jedi-like commitment and compassionate practice we can release our attachment to the causes of suffering.

“Hard to see the dark side is.” Master Yoda’s answers Qui-Gon’s question as to the resurfacing of the Sith.

Much like the dark side the source of our suffering, especially our role in causing it is hard to see. If left uncared for, suffering can grow until it becomes like the dark side – a gloomy shroud that hangs over everything. That is why we must take care of our suffering before it can overwhelm us.


The Buddha describes sensory perception like millions of bugs swarming over a cow. The cow suffers from a disease that has wracked if skin, leaving its body exposed. Wherever the cow goes insects attack it. We are like the cow – and the worldly phenomena we encounter are like the bugs. The arguments we hear, breeze we feel, the taste of food, smells, ect…we are exposed to constant sensory input. Billboards and commercials encourage us to buy products that will make our lives better, magazines, movies and television show us how to look and dress. Conversations we overhear or participate in, for our opinions on world events. Some of these inputs produce happiness and ease, while others produce discomfort and suffering.

“But how am I to know the good side from the bad?” Luke asks. Yoda responds, “You will know. When you are calm, at peace. Passive.” With these words Master Yoda describes a state of calm reflection, a method by which we will be able to watch our sensory consumption and see who it affects or mood.

It is important that we observe our sensory input in a ‘passive’ manner – as Yoda advises. When we are passive we are less likely to become hostile in the face of hostility. If we only observe – these words are hostile. They invoke hostility in me. Hostility is an unpleasant feeling. I understand my feeling but will let it pass.

In our world of continual spin and advertising, we must be aware of our sensory diet. If we are not careful about the sensory toxins we are consuming they will consume us.
Last edit: 09 Jan 2009 21:47 by Garm.

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