An old friend sent me a quote from Po Chii-i (772-846 A.D.) that read as follows:Keep off your thoughts from things that are past and done, For thinking of the past makes regret and pain. Keep off your thoughts from thinking what will happen, To think of the future fills one with dismay. Better by day to sit like a sack in your chair; Better by night to lie like a stone in your bed. When food comes, then open your mouth; When sleep comes, then close your eyes.*
This is renunciation. But what have I given up? Is it not better to give up slavery and die free, than to be a slave and live to an old age? Ask the question: Who really is free? Ask this same question, again and again, until the depth of freedom really is begins to expose itself to you.
You say, "I need to pay my mortgage off on my house, thus I must work at my job. The credit cards need to be paid off, else my credit rating falls. Oh, the car payments, the health insurance!" This is the way of modern slavery. The nine-to-five slave in the commuter train looking to all the world as a miserable half-awake human being. He or she working for the debt and insurance payments. But how to become free? Credit, debt, and insurance are parts of the modern social game. Sometimes you win; sometimes you lose. The results of these games are not you.
My way of life is like failing into success. Dropping what does not work; then waiting for clarity to come out of the void. Twelve years ago I climbed the mountain of awareness -- I looked around and saw that all things of this life are vanity. I learned the burden of wisdom. Then I looked deeper past the vanity of life, old age, and death. There is humor in all this. I began to understand "joyful wisdom."
The things that I enjoyed as a young child returned to me: writing on paper, taking daily walks, solving problems, playing music, learning more about how the world works.
Lately, I wear a ring on my third finger of the left hand. On it are inscribed in Sanskrit the words, "Om Mani Padmi Hum." It looks like a wedding band. I tell people in a funny tone, "I have married the Dharma." One lady said, "The Dharma might be a greater task mistress than any wife."
I live in a global society that values and worships money above human life and relationship. Yet, I have no desire to own a personal car, I have given up on women and children as intimate living partners in life. I have slept on the floor for years. Yet, I do not feel poor. How is this possible? By measuring self-worth in terms of soul-worth instead of net-worth.
Money comes and goes. I used to work for regular paychecks. But, now, I cannot do that any more. I dropped out so to speak. Yes, I work. I work everyday. Some of the work looks like high finance; some of it like computer consulting; some of it is sales and marketing. I work for the health of life around me, not the money values of an abstract economy. The disease of the current economy is partly due to the loss of community and relationship that we have suffered from the excess attention to bucks rather than folks. I work against that trend.
I lived with a woman. But my way of life was not for her -- it made her insecure. My tolerance for economic insecurity was greater than hers. My desire to ease her pain made me franticly run around trying to make deals come together. My situation would change, come together, fall apart, and back together again. She could not stand the falling apart. But life is as much a falling apart as it is a coming together. The forces of nature are far greater than individual human wills and intentions. Domestic life is so personalized that we forget the part these greater forces play in our lives.
My way of life is not for everyone. It is a difficult path; yet, an easy way to live once the surrender to it is accomplished. One good way to "buy" freedom is to keep things very simple. I live in an almost empty room by most American standards. I sleep on a foam bed on the floor. Some Buddhists say, "Never sleep in high places." Most of the time, I do not mind using public transportation and walking. This reduces my body weight and keeps the costs of using health clubs down.
Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose -- goes one of the songs of the 60's. From the side of clinging attachment, this is a dismal view. But from the side of real spiritual freedom, there is deep truth here. This is the ultimate either/or in life. Upon this decision everything else follows.
* Translations from the Chinese by Arthur Waley. New York: Alfred A. Knopf: MCMXLI.