Author Topic: What do you tell your loved ones?  (Read 2715 times)

overmyhead

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What do you tell your loved ones?
« on: November 27, 2009, 01:34:35 pm »
I had a materialistic upbringing.  My parents were upper middle class.  I lived in a wealthy New England town and went to a nice school.  Then I went to university and realized I was pretty damn happy being poor.  My motivations quickly becamse decoupled from financial success, and success in general.  The idea of a carreer becamse empty to me.  Eventually I started browsing Buddhism forums.  ;)

The problem is that, to most of the people I interact with, my life is *supposed* to be about being successful.  I'm supposed to want success, prestige, money.  It is incomprehensible to them that I would want to pass it all up.  It causes people to worry about me (although really it is the threat to their own world view which has them worried).  At first I tried to explain it to them.  It quickly became clear that I had to mince words.  If I was careless I would insult the way people live, or worse, cause them to feel regret over the way they had chosen to live.  So I don't push very hard, and they end up thinking I'm deluded, lazy, self-seving, a hypocrite, etc.  I can deal with the irony, but it is most vexing to know that people think lowly of my lifestyle, especially my parents.  Understanding the inevitability of nondualism is critical to understanding my behaviour, but none of my close friends or family can even bring themselves to seriously entertain the idea.  They are so addicted to things, so addicted to themselves, it is just impossible.

I eventually stopped talking to people about myself.  I tell people I'm unemployed.  I don't tell people I'm planning on living in a monastery.  It's just ... easier.  But for some people that's not good enough.  Certain people depend on my happiness and well-being for their own happiness and well-being.  What do I say to them so that they can believe that I am happy and that my path is healthy, and that they should feel good, rather than bad, about the decisions I have made and the direction of my life?

More generally - If you lead a lifestyle which is or was disapproved of by your well-meaning loved ones, how did you deal with that?  How did you change their minds, and if you couldn't how did you deal with *that*?

Offline humanitas

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Re: What do you tell your loved ones?
« Reply #1 on: November 27, 2009, 02:00:44 pm »
The Buddha was a prince destined to either become THE Monarch or to become a Buddha.  He chose to become a Buddha.  Most did not understand how he could give up a kingdom, power, fame, the very grace of the gods smiling with their fortune down upon him and his family.  Yet, what did he do?  He felt something more important deep down in the part of every one of us that knows this is all impermanent, there is more to life than gold.  And he left it all behind to the

Had he had a computer when he was facing his inner struggles with people who didn't  understand where he was, he might have written this post too, no?

Take comfort in the fact that you are following what you know to be true, and if it's comforting at all, remember all truth eventually becomes self-evident.  If you are deluded that will unfold as well as you continue your practice. 

I am not even related to you, and I am damm-proud of you.    :bow:
 

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Offline Quiet Heart

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Re: What do you tell your loved ones?
« Reply #2 on: November 27, 2009, 02:03:26 pm »
 ::)
First of all...you need to follow your own way. There is nothing else that will really satisfy you in the long run, and you have to answer for yourself to yourself.
But having said that, let me ask you some questions.

First, how old are you? Are you younger than 30? Do you realise that the average American lives to be more than 65?

Question: Do you really want to dedicate the next 40 years of your life to a life in a Buddhist monestary?

At your age you may feel that it must be either a materialistic life or a monestary. It isn't true. You can live a more "normal" life...keeping your buddhist principles...adhering to the 4 precepts, and living a life according to your principles. There is a middle way and you can find it.

I'm not saying you can't choose the monestary...just be sure of what you are doing. you can live a "normal" life and still maintain your Buddhist principles and integrity. And you don't need to persue "success", whatever that is.

Then when you're 60 (for example) you can still make the change if you feel the need to.

Bet you didn't see that coming, did you?

overmyhead

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Re: What do you tell your loved ones?
« Reply #3 on: November 27, 2009, 07:44:22 pm »
I would like to clarify that I started this thread to invite people to respond to my story, and also to share their own experiences where they knew what they had to do, but their loved ones dissaprived, and how they dealt with that.  Did you come out of the closet?  Did you become an artist in a family of engineers, or an engineer in a family of artists?  Did you join the army, or did you drop out of school?  It's a very common theme and I think it could be a good discussion.  Maybe it should be one of the primary fetters:  "expectations of parents."   ;)

That said, I appreciate the responses, encouragement, and advice, although I am embarrassed by the comparison to the Buddha.  I am not actually torn about whether or not to enter the monastic life.  I am torn about how to make my close family members and friends okay with it.

Quiet Heart, I am 24 years old.  It is young, true, but it is just a number, and I already feel old and tired.  I agree that I do not have to jump headlong into things, but I can not bear the thought of 40 more years of doing what people do.  My motivations are very streamlined at this point, and it doesn't seem that I will be going back.  A weight has been lifted, and I am not going to voluntarily take it up again without good reason.

It's this "right livelihood" that I am having difficulty with.  Vapid entertainment, vapid gossip, debauched behaviour, debauched friends.  And girls ... girls are soooooo distracting, they look at me and make me fall in love with them.  The monastic life is necessary so that these temptations can be removed and I can streamline my efforts.  The more effort I put in now, the quicker I will progress, and, if I blossom sufficiently, the longer I will be able to radiate wisdom and warmth on those who look to me.

Offline humanitas

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Re: What do you tell your loved ones?
« Reply #4 on: November 27, 2009, 08:32:09 pm »
My family is displaced, bohemian, non-traditional, and traumatized.  It's hard for them to understand the lifestyle and reality of marriage and living in a healthy loving union.  I am the first married person in a family of unmarried people.   I am also the only one in my family with a steady career.  Our paradigms are quite different yet belong to the same reality.  The place I've come to with my family is that how I live my life is my message to others and I will be the change I want to see in them.  So I don't let their negativity deter me from my practice.  If anything, I thank them everyday for giving me such rough challenges and allowing me to fully exercise what I study and put kindness and mindfulness into practice.

The one thing I can tell you is a monastery will not remove the "temptations" of whatever "tempts" you.  I would say whatever triggers craving, aversion, or ignorance as temptation sounds like a very Judeo-Christian concept which doesn't really apply to the Buddhist paradigm.  A monastery may or may not help you or its conditions might be suitable (remote areas, little interaction with women/partying, a schedule for tasks, meals, meditation, etc) but if your motivation is aversion, it will not be the answer.  You can remove craving/aversion/ignorance from your perception even without a monastery.  Of course, you will determine what most benefits you and what your inner motivations are for any path you choose.  I agree with Quiet Heart where you are very young in your numbers, but that doesn't mean you don't have an inner "calling" to be a monk!  Good luck!
« Last Edit: November 27, 2009, 08:39:31 pm by Ogyen Chodzom »
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Offline Monkey Mind

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Re: What do you tell your loved ones?
« Reply #5 on: November 27, 2009, 09:36:20 pm »
Thank you for the thought provoking thread.

I became a Buddhist when I was a teenager, and that is why I entered into the healing arts/ helping professions. I felt compelled to seek out a career that was an expression of my compassion. In retrospect, I now know that right livelihood for a lay practitioner does not demand such a career choice, Buddhists can be many professions. We excel in the sciences and in the arts, and in teaching careers. I know a number of corporate leaders who are Buddhists. Only the monastics are required to live without money or compensation for work, without material possessions. The rest of us are just required to pay careful attention to the delusion, attraction, and aversion caused by the lifestyles we lead as lay folk.

Having said that, I have always worked for non-profits. I have an awareness that I could probably make a lot more money in the private sector. And yes, my friends and extended family have also commented on my meager paycheck compared to my earning potential. I shrug and say I am happy for now.

My mother is disappointed because I do not return "home" more often. I do not have any attachments to that place and it is not my home, and I try to encourage her to give up her attachments to that place too as it has outlived its utility. She does not understand my point of view.

One other place my Buddhism is a source of friction for others: If asked, I often offer my opinion without sugarcoating or diplomacy. I am generally not attached to an outcome one way or another, so see no need for diplomacy. Other people usually receive these comments as harsh or uncouth when my intention was to be pragmatic.

overmyhead

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Re: What do you tell your loved ones?
« Reply #6 on: November 28, 2009, 02:35:17 am »
Ogyen, my use of the word "temptations" is probably due to my growing up in a Christian culture.  I meant it as "thing which induces craving by virtue of its proximity."  I'm not sure if you take issue with this usage.  Let me illustrate what I mean.  I have no desire to eat pizza.  But if you put a full pizza in front of me, I will eat it all.  I have a sick weakness for it.  But unless it is literally right there, it is a non issue, and I am perfectly happy.  I do not crave it unless I can see it or smell it.  Pizza is a temptation for me.  So are many other things.  Monastery life will remove proximity from these things.  Eventually when I clearly understand craving and I have mastered mindfulness I will no longer need to be removed from these things.  But in the meantime these things serve to slow down this very understanding and mastery.

Also, nice story and nice lesson. :)

Monkey Mind, I also have to bite my tongue a lot.  I find people can not handle many thoughts which to me are trivial and harmless.  People are generally fragile (they are not Buddhist after all ;)) and I find that they are quick to feel threatened, as if they are afraid a little thought will undermine their whole world.  And to be fair sometimes that is the case.

Offline Wonky Badger

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Re: What do you tell your loved ones?
« Reply #7 on: November 28, 2009, 04:17:28 am »
Sadly, I'm still a closet Buddhist, although I'm changing my lifestyle and reading quite much Buddhist literature, so it should soon be fairly apparent for the observant.

When people ask me about material stuff, I simply answer "I'm happy as it is. I have all I need."
Actually at my last Individual Performance Meeting with my boss, he set as a goal for me to take a certification so I could get a new title and a pay raise. Without reflecting, I told him that I wasn't interested in titles and that I had all the money I needed and that I'd rather set a goal that developed my skills and broadened my horizons. I don't really think he could fully understand what I was saying. He probably thought I was an underachiever, content with doing unchallenging work.
My actions are my only true belongings.
I cannot escape the consequences of my actions.
My actions are the ground on which I stand.
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What would Buddha do?

Offline humanitas

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Re: What do you tell your loved ones?
« Reply #8 on: November 28, 2009, 10:53:44 am »
Ogyen, my use of the word "temptations" is probably due to my growing up in a Christian culture.  I meant it as "thing which induces craving by virtue of its proximity."  I'm not sure if you take issue with this usage.  Let me illustrate what I mean.  I have no desire to eat pizza.  But if you put a full pizza in front of me, I will eat it all.  I have a sick weakness for it.  But unless it is literally right there, it is a non issue, and I am perfectly happy.  I do not crave it unless I can see it or smell it.  Pizza is a temptation for me.  So are many other things.  Monastery life will remove proximity from these things.  Eventually when I clearly understand craving and I have mastered mindfulness I will no longer need to be removed from these things.  But in the meantime these things serve to slow down this very understanding and mastery.

I have no issue with the usage of the word after your explanation, thank you for that. 

I understand what you mean by the proximity being the trigger for the craving.  That is something that a monastery might help with in terms of providing a supportive setting by removing proximity to those things which trigger craving.  What I think might be an interesting point for you to look at is the craving itself arising with the object means you've established a good sense of when and how the craving emerges.  That is great, I think, because you have observed and become aware of where the craving is.  I had a thought which might help in your preparation for monastic life.  Do you observe yourself very kindly and without judgment when your "sick weakness" for pizza for example comes up?  I've started this practice of just really observing myself while I do things that satisfy cravings.  For example, if I had a pizza in front of me and had a weakness for it, I'd just start to "carte blanche" watch myself and the pizza.  It's like I start making a documentary in my own head of my craving and the object of my craving.   I've been finding that moving closer to the craving has been bringing me closer to the core knot under the craving which has me droolin' with desire for said pizza.  It's a good practice to get the hang of, especially if you're preparing for monastic years.  Watch yourself, and make the effort to not judge, but become really aware of every bit of it you can be aware of.  I've been discovering interesting features about my cravings.  For example, my cravings are based in fear of not feeling and being "separate" from reality.  So my cravings emerge when that insecurity emerges.  I've discovered this through pure observation.  It wasn't something I was aware of before, rather I had a sense but it was vague and blurry.  This practice has helped me really zoom in on the dormant ignorant behaviors I enact over and over and over again.

Just a thought.   :meditating: 
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overmyhead

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Re: What do you tell your loved ones?
« Reply #9 on: November 28, 2009, 12:21:59 pm »
I try to observe craving in as detached a manner as possible.  However it is most difficult to do when actually indulging in a craving, because the act tends to "gobble up" mindfulness if you know what I mean, and before I know it I come to somewhere downstream, realizing I've just been swept away.  It's kind of all or nothing for me.  I do directly observe craving but I do it using visualization techniques, simulating the satisfying of craving.  Also I try to be mindful of the delayed effects.  How does the indulgence of this attached craving affect things in the future?  How does it lead to more craving?  How does it parasitize energy and add confusion in general?  How is it related to the ego, and what does this say about the nature of the ego?

David

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Re: What do you tell your loved ones?
« Reply #10 on: December 01, 2009, 12:32:49 am »
I usually tell anyone who doesn't understand my lifestyle (lack of business ambition, lack of desire for most materials goods, etc) "I've never heard of anyone on their deathbed state that they wish they had spent more time at work or on their career, or that they had bought a certain car, house, etc."  That usually gets 'em thinking, at least for a minute,and it ceases to make me so unique as a "Buddhist".

Offline WonderlandAlli

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Re: What do you tell your loved ones?
« Reply #11 on: December 01, 2009, 05:36:20 pm »
If you're 24 and only started studying Buddhism after university, I would suggest studying a little longer before dedicating the next 40 years of your life (or more) to the monastery. This is not something to enter into lightly. Are you sure that this is what you want or are you romanticizing it as a peaceful escape from the conventions of layman's life? A monk's life is not an easy out. I just wonder how much real life experience you've gained before deciding you're tired of living among society. I am not saying this to talk down to you, so please don't think that... (Nor am I talking down at monastic life, but I know it has its own trials involved that one might not fully expect if romanticizing the idea. I give the warning out of respect for that lifestyle.)

You can live in a simple, non-materialistic and very spiritual life without going into the monastery. There is no requirement to drink, have sex, date, or seek material gain in this life. These are only percieved conditions because so many don't know how to live any other way. You could quietly lease a small apartment or look for a co-op to live in, and live simply. If someone gives you materials you don't want, pass them on to someone who wants them. Live and learn, and you can even set an example to others. Do some long term retreats before going whole hog. :) Imagine having a room in a shared apartment or co-op, you have your simple bed, likely your shelf of Buddhist books for study, a place to meditate, and you could limit your wardrobe as well if you like. You could go work just enough to pay your portion of rent, and use the rest of the week for personal study. It is possible, I have friends that live in such a way. Find a job that feels peaceful to you, maybe nonprofit work rather than retail! ;) Generate good karma and get paid some money to get by on. Life is a lot cheaper without all the shopping we Americans do. Most of all you would be able to dedicate time to learning and get used to simple living. Which would in time make the following easier:

Your aversion to pizza as a sick weakness strikes me as rather ascetic, and reminiscent of some aspects of my own eating disorder.... Don't forget the "Not Too Little" part of the Middle path (Not too little, not too much) What's wrong with having it occasionally, or having a little and leaving the rest for the others? Or saying No, Thanks, if you honestly want to eat something else?

Follow your heart, if you don't want to live materialistically, then don't. Reduce and give away. I'm by no means saying don't become a monk, I just say go into it slowly and fully understanding what your vows mean. Give yourself time. Just don't assume you've seen it all yet, you're just 24 and there's a lot of seeing to do. :) Give yourself a few years of true simple living among your loved ones and friends before ruling it out as impossible outside a monastery. If anything this will let you take your time picking a monastery, and if its not in your home town to gather the funds to travel to the monastery. Give yourself a taste of what you'd be in for. If the monastery is where you belong it will fall into place. Your family voices concerns because they are worried for you, you should show them that living your way is healthy and happy for you, so that they won't have to worry. They may be worried that you will live on the street, or will live with them forever, or that you're depressed.
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David

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Re: What do you tell your loved ones?
« Reply #12 on: December 01, 2009, 06:46:51 pm »
Is it just me, or does it seem that Western converts to Buddhadamma seem to be very anti-monastic?  If one wants to truly be free from delusion, a cloistered life, at least for a while, is almost inescapable.  Do we really think it's possible to move about in general society, being bombarded with greed, hate and delusion from all sides and NOT be affected?  Everything about Western culture is geared toward building the very things Buddhadhamma is trying to rid us of.  Why discourage someone who wants to leave that?  One can disrobe just as surely as one can ordain.  And btw, in Buddhist countries, 24 would be hardly considered too young to ordain, quite the opposite actually.

Offline humanitas

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Re: What do you tell your loved ones?
« Reply #13 on: December 01, 2009, 07:11:52 pm »
David, we come into the differences of values of "East meets West."   

In the framework of societies with modern Christian-based western values, the underlying common perception might be that lay life probably has most freedom and "range of motion" while the monastic life has the most rules (limitations).  This is of course not true at all.  In many ways in the framework of societies with modern Buddhist-based values, the underlying common perception is that lay life has the most limitations (since it is bound to the duties of householders which also include assisting the monastic sector) while monastic life has the most freedoms (awareness and studies of wisdom).  These are of course generalizations.  In the West we consider 24 young, almost childlike (for some reason especially when it's males... I've been noticing) in the East we consider 24 fully mature and past college graduation, so 24 is an accountable adult. 

I'm sure no Westerner means ill when they rebuke "hasty decisions of 25 year olds joining convents," but again, that's a value not based in a Buddhist-based society.  Back in the day, if you joined a convent as a young adult it meant you had no other prospects but the church for your support.  While it was regarded as an honor you gave your family it also meant that you would not be providing FOR your family, and usually there was a correlation between parents unable to successfully marry off children, they "gave them away" to the church.  The church was always powerful, so it was a "sure bet."  Buddhist societies don't view the Vinaya that way.  There aren't values of guilt, shame, sin, salvation, etc.  So it's hard to extricate for Western Buddhists that part of their upbringing that is Christian based and has inched its way into certain ways of viewing age and religion.

I agree with you.  24 is fully adult.  My own questions to overmyhead were simply because many young people idealize the Buddhist monastic life and we have all had times we've wondered if it was the life for us.  I've gotten a pretty good sense that overmyhead is quite interested in the Vinaya and studies very hard.  After this assessment I've no other questions to ask about the motivations he has.  He will find out on his own if that is truly the path for him but I've nothing further to extrapolate from his intentions.  If anything, I encourage him to go investigate further. 

 
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Offline Monkey Mind

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Re: What do you tell your loved ones?
« Reply #14 on: December 01, 2009, 09:33:54 pm »
In many Buddhist traditions, it is possible and/ or common for young adults to take monastic vows for a period of time before de-robing and moving on to families and careers. In some cultures, when young men are engaged to be married they are supposed to become monks for a whole month before the wedding. This is to prove to the bride (or the bride's family) that they are mature enough to be married.

I don't know about anti-monastic, but only a small percentage of practicing buddhists actually become monks or nuns. This is true in the East and in the West.

I seriously considered becoming a monk when I was 22. (Of course, I was dating a Catholic priest at the time and I was seriously romanticizing the whole monastic thing, but that is a LONG story for another day...) If I wasn't married, I'd seriously think about it now. However, I have 2 strikes against me: I don't know if I could ever seriously be celibate for more than a couple of days (I was a dog in a past life...); and I have A LOT of student debt, and monks have to be free of debt before joining the monastery.

 


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