Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Zen and the Art of Being Grindingly Poor

As I have pointed out before, Great Britain is hardly a hotspot for Zen Buddhism. But I think we're going to need it here soon, given the economic predictions of our leaders. The rub is this: we are all going to have to put up with having less, in a material and fiscal sense. Whilst we've got groovy holidays and lovely gadgets, Buddhism, with its gloomy-seeming First Noble Truth "Life is (or inherently contains) suffering" is not the popular choice. Now that the great global Being-Shafted-By-Bankers plan seems to be well underway, a non-materialistic yet non-theistic approach to life looks like a good idea. What is sesshin if not a boot camp for the soon-to-be-poor? I know after a week of sitting on my cushion, even a bowl of plain porridge seeems like some sort of sensory overload. Zazen basically teaches you to be wholly appreciative of anything that's not zazen.
It's encouraging for us to look back and see that there have been many times in the past when Zen practitioners lived very frugally, and yet still enjoyed rich and fulfilling lives. I think in the future things may get a bit communal, and a bit less individualistic. Again sesshin, and indeed the whole Zen approach is a good primer in this kind of getting-along "together-action" as Seung Sahn refers to it. It may seem a bit lazy, a bit fatalistic even, but I am not one inclined to protests and so on, though I daresay some of that might be needed as the purse-strings draw ever tighter. I am more interested in adapting my life circumstances and finding happiness as near at hand as possible. Also, wear and tear on the zafu aside, the running costs of Zen are pretty low. Now, I'm off to pen the best-selling "How to be poor and happy" to see if I can make my fortune before this whole sorry mess blows up...

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