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Buddhadharma : Spring 2015
spring 2 0 1 5 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 27 M onastic life is a model that the Bud- dha offered for how we can all prac- tice. Still, many people ask how they should practice as laypeople. Lay life is so varied; some people have families, some don’t, and there are many different lifestyles and circum- stances, so it’s hard to present a specific model that covers everyone. Instead, general suggestions are given for lay practice: keep the precepts, live a moral life, and practice generosity. Right speech, right action, and right livelihood are also offered. But lay practice has to be creative in using life itself as a vehicle for freedom, and that’s very individual. Monastic life has a more uniform quality because we live together according to rules. The fundamen- tal prerequisite of monastic life is surrender, giving up to a certain form and discipline. We take the precepts and accept this lifestyle; that’s the choice we make. But then, after making that choice, we no longer have that many choices. We live in a hier- archy. We have prescribed ways of relating to men and women. We have rules about taking care of our robes and the equipment of the monastery. We have policies that govern the sharing of things. We have various ways of admonishment and of ordination. As a monastic order, we give up to this training and form. Before I ordained as a bhikkhu, I lived in India for some time, where I had a tremendous amount of freedom. I didn’t have the constraints of my old culture, and I managed to live on about ten dol- lars a month. But I became confused, because I still believed that if I did what I wanted, I’d reach some kind of fulfillment. However, I found out that doing what I wanted just made me more and more frustrated because it did not put an end to want- ing—that fundamental restlessness that I kept trying to overcome by obtaining another experience, be it travel, a relationship, or whatever. That kind of freedom was fun for a while, but it ultimately led to despair. My first year of monastic life was terribly frus- trating, the second year was terribly frustrating, and the third year was terribly frustrating! I couldn’t shuffle the pieces on the chessboard around. I couldn’t go to the monastery I wanted to go to. I’d see Ajahn Chah and say, “Luang Por, I’d like to go to such and such a monastery.” He’d say, “What’s wrong with this one? Don’t you like me?” Ajahn Chah’s way was very much one of frustrating desire—and he was fearless in that. He didn’t mind if his disciples got angry with him. That’s the kind of compassion he had—the compassion to frustrate. It takes a lot of courage. Finally, I decided that if I was going to get any- where on this path, I had to stop and look. I couldn’t keep rearranging things according to my desires. I had already given that a good go and knew it didn’t work. The reason I took up this model, this vehicle, was not just to have fun or get something out of it. It was because I wanted to be able to observe the nature of frustrated desire as well as fulfilled desire. camilo torres | i STOCk