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Lions Roar : May 2008
75 SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2008 Then, there is the Big Carrot, the possibility of enlightenment at the end of the road. We don’t know exactly what enlighten- ment is, but we know it’s a good thing, and we believe that be- ing enlightened will bring more good things. It sounds, from a donkey’s perspective, somewhat...yummy. Or as Groucho Marx said, “Say the magic word and the duck comes down.” On the other side of the equation, many of us are perfectly happy with just a little bitty sweet baby carrot, and we experience most of the description of the Buddhist path as a big stick that is trying to move us forward against our will. We just got on the road to go to the next pasture, where all the great-looking donkeys are hanging out. Nobody warned us that we were going to have to carry saddlebags or have people ride on our backs, or that we’d have to be on the road all night. Forget it. Sit, sit, sit. Study, study, study. Suffer, suffer, suffer. Renounce, renounce, renounce. Not me. I just want peace, contentment, a practice to calm my mind. Ouch, don’t hit me again. Ouch, ouch, no, I’m not budging. Carrot? Ooh. Now that looks nice... Maybe visualizing oneself as a donkey is not the best approach. Buddhism and the practice of meditation are not laughing matters, but a sense of humor is essential. We need a gap in the storyline, a light touch that enables us to look afresh. It is said that all dharma (i.e., all teaching) agrees at one point, and that point is egolessness, the insubstantiality of self and other. What we are and what we experience as our world are not solid. A re- ified view of Buddhism, practice, enlightenment—any of those can be a hindrance if we can’t see through the concepts. The process of wearing out our preconceptions about self and other is essentially what makes up what we call the path. If you involve yourself in Buddhist practice and study, you find yourself on that path whether you are the kind of donkey who likes carrots or the kind who prefers to be beaten with big sticks. At first, when you survey the journey that lies ahead, with all its schools and stages, you’re barely on the road. Essentially, you’re studying the map before you get underway. There is a difference between imagination and reality in this regard. and Stick ©ISTOCKPHOTO.COM/ERICISSELÉE MAY 74-79.indd 75 MAY 74-79.indd 75 3/6/08 11:34:54 AM 3/6/08 11:34:54 AM