Since about Saturday, I've been struggling to accept the efficacy of any Buddhist practice.
I sometimes doubt enlightenment is possible for me or anyone else, aside from the most devoted practitioners and teachers. They seem to be onto something. The average person? Not so much. Someone on here posted a list of like 20 complex meditations to master before even thinking about enlightenment.
Well, enlightenment doesn't actually exist. But degrees of enlightenment exist to the extent that they function in your life. From another perspective enlightenment exists as the culmination of complete purification of all defilements and complete perfection of all positive qualities.
So - is it possible for someone to eliminate some defilement? Let's say some long standing thing that they have expressed in their behavior. Like hatred toward a being? It's pretty tough actually but if you examine yourself closely you will find that you can in fact eliminate that defilement. Then is it possible to perfect positive qualities. Again if you examine yourself closely you will see that it is possible to perfect some positive qualities - like kindness and compassion for example (perfect them in the sense of deepening them and then discovering that you can always deepen them).
This is exactly the point that many westerners give up on as a result of conditioning. They adhere to the view that positive states of mind are transient phenomena because they also experience negative mindstates. Like when my parents told me about Ben Franklin's attempts to perfect himself, something he eventually gave up on and declared impossible. But in fact it is possible.
And beyond that it is possible to actually experience the nature of mind directly. So before this happens, you basically have to rely on others telling you that it can happen. And our primary guide on this matter is Shakyamuni Buddha.
From a Tibetan Buddhist POV all you need to do is to work on perfecting compassion and then everything else will eventually come along as well.
I've had troubles with specific defilements before, and the solution given at the local Zen place was just to sit, sit, sit. Sit like a statue, the bird that just crapped on your head is beyond concepts.
Everyone has problems with defilements. But over time they can be reduced and eliminated.
However even in Zen sitting like a statue is not correct (not if you are actually sitting like a statue). Sitting is the primary practice but it is not the only way to deal with things. Where do these defilements come from? Where do they go? What triggers them?
As I deal with an undesirable and prolonged home situation and a crumbling marriage, I see Buddhism as not really helping me in everyday life and not really helping anyone else immediately around me, either.
There are no securities. This is one of the facts of samsara. Everything always changes and life as experienced may not be what we want. Things are especially difficult now for various reasons. However, what happens when we deliberately decide to practice lovingkindness and compassion? How does that change our reality?
Since we're on pointless questions, long term? Paradoxically hope for enlightenment but give up hope of anything; let's set a goal to draw you in, then say the goal doesn't matter.
If you can be compassionate for one instant then you are behaving as a Buddha for one instant. You may not have the wisdom side or the action side just yet but you have manifested compassion. Then keep doing that each instant. So actually manifesting compassion is wisdom. Manifesting compassion is enlightenment. The reason we don't call it enlightenment is because you can turn away from manifesting compassion. When you can't turn away from manifesting compassion then you are much closer to Buddhahood (and in fact would be a real Bodhisattva). The same is true for all of the perfections (the six perfections of the Northen School: generosity, morality, patience, diligence, meditation/concentration and wisdom or for the ten perfections of the Southern School: generosity, morality, renunciation, wisdom, dilligence, patience, truthfulness, determination, lovinglkindness and equanimity) or the four so-called immeasurables: lovingkindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity.
And short term, this weird emotionless gulf and tangible alienation from people around me, whatever my actual feelings towards them may be.
Don't be alienated from others.
There's this undercurrent that it's always just your fault ...
Fault and the rest is irrelevant. As it says in the opening chapter of the Dharmapada/Dhammapada "our life is the life of our mind". We are the result of what we have previously thought and done. So we change our future by changing our mind. This can take time in some cases.
But you wouldn't give a flu vaccine to a person already suffering from pneumonia.
But you would take care of them in the way that they needed.
Pema Chödrön says to use the raw energy of doubt, fear, anger, etc. to reconnect with our soft spot and see the ways we protect ourselves. That sounds like a bunch of mumbo jumbo
Okay, but she's talking to a lot of touchy-feely people and you're not there (at least not right now).
But we do use negative emotions and behaviors to try to protect ourselves.
At least it seems the Christians I know act spontaneously out of love and charity. The kindest people I've met have been at churches, not at Buddhist centers.
Yes, Buddhism has attracted a lot of people who seem to like to disengage from others. This is the wrong way to go. But overtime, they realise it and change.
Is there such a thing as not being cut out for Buddhism?
I want to say no but the teachings actually say yes. There are people for whom Buddhism is not the best spiritual medicine.