Can dharma alone make life worth living?

Re: Can dharma alone make life worth living?

Postby Thrasymachus » Fri Apr 06, 2012 7:22 am

Ok, I think I need a different way of explaining what I need to get across. According to Eisenstein we are living in the age of separation, we think there is a discrete and separate self, removed from the natural world, other people and natural processes(this is influenced alot by Buddhism). One of the consequences of this is we perceive the world and its processes as hostile, so we seek to dominate it with an ensemble of money, technology and science. We seek to make more of it ours, to dominate more over time. However this has consequences, mentally. If you are sensitive and contemplative, you can see it -- just about every Westerner is a mess, just open your door and you cannot escape it. But we are taught to ignore it, to instead resign ourselves that this is the way it should be and instead live out a pattern of compensation instead of a more authentic life. This Eisenstein fellow further says presently in this age of separation, the separation has become so acute it is in danger of collapsing, because we have reached close to the limit, which will usher in a new age, the age of reunion, where people will seek out a more balanced and harmonious modus vivendi.

A plausible inference is that Gautama Buddha probably also noticed the wounds from this "age of separation", or else he would have just been content to live out a luxurious palace lifestyle. But he found the elite lifestyle, the commoner lifestyle and the spiritual practices of his time all lacking so he developed dharma. But when he was alive this process was still very nascent compared to our advanced level. In terms of a pit, maybe someone in his time was only buried in a pit that was a few dozen meters tall of separation. However in our time, it is like one is buried several miles deep in a pit larger than the highest mountain. What is easier to get out of? This is why I think it is foolish to say that dharma has the answers and that Buddhist figures of the past dealt with the same problems of greed, lust and these have remained linear, when I am sure they gotten exponential due to various reasons which you can only find in the literature of a small number of Western intellectuals, social scientists and dissidents.

Most dharma texts and teachers say only a small minority will meet the causes and conditions necessary to achieve some kind of realization. But with the growth of separation, people have to climb even higher to get there. That is why I asked do you see any current or ex-drug addicts, factory workers, chronically obese people, etc., achieving a high level of realization, because that is the threshold of our contemporary civilization. That is not to say it is not beneficial even if you don't get far, but most people don't have any social support or sanctuary in their lives to stay dedicated to such path. In the Buddhist oriented societies of Asia they have monasteries, even if you are too poor to afford to go, householders will often pay the way for such people in with the hopes of receiving good karma. They developed a monastic tradition to make it easier to have the conditions necessary for the path, but perhaps they also hid behind it to prevent altering the mode of living of the majority of the householders outside.

@Greg:
First off I think you have alot of angst, maybe that unemployment gets to you. Personally I am happiest when I am not working(unemployed), infact I just quit my job, and I would love to be in a country where most the population is that way and is forced to find a new way, where they cannot find employment even if they want to. Eisenstein in an interview said that when you are working you get a sense that something is profoundly wrong, you feel like you are not living your life, that you are living someone else's life, because you spend most your time doing what you don't want to do, just because you are paid for it. And you need that money to live.

What you are saying is nothing groundbreaking or even much to do with dharma. Even this Greek archbishop says the same criticizing a chronic mentality problem in Greece, saying first you need an internal revolution, to change yourself:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xM48A5S40Pc

However you think that people independently operate in the world when they don't. No matter what you do you cannot really transform social conditions much because technological advances, monetary dependence and legal evolution preclude it, and lock you into stasis. The only way to get leverage to alter social conditions in a big way is after a collapse or crisis, when the interlocking systems you take for granted expire or lapse in their social power. In complex society, the individual and his or her will dissolved long ago, along with their voice. That is why we are on the net now, because in real life people just fake to each other that everything is fine enough that they can continue petty television centered gossip, so we seek cyber solace and confession from anonymous strangers.
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Re: Can dharma alone make life worth living?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Fri Apr 06, 2012 9:04 am

Nihilistic fatalism. This describes your attitude exactly.

I am always sorry when I hear somebody so young express so little hope.

I don't "fake it" when I am in the "real world". I am as honest and forthright (brutally so in many cases) as I am when I am on the internet. The internet (just in case you didn't know) is also the real world.

I have no angst about being unemployed, you brought it up as an issue, I merely pointed out that being older and unemployed is just as painful as being younger and unemployed. The rest is your projection. As for the alienating aspect of work, it's not always the case. Over the course of my life I have actually worked in many jobs that I enjoyed (and trust me I have worked all kinds of jobs).

Your existential angst is nothing new. It is nothing original. It is also not a modern phenomenon. It is part of the human condition. It is part of our existence in samsara. The Buddha prescribes a number of practices to help us overcome this feeling permanently. Take them or leave them. It's your choice.
:namaste:
PS A major difference between what I say and what the bearded orthodox facist in the video above used to say, is that I believe that inner transformation can also bring about change in external circumstances. The inner transformation Christodoulos preached was aimed at maintaining his grip on power and wealth. He wanted people to transform themselves in something more docile. More unquestioning. If one focuses only on external change without internal transformation the only thing they will do is reproduce the existing system in a slightly different form. If somebody focuses only on internal transformation and not external too, then all they are doing is escaping inwardly. If one combines inner and outer transformation then they are establishing a pure land here and now (and not waiting for the "pie in the sky"). If you do neither then basically you are commiting a slow and painful suicide. Christodoulos, by the way, died of an extraordinarily painful cancer of his digestive system (stomach and colon).
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Re: Can dharma alone make life worth living?

Postby BuddhaSoup » Fri Apr 06, 2012 3:07 pm

Thrasymachus:

There have been some thoughtful and perhaps helpful replies thus far (and maybe a few insensitive ones...) to your original post, and I have but a few thoughts to add.

The fact that you so articulately presented your concerns tells me that you, like many of us here, have the ability to get outside ourselves and our own heads and seek the counsel of others. That's a really good start, and something Buddha taught. Yes, the Dharma is a roadmap for life that can help you navigate these stressors; many of the concerns that you raise about our society, our culture, were also present in Buddha's time. The Buddhadharma has been suggested to be the "medicine" that can be applied to the unhealthy and stressful world that we live in. And while hash and peyote have been helpful medicine in getting some folks to experience aspects of mind that they could not while sober, it's probably helpful to avoid the hash brownies and seek to open the pathways with meditation. Meditation can be a struggle and a lot of effort, but at the end of the day, there are no shortcuts, medicinally or otherwise, to the pathway.

One other thought that I had was that while society is a bit screwed up, and the forces of contra-dharma seem to be running the society, the world is a big enough place to allow yourself to engage in the world and get outside of yourself, engage with others, and try to make connections for the betterment of yourself and others. Not only is this a Dharmic approach, ie a Bodhisttva path, but a lot of clinicians believe that this ability to connect with others, even if it is difficult, and focus on engaging to make the life and world of others better, is just psychologically healthy. How many of us as adolescents learned that when life became unbearable, that to retreat to one's room in isolation was the answer? Well, the healthy answer may be to avoid the room, avoid the bed, and to get outside and do something, anything, that connects one with the world, and to make that connection a positive and useful one.

It's not easy. But the Buddha understood that the path to freedom from dukkha, from stress and internal conflict, comes from the practices of the eightfold path. So, my response is not just to throw dharma at you, and suggest it as a panacea. Instead, the Buddha understood, 2500 years ago, that shit happens, and life is tough, and he gave us a roadmap to avoid the suffering that accompanies this worldly life. So, we have the roadmap, and now we all need but take that first step down a bumpy road, and see the confusion, delusion, and the greed that passes us by in society with a different point of view.
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Re: Can dharma alone make life worth living?

Postby BuddhaSoup » Fri Apr 06, 2012 3:18 pm

Oh, and I noticed that you are from New Jersey, and really suggest that you find a Sangha and make a connection with it. Don't try and process all of this by yourself, and with books and internet articles. Do some research and find a good Sangha in your area (or even outside your area) , and just show up. Drive there or take the train or bus. Connect. If there's a sitting, sit. If there's a Dharma talk, participate. Force yourself if you need to to get on the path. I think you'll find among a Sangha others with a similar worldview, and together with the Sangha you can work on these healthier pathways. This is not my advice, but, again, something Gautama emphasized, re the importance of the lay and monastic Sangha.
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Re: Can dharma alone make life worth living?

Postby Jesse » Fri Apr 06, 2012 5:17 pm

Thrasymachus,

You don't need to explain to us the ills of the modern world, I think you would be hard-pressed to find someone who disagrees. The difference is in the attitude we take about it, do your views cause you suffering or peace?

With views that cause you to be all wound up inside, does it help or hurt you? What do you want out of life? Do you want to be happier and more free? You have pointed out that it's difficult for a world filled with ignorance to change, so why emulate that very world in your own perceptions?

Why worry about high level of realization at all? When even the most basic teachings from Buddhism can help to free you from your suffering. Why not do some research into mindfulness and practice it seriously for just a week.
"We know nothing at all. All our knowledge is but the knowledge of schoolchildren. The real nature of things we shall never know." - Albert Einstein
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Re: Can dharma alone make life worth living?

Postby Malcolm » Fri Apr 06, 2012 5:23 pm

Thrasymachus wrote:
My question is:
1) Is dharma alone enough to make life worth living


Dharma alone makes life worth living.
http://www.atikosha.org
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://www.bhaisajya.guru
http://www.sakyapa.net
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

How can you not practice the highest Dharma
at this time of obtaining a perfect human body?

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Re: Can dharma alone make life worth living?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Fri Apr 06, 2012 9:07 pm


Enjoy!
:namaste:
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE
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Re: Can dharma alone make life worth living?

Postby BuddhaSoup » Sat Apr 07, 2012 1:38 am

As a follow up to the post above, yes, pursuit of Dhamma can make life very meaningful. My son and I.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/30512491@N04/7052174221/
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Re: Can dharma alone make life worth living?

Postby joogabah » Wed Apr 18, 2012 8:21 pm

Thrasymachus,

I agree with you entirely. I think the solution lies in total automation. As long as we relate to each other as a means to an end (labor exploitation), escalating alienation and social misery will be a byproduct of technological progress driven by capitalist competition. But there is an endpoint. Capitalism must automate to remain competitive, but in doing so, it undermines its own source of value - human labor power. Machines don't create value. For example, introducing machinery into production lowers the value of commodities produced, because the cost of labor is reduced to what is takes to create the machine (admittedly an oversimplification to make my point). We are quickly approaching a time when all human labor can be superseded by automation.

To quote Aristotle: "There is only one condition in which we can imagine managers not needing subordinates, and masters not needing slaves. This condition would be that each (inanimate) instrument could do its own work, at the word of command or by intelligent anticipation, like the statues of Daedalus or the tripods made by Hephaestus, of which Homer relates that 'Of their own motion they entered the conclave of Gods on Olympus' as if a shuttle should weave of itself, and a plectrum should do its own harp playing."

This is the meaning of the Eden myth and the idea of salvation. Something in our past put humans on a path to protect themselves from nature. Here's an interesting if speculative hypothesis: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5.9_kiloyear_event

In a quest to remain alive, our species became socially cannibalistic. But there are other social necessities, particularly child care, as human infants are absolutely vulnerable and need a high level of empathy from mothers in order to survive. Gender bifurcation, in my opinion, is the effect of this contradictory need. The fact that this is breaking down today is evidence that we are approaching the endpoint of this type of civilization. Movements for equality and for freedom from gender roles are anticipations of what is possible when humans are not organized as the production apparatus for competing, antagonistic civilizations. People can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and that is the basis for progressive social movements, even if their aims can never be fully attained under capitalism.

Your post made me feel better. At least another thinking individual feels the same heavy weight as I do. I imagine we are in for a massive financial and political crisis, in the middle of exponentially advancing technology that can solve the technical problem of scarcity, and this will remove the obstacle that has prevented a social revolution. People don't really want to live this way.

I hope you find peace but please don't let people persuade you to abandon a critical attitude of the social cesspool that is America at present. We eat each other.

http://www.philosophicalsociety.com/Arc ... ession.htm
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Re: Can dharma alone make life worth living?

Postby Jikan » Wed Apr 18, 2012 9:12 pm

BuddhaSoup wrote:As a follow up to the post above, yes, pursuit of Dhamma can make life very meaningful. My son and I.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/30512491@N04/7052174221/


Excellent! :twothumbsup:
Need help getting on retreat? Want to support others in practice? Pay the Dana for Dharma forum a visit...

viewtopic.php?f=114&t=13727
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Re: Can dharma alone make life worth living?

Postby Will » Wed Apr 18, 2012 10:54 pm

Morose T:

Your 'insight' is just emotion & thought mushed together by Lord Eisenstein and baked in your oven, which is fired by your own constantly recycled depressive thoughts. In short, too much 'you' - so of course you cannot relate to others.

Suggest you see how you react to Henri the Cat over at YouTube or see my recent post in the Lounge - Hysterical Henri...
Only consider helping others and forget yourself. Master Hsuan Hua
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Re: Can dharma alone make life worth living?

Postby Thrasymachus » Fri May 04, 2012 6:45 am

I think one of my biggest problems is poverty. I never made good money from any job, certainly not enough to move out. My family has the television blasting loudly from when they wake up at 7am almost everyday till past 12pm. Thus when I am home, I cannot think straight and I have never had a place I could be comfortable my whole adult life. It effects you badly when you are constantly bombarded with electronic distraction. Even when the tv is briefly off, I cannot think straight or find the desire to read or meditate. I would really need like one or two weeks tv free to decompress and build up my mental acuity. TV is like the anti-dharma, it really messes up your brain's neuroplasticity and mental composure. When you are conditioned by it, it makes you uneasy when you are alone with your thoughts. In this way even the few moments I am free of its background pollution, I cannot take advantage.

I feel like I have to do ten different things before I can live something closer to the authentic life I would like and that dharma is closer to number 10. I think earning money is closer to number one, despite my anti-capitalist beliefs, because money really matters in terms of mood, self-esteem and being able to alter your life conditions. But on the other-hand, I am not willing to do it what it takes to prioritize money over everything else to make enough money. You have to knock other people down and replace them to get a spot on the ladder of financial success.

I feel like I am not fit for this world and its social hierarchy of values, because to adjust to it, you have be an asshole and I don't want to be that. You have to be selfish, vain and shallow or else you are maladapted. I never meet someone I could feel comfortable with, that I feel could be a good example of conduct or empathy. All I ever meet was toxic people, the only product of our narcissistic, greedy society and the only reason I bother to associate with them is because of past established rapport and so I am not totally alone. I am not saying I am much different, but I don't want to be toxic, while everyone else who I confront about it always wants to make excuses why they should be greedy, addicted to drugs, tv, shopping, etc. I am just too tired of having nothing meaningful to do and no one meaningful to connect with.

@BuddhaSoup: I just finally did some web searching and found a Vajrayana Buddhist Center one town over. I decided to email them and maybe move out of my comfort zone, even though I have grave reservations. I have gotten sick of not fitting in everywhere I go, and it is hard for my keep trying.

@Wil:
I thought that video, was cute, amusing, clever and fun, but it does not relate to what I wrote about. You and probably others should watch the excellent documentary:
Ancient Futures - Learning from Ladakh
It is about a Tibetan people in India who undergo a rapid modernization in the late 20th Century -- that is, their traditional way of life is being destroyed with the tools of monetization and trade from further afield in India and internationally.

The alienation and lose of purpose is not something I or Eisenstein make up, it is real. When you monetize everything, you feel you only need a relationship to money and you lose community. You lose community and you lose, comfort, happiness, health, a sense of identity, purpose and stability. So it matters, it is just me whining or making something up. Maybe others can live on the level of who they will frak next at the bar, their next cigarette, the next piece of cake, sucking up to get a promotion, lusting over the next product, but I can't, that paradigm cannot sustain me.
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Re: Can dharma alone make life worth living?

Postby BuddhaSoup » Sat May 12, 2012 12:19 am

Thrasymachus:

It does sound like home life is more than a little frustrating for you, and it would be best for you to get out and be in your own space, or sharing a flat or house with other folks that would be compatible with you. Just being in an environment like that can stifle creative thought, and keep one's mood low, so that any possibilities seem just, well, impossible. That's just your mood talking, and it not a reality.

I agree with your ideas about how western society places such a premium on climbing ladders, even if it means stepping on the throats of those around you. But, it doesn't have to be that way. Instead of thinking about a job as a means to get some income, which will get you some flexibility and freedom, try to think in terms of a vocation, a life's work, where you could apply your obvious intellect and earn some measure of income while doing something of value to others. I really believe that one can practice the Bodhisattva vow and be employed in the world. It may be helpful to connect with the sangha you found, see what others are doing for vocations, and get some inspiration from them.

The key is to put one foot in front of the other one, get out the door, and open up to the possibilities that the world presents. I'm very impressed with your ideas and the way that you communicate and can't help but think that you have myriad talents that just need an outlet. Get away from the noisy house, and motivate yourself, even if this feels unpleasant, to connect with the sangha, the community, and any job that gives you contentment and an income. It's out there waiting for you, I promise.
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Re: Can dharma alone make life worth living?

Postby kirtu » Sat May 12, 2012 1:19 am

gregkavarnos wrote:And if you hink it's bad in the US come and visit us here in Greece for a barrel of laughs! ;)
:namaste:


Okay - a million billion years ago I was in Crete for two weeks on a NATO exercise and noticed how inexpensive life was. So now, are there any really inexpensive islands that a person could really hunker down on for $2000-3500 a year?

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Re: Can dharma alone make life worth living?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sat May 12, 2012 8:22 am

kirtu wrote:Okay - a million billion years ago I was in Crete for two weeks on a NATO exercise and noticed how inexpensive life was. So now, are there any really inexpensive islands that a person could really hunker down on for $2000-3500 a year?
Well a loaf of bread and a liter of milk costs about $2.60, so that's $949 a year. A cheap rent is about $200 per month, so that's $2,400 per year. So we are already at $3,400 per month and we still haven't connected the electricity, water and a land line phone (and you are already suffering from malnutrition).

Greece is currently one of the most expensive countries in Europe for basic products and has the worst wages and most working hours (only some of the ex-Eastern bloc countries are faring worse, but they don't have the euro as currency). Apart from rent (and you can find cheap rent in small country towns in these countries), all other basic commodities and services are cheaper in Germany and France.
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Re: Can dharma alone make life worth living?

Postby odysseus » Sat Jun 16, 2012 7:58 pm

Thrasymachus wrote:Even the Dalai Lama laments that Buddhism has no answer for our social system and its problems, so he advocates to combine Marxism with Buddhism.


Hello, as a side note I will mention that there is a pamphlet called "Buddha´s first and last sermons". In his last sermon he gives advice to a king about how to keep a prosperous society. There are also other accounts where Buddha discusses and gives advice to kings about how to rule a society. I have no clue why Dalai Lama favours Marxism, but I might suspect that it is because it is an alternative to the current developments where Capitalism rules the world. If we are patient, we might not need Marxism at all and Capitalism will fade out into a more just society due to all the economic crisises that are happening these days.

Buddhism does`nt need Marxism!
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Re: Can dharma alone make life worth living?

Postby Andrew108 » Sat Jun 16, 2012 9:27 pm

To answer the original question then absolutely dharma alone makes life worth living. 100% sure of that. Happiness doesn't come from thinking, it comes from experiencing what its like when ordinary thoughts are just left to go where they go.
The Blessed One said:

"What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range." Sabba Sutta.
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Re: Can dharma alone make life worth living?

Postby Adamantine » Fri Jun 28, 2013 2:33 am

I would say, true Dharma doesn't make life worth living, in any conventional sense-- rather if properly engaged, it should end life completely as we know it. That is, the conventional experience of self and other and waking experience will be forever altered so as to make the habitual sleep we were in and considered "life" a distant foggy memory of a bad dream. In contrast, total freedom from all conditioning and limitations would be essentially like a death. . death of clinging and grasping- --and this clinging and grasping is essentially more or less what we experience life as right now and what creates our suffering and depression.

The irony is that most of us (myself included of course) are really attached to our attachment, or our grasping (whichever word you prefer). If we have been practicing a while then we both conceptually and experientially know it is creating suffering in the larger picture. . . but because of the superficial transitive pleasures we are stuck in habitual lock-step with, we keep spinning the wheel. At a certain threshold, of either a huge painful event/s, -or extended time in retreat for instance.. we may be able to make a significant leap and cut these tendencies in a more final way. At that point, the OP question will no longer be relevant.
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Detachment is the final happiness. ~Sri Saraha
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Re: Can dharma alone make life worth living?

Postby LastLegend » Fri Jun 28, 2013 2:54 am

Thrasymachus wrote:I think one of my biggest problems is poverty. I never made good money from any job, certainly not enough to move out. My family has the television blasting loudly from when they wake up at 7am almost everyday till past 12pm. Thus when I am home, I cannot think straight and I have never had a place I could be comfortable my whole adult life. It effects you badly when you are constantly bombarded with electronic distraction. Even when the tv is briefly off, I cannot think straight or find the desire to read or meditate. I would really need like one or two weeks tv free to decompress and build up my mental acuity. TV is like the anti-dharma, it really messes up your brain's neuroplasticity and mental composure. When you are conditioned by it, it makes you uneasy when you are alone with your thoughts. In this way even the few moments I am free of its background pollution, I cannot take advantage.

I feel like I have to do ten different things before I can live something closer to the authentic life I would like and that dharma is closer to number 10. I think earning money is closer to number one, despite my anti-capitalist beliefs, because money really matters in terms of mood, self-esteem and being able to alter your life conditions. But on the other-hand, I am not willing to do it what it takes to prioritize money over everything else to make enough money. You have to knock other people down and replace them to get a spot on the ladder of financial success.

I feel like I am not fit for this world and its social hierarchy of values, because to adjust to it, you have be an asshole and I don't want to be that. You have to be selfish, vain and shallow or else you are maladapted. I never meet someone I could feel comfortable with, that I feel could be a good example of conduct or empathy. All I ever meet was toxic people, the only product of our narcissistic, greedy society and the only reason I bother to associate with them is because of past established rapport and so I am not totally alone. I am not saying I am much different, but I don't want to be toxic, while everyone else who I confront about it always wants to make excuses why they should be greedy, addicted to drugs, tv, shopping, etc. I am just too tired of having nothing meaningful to do and no one meaningful to connect with.

@BuddhaSoup: I just finally did some web searching and found a Vajrayana Buddhist Center one town over. I decided to email them and maybe move out of my comfort zone, even though I have grave reservations. I have gotten sick of not fitting in everywhere I go, and it is hard for my keep trying.

@Wil:
I thought that video, was cute, amusing, clever and fun, but it does not relate to what I wrote about. You and probably others should watch the excellent documentary:
Ancient Futures - Learning from Ladakh
It is about a Tibetan people in India who undergo a rapid modernization in the late 20th Century -- that is, their traditional way of life is being destroyed with the tools of monetization and trade from further afield in India and internationally.

The alienation and lose of purpose is not something I or Eisenstein make up, it is real. When you monetize everything, you feel you only need a relationship to money and you lose community. You lose community and you lose, comfort, happiness, health, a sense of identity, purpose and stability. So it matters, it is just me whining or making something up. Maybe others can live on the level of who they will frak next at the bar, their next cigarette, the next piece of cake, sucking up to get a promotion, lusting over the next product, but I can't, that paradigm cannot sustain me.


I think you are frustrated at yourself and your situation.

May I ask what tradition do you practice?
NAMO AMITABHA
NAM MO A DI DA PHAT (VIETNAMESE)
NAMO AMITUOFO (CHINESE)

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―Listen! Those of you who devote yourselves to the Dharma
must not be afraid of losing your bodies and your lives―
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Re: Can dharma alone make life worth living?

Postby Nilasarasvati » Fri Jun 28, 2013 4:15 am

I have to chime in only because I had such a simple answer to this: yes.

I was morbidly depressed on and off for years. By the time (right before) I found a teacher, I was ideating suicide on a daily basis. Dharma isn't the cure for that--you need therapy too if it's really that bad.

Practice doesn't take the lows away, but it gave everything in my life, especially the lows, profound meaning. Worth.
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