Sunday, December 7, 2014

Avoiding the Sleeping Death: On Abandoning Poisonous Food

Last week I had to abandon hope of fruition, which didn't bother me so much because I gave that up long ago with regards to my practice of Buddhism. This week, the tenet instructs us to
Abandon poisonous food.
I've learned by now that any tenet that sounds super easy - of course I'll give up poisonous food! - is not going to be straightforwards at all. And a quick glance at the translation and explanatory paragraph for this teaching on support that. Well, the translation isn't that different: "Give up poisoned food." But the explanation...
"The poison is the tendency to form an identity around any activity or training. Let go of any sense of being special because you practice mind training."
Oof. I resemble this remark. I take a certain pride in the work I do studying Buddhism, but this tenet is reminding me that this sort of pride can actually get in the way of the work I'm doing. And that's exactly what Judy Lief, in her piece about this tenet, says:
"The image of poisonous food suggests an experience that is seemingly nourishing, but in fact can kill you. In terms of slogan practice, this image refers in particular to the poison of ego-fixation and its power to transform the nutritious food of loving-kindness practice into poison."
That's exactly what happens to Snow White when the evil queen gives her that apple that will induce a sleeping death.

Or, to use Lief's phrasing, "Eating poisonous food feeds the ego and poisons our spiritual freshness and innocence."

She then goes on to exhort her readers to
"Whether you follow a spiritual tradition, or you are affiliated with no tradition, reflect on... how you approach the spiritual path and the cultivation of loving kindness. Notice how easy it is to slip into approaching spirituality as just another commodity, bought and sold in the marketplace. Pay special attention to how nutritious food turns into poison."
So that's what I'll be doing. Until next time, namaste and all that. 

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