Posts Tagged ‘renunciation’

Thich Nhat HanhBhikkhu Nyanasobhano begins this section with a question, “What is the special meaning or value of renunciation (page 77)?”[1]  We are living in a society where more is better, more possessions will make me happy, and where life is a time and a place to see how many “things” I can collect.  My time in the prison ministry has been an eye opener for me.  Frequently, I have offered a book or something to one of our Zen members “behind the fence” and they’ve thanked me and refused the gift saying they only have a very small locker and it is filled to the brim already with no place for anything more.

Is your life filled to the brim already with things, ideas, emotions, problems, objects, likes, and dislikes so that there is no more room for anything more?  Or are you still trying to stuff more “stuff” into it?  And then one day you notice that you’re tired of dusting, cleaning, and taking care of all of your stuff!  Your relationships have fallen by the way side with significant others, family, and friends because of your “stuff.”  This stuff can be suffocating you and keeping you from the real important “stuff” like peace, love, and happiness.

Renunciation is a fancy word for giving something up.  How about making a list of the things you are willing to give up!  You might put some people and thoughts that are hindering you from living a life of peace, tranquility, and love on that list? Are you willing to give those people or thoughts up? I’m not saying it’s easy but it is imperative if you want to stay healthy in mind, body, and spirit. What can we replace them with? How about some inner peace, tranquility, and self-love?

He goes on to say, “Buddhism certainly does not require anyone to renounce the world entirely; rather, those who follow Buddhism with the aim of reducing present suffering may find that they are led naturally and gradually to more and more simplicity and renunciation in their everyday affairs (page 81).”[2]

Renouncing them means taking away their power. They get their power from your thoughts and those thoughts are often verbalized.  Just because I “think” something does not mean that I have to “say” something!  My mom used to tell me to “bite my tongue” when I wanted to say something mean or hurtful.  She knew it would only ruin my relationship with the person to whom they were directed. Mom was a very wise woman!

So, for today I am going to “renounce” negativity, fear, anger, and judgment. I am going to act and speak words of peace, tranquility, and love for myself and for everyone who crosses my path today. How about you?  What will you renounce today?


Nyanasobhano, B. (1998) Landscapes of wonder Discovering Buddhist Dhamma in the world around us. Somerville Massachusetts: Wisdom Publications

[2] Ibid.

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A few days ago I decided to do a series of blog posts on the 10 Paramitas in Buddhism as shared in Sylvia Boorstein’s book, Pay Attention, For Goodness’ Sake (2002).  She described these 10 ideals by which we live as Buddhists: Generosity, Morality, Renunciation, Wisdom, Energy, Patience, Truthfulness, Determination, Lovingkindness, and Equanimity (page 9).[1]  We started by practicing the Paramita of Generosity and each morning before we arose we set our intention for the day to find every opportunity or to create opportunities to be generous.

I found it very easy and lots of fun as well.  When grocery shopping I found some great things on sale that a friend of mine just loves so I bought them for him and surprised him when he came home from work they were sitting on his kitchen counter.  He sure was surprised and very appreciative of the gifts and enjoyed eating them throughout the next few days.  How wonderful is that!

Now I am going to take on the next Paramita on Sylvia’s list: Morality.  Wow, now we are in to the heady and often controversial stuff!  So let’s dive in with both feet into our newest adventure in life.  The American Heritage Dictionary defines the word moral as: “of or concerned with the judgment of the goodness or badness of human action and character; pertaining to the discernment of good and evil and being or acting in accordance with standards and precepts of goodness or with established codes of behavior…

“Mahayana scholars identified three categories of sila: Morality as restraint, morality as virtue, and morality as the selfless activity of compassion. These categories show us a progression of training, from self-concern to selfless concern,” writes Barbara O’Brien in her essay on “Sila Paramita: The Perfection of Morality.”[2]

She goes on to explain in her essay about what Morality is not.  “It’s important to understand that the basis of Buddhist morality is not found in external authority. In other words, the practice of morality is not found in unquestioning obedience of a list of rules. Instead, the perfection of morality is the natural expression of wisdom and compassion.”[3]

Whew, that’s a relief because if I had to review all the lists from all the religions of the world to see what they considered moral and what they considered immoral I’d be in a lot of trouble. Some say drinking alcohol is a sin and will send you to hell in a hand basket,” whatever that is, and others drink every single day as they serve wine during the Eucharist!  What’s up with that?

Zen Buddhists are minimalists and I just love that.  That makes me happy, keep it simple I say. It sure makes life easier knowing that if I focus on three simple things in my life—restraint, virtue, and compassion—I can live up to the ideals taught and practiced in Buddhism that resonate deep within me.

If we want an easy way to know if our thoughts, deeds, and actions are moral ones we can take a look at a Morality sermon preached by the Buddha as Sylvia describes it: “…the Buddha said that there are three times that a person should consider the consequences of any action: before, during, and after. “One should reflect thus,’ he said. “’Is what I am about to do. . .’ or ‘Is what I am currently doing. . .’ or ‘is what I just did. . . for my own well-being and for the benefit of all others (page 73).’”[4]

These go hand in hand with Zen Buddhism’s Three Pure Precepts: Cease all evil deeds, cultivate goodness, act for the benefit of others.  It sounds a little redundant, but redundancy is a good thing.  I tell my students all the time that it takes 12 times of handling the same information to learn it.  So how can we practice something that we have not integrated into our mind, body, and spirit?  Do as many things as you can over the next few days that will give you the opportunity to cease all evil deeds, cultivate goodness, and act for the benefit of others.  That shouldn’t be too hard I don’t think.

You could take Sylvia’s list of “Morality as restraint, morality as virtue, and morality as the selfless activity of compassion.” Or combine Sylvia and Barbara’s lists.  This adventure will take you through some tough times and some joyous times.  It may make you look at yourself in a different light.  You may choose to restrain yourself from getting into an argument with someone, even though you may feel justified in doing so.  Then take a look at how it worked out.  Did it end up being as the Buddha said, “for your own well-being and for the benefit of all others?”  I sure do hope so!

Barbara goes on to say, “Morality as restraint touches on renunciation. Renunciation is understood to be releasing whatever binds us to ignorance and suffering. . . So, we begin the journey by giving up behaviors that bind us, such as lying, stealing, and attachment. . .”[5]  Our attachments can be to almost anything: people, places, behaviors, thoughts, and even things.

So let me know how your next few days go with the morality trip!  It may be like a roller coaster, it may be like a trip in a hot air balloon, and, if you like, it could even be like a trip to the beach filled with sunshine and light.  You make the choice and then let me know what happens and enjoy the trip wherever you go!

[1] Boorstein, Sylvia, Pay Attention, for Goodness’ sake. Ballantine Books

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid. Boorstein

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