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The moral opportunity cost of awakening

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The moral opportunity cost of awakening aponysus 6/27/19 12:17 PM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening Hibiscus Kid 6/27/19 1:42 PM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening Stirling Campbell 6/27/19 1:40 PM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening aponysus 7/1/19 3:29 PM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening David R 4/6/20 7:51 PM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening Tim Farrington 4/7/20 7:16 AM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening David R 4/10/20 5:41 PM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening J C 6/10/20 2:01 AM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening Tim Farrington 6/11/20 4:36 AM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening J C 6/13/20 2:35 AM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening Tim Farrington 6/13/20 2:53 AM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening J C 6/13/20 1:35 PM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening Pepe 6/13/20 4:56 PM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening Stirling Campbell 4/11/20 4:22 PM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening terry 6/14/20 2:19 PM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening Tim Farrington 6/18/20 2:52 AM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening Not two, not one 6/27/19 2:49 PM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening Chris Marti 6/27/19 5:34 PM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening Not two, not one 6/27/19 9:21 PM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 6/28/19 5:15 AM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening Chris Marti 6/28/19 7:07 AM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening Stickman2 6/28/19 7:26 AM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening Daniel M. Ingram 6/29/19 5:59 AM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening Daniel M. Ingram 6/29/19 6:03 AM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening Chris Marti 6/29/19 8:10 AM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening terry 6/29/19 3:07 PM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening Siavash 6/29/19 4:41 PM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening terry 7/2/19 4:28 PM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening Siavash 7/2/19 4:39 PM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening terry 7/2/19 4:45 PM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening Siavash 7/2/19 4:59 PM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening terry 7/2/19 6:40 PM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening aponysus 7/1/19 2:28 PM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening J C 7/1/19 9:03 PM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening Daniel M. Ingram 7/3/19 4:55 AM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening aponysus 7/1/19 4:28 PM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening terry 6/29/19 3:06 PM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening Mettafore 6/29/19 7:52 AM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening terry 6/29/19 2:26 PM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 6/29/19 3:13 PM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening aponysus 7/1/19 2:19 PM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening Tim Farrington 4/3/20 8:25 AM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening Pepe 4/4/20 2:18 PM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 4/4/20 7:52 AM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening Tim Farrington 4/4/20 9:49 AM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening Tim Farrington 4/4/20 9:43 AM
RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening Tim Farrington 5/1/20 1:37 AM
The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
6/27/19 12:17 PM
I've been spending between 1 and 2 hours per day meditating, and I'm really enjoying the journey both intellectually and experientially. I plan to do a retreat as early as possible next year. But this has me thinking about the opporunity cost of my time spent. Not so much in terms of pleasurable things I good be doing during all that time, but in terms of the social good I could be contributing to. Honestly, this is purely theoretical. It isn't like I'd be spending all that time at a soup kitchen or something. But I COULD if I weren't occupying that time otherwise. So that is my point.

So, here is my question. Would you trade your spiritual journey (or your awakening) for some amount of social good in your community or the world? How much would it take? Is it morally justifiable for me to sit in my study focusing on my breath for hours per day while children within a few miles of me aren't getting enough nutrition? I don't want this question to sound like I'm denigrating the practice. I am quite enthusiastic and energized about the whole thing right now. I just think it is important to face questions like this fully and honestly.

This is similar to another issue I'm facing right now... sending my oldest son to private school when there is a perfectly good (by Alabama standards, haha) public school nearby. I just think about how many mosquito nets could be donated with all that tuition money. Yet I still have chosen to do it. But honestly the moral calculus just doesn't add up.

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
6/27/19 1:42 PM as a reply to aponysus.
This is a judgement call that you'll have to make yourself.

There are many ways to lead a fulfilling life and find happiness through other activities (spending times with friends/family, hobbies, exercise, travel, therapy, and community service - this is far from exhaustive). Yes, 'hardcore' meditation is another axis of development and it requires time and effort. If you don't want to do it, then don't. Again, many ways to lead a good life.

I've done quite a bit of community service (which is fulfilling), but it didn't solve the fundamental issue that I have naggling deep down. It makes everything that I do in life sort of unsatisfactory, so why not try and solve that?

Morality, in the Buddhist context, helps to reduce suffering for others AND yourself BY clearing the way for good quality, formal meditation. It calls on you, as the practitioner, to lead a clean life, but it doesn't necessarily require you to spend hours doing community service. You can be a good, moral person even if that means being a bit passive (I say this tentatively as some may take issue with that).

Consider all the other people who aren't spending mutiple hours a day in meditation: many of them aren't doing service either so it's not an all or nothing situation. I know people who watch 4 hours of TV a day after work: there are many ways to spend or waste time. Watching 4 hours of TV a day doesn't necessarily make one a bad person, does it?


And to paraphrase Daniel Ingram about his attainment (from the 10% Happier podcast with Dan Harris): He says he'd maybe only trade his awakening for World Peace and even then he'd do it reluctantly.

Here is a link to some responses from other people who describe the fruits of their labor:

https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/13094503


If service calls to you instead, do that.

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
6/27/19 1:40 PM as a reply to aponysus.
aponysus:

So, here is my question. Would you trade your spiritual journey (or your awakening) for some amount of social good in your community or the world? 

The most responsible thing you can undertake is your practice, with the dedication to benefit other beings. What makes you think your spiritual journey does not impact external circumstances? Can you be sure that what you do is ultimately separate from anything else you think is happening?

When you accept everything, everything is beyond dimensions. The earth is not great nor a grain of sand small. In the realm of Great Activity picking up a grain of sand is the same as taking up the whole universe. To save one sentient being is to save all sentient beings. Your efforts of this moment to save one person is the same as the eternal merit of Buddha. - Shunryu Suziki Roshi

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
6/27/19 2:49 PM as a reply to aponysus.
Well you are describing a utilitarian approach which is a particular frame of reference - and not really a Buddhist one. Utilitarianism is very tricky to implement because of the difficulties in having an accurate hedonic calculus (how do you trade off benefits to different people), avoiding unintended consequencies (is your charity working), questions about whether the means justifies the end (so you can do horrible things if it makes enough people happy), as well as grey areas around which beings qualify for inclusion in the calculus (is a rat equivalent to a human, what about a person in a vegetative state). 

Thus, I think the problems you raise are not just problems for Buddhism, but problems for every aspect of a utilitarian life.  Should you drive to the soup kitchen so you have more time to help people, yet emit more carbon as a result?  Should you get up earlier so that you can sweep your neighbour's yard as it would make them so happy?  Should you give your child to be eaten by a demonic cult because the cult members would really really appreciate it? Should we harvest organs from adolescents to extend the life of old people? To me, utilitarianism quickly runs in to unsolvable problems. Although to be fair there are those who try to live a utilitarian life by minimising their own consumption and maximise the use of their wealth to famine relief and the like.

Peronsally, I prefer other approaches. I think moving from a place of compassion, and trying to engage in right actions and right speech is really helpful. This in turn provides a base for cultivating human virtue and human flourishing - for yourself, and for those around you. I think giving up your own flourishing to help others is morally contradcitory. If they are moral agents worthy of care and support, surely you are too?  So for me, charity begins at home, and spreads out like the ripples in a pond.

Or, for a shorter version. I suggest basing your morality on a sense of compassion, rather than a sense of obligation.  And be compassionate to yourself as well.

Metta to you

Malcolm

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
6/27/19 5:34 PM as a reply to Not two, not one.
Spend the time you're spending on agonizing over this question either way (meditation or social good) - both are better paths with better results.

emoticon

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
6/27/19 9:21 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
Spend the time you're spending on agonizing over this question either way (meditation or social good) - both are better paths with better results.

emoticon

Well you can combine them. Meditating on doing good to demons by letting them eat you alive is a recognised Tibetan practice !  emoticonemoticonemoticonemoticon

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
6/28/19 5:15 AM as a reply to Not two, not one.
I love the humor in this thread. emoticon

On a more serious note, I’d like to add to the excellent points that have already been made, that sometimes one just can’t help oneself from agonizing over things like this (although I’m not sure that this was actually agonizing), even though it would indeed in many ways be more productive to do either of the activities agonized or critically reflected about. And if one finds oneself thinking about it, one might as well write it down. For me, writing it down is helpful because then it’s out of my head. Once I have written it down, the mind spinning takes a break. Also, one may get some valuable input from others.

I think critical reflections like this, if used constructively, can help maintain a moral compass and set one’s priorities straight. As I see it, there are times when it is most beneficient to spend many hours per day on one’s practice, and there are times when one’s time is more well spent helping someone because excellent opportunities arise (and helping can be a practice too, and/or done with mindfulness). Compassion can be a very helpful concept if one have a sense of compassion that is not too heavily associated with duty or with rigid views. Personally I find that using the notion of alternative cost helps me to find many opportunities to practice. Many times during the day there are these short time slots that are filled with waiting for stuff. Instead of agonizing over that, I try to take the opportunity to do some practice. There are also many instances of walking between places. Those walks can be used for mindful awareness of the touch sensations of the feet or of other stuff. That’s a very effective way of using one’s time, and not bad for insight practice at all. And when I have an hour, I can do a formal sitting where I happen to be. No equipment is needed, and I don’t need to go anywhere. Vipassana can be done anywhere. I wouldn’t be able to find a soup kitchen to help out with on such a short notice.

My practice has mainly taken time from facebooking, netflix bingewatching, meaningless games on my ipad, and moments of being either restless or bored or both.

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
6/28/19 7:07 AM as a reply to Not two, not one.
Well you can combine them. 

Yes, and combining them is probably the best approach, though in my experience, and from what I observe here and elsewhere, the rumination often throws meditation out of the driver's seat.

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
6/28/19 7:26 AM as a reply to aponysus.
It's a great question, activist friends who run soup kitchens have got well grumpy about withdrawn contemplatives. Would be interesting to know stories of people who awakened via selfless service.

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
6/29/19 5:59 AM as a reply to Stickman2.
I spent most of a year volunteering in India and working full time in Mother Theresa's Home for the Dying and Destitute, Calcutta Rescue (a free street clinic in the northern slums of Calcutta, one of the poorest cities in the world), and working in some extremely poor rural villages outside of Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India, one of the poorest places in the world at the time (probably still is). My wife and I lived on about $12 per day for everything, food, travel around India, lodging, soap, etc. We did our laundry in buckets. We had no hot water. We were sometimes in places without toilets. We ate the cheapest food we could find. We lived in unairconditioned rooms despite some months being extremely hot. We had no heat when it was cold. We lived in a mud hut for a while with insects in the roof whose droppings stung our skin, lived in rooms where the little red ants crawled up and bit our eyes when we tried to sleep. We got sick, lost weight, and truly were in the deep end of the volunteer aid world.

Thus, I know something about what it is like to give and give and give. It can be rewarding and also very taxing.

Curiously, the retreats I did that year were also unusually powerful. While I didn't think much about it at the time in the way I do now, I think that the service taught valuable spiritual lessons that made practice much more real, much more urgent, much more full of gratitude, much more human, etc.

I also learned a ton when I was not giving, giving, and giving, lessons and skills that at least in the short term might be framed as non-Utilitarian, but, in the long term did allow me to truly help many more people. If one takes the calculus of Utility on a hour-per-hour basis, one potentially comes to very different decisions than if one frames it over years. Nobody would go to medical school to learn to save lives if one did the calculus hour-by-hour, as there would always be some need at that moment that was greater than the value of reading a few pages in some medical textbook. However, taken over the long-haul, the utility of actions like going to medical school becomes much greater, and so we have doctors that can reasonably justify the opportunity cost it took to acquire that training and those skills.

In the same way, there is great utility in terms of the promotion of happiness and the reduction in pain that can be obtained through Dharma training, but one must often look to longer at it along similarly long time horizons and frame the question broadly. Those who spent years learning the Dharma who eventually learned it well and eventually taught me also taught many others and helped many others, so the Utility suddenly seems much higher through that lens.

Best wishes for your own attempts to ask these perfectly reasonable questions and arrive at what you feel are the most workable answers for you at that time.

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
6/29/19 6:03 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
I also couldn't help but notice your name, which appears to be a made up word that is a combination of Apollo and Dionysis, as well as your join date, as well as the fact that the topics raised have some loose resemblance to topics raised on the SNB website, all of which triggered the slightly paranoid part of my brain to wonder, "Is this person asking questions to see how Pragmatic Dharma responds for some other rhetorical aim beyond just their own personal interest in questions that they were personally facing?"

Please forgive my paranoid association-making if it is entirely off base, as it often is.

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
6/29/19 7:52 AM as a reply to aponysus.
Well, try it out. One hour meditation, one hour service or maybe service on weekends. If you are reluctant to do that. Go back to practice and note doubt.

There was a long retreat I went on in which I ended up helping a nun who built a dog shelter for 100 dogs. It was extremely rewarding and a proud moment for me. Remember, Dana is very much a part of the Dharma and will help you with renunciation. It is not an either/or thing.

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
6/29/19 8:10 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
"Is this person asking questions to see how Pragmatic Dharma responds for some other rhetorical aim beyond just their own personal interest in questions that they were personally facing?"

I think this is likely. I've been wondering about this, too. 

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
6/29/19 2:26 PM as a reply to aponysus.
aponysus:
I've been spending between 1 and 2 hours per day meditating, and I'm really enjoying the journey both intellectually and experientially. I plan to do a retreat as early as possible next year. But this has me thinking about the opporunity cost of my time spent. Not so much in terms of pleasurable things I good be doing during all that time, but in terms of the social good I could be contributing to. Honestly, this is purely theoretical. It isn't like I'd be spending all that time at a soup kitchen or something. But I COULD if I weren't occupying that time otherwise. So that is my point.

So, here is my question. Would you trade your spiritual journey (or your awakening) for some amount of social good in your community or the world? How much would it take? Is it morally justifiable for me to sit in my study focusing on my breath for hours per day while children within a few miles of me aren't getting enough nutrition? I don't want this question to sound like I'm denigrating the practice. I am quite enthusiastic and energized about the whole thing right now. I just think it is important to face questions like this fully and honestly.

This is similar to another issue I'm facing right now... sending my oldest son to private school when there is a perfectly good (by Alabama standards, haha) public school nearby. I just think about how many mosquito nets could be donated with all that tuition money. Yet I still have chosen to do it. But honestly the moral calculus just doesn't add up.

aloha apo,

   It would be easy to say, yes, meditation is the way, don't worry about social justice in your community. Facing the question "fully and honestly" we must reject pat answers that make us comfortable with the stauts quo.

   To me part of being awake is being aware of social injustice, which is everywhere a problem. Activism is the other easy answer, alongside apathy and cynicism. We can plunge in to relief efforts and perhaps impact a few individuals, but the result of our efforts may be the anomaly of the situation: we may be simply enabling the status quo to continue.

   What I think is most effective, though it depends on the individual, is being outspoken about fairness and human rights, and confronting people with the truths that they try to hide or obfuscate in order to enjoy superiority over others. This of course makes us unpopular, but that is no detriment to the spiritual path.

   The truth is, there is no shortage of anything, no one should be going hungry or lacking essentials. The problem is not merely one of greed, either. Many people are well served by keeping people down. The asuras, the demonic, positively enjoy and insist upon having exclusive rights and privileges. Gated communities, status symbols, private schools: whatever exclusivity they can maintain. My son sends his daughter to kindergarten at a school which charges him 28k/yr, so that she can rub elbows with the kardashian children, penelope and north; and he lives in gated parker ranch. He won't let me drive his cars and I get in trouble if I spill something on the upholstery. He calls people living in $100,000 rv's "homeless."

   Many people turn inward in order to avoid external confrontation and engagement. This can lead to unbalanced development. If you can't express your views honestly and non-violently, at least to anyone willing to listen, you will have trouble being honest with yourself. Fundamental sincerity is essential for any sort of spiritual progress.

   You could give everything you have away to the poor. That would solve the problem of what to give and when. This sort of practice is not recommended in islam; one is enjoined to perform charity on a case by case basis, from the prosperity god has given. My daddy used to say, "If bread were free, farmers would feed it to their cows." It is not by free distribution that we can help people, but by empowering them to fulfill themselves. For poor people, money is empowering; there is an old chinese proverb which says, "money is life."

   The only thing I am recommending is to not hide from the facts. If you are indulging your son and your family at the expense of others, acknowledge that. Accept that social injustice exists and that you are among the privileged, the offspring of slave catchers, sellers and holders. That america is racist, elitist and oppressive, and lies about it continuously, loudly and voluminously. Just keep to the truth, and tell it whenever you can, without flamboyance, pride or shame. That's what I try to do.

   Truth telling is an art. Whether telling the truth to others or to oneself, it makes no difference.


terry



matthew 6:33

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.




Please Don't Pass Me By (A Disgrace)
Leonard Cohen

I was walking in New York City and I brushed up against the man in front of
me. I felt a cardboard placard on his back. And when we passed a streetlight,
I could read it, it said "Please don't pass me by - I am blind, but you can
see - I've been blinded totally - Please don't pass me by." I was walking
along 7th Avenue, when I came to 14th Street I saw on the corner curious
mutilations of the human form; it was a school for handicapped people. And
there were cripples, and people in wheelchairs and crutches and it was snowing,
and I got this sense that the whole city was singing this:
Oh please don't pass me by,
oh please don't pass me by,
for I am blind, but you can see,
yes, I've been blinded totally,
oh please don't pass me by.
And you know as I was walking I thought it was them who were singing it, I
thought it was they who were singing it, I thought it was the other who was
singing it, I thought it was someone else. But as I moved along I knew it was
me, and that I was singing it to myself. It went:
Please don't pass me by,
oh please don't pass me by,
for I am blind, but you can see,
well, I've been blinded totally,
oh please don't pass me by.
Oh please don't pass me by.
Now I know that you're sitting there deep in your velvet seats and you're
thinking "Uh, he's up there saying something that he thinks about, but I'll
never have to sing that song." But I promise you friends, that you're going
to be singing this song: it may not be tonight, it may not be tomorrow, but
one day you'll be on your knees and I want you to know the words when the
time comes. Because you're going to have to sing it to yourself, or to another,
or to your brother. You're going to have to learn to sing this song, it goes:
Please don't pass me by,
ah you don't have to sing this .. not for you.
Please don't pass me by,
for I am blind, but you can see,
yes, I've been blinded totally,
oh please don't pass me by.
Well I sing this for the Jews and the Gypsies and the smoke that they made.
And I sing this for the children of England, their faces so grave. And I sing
this for a saviour with no one to save. Hey, won't you be naked for me? Hey,
won't you be naked for me? It goes:
Please don't pass me by,
oh please don't pass me by,
for I am blind, but you can see,
yes, I've been blinded totally,
oh now, please don't pass me by.
Now there's nothing that I tell you that will help you connect the blood
tortured night with the day that comes next. But I want it to hurt you, I
want it to end. Oh, won't you be naked for me? Oh now:
Please don't pass me by,
oh please don't pass me by,
for I am blind, but you can see,
but I've been blinded totally,
oh, please don't pass me by.
Well I sing this song for you Blonde Beasts, I sing this song for you Venuses
upon your shells on the foam of the sea. And I sing this for the freaks and
the cripples, and the hunchback, and the burned, and the burning, and the
maimed, and the broken, and the torn, and all of those that you talk about at
the coffee tables, at the meetings, and the demonstrations, on the streets,
in your music, in my songs. I mean the real ones that are burning, I mean the
real ones that are burning
I say, please don't pass me by,
oh now, please don't pass me by,
for I am blind, yeah but you can see,
ah now, I've been blinded totally,
oh no, please don't pass me by.
I know that you still think that its me. I know that you think that there's
somebody else. I know that these words aren't yours. But I tell you friends
that one day
You're going to get down on your knees,
you're going to get down on your knees,
you're going to get down on your knees,
you're going to get down on your knees,
you're going to get down on your knees,
you're going to get down on your knees,
you're going to get down on your knees,
you're going to get down on your knees,
you're going to get down ..
Oh, please don't pass me by,
oh, please don't pass me by,
for I am blind, yeah but you can see,
yes, I've been blinded totally,
oh, please don't pass me by.
Well you know I have my songs and I have my poems. I have my book and I have
the army, and sometimes I have your applause. I make some money, but you know
what my friends, I'm still out there on the corner. I'm with the freaks, I'm
with the hunted, I'm with the maimed, yes I'm with the torn, I'm with the down,
I'm with the poor. Come on now ...
Ah, please don't pass me by,
well I've got to go now friends,
but, please don't pass me by,
for I am blind, yeah but you can see,
oh, I've been blinded, I've been blinded totally,
oh now, please don't pass me by.
Now I want to take away my dignity, yes take my dignity. My friends, take my
dignity, take my form, take my style, take my honour, take my courage, take
my time, take my time, .. time .. 'Cause you know I'm with you singing this
song. And I wish you would, I wish you would, I wish you would go home with
someone else. Wish you'd go home with someone else. I wish you'd go home with
someone else. Don't be the person that you came with. Oh, don't be the person
that you came with, Oh don't be the person that you came with. Ah, I'm not
going to be. I can't stand him. I can't stand who I am. That's why I've got to
get down on my knees. Because I can't make it by myself. I'm not by myself
anymore because the man I was before he was a tyrant, he was a slave, he was
in chains, he was broken and then he sang:
Oh, please don't pass me by,
oh, please don't pass me by,
for I am blind, yes I am blind, Oh but you can see,
yes, I've been blinded totally,
oh, please don't pass me by.
Well I hope I see you out there on the corner. Yeah I hope as I go by that I
hear you whisper with the breeze. Because I'm going to leave you now, I'm
going to find me someone new. Find someone new.
And please don't pass me by.

Songwriters: Leonard Cohen

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
6/29/19 3:06 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
I spent most of a year volunteering in India and working full time in Mother Theresa's Home for the Dying and Destitute, Calcutta Rescue (a free street clinic in the northern slums of Calcutta, one of the poorest cities in the world), and working in some extremely poor rural villages outside of Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India, one of the poorest places in the world at the time (probably still is). My wife and I lived on about $12 per day for everything, food, travel around India, lodging, soap, etc. We did our laundry in buckets. We had no hot water. We were sometimes in places without toilets. We ate the cheapest food we could find. We lived in unairconditioned rooms despite some months being extremely hot. We had no heat when it was cold. We lived in a mud hut for a while with insects in the roof whose droppings stung our skin, lived in rooms where the little red ants crawled up and bit our eyes when we tried to sleep. We got sick, lost weight, and truly were in the deep end of the volunteer aid world.

Thus, I know something about what it is like to give and give and give. It can be rewarding and also very taxing.

Curiously, the retreats I did that year were also unusually powerful. While I didn't think much about it at the time in the way I do now, I think that the service taught valuable spiritual lessons that made practice much more real, much more urgent, much more full of gratitude, much more human, etc.

I also learned a ton when I was not giving, giving, and giving, lessons and skills that at least in the short term might be framed as non-Utilitarian, but, in the long term did allow me to truly help many more people. If one takes the calculus of Utility on a hour-per-hour basis, one potentially comes to very different decisions than if one frames it over years. Nobody would go to medical school to learn to save lives if one did the calculus hour-by-hour, as there would always be some need at that moment that was greater than the value of reading a few pages in some medical textbook. However, taken over the long-haul, the utility of actions like going to medical school becomes much greater, and so we have doctors that can reasonably justify the opportunity cost it took to acquire that training and those skills.

In the same way, there is great utility in terms of the promotion of happiness and the reduction in pain that can be obtained through Dharma training, but one must often look to longer at it along similarly long time horizons and frame the question broadly. Those who spent years learning the Dharma who eventually learned it well and eventually taught me also taught many others and helped many others, so the Utility suddenly seems much higher through that lens.

Best wishes for your own attempts to ask these perfectly reasonable questions and arrive at what you feel are the most workable answers for you at that time.

   One hears all the time these days, especially being a veteran, "thank you for your service" directed at ex-military. Personally I think being involved in war crimes reprehensible. In my day we were ashamed of military service and did our best to terminate our involvement, as the morally right thing to do.

   But I'd like to thank you for your service.

terry

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
6/29/19 3:07 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
I also couldn't help but notice your name, which appears to be a made up word that is a combination of Apollo and Dionysis, as well as your join date, as well as the fact that the topics raised have some loose resemblance to topics raised on the SNB website, all of which triggered the slightly paranoid part of my brain to wonder, "Is this person asking questions to see how Pragmatic Dharma responds for some other rhetorical aim beyond just their own personal interest in questions that they were personally facing?"

Please forgive my paranoid association-making if it is entirely off base, as it often is.


paranoid even if true...

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
6/29/19 3:13 PM as a reply to terry.
Well spoken, terry! (About acknowledging the injustices. And the service, too, for that matter.) And it doesn’t make you unpopular in my book. Then again, that might be because I’m also one of the unpopulars.

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
6/29/19 4:41 PM as a reply to terry.
terry:
Daniel M. Ingram:
I also couldn't help but notice your name, which appears to be a made up word that is a combination of Apollo and Dionysis, as well as your join date, as well as the fact that the topics raised have some loose resemblance to topics raised on the SNB website, all of which triggered the slightly paranoid part of my brain to wonder, "Is this person asking questions to see how Pragmatic Dharma responds for some other rhetorical aim beyond just their own personal interest in questions that they were personally facing?"

Please forgive my paranoid association-making if it is entirely off base, as it often is.


paranoid even if true...

I agree. I often have the same kind of paranoia. Seems like a built-in thing!

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
7/1/19 2:19 PM as a reply to aponysus.
Thank you all for your thoughtful responses. I'd hoped to be more active in responding, but I've been wiped out with a stomach bug for a few days.

Many of you seemed to express concern over me possibly struggling with this question personally, and I really appreciate your thoughts. But I'm afraid I was a poor communicator in my original post and failed to make it clear that I'm not struggling with this question on an emotional "pulling at my heart strings" sort of level. This is more of a detached analytical question for me. I should've realized that a question about moral dilemma will invite the assumption that it is a personal struggle. So, I should've been more clear. Sorry about that.

Many of you also offered thoughts from the analytical angle I had intended my question (but unskillfully phrased). I also appreciate those very much. Like I mentioned, this is purely an academic question for me at this point. My mind is already made up. My course is set. It isn't likely that thoughts on this question will deter me from the spiritual path. Nonethless, I think it is edifying to ponder deeply questions such as these.

Your responses offered much food for thought. I am grateful.

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
7/1/19 2:28 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:

Please forgive my paranoid association-making if it is entirely off base, as it often is.


emoticon It would be very hypocrital of me to take offense at this. This reminds me of my default mode. I recently start psychotherapy, and the first insight my therapist offered (which I agreed with wholeheartedly) is that one dominant mental program my childhood built in me is a hyperactive threat analysis radar. So I err (unintentionally) toward false positives as well. But to be honest, even upon reflection I think I'd prefer that to false negatives.

And about the name: you're the first person to ever mention that they noticed the connection. emoticon  I started using the handle nearly 20 years ago during a silly obsession with The Birth of Tragedy. I was a 20 year old cliche. But I keep returning to the handle. haha

Not sure how my questions relate to SNB. Googling "SNB dharma" gives "Speculative Non-Buddhism" as a result, so I assume that is what you mean. Not sure what that is, but it sounds like the title of a word salad essay.

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
7/1/19 3:29 PM as a reply to Stirling Campbell.
Stirling Campbell:

The most responsible thing you can undertake is your practice, with the dedication to benefit other beings. What makes you think your spiritual journey does not impact external circumstances? Can you be sure that what you do is ultimately separate from anything else you think is happening?

Thanks, Stirling!  If I had asked this question a couple of months ago, this response would've had me utterly baffled about what you were getting at. Yet now, after a short time of meditating and reading dharma stuff and along with answers from curious and svmonk in another unrelated thread I started last week, your answer here is the one I haven't been able to stop thinking about. It is really resonating with me quite a bit.  My thoughts around it haven't really congealed enought to comment well on it yet. But it calls to mind the conditioned nature of all phenomena. Thanks again.

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
7/1/19 4:28 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
as well as the fact that the topics raised have some loose resemblance to topics raised on the SNB website,


Oh dear Lord, I've found the article now. Well, it isn't the "word salad" I'd assumed it was, but it is much worse. It has that insufferable, haughty tone of people who engage in loveless charity and demand others recognize the supreme moral value of their course. I find this tone common in certain sorts of SJW. It's a shame too, because as you can tell from my original question, I sympathize with the motivation (at least the prima facie motivation). Anyway, I don't have anything charitable to say about the article, so I'll stop now.

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
7/1/19 9:03 PM as a reply to aponysus.
aponysus:
Googling "SNB dharma" gives "Speculative Non-Buddhism" as a result, so I assume that is what you mean. Not sure what that is, but it sounds like the title of a word salad essay.

That's exactly what it is.

To answer your question, I agree with Stirling that there is nothing better morally than striving for awakening.

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
7/2/19 4:28 PM as a reply to Siavash.
Siavash Mahmoudpour:
terry:
Daniel M. Ingram:
I also couldn't help but notice your name, which appears to be a made up word that is a combination of Apollo and Dionysis, as well as your join date, as well as the fact that the topics raised have some loose resemblance to topics raised on the SNB website, all of which triggered the slightly paranoid part of my brain to wonder, "Is this person asking questions to see how Pragmatic Dharma responds for some other rhetorical aim beyond just their own personal interest in questions that they were personally facing?"

Please forgive my paranoid association-making if it is entirely off base, as it often is.


paranoid even if true...

I agree. I often have the same kind of paranoia. Seems like a built-in thing!

just because they are after you doesn't mean you have to be paranoid...

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
7/2/19 4:39 PM as a reply to terry.
terry:
Siavash Mahmoudpour:
terry:
Daniel M. Ingram:
I also couldn't help but notice your name, which appears to be a made up word that is a combination of Apollo and Dionysis, as well as your join date, as well as the fact that the topics raised have some loose resemblance to topics raised on the SNB website, all of which triggered the slightly paranoid part of my brain to wonder, "Is this person asking questions to see how Pragmatic Dharma responds for some other rhetorical aim beyond just their own personal interest in questions that they were personally facing?"

Please forgive my paranoid association-making if it is entirely off base, as it often is.


paranoid even if true...

I agree. I often have the same kind of paranoia. Seems like a built-in thing!

just because they are after you doesn't mean you have to be paranoid...

Terry, is this a reply to Daniel?

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
7/2/19 4:45 PM as a reply to Siavash.
Siavash Mahmoudpour:
terry:
Siavash Mahmoudpour:
terry:
Daniel M. Ingram:
I also couldn't help but notice your name, which appears to be a made up word that is a combination of Apollo and Dionysis, as well as your join date, as well as the fact that the topics raised have some loose resemblance to topics raised on the SNB website, all of which triggered the slightly paranoid part of my brain to wonder, "Is this person asking questions to see how Pragmatic Dharma responds for some other rhetorical aim beyond just their own personal interest in questions that they were personally facing?"

Please forgive my paranoid association-making if it is entirely off base, as it often is.


paranoid even if true...

I agree. I often have the same kind of paranoia. Seems like a built-in thing!

just because they are after you doesn't mean you have to be paranoid...

Terry, is this a reply to Daniel?

aloha sm,

   A response to you; a general observation; an ongoing joke, like all my work.

   (impudent grin)

terry

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
7/2/19 4:59 PM as a reply to terry.
terry

aloha sm,

   A response to you; a general observation; an ongoing joke, like all my work.

   (impudent grin)

terry


Okay, thanks. I'll take it as a koan, because that is what intuition says at this moment :-)

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
7/2/19 6:40 PM as a reply to Siavash.
Siavash Mahmoudpour:
terry

aloha sm,

   A response to you; a general observation; an ongoing joke, like all my work.

   (impudent grin)

terry


Okay, thanks. I'll take it as a koan, because that is what intuition says at this moment :-)


   I was at the kona pure market on sunday selling my wares and there were a bunch of three year olds running around all morning, each living a whole lifetime in an hour. The vendor across from me told us of a talk show he saw once, where johnny depp was asked what it was like having a toddler. Depp said it was like having a little drunk person in the house, staggering around, throwing tantrums, pooping himself.

terry


Japanese Zen master Oda Sesso (1901-66), abbot of Kyoto's Daitokuji monastery, warned, “There is little to choose between a man lying in the ditch heavily drunk on rice liquor, and a man heavily drunk on his own ‘enlightenment’!” 

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
7/3/19 4:55 AM as a reply to aponysus.
aponysus:
Not sure what that is, but it sounds like the title of a word salad essay.

You warm my heart with your words — so apparently innocent, yet so incisive.

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
4/3/20 8:25 AM as a reply to aponysus.
aponysus:
I've been spending between 1 and 2 hours per day meditating, and I'm really enjoying the journey both intellectually and experientially. I plan to do a retreat as early as possible next year. But this has me thinking about the opporunity cost of my time spent. Not so much in terms of pleasurable things I good be doing during all that time, but in terms of the social good I could be contributing to. Honestly, this is purely theoretical. It isn't like I'd be spending all that time at a soup kitchen or something. But I COULD if I weren't occupying that time otherwise. So that is my point.

So, here is my question. Would you trade your spiritual journey (or your awakening) for some amount of social good in your community or the world? How much would it take? Is it morally justifiable for me to sit in my study focusing on my breath for hours per day while children within a few miles of me aren't getting enough nutrition? I don't want this question to sound like I'm denigrating the practice. I am quite enthusiastic and energized about the whole thing right now. I just think it is important to face questions like this fully and honestly.

This is similar to another issue I'm facing right now... sending my oldest son to private school when there is a perfectly good (by Alabama standards, haha) public school nearby. I just think about how many mosquito nets could be donated with all that tuition money. Yet I still have chosen to do it. But honestly the moral calculus just doesn't add up.

Hi aponysus,

For what it's worth, I suspected a Nietzsche source for your name right away. Apparently we have had a few of the same diseases. (lol) It's actually sort of profound, in a way, to imagine that kind of synthesis, and in a way, I think it goes to the heart of the question you raise on this thread, of reconciling what seem to be mutually exclusive polar opposites. Which clearly I think is a thread worth further spinning, as here I am spinning away, and not in a "merely academic" way (whatever that could possibly mean, and I doubt very many people are here on the DhO without skin in the game on pretty much every question raised, in some way). Thread is sanskrit and pali is "sutra," and this is a "contemplation in a world of action" sutra, to lift a phrase from Thomas Merton's book by the title. 

The classic Christian formulation of the issue is the story of the two sisters in Bethany in Luke 10:38, Martha and Mary: "Now
it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her."


That "good part," for Christian contemplatives, has been taken as contemplative prayer, meditation.  One of Thomas Merton's most interesting books to me has always been the collection of pieces in "Contemplation in a World of Action," a sort of meditative apologia for the monastic life. Merton took tons of shit from more Martha-emphasizing abbots and others during his life, but in the end, his activism in cultivating contemplative dialogue across many traditions, and his no-sensense prophet-type critique of American materialism, racism, nuclear policies, and the Vietnam War, among other things amounted to the most potent activism, true fruits of his decades of meditation.

I don't think there is any glib balance or quick and dirty formula here. Amitabha spent five eons, by some reports, meditating, starting as a monk named Dharmakara, and in the (very) long run, becoming a sort of personification of compassion of Buddha-level perfection. No doubt at any point during the five eons someone was prepared to give him shit about wasting all that time.

I think one thing that a lot of us realize, in this light, is how much of our efforts to do good in the past have been ineffectual, and even counterproductive, dukha-making, not dukha-dissolving. The root of that harm done in the name of the good is only uncovered, in my experience, by serious meditation practice that begins with "do no harm" as a baseline, and begins to uncover the self- and ego-serving aspects of our doing and see through them. To want to be skillfully compassionate is not the same as actually being capable of it. May Amitabha help us all to right discernment here. The motto of the Domican order is contemplari et contemplata aliis tradere (to contemplate and to hand on to others the fruits of contemplation); may those fruits be ripe and sweet.

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
4/4/20 2:18 PM as a reply to Tim Farrington.
Tim Farrington:

The classic Christian formulation of the issue is the story of the two sisters in Bethany in Luke 10:38, Martha and Mary: "Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her."


I love that Gospel passage, but to be fair, it's more about gender equality in Early Christianity than spiritual practices over humanitarian service. In fact, Jesus advocated for both. Though non-duality is everywhere in his speeches about the Kingdom of God, there are scarse [edit: scarce] hints of his practices, other than his night prayings, his 40 days retreat in the desert and his complain that the disciples could not stay praying even for one hour.

Added: There's also the 'total surrender to God' precepts, that applied both for spiritual practices and humanitarian/teachings service, best resumed in his 'Love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind' and 'Love your neighbor as yourself' as First and Second Commands.


 

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
4/4/20 7:52 AM as a reply to Pepe.
As a kid and growing up I loved the story about Martha and Mary because it made me feel that it's okay to be me, not very good at being practically useful and prone to get caught up in a deep conversation instead. 

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
4/4/20 9:43 AM as a reply to Pepe.
Pepe:
Tim Farrington:

The classic Christian formulation of the issue is the story of the two sisters in Bethany in Luke 10:38, Martha and Mary: "Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her."


I love that Gospel passage, but to be fair, it's more about gender equality in Early Christianity than spiritual practices over humanitarian service. In fact, Jesus advocated for both. Though non-duality is everywhere in his speeches about the Kingdom of God, there are scarse hints of his practices, other than his night prayings, his 40 days retreat in the desert and his complain that the disciples could not stay praying even for one hour.

Added: There's also the 'total surrender to God' precepts, that applied both for spiritual practices and humanitarian/teachings service, best resumed in his 'Love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind' and 'Love your neighbor as yourself' as First and Second Commands.


 
There's a lot to be said for the gender equality exegesis, throughout the Gospels et al. There's the story about Peter's mother being miraculously healed, and she promptly goes right back to fixing the guys' food.Chad Myers is wonderful about similar exegeses of the book of Mark in his "Binding the Strong Man." Historically, though, Christian contemplatives have taken the story as a green light of sorts, albeit with some notable variations on the theme and profound inversions. Meister Eckhard says somewhere that Jesus is simply telling the more advanced Martha to just relax, Mary will get to fruitful action eventually.

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
4/4/20 9:49 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö:
As a kid and growing up I loved the story about Martha and Mary because it made me feel that it's okay to be me, not very good at being practically useful and prone to get caught up in a deep conversation instead. 


Me too. I actually wrote a novel on this theme, way back in the day, about a renegade contemplative monk and a single mother, Mary in a dark night with a long-expired driver's license meets Martha just trying to get the dishes done and her kid dressed and fed, at one level, although, being a novel, also: monk meets girl, monk loses girl, monk gets girl back.

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
4/6/20 7:51 PM as a reply to Stirling Campbell.
Stirling Campbell:
aponysus:

So, here is my question. Would you trade your spiritual journey (or your awakening) for some amount of social good in your community or the world? 

The most responsible thing you can undertake is your practice, with the dedication to benefit other beings. What makes you think your spiritual journey does not impact external circumstances? Can you be sure that what you do is ultimately separate from anything else you think is happening?

When you accept everything, everything is beyond dimensions. The earth is not great nor a grain of sand small. In the realm of Great Activity picking up a grain of sand is the same as taking up the whole universe. To save one sentient being is to save all sentient beings. Your efforts of this moment to save one person is the same as the eternal merit of Buddha. - Shunryu Suziki Roshi

Would you mind explaining this a bit? It's not that I don't believe meditation is beneficial for the broader world at large, I'm just trying to understand the full/deeper implications of it.

And, also would appreciate J C's response as he said something similar - there is nothign better morally than striving for awakening.

Fair disclosure, I am an novice meditator and am aware that my current level of practice will probably prevent me from a full appreciation of what you mean, but still, anything would help emoticon.

Thank you.

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
4/7/20 7:16 AM as a reply to David R.
David R:
Stirling Campbell:
aponysus:

So, here is my question. Would you trade your spiritual journey (or your awakening) for some amount of social good in your community or the world? 

The most responsible thing you can undertake is your practice, with the dedication to benefit other beings. What makes you think your spiritual journey does not impact external circumstances? Can you be sure that what you do is ultimately separate from anything else you think is happening?

When you accept everything, everything is beyond dimensions. The earth is not great nor a grain of sand small. In the realm of Great Activity picking up a grain of sand is the same as taking up the whole universe. To save one sentient being is to save all sentient beings. Your efforts of this moment to save one person is the same as the eternal merit of Buddha. - Shunryu Suziki Roshi

Would you mind explaining this a bit? It's not that I don't believe meditation is beneficial for the broader world at large, I'm just trying to understand the full/deeper implications of it.

And, also would appreciate J C's response as he said something similar - there is nothign better morally than striving for awakening.

Fair disclosure, I am an novice meditator and am aware that my current level of practice will probably prevent me from a full appreciation of what you mean, but still, anything would help emoticon.

Thank you.

Hi David, and welcome to the conversation here, and to DhO in general.

I'm not sure how active aponysus is on this forum right now; his post here of early July 2019 is the last i've been able to find from him. Like you, I am interested in the question of whether my meditation efforts, to which i am essentially committed in a way that doesn't appear to me to have an exit door right now, can in any way bear a meaningful fruit in this world. I take a lot of Jesus stuff as koans of a sort, and he said, "By their fruits ye shall know them." So the first part of the koan here is looking deeply into what "fruits" could even meaningfully be. We speak of "fruition" in practice--- Daniel Ingram, in MCBT2 has it as the fifteenth stage of the progress of insight, the culmination of the fourth jhana. It is said by almost all accounts to be sweet enough to be a motivator per se, for us novice meditators. The last of the zen oxherding cycle is the zeroed-out original seeker of the ox "returning to the marketplace with bliss-bestowing (or gift bestowing, in some translations) hands." That would seem to be the ultimate fruit to me, and goes to J C's point about there being nothing better than deep honest meditation practice in terms of moral striving, and that has been my own rule of thumb most of the time on the path, along with the experiential knowledge that i've done more harm trying to do good with insufficient insight into my own motives and means than i ever would by doing the deeper and apparently necessary work of meditation. "Do no harm," deeply examined, elimanates an astonishing amount of activity, and if not a fruit, at least is a compassionate non-poison.

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
4/10/20 5:41 PM as a reply to Tim Farrington.
Hi Tim!

Thanks for the welcome and response. I wasn't familiar with the Zen ox story - interesting and informative on my question. And I definitely see your point about "do no harm" being quite involved when taken far. Just doing that is quite a bit of work with meaningful outcomes.

I think my original quote was a little misleading - I was trying to ask Stirling (and JC) if they would expand on their response.

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
4/11/20 4:22 PM as a reply to David R.
David R:

Would you mind explaining this a bit? It's not that I don't believe meditation is beneficial for the broader world at large, I'm just trying to understand the full/deeper implications of it.

And, also would appreciate J C's response as he said something similar - there is nothign better morally than striving for awakening.

Fair disclosure, I am an novice meditator and am aware that my current level of practice will probably prevent me from a full appreciation of what you mean, but still, anything would help emoticon.

Thank you.

Hello David,

The most obvious thing is observing how our practice impacts how we relate to ourselves, others, and the world at large. My experience is that we become more calm, kinder, and less reactive with even 20 minutes a few days a week. See if this is true for you.

Taking it deeper, it is worth reading this:

https://www.lionsroar.com/the-fullness-of-emptiness/

This is one of the easist to follow explanations of Nagarjuna's brilliant work I know of, if you aren't familiar with it. If we believe/experience all phenomena as emerging from the same field and realize the impossibility of separateness, then we must accept that all things are interconnected and interdependent. In this way, when we work to enlighten ourselves, or transform our relation to this interdependence, since we have no intrinsic existence we impact all things in this field. 

How is that?

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
5/1/20 1:37 AM as a reply to aponysus.
aponysus:
I've been spending between 1 and 2 hours per day meditating, and I'm really enjoying the journey both intellectually and experientially. I plan to do a retreat as early as possible next year. But this has me thinking about the opporunity cost of my time spent. Not so much in terms of pleasurable things I good be doing during all that time, but in terms of the social good I could be contributing to. Honestly, this is purely theoretical. It isn't like I'd be spending all that time at a soup kitchen or something. But I COULD if I weren't occupying that time otherwise. So that is my point.

So, here is my question. Would you trade your spiritual journey (or your awakening) for some amount of social good in your community or the world? How much would it take? Is it morally justifiable for me to sit in my study focusing on my breath for hours per day while children within a few miles of me aren't getting enough nutrition? I don't want this question to sound like I'm denigrating the practice. I am quite enthusiastic and energized about the whole thing right now. I just think it is important to face questions like this fully and honestly.

This is similar to another issue I'm facing right now... sending my oldest son to private school when there is a perfectly good (by Alabama standards, haha) public school nearby. I just think about how many mosquito nets could be donated with all that tuition money. Yet I still have chosen to do it. But honestly the moral calculus just doesn't add up.
with all humility (a set up line, indicting hubris to follow), i think i may have hacked this active service vs. contemplative inner development thing. In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 10, this is classically embodied in the two sisters, Martha and mary, the former busy with mych serving, the latter sitting adoring at Jesus' feet and "listening to his word." Martha asks Jesus to tell her sister to get off her butt and help out, literally for God's sake (in my branch of sectarian Judaism).

BUt here's the thing: Mary will in fact get up and help, in God's time. Martha just needs some time off herself, a meditation retreat to a clothing-optional beach resort in the south of France, maybe, with umbrella drinks and, ideally, a hot-blooded younger Argentianian lover. And, uh, the appropriate amount of quiet meditation. Then she'll go charging back to Bethany and clean that cluster fuck up properly!

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
6/10/20 2:01 AM as a reply to David R.
David R:
Hi Tim!

Thanks for the welcome and response. I wasn't familiar with the Zen ox story - interesting and informative on my question. And I definitely see your point about "do no harm" being quite involved when taken far. Just doing that is quite a bit of work with meaningful outcomes.

I think my original quote was a little misleading - I was trying to ask Stirling (and JC) if they would expand on their response.

Just saw this.

So everything we do, say, and think gets filtered through this knot of perception, making our perception seem dualistic (me and the world, this side and that side). It creates a distortion. Fixing that distortion is the right thing to do. It should be first priority. More than feeding starving kids.

I also suspect in most cases the math will work out so that you end up getting more material good done if you get enlightened first, because the distortion messes everything up, though this probably depends on your abilities and life expectancy.

Ultimately my answer is that I am not a humanist. I just don't believe that humans can solve the problems of this world based on our own actions. We need something more. Something beyond the normal material world. We are not saved by works alone. The root cause of most suffering is not hunger or poverty - it's dualistic perception.
 
And I tend to think most of the time our effort to try to "help" is motivated by our own neuroses and need to be useful, and ends up encouraging and incentivizing the problems we are trying to solve. Enabling, in other words. After all, if we taught those starving kids to fish, they wouldn't be dependent on us, and we wouldn't get to save them and be the martyr. Altruism is typically pretty dishonest.

Laozi had it right. "oversharpen the blade and the edge will soon blunt." TTC 9

And "give up sainthood, renounce wisdom, and it will be a hundred times better for everyone. Give up kindness, renounce morality, and men will rediscover filial piety and love." TTC 19.

In the end, it's just my intuition, which I trust above all else. I can try to come up with arguments for why becoming an arahat is the best thing to do, but really it's just something I feel and something I know.

The Buddha left his job, responsibilities, wife, and infant son to go sit under a tree. By humanist standards, that was irresponsible. But stories like that and the Martha/Mary one are there for a reason.

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
6/11/20 4:36 AM as a reply to J C.
what J C said.

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
6/13/20 2:35 AM as a reply to J C.
Found a great quote on this:

“Goodness or wholesomeness that has not been realized by resolving the problem of the gap is easily shattered by slander and groundless rumors, simply because it is not genuine goodness."

Master Kido Inoue, Head of Shôrinkutsu
Dôjô.

https://terebess.hu/zen/mesterek/The_Method_of_Zen.pdf (p. 55)

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
6/13/20 2:53 AM as a reply to J C.
J C:
Found a great quote on this:

“Goodness or wholesomeness that has not been realized by resolving the problem of the gap is easily shattered by slander and groundless rumors, simply because it is not genuine goodness."

Master Kido Inoue, Head of Shôrinkutsu
Dôjô.

https://terebess.hu/zen/mesterek/The_Method_of_Zen.pdf (p. 55)

Amen, J C.

In the US, the relevant proverb is, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions that have not resolved the problem of the gap."

love this pdf, thank you for sharing it: also from p. 55, a very sweet one:
“A heart that feels gratitude and thanks is the most beautiful and valuable quality of man’s character.”

Master Kido Inoue, Head of Shôrinkutsu Dôjô.

https://terebess.hu/zen/mesterek/The_Method_of_Zen.pdf


love, tim

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
6/13/20 1:35 PM as a reply to Tim Farrington.
Those are some good quotes also.

I might say it as "the road to hell is paved with bad intentions that you're repressing in your attempt to be good."

Someone posted that Zen pdf to the DhO, but I can't find the thread now.

And thanks for the kind words! I love your posts too.

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
6/13/20 4:56 PM as a reply to J C.
Very interesting book. I briefly read the appendix Process of Zen Practice, that hooked me to read the whole book. Thanks J C!

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
6/14/20 2:19 PM as a reply to Stirling Campbell.
Stirling Campbell:
David R:

Would you mind explaining this a bit? It's not that I don't believe meditation is beneficial for the broader world at large, I'm just trying to understand the full/deeper implications of it.

And, also would appreciate J C's response as he said something similar - there is nothign better morally than striving for awakening.

Fair disclosure, I am an novice meditator and am aware that my current level of practice will probably prevent me from a full appreciation of what you mean, but still, anything would help emoticon.

Thank you.

Hello David,

The most obvious thing is observing how our practice impacts how we relate to ourselves, others, and the world at large. My experience is that we become more calm, kinder, and less reactive with even 20 minutes a few days a week. See if this is true for you.

Taking it deeper, it is worth reading this:

https://www.lionsroar.com/the-fullness-of-emptiness/

This is one of the easist to follow explanations of Nagarjuna's brilliant work I know of, if you aren't familiar with it. If we believe/experience all phenomena as emerging from the same field and realize the impossibility of separateness, then we must accept that all things are interconnected and interdependent. In this way, when we work to enlighten ourselves, or transform our relation to this interdependence, since we have no intrinsic existence we impact all things in this field. 

How is that?

aloha david, sterling,

   Meditation is actually about putting the discriminating mind - the ego - to rest. When the thoughts are stilled, the ego is stilled, and we stop interfering with the natural perfection of the universe as it manifests liberation.

terry




Truth is within ourselves.
There is an inmost center in us all,
Where the Truth abides in fullness; and to know
Rather consists in opening out a way
Whence the imprisoned splendor may escape
Than in effecting entry for a light
Supposed to be without.

ROBERT BROWNING





from "the infinite way" by joel goldsmith



That there is a Soul-force, we know, but that this Soul-power can do more for us than all the material and mental power combined is but little suspected. Perhaps one reason for the world's lack of interest in this vast subject is that this great reservoir of power resident in our Soul cannot be used for selfish purposes. Think of the enormity of this - a great marvelous power at hand, and yet it can never be used to serve a selfish end. Herein lies the secret of why so few achieve Soul-consciousness. We only become aware of the presence of the Soul after we have freed ourselves of selfish desires, and in proportion to our desire to serve the interests of mankind do we individualize this infinite power within us.



full text can be found here, really good stuff...

http://www.onewhowakes.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/The-Infinite-Way-by-JSG.pdf

RE: The moral opportunity cost of awakening
Answer
6/18/20 2:52 AM as a reply to terry.
terry:
Stirling Campbell:
David R:

Would you mind explaining this a bit? It's not that I don't believe meditation is beneficial for the broader world at large, I'm just trying to understand the full/deeper implications of it.

And, also would appreciate J C's response as he said something similar - there is nothign better morally than striving for awakening.

Fair disclosure, I am an novice meditator and am aware that my current level of practice will probably prevent me from a full appreciation of what you mean, but still, anything would help emoticon.

Thank you.

Hello David,

The most obvious thing is observing how our practice impacts how we relate to ourselves, others, and the world at large. My experience is that we become more calm, kinder, and less reactive with even 20 minutes a few days a week. See if this is true for you.

Taking it deeper, it is worth reading this:

https://www.lionsroar.com/the-fullness-of-emptiness/

This is one of the easist to follow explanations of Nagarjuna's brilliant work I know of, if you aren't familiar with it. If we believe/experience all phenomena as emerging from the same field and realize the impossibility of separateness, then we must accept that all things are interconnected and interdependent. In this way, when we work to enlighten ourselves, or transform our relation to this interdependence, since we have no intrinsic existence we impact all things in this field. 

How is that?

aloha david, sterling,

   Meditation is actually about putting the discriminating mind - the ego - to rest. When the thoughts are stilled, the ego is stilled, and we stop interfering with the natural perfection of the universe as it manifests liberation.

terry




Truth is within ourselves.
There is an inmost center in us all,
Where the Truth abides in fullness; and to know
Rather consists in opening out a way
Whence the imprisoned splendor may escape
Than in effecting entry for a light
Supposed to be without.

ROBERT BROWNING





from "the infinite way" by joel goldsmith



That there is a Soul-force, we know, but that this Soul-power can do more for us than all the material and mental power combined is but little suspected. Perhaps one reason for the world's lack of interest in this vast subject is that this great reservoir of power resident in our Soul cannot be used for selfish purposes. Think of the enormity of this - a great marvelous power at hand, and yet it can never be used to serve a selfish end. Herein lies the secret of why so few achieve Soul-consciousness. We only become aware of the presence of the Soul after we have freed ourselves of selfish desires, and in proportion to our desire to serve the interests of mankind do we individualize this infinite power within us.



full text can be found here, really good stuff...

http://www.onewhowakes.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/The-Infinite-Way-by-JSG.pdf

who the hell ordered this? no pepperoni? Extra Imprisoned Splendor?
Truth is within ourselves.
There is an inmost center in us all,
Where the Truth abides in fullness; and to know
Rather consists in opening out a way
Whence the imprisoned splendor may escape
Than in effecting entry for a light
Supposed to be without.

ROBERT BROWNING

i'll share it with someone. Terry, can you handle no pepperoni? David? Sterling? It's a fucking extra large, and I think we're stuck with the tab anyway, so say it's on me.

love, tim