March 26 2023 - Great Desire & Trees

Yesterday we had a Dharma talk about the karma of food (link forthcoming). There was some talk about the 3 poisons (desire, aversion, and delusion) and the difference between discursive (deluded) thinking and non-discursive (enlightened) thinking. I’ve been mulling some things over about desire and clear seeing lately that I want to express.

It seems to me that in addition to discursive thoughts there are discursive and non-discursive desires (and aversions) too. I, like all beings, want to be happy but have gotten into deep habits of wanting things that I think will make me happy but in reality do not, and usually just create pain or at best numbness. I’ve done a lot of “personal research” here. To me these are the 2 poisons of delusion and discursive desires at work, and they can kind of reinforce one another.

On the other hand action from non-discursive desire seems to be rooted in the understanding that all beings are deeply interconnected, or dependent co-arising. Wanting (desiring) peace, joy, purpose and safety seems to be totally human and I can’t really get rid of it despite my best efforts. So maybe the best way to abide in all those good things is to cultivate the desire for all beings to have them, then really pay attention to what’s happening, and see what actions arise. I’m not saying I don’t want them for myself too, but it makes good sense to operate this way since I’m outnumbered by all beings.

There are no others.
  -Sri Ramana

From this perspective, if “there are no others” and just an interplay of ever changing forms, the typical definition of success, achieving one’s desires, needs an adjustment. Prosperity is less about acquiring more of something and more about the quality and aliveness of relating.

I think this is the spirit of the St Francis of Assisi’s Prayer for peace too.

O Master, let me not seek as much
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love,
for it is in giving that one receives,
it is in self-forgetting that one fin,
it is in pardoning that one is pardoned,
it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life.
  - Saint Francis of Assisi

On the surface it looks like self sacrifice or martyrdom, but in reality is desire-action rooted in a clear view of what’s actually going on here. I wonder if Saint Francis wasn’t totally self interested; his experience of Self just happens to include all of creation. I guess that’s what is meant by taking a ride on the Great Vehicle, Mahayana. So right now, looking at my own many failures to abide in the Buddha lands, I’m getting interested in ways to connect my self interested desires (there’s more than a few) to great vehicle desires.

I look to nature for inspiration here. Trees grow straight up because they “desire” sunlight, but in doing so create habitat for so much other other life. I might like to be more like a tree.