Scott’s honesty and integrity shine through. I also learned much from what he said about returning to laity.
I often reflect on the words of the great 18th century Tibetan Buddhist master Jigme Lingpa: “If the meditator is able to use whatever occurs in his life as the path, his body becomes a retreat hut.”
Or, as the modern stoics say, “the obstacle is the way”
I can’t say I believe in rebirth, but I would have no emotional distress in deciding that I am not ready in this life for bhikkhuhood. I’ve always had the sense that nibanna was not something I would be seeing in this life and it isn’t something I’ve strongly wanted. I’ve always felt that all of us would end up there in the end, as part of a natural evolution. One life in the future I might be a Scott Tusa, and ordain for a few years, then a few lives after that be born with a sense of inspiration to do it full time.
To be more brief, I’ve always had a strong sense of “to everything there is a season” with spiritual development.
It is not uncommon for Western monastics to become disheartened, eventually returning to householder life. In my own case, I was fortunate in having financial and physical support, but still very much struggled with a lack of monastic community. I was alone a majority of the time, and I started to crave authentic human connection and intimacy.
I feel that Scott points out a factor that may make or break a monastic’s devotion to monastic life; isolation and lack of connection with others. Certainly, we know that the Buddha had a large and active Sangha. We know as well that he praised the secluded monks and nuns, and advocated seclusion. But it’s one thing to be in meditative seclusion knowing that you are part of a larger supportive community or “family,” (such as Bodhinyana or Abhayagiri), and being isolated and bereft of any spiritual friends. Such isolation would likely be crippling to many monastics, and it’s unfortunate that Scott couldn’t have the support of Sangha the way that other young monastics have had in the Forest tradition, for example.
To me, what isolates monks and even lay spiritual practitioners is competition.
The Thai monastic communities I have been exposed to are almost devoid of any sort of competition or pressure for individuals to become or attained to something or show they have become or attained to something.
This creates a very welcoming environment in which peers are ready, available and on default standing by to help others not to be dragged out of the controlled environment the bare minimum practice-sustaining behaviors stipulated by Vinaya aim at preserving.
If fruition, insight, learning, advancement, progress comes about, that is great. But to be frankly no one really cares. And only with time and demonstration by actions people will eventually place those who deserve in the spotlight as a source for instruction and guidance.
On the other hands, the so-called lay Buddhist individuals or meditation groups I have dealt with are always permeated by this constant tension and fight for attention. With some odd individuals looking for ways to broadcast and affirm on others how much they practice, know, learn, have attained to, etc.
I wonder how long can people go on in that mode before they realize the futility of what they are assuming and embracing as being a spiritual life…
I don’t think that one should rely on circumstances to do the “work” for you. In other words, waiting until everything feels right or you are inspired enough until you practice, you will not be practising.
One should reflect even forcefully about the dangers to come i.e death,old age, sickness, that there is no guarantee that one will have another opportunity to develop freedom from dukkha etc.
If Nibbana is a natural result for everyone in the end, then the Buddha is not needed and we can just “go with the flow”, so to speak, but the Buddha encouraged us to go in the opposite direction ," against the grain", and that will not ever feel right for one who goes with the natural flow of things, i.e sense restraint for one who is unrestrained before, is going to be uncomfortable. Not seeing any apparent results from renunciation is also uncomfortable, but that’s where faith and reasoning come in, if one has of course reflected far enough on the inevitable dangers that headed our way.
I have seen newcomers to Buddhism on various Buddhist forums ask for introductory readings, then ask for guestimates on how long it would take to reach “enlightenment” without even knowing what that means. Like they just joined a core strengthening program. As with meditation, grasping is just attachment and sends you in the opposite direction of the path.
There is always the swiftest route but there might be a cow involved. However I think Bahiya was actually OK with that. Not sure that would be a selling point to newcomers.
Death by cow would be fine with me!