Religion And Its Damn Rules...

Photo Courtesy of Nicor
Are really just efficient guidelines.

We are taking off down a path that few of us have ever walked consciously. For the most part we have no clue where in the world we are, or how in God’s Name we got there. So, it might be nice to acquire a set of guiding principles, some new directives that may make it a bit easier for us to stay on course. Such guidelines can be found in Buddhism's ten-natural acts.

The ten-natural acts serve as the guiding principles for our journey. They are there to help keep us on course. What is meant by principle, is an idea and a corresponding practice that recognizes within us organic qualities. They are not dictates carved into stone, or laws which cannot be broken. They are not commandments, or steps for some self-help program. They are principles, which if practiced, work to un-do some of the neurotic self-centered programs we have acquired over the years.

These ten-natural acts maybe are better understood from the perspective of renunciation. Since we are not trying to make a newer-better you, but simply trying to un-install all the behavioral programs ego has uploaded, it is easier to identify with these practices as a way of letting go of old habits. So, we attempt to abstain from the ten unnatural acts which consist of: killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, divisive speech, harsh words, idle talk, jealousy, resentment, and ignore-ance. Abstaining from these ten contrived behaviors is natural, but it may not feel that way at first. That is only because we are so deeply ingrained with our habitual tendencies. Saying that they are natural is to say that they are effortless...

It requires no effort on our part not to kill, lie, or hold a grudge. In fact, the burden of effort lies with the ten un-natural acts. They are pretenses or fabricated behaviors. It takes effort to kill, energy to lie, and a psychotic type of mental exertion to hold onto a resentment. The ten unnatural acts are little more than instruments of manipulation the ego employs to accomplish it's selfish agenda.

All of these practices can be further categorized into three groups; body, speech, and mind. In the case of body we have killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct. It is easy to see where killing and stealing do little more than create dysfunctional states of mind for everyone involved! Sexual misconduct means any sexual act which brings harm to someone else in order to fulfill some selfish aim. For example, infidelity in the end does nothing but give rise to unhealthy frames of mind. We have to lie and sneak around which gives rise to fear and anxiety about getting caught. Not to mention all the drama that would develop if we were to get caught, which would not only negatively affect us, but all parties involved. Under the pretense of lust there is a great deal of time and energy spent just to fulfill some selfish desire. Simply put such behavior is counterproductive to our practice, as it reinforces the very things we are trying to move beyond through our contemplative practice.

Within the category of speech we have lying, divisive speech, harsh words, and idle chatter. It takes absolutely no effort on our part to tell the truth, it’s natural. All we have to do is repeat what actually happened, no more and no less. On the other hand in order to lie we have to create a story. Then we have to sell our story to others. We also have to remember the lie just in case we have to repeat it at some point in the future. Not to mention all the chaos that ensues if we get caught in the lie, or all of the anxiety we undergo while obsessing over whether we will get caught or not. Divisive speech or pitting people against one another does the same thing, it breads disorder. It is easy to grasp how harsh words create conflict, seeing how few people react kindly to being spoken down on. As far as idle chatter is concerned, it does little good to sit down and practice meditation, only to get up and start running your mouth about absolutely nothing. Gossip simply serves to stir the mind up all over again. The main point to understand is how these brands of speech are unnatural and therefore contribute nothing more than obstacles to our practice. We have to allow our daily life and our practice to blend with one another, otherwise our formal sessions aren’t of much use. From this point of view we can see these ten-natural acts as a bridge, which links our practice of meditation with our daily life.

In regards to the un-natural acts of mind there are three; resentment, jealousy, and ignore-ance. Resentment is completely pointless. It serves no constructive end whatsoever. It simply works to pollute our own mind with anger. We would be better off identifying one shortcoming in our self, than a billion in someone else, as our shortcomings are the only ones we are capable of working with. As far as jealousy is concerned, it seems to be little more than an attempt to wish our thoughts into existence. Instead of sitting around thinking about what we do not have, or making mental notes about who has what we wish we had, we could be grateful for what we do have. What is meant by ignore-ance is simply not being fully present. If we can become aware of the fact that we drifted off into some fantasy land, and remember the present moment, it would be time well spent. In fact, it is easy to see how the other nine unnatural acts have their origin in this lack of mindfulness.

Kabbalistic Tree of Life
In addition to abstaining from the ten-unnatural acts, we can also practice the ten natural acts. We can work to protect life, practice generosity, and honest sexual relationships. We can speak kind words to others, tell the truth in spite of any consequences we may face, say things which bring people together, and allow for space or moments of silence in our lives. Most importantly we can cultivate loving thoughts, attitudes of generosity, and mindfulness in all of our daily activities. Not only do the ten-natural acts enable us to stay on track, but they also provide us with a sort of discipline.

As we begin the practice of meditation our subconscious will start to open up. It will go from sub- conscious to consciousness. As a result of this, a lot of junk that that we have been relatively unaware of for quite some time will begin to float to the surface. It is helpful to have some guiding principles that enable us to relate with this stuff in a healthy way, one where we do not cause harm to ourselves or others. These guiding principles are the ten natural acts...

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