The way of life in the modern era has presented itself with many difficult challenges, in our daily existence. Some challenges include but are not limited to the challenges of taking care of ourselves, mentally and physically, and balancing work and social times. The rise in property and living costs against our salary had been seen as the biggest enemy to our future plans, withholding our desire of settling down, having children etc. Not only that, but even dating is hard, finding the true lifelong partner is difficult. Divorces are on the rise. Many of us have been hit hard by the biggest epidemic of mental health problems, triggered by various reasons. The increasing number of people spending most of their time playing with their mobile phone, suffering from loneliness, is rising all the time. The outcry for the solution had made people turn to many different resources, holding on to various philosophies and practices, as the device to find happiness to extinguish suffering or just to extinguish suffering itself. Long gone now is our parent’s era of playing together in the field as children, seeing people, instead of texting, getting married and having children by the age of 24. It is the era of social media, internet, no strings attached sex, too poor to move out. While these changes all sound too depressing, we can use the situation that we are doomed for the better good, a golden opportunity for wisdom, independence and emotional stability, practising good karma and enlightenment. We won’t seek if there is no suffering. If we see the benefit of this time and use it well, then we will see our future generations experiencing major progress in mental health, with people becoming more generous, open-minded, wiser, and living a good life, without risking themselves in recklessness. If people seek positivity and can take advantage of this, then this means that we are in the right era for seeking spirituality. We cannot change our environment but we can adapt, we can see it as something that works against us, but a solid foundation that helps us advance our soul. We will be thankful for them once we see the benefit. Here are some ‘negative’ factors in our culture that you should consider benefiting from:
We are more alone
Our friends work long hours, you work long hours, they cancel your plans because they have to see their boyfriend, people saying that they will be there for you when you hit rock bottom. In actual fact, when you do hit rock bottom, they could not talk to you. When you seek other people for entertainment, comfort, or thinking that they have to be a foundation of your life, it means that you are prone to loneliness. In actual fact, there is no big hole there you have to fill. It is being attached to people’s gam (characteristics, body, voice, touch etc.) We have let it be a part of our jit, and it programmed itself like that. When those facilities are away from us, we feel down as our jit has been used to this for a long time. If you believe that you need people, then you will not get out of this pattern, however, if you want to help yourself and not suffer when you are in a situation, then learn to be alone. Use this space and time as the food for your emotional stability. Why do monks go to forests? Because they want to consume peace. Being alone is a good tool to separate the reality from illusion. People’s bodies are not them or theirs. However we are so lost in face, what they say, how they act, and for a long time, this has influenced our emotion, about how they feel about ourselves. So we take it back. We were born alone and die alone. Our first solid companions were our parents, followed by our friends, spouse and children, then we die without any of them accompanying us. Nobody can talk to us all the time while we are alive, and we certainly cannot take anyone with us, in our coffin. Everything just passes by in a fleeting moment. Nobody needs friends for emotional stability. It actually causes you harm if you think in this way. Therefore, it is time for you to build your inner solitude, and think in the way that the Buddha thinks, ‘see just see, hear just hear, touch just touch, smell just smell, taste just taste.’ Just acknowledge that they are there but don’t bond with it. The more people you bond with, the more suffering you will have, as the law of parting is inevitable and the feeling of emptiness will feel much worse. Samathi and sti sambanchaya will help to train the strong solitude in your jit, and feel like a normal emotion. Then when you go out there with the people who you know gave you the high and the lows like before, you will be able to detect when the soul is absorbing the presence of the people. As soon as you detect it, you can switch back your emotion to the normal setting again. Once you are in the peaceful emotion, analyze what was it that has made the jit absorb the presence of people. Was it their voice? Their funny characteristics? How they make you feel? Take this as a lesson so that you are strong in your sti next time. This practice is so that you can feel you can be by yourself and by other people too. Us human beings all need to help out each other like friends, think with loving-kindness, rather than attaching to their characters. Characters do change, people disappoint each other. This practice is to prevent the downside of being with people and being without people.
Also, being around too many people makes you absorb their toxic energy. Everyone carries their energy from work, from previous surroundings, emotions, you can absorb them and become depressed yourself, or ‘carry their baggage,’ as you call it. If you have trained yourself to absorb positive energy, then you will also absorb the negative energy too. Learn not to plug into their energy and not care too much about their personal life that you cannot change, it is not your karma, it is theirs.
Overall being alone makes you stronger. Having people to talk to can only solve the problem in the short term, but if forced to be on your own, you will figure out your own way, to solve the problem from the root. Not drinking, but from samathi and gammatarn. If you do it the right way and protect yourself in the right way, you will not have the same suffering again and it won’t be as intense. You will be independent, not a burden to people. Perhaps you can be someone that they can actually rely on in the future!
Settling down and finding the right partner has become harder
While romance, finding the right partner and settling down may seem harmless, a happiness we should all strive to achieve, something which gives life a purpose, something to complete us. However it is something which is poisonous and dangerous to worship. There was a sad story of a nurse in the UK who committed suicide due to her 12 hour shifts and severe workload. It was something which stopped her from settling down and having a family. Shortly after she split up with her boyfriend, which had left her devasted, she committed suicide. Question is? Did she desire to start a family because she thought it was going to cause her more suffering? No, she wanted it because it was going to give her happiness. Did she want to have a boyfriend who will dump her in the midst of high stress in her life? No. If she was devastated by it, then it was probably not the aim. The Buddha said, life is hard enough on your own, why have others to give you more? This type of desire and craving is called tanha. Tanha will throw you off from seeing your own situation in reality, while you dream and follow a fantasy. When you settle down, more responsibilities add up because you are now not only just responsible for yourself, but for others too. Would this type of situation be suitable for the case of the nurse? No. Because she was already overwhelmed by her career, having a family would mean it would be beyond her ability to handle. Before having a family, you have to socialize and date before you find the ‘right one’. Is choosing the right partner happiness or suffering? Dating can take over your youth and consume your years in tears more than happiness. It is an unsure thing, you can date someone for years and break up, without any warning. Then when you finally get married to the right one, are you going to be smiling to each other all the time? No. There will be arguments. If you have children, you are only going to enjoy them while you have spare time off work, but for the rest of the time you have to think for them. You cannot do everything in your own power. When you suffer, you suffer alone, you are still hungry alone, sad alone, while everyone else is full and happy. You may ‘have’ your family, but they cannot share your pain. While you have your personal pain, you may have to go through shared suffering on top, taking in your partner’s unpredictable moodiness, be the receiver of their downfalls and illnesses, whilst keeping up with your own mental health. Your partner is also in the body of karn 5 which is due to have suffering like yours. Yours add your partner’s is karn 10, one child is karn 15, which is many to handle. The Buddha wants you to suffer on your own with your karn 5 only. Then before you know it you die or they die, then one has to suffer with the karma of parting. Or you get divorced. So why waste your entire youth searching for the right one? You can waste 15 years searching, and only be happy in a three year relationship or marriage, then break up. Everything is mai tieng (unpredictable, changeable, untrustable, impermanent) Your relationship, your feelings, their feelings, your body, their body, are unstable. So, instead of wasting the years of your life focused on finding happiness with other people’s bodies, that are mai tieng and dirty, focus on something that is tieng and pure, like practicing Buddhism, making good karma, thinking of samatithi. You can go to a temple when you like, nobody is there to stop you, you have time, and stay however long you like. This is a much better long term investment than something that can make you end up in tears.
We have to live with our parents longer
There is this rush in our culture to move away from our parents as soon as possible. On the other hand, in Asia, there are more people who want to live with their parents for the rest of their life, not because of the socio-economic factor, but because they want to look after their parents. Looking after your parents is also what the Buddha admires. This act is what we call ‘guttanyu.’ It is a bunn (merit). Looking after your parents and being with them is compared to looking after an arahant monk at home. So if you have to stay with them at adult’s age, for whatever reason, think of it as an opportunity to build up your baramee. It can be a test of your kindness (mettabaramee). Be good with them. Doing bad things to your parents is considered a heavy karma, heavier than if you do it to anyone else. So be calm and always in good thoughts.
We want to be more spiritual
The Western culture has now finally opened up to the truth about the power of thought and our connection with the power of universe. If we think of only good thoughts then we will draw good things towards us, but if we think bad thoughts, then we will be in the negative channel, where we will receive bad things. However, what we are dealing with here is not something that purely comes from our brain, it is our jit (heart, mind, soul) which is the centre point of spiritual practice. The jit is the centre point of thoughts, feelings and energy. The start and success has to be from there. Our life stories begin there, our sin and merit also begin there. While materials, success and wealth have been the main motivation point for people to start practicing, however delete all of these things and start focusing on emptiness, peacefulness and natural wisdom. The real wisdom does not happen from reading books and studying, but emptiness. Emptiness leads you to infinite wisdom, or what we call punya yarn. Once we get into punya yarn, nature will connect you to the wisdom that you will need to know, the wisdom that you will have no idea where it comes from, and it will be endless. You will become your own master, you will learn how to solve problems by yourself. Keeping the jit in peaceful emptiness is the right emotion to draw in positive things in dharma way and worldly way. Do not crave it with the emotion of want as that is a block. However, the jit is much more powerful than just dictating our events in life, if practiced properly, you will not have mental illness, you will heal your body faster, it is our centre of enlightenment practice, it is stronger than the four elements, it is where the miracles and spiritual phenomenon starts. No need to look for proof elsewhere, but find it in yourself. However, what gets in the way is the belief of feelings. Feelings are not the true emotion of the jit, they are just simply vibrations that changes. They are what the Buddha calls annijung, tukkung and annata, annata means no self. Therefore, anything that has no self and changes is a lie, cannot be trusted and so we do not touch it, we do not hold on to it as something real. As soon as we plug into it, we will be hindering our real spiritual progress in emptiness and true wisdom. Once we are empty from thoughts we will be one with nature and connected to knowledge that we don’t know before, no need to want to know before, it will just come.
We have done too much drugs and drinking
It is true that at some point, some people have indulged in too much drinking and taking drugs. They reach the point that they would like to stop themselves, because they have seen and felt the damage of intoxication, more than anyone else. More people in this day and age are starting to feel this way. Some people return back to the old ways and some do not. Some had other type of experiences e.g. out of body experiences, which motivated them to practice samathi to make their body and soul more aligned together even more. The Buddha had said that the law of karma of drinking is not just financial loss, but also damage to the nerves. Alcohol is something that stays in your body for many days after you drink. If people are serious about improving their mental health or spiritual progression, they should stop drinking and take sigln as sigln is the very fundamental foundation of the practice of the jit, of vipassana etc. Without sigln, one cannot reach the stability of higher consciousness or practice complete sti sambanchaya. It is like trying to pilot a plane with constant distractions from radio and mobile phones. We are already too drunk in life. Practicing Buddhism means getting rid of the drunkenness of life, why make it harder?
We have more struggles with living
This is a good way to practice seeing suffering. How? Because we all have to do all these things to serve the body, work, cook, provide, accommodate. These are the sufferings of birth, of having a flesh on this Earth. Therefore you are more than likely to be motivated to find a way of non- rebirth if you see the suffering of life. If you had a very easy life then it is harder to see this, however if you had everything taken away from you, it will be a shock but you will have a better perspective. You will get to know what truly stays with you, money does not stay with you, your wife does not stay with you etc. They are the things of lokgratum 8. You are given the right foundation when you start everything on your own. You will learn that emotional stability does not come from these things that come and go. You don’t live for these things, but these things are just there to serve you. It is actually the start of an eye- opening journey, of reawaking and emotional independence.
Religions failed us
I do not discriminate against any religions. Buddhism is a religion. However, it is a religion that is taught based on reasoning. Some people who are not satisfied with the reasoning of some events in life turn to study Buddhism, to understand more about life and the spiritual world. Even though there is some kind of official scripture that a monk wrote of the Buddha’s teaching while the Buddha was alive, however the Buddha does not want us to attach to books and scriptures, but to concentrate more on our emotion. The world is our lesson. If you have a look at my Buddhism diary, you will see why. Buddhism teaches us to rely on ourselves and solve problems, from the root of the reason, rather than asking for someone else to lift it away from us. We have to help ourselves with everything, as we are the carrier of our own karma. Nobody can do it for us. If we want luck, we invest ourselves with taan (giving) and sigln (clean principles). We learn to get out of our suffering ourselves, no one can do this for us. This religion does not teach you to be a follower, but your own master. Once you practice you will notice that you may have cultivated your own wisdom and techniques that works for you. You may feel peace and some things in the level that others do not understand and words cannot describe. This is something that you can do through your own practice, and you will find it a very enriching experience.
We travel more
While reading my blog, you will start to see that Thailand has more to offer than beautiful views and beaches. This blog will prepare you to see the world from a different angle. For example, many people actually have no prejudice of staying with their parents here. There are more single people here who willingly turn into monks and nuns. Perhaps you would want to start looking for other things to do for merit, rather than partying and drinking. Take the advantage of this opportunity for the better of your life. Unfortunately, the best Buddhist teachers do not speak English, which is why I start this blog. Perhaps you will feel happier in Thailand. There is a reason why you will feel this way. There is a reason why people in general seemed so much nicer and kinder in this country, than in the west. It is not just the Buddhist culture, but something more than that, which will be explained in ‘Why is Thailand the country of enlightenment?’ article in my science section. Stay tuned!