I beg you, dear friends, to sing the beautiful Names of God. Love and live in the sweet companionship of the lovers of God. What else is there? The whole universe is simply the hide-and-seek of lover and Beloved, who are already one. What else can you want or need? Why attempt to improve upon perfection? One does not whitewash a wall which is already inlaid with mother-of-pearl” – Ramakrishna
What better time than now to ask yourself: what do monks do? Why would someone elect to spend their entire life in a form of isolation? Who would choose self imposed social distancing for decades? Disenchanted by society, or perhaps…there is truly something to gain.
“In my native land waves of attachment to friends and kin surge. Hatred for enemies rages like fire. The darkness of stupidity, not caring what to adopt or avoid, thickens. To abandon my native land is the practice of a bodhisattva” -Gyalse Ngulchu Thogme
Abandoning your native land is a beautiful way to say it. To speak of the departure from life as you once knew it. The quest to see what Ramakrishna means when he calls the universe hide-and-seek of lover and Beloved.
So you abandon your native land for what?
“Try to understand that everyone has buddha nature. Everything that you see in people that is most beautiful, is closest to their true nature” – Lama Ole Nydahl
You abandon your native land to see the world in a different way. To treat people as if their good actions are intentional, and negative actions are out of confusion.
“Verily when good is hungry it seeks food even in dark caves, and when it thirsts it drinks even of dead waters. You are good when you are one with yourself. Yet when you are not one with yourself, you are not evil. For a divided house is not a den of thieves; it is only a divided house. And a ship without rudder may wander aimlessly among perilous isles yet sink not to the bottom.” -Khalil Gibran
Reframing ignorance is one side of the coin - and this is the outward facing part of the path. To help those wandering aimlessly in anger is the epitome of compassion. But the wisdom of solitude is the most precious jewel on the path. The 17th Gyalwa Karmapa speaks clearly on this wisdom.
“I’m not trying to frighten ourselves. But we should practice with the attitude that it’s essentially a way to realize that we can’t overcome change. Meaning that we are not an entity other than change or separate from change. We are change.”
We are change. This is a wisdom that is easy to dismiss as banal. But consider the existential gripes of Franz Kafka.
“I cannot make you understand. I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me. I cannot even explain it to myself”
What does he mean? That there are patterns of experience - whether it be thoughts, sensations, emotions - within him that are so intricately tied to his idiosyncratic worldview, that no one else could understand. Furthermore, so much of it is prelinguistic, that it manifests only as a feeling and impulse. And this is a struggle we all face.
Yet with the wisdom of change - it becomes clear that there is no one you need to explain yourself too. Nothing is fixed, so Kafka’s qualms are unfounded. Explaining to oneself implies something static and independent existing apart from the patterns of phenomena - both internal and external. Take a look, try to find something to hold onto. This is what the monks do - they search for the basis, and find that there is nothing apart from flux. To settle into this is to attain the Buddhaway. And to forget this - is nothing more than hide-and-seek.
The opportunity to become kinder and wiser is upon is. It requires solitude, which is in abundance right now. If the Buddha’s teachings seem far away - why not heed the advice of everyones favourite beat poet.
“Everything is ecstasy inside. Close your eyes, let your hands and nerve endings drop, stop breathing for 3 seconds, listen to the silence inside…and you will remember” -Jack Kerouac
It is as it is.