In General, the Best Men and Women Now Go into Business and Science, And Not Religion or Politics Anymore
There are two things my teacher never tells others to do: (1) He never tells people to get married or divorced, and (2) he never tells them to become a monk or nun. Such things are people's own decision, their own karma.
For instance, let's say someone asks you if they should marry so-and-so and they do. When trouble ensues (which is the case for most marriages nowadays) they typically blame YOU with some blurted out response: "But I married him/her because YOU told me so." It's their karma, their decision, their responsibility, their life and yet you'd be surprised how many people resort to this sort of thing and try to make it YOUR fault -- silly and stupid, they insinuate that you CAUSED them to get married because you gave them an opinion.
I've seen it countless times, so I know my teacher's approach to say little or nothing is one of wisdom for such topics. Only if there's a big catastrophe in store will he make any warning. "Marriage is marriage and divorce is divorce. It's just that simple," he always says. He's right -- take responsibility.
If you buy a stock because your broker said it was good and the price drops, you blame him but it's your decision to follow his recommendation. If it goes up, you usually claim the credit. See how one-sided we are? In actual fact, you are responsible for following or not following his recommendation -- that decision to listen or not (unless it is a discretionary account) is YOURS, so don't blame him/her. They're just doing the best they can do. Ultimately it's your karma.
Now the more difficult one is becoming a monk or nun. Countless people come to him and ask that type of question.
First of all, when that happens usually they just want to avoid something in the world or think it's a way to have a peaceful life and run away from the world. Sometimes they're just floating up a trial balloon to get some sort of comment. Many times they are actually a failure in the regular world. This happens more than you would think -- I believe, after meeting and talking to monks/nuns/etc. that a lot of these people have wacky minds and could not exist in the real world. They couldn't even hold a job there. Too many stories to relate, but my friends all say the same thing from their personal experiences, which is a sad comment, isn't it. They also tell me that they never want to "deal with religious people as volunteers" again because they're so hard to deal with, but that's another story.
People who claim they want to become monks or nuns may say they want to cultivate but I have RARELY seen those same people cultivate in the regular world tot he extent that the "desire" to become a monk or nun is justified. It's like someone who says they wish they were a millionaire so they could give lots of charity, but as it is now they don't even make $5 donations! No, you have to be suspicious of this sort of thing until your wisdom muscles grow ... what do they REALLY want? That doesn't mean there are not people qualified to become monks and nuns, etc. just that I agree with him with what I have seen, too.
Be careful in becoming a monk or nun because if you don't work hard at cultivation, you use up all your good karma living an enjoyable life without much responsibility, and the amount you'll owe to others will be too incredible to mention. It's something to fear unless you are really devoted.
Unfortunately, the era of the great monks and nuns is over. As he has said many times, the real dharma is now in the hands of the laymen. Knowing all sorts of monks from Asian countries -- Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Ceylon, Tibet, Nepal, and so forth ... and knowing all sorts of priests and rabbis and reverends ... I would tend to agree with him. In Christianity, I know countless people "more spiritual" or learned than their non-layman spiritual superiors, so even here it tends to be the case. The quality of the religious professionals has gone down hill, for sure.
Now before you get all iffy and riled on this, remember that this is just a general observation. It's like saying, "The US has gone downhill." There's a yes and no, truth and over-generalization component to it, and yet there is truth to it
This is just a general observation on thousand year social trends, so of course there are exceptions. You should know that, so don't get so picky. Consider yourself lucky, however, when you know/meet a great religious functionary with prajna wisdom and samadhi attainments, but recognize that most monks/nuns are not well educated about even their own religion. They want RELIGION rather than true spiritual practice, and even there they get it wrong again. In the world there are probably less than 50 people with some measure of the Tao (the exact number I cannot reveal), whereas it was hundreds ages ago. Most of these true cultivators have at most just the first dhyana attainment.
As to the number with the 4th dhyana or the Tao and the Bodhisattva bhumis, you're looking at fewer than the five fingers on your right hand, for sure, and once again I'm not going to give you the numbers.
In the China of ancient times, the greatest of people would go into either religion or politics, and certainly not business. Same for India -- the business class was looked down upon and the best went into politics or even the military (did you know most generals and colonels today had PhDs and are REALLY sharp crackers -- I'm impressed with their training, knowledge and ability to lead men). In Europe, the same. In European medieval Christianity, that was particularly so, too. In fact, the only literary people for a time in Europe (the Dark Ages) were the monastics, who actually preserved the European learning tradition during that difficult era.
Today the best and brightest tend to go into science and business. Look at the investment bankers at Morgan Stanley or Goldman Sachs, come to know them and you'll be impressed at their knowledge, learning, people skills, grooming, and culture. Forget about what they do for a living, but recognize that the cultural rounding off and "grooming" is above anything you can expect most anywhere else.
I'm not just talking about investment bankers, I'm talking about business in general ... the movers, doers and shakers and want-to-find-out or make it happen or change the world people are here. These are people who want to do things in the world, who create new management movements and try to incorporate ideals of self-actualization. Religion cannot keep up with these folks.
As for science, other inquiring minds and smart people go there -- work that used to be done in monasteries where learning could take place because those places were removed from the outside demands of the world, and there was time and peace to try things. Accounting was invented in Western monasteries and so was the field of genetics. Medical advancements, too. Same in Eastern monasteries with studies of chemistry and astronomy, etc.
Of course many scientists tend to be a bit superstitious or narrow-minded, but I'm not going into that. Yet, that is a noted problem particularly with doctors and scientists. They cannot take 100 examples of gong-fu from all sorts of traditions but reject things saying, "I'm a scientist" as if that makes them right and makes all these accounts wrong. In cultivation, the proof comes from personal achievement, the records of achievement are written, the steps to achievement are given, the path is hard, and if you don't achieve it then it doesn't mean it isn't true or doesn't exist ... it just means your gong-fu isn't high enough yet.
If you think you have achieved a certain stage of cultivation and yet you lack the requisite signs of gong-fu, you don't have it. It doesn't mean it doesn't exist. It just means you haven't achieved it. People who say it doesn't exist simply don't cultivate or, thinking they're smarter or more deserving or gifted than others, think "If it was really so then I of all people would have reached that stage but since I have not then it doesn't exist." All these people make the mistakes of (1) clinging to things and (2) clinging to the ego, both of which, as you know, are the barriers to ANY sort of success in cultivation.
All right, back to the main point. What I have observed and my teacher has observed is that the best and brightest are no longer found in the field of spiritual cultivation, which was the whole point of this essay. Only once have I seen him recommend that an individual become a monk because his fortune was so bad that it would have helped extend his life.
Now, if you want to actually practice spiritual cultivation you cannot simply follow the road of RELIGION, but must follow the road of true spiritual cultivation practice. Remember that the two are different.
One is basically the stage of worship and study and good deeds and virtue, which you have to do anyway ... but the real practice is learning how to let go of thoughts, and get to the fundamental substrate below everything that we call God, or the original nature. Prayer doesn't do it ... but samadhi-achievement oriented prayer practice does. Ceremonies don't do it, either. Reading and memorizing religious texts, pulling apart the Bible or Talmud or Buddhist sutras or Hindu Upanishads or Koran doesn't do it either. That's just intellectual study.
Sorry but you have to CULTIVATE practice, intensified practice. That means meditation to free your mind of thoughts and practicing spiritual yoga. Now Measuring Meditation will tell you how to do that and there are other books as well but the point is that you have a choice, you can cultivate practice or simply stay with the 99.999999999999999999999999999999...% that follow religious practices only, accumulate bit of merit, die, go some place, and then get reborn again and start over until they get some measure of the Tao and some inkling of what true cultivation practice is and learn how to control birth and death.
Yes the conventional world of phenomena is all maya, samsara, illusion, not real anyway and yet conventionally it does exist, it does function, cause and effect operates in this effervescent realm, there is suffering that is experienced (however unreal it is from the ULTIMATE standpoint), and so forth. So you have a choice to let this world toss you around, or become an actor in this play who is allowed to choose their part ... rather than have it assigned due to inalterable karma of past lives ... and can achieve what they choose to achieve and do what they want to do (that's the Bodhisattva vow). It's up to you.
To master this realm involves cultivation -- you have to learn how to control your mind, which means how NOT to let thoughts or emotions control you and IMPEL you along karma, how to achieve and maintain samadhi consciousness, how to enter the Tao and express it or work with it.
So my point is that you better hit the books and start studying if you want to learn how to practice correctly, because you're not usually going to get good guidance from a monk or nun. Honestly. I have heard just as many errors come out of the mouths of these folks as anyone else.
Just because someone is a religious functionary wearing robes doesn't mean they know how to do things correctly (that's like assuming that because President Clinton is in the oval office he'll resist the temptation of playing around with an intern). They should, but they don't anymore.
Secondly, yes you can practice while in the regular business world and yes, you have to bring the results of your practice into the world, including what you do for a living. You don't have to cultivate in a monastery and if you do make enough progress one day that a retreat is required (or celibacy) then you'll know it when you reach that stage. Until then, don't think that those conditions will enable you to achieve it. It's like all the people who tell me they want to become writers and when you ask them if they ever wrote ANYTHING the answer is no. As for me, I simply pick up the pen and write--that's how you do it.
Granted, it's more difficult this way to achieve the Tao in the regular world, but what choice do you have ... what else are you going to do?
And as for the monks and nuns, remember that they might be a little bit "off" in the head or their noggins just aren't working (strange notions galore, I tell you), and yet you might know that and be afraid to say something because they are a monk or nun. Now you have read an essay that's simply saying, "trust your own wisdom."
Anyway, I hope I shed a bit of light on these topics, and I hope my words have a bit of wisdom to them. Enjoy the laugh!
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