Of Gods and Jobs

Of Gods and Jobs (from 37P 03: 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva 00:04:41.20 - 00:12:11.20)

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Julia: About the eight worldly concerns?

Well that's exactly what focusing on this life means. You're concerned with happiness and unhappiness, success and failure, gain and loss, fame and obscurity, respect and disdain. That's what one focuses on.

Robert: The words "ordinary gods"?

Sure, The Tibetan is jig rten pai lha (pronounced jig ten pi lha). Jig ten is the word for the world of ordinary experience. And it literally means the container for everything that can be desttroyed, which is a great way to refer to the universe. But what does that mean? Well everything is destroyed by impermanance, and so when it says "the ordinary gods," you'll see this almost always translated as "worldly gods." But again, I just didn't like that in terms of the English. It's standard Buddhist Enlgish, but I'm very tired of Buddhist English and am trying to put it into English English, So that's why I chose the word "ordinary" because these people or these gods have not stepped out of reactive patterns. They're caught up in them in exactly the same way that we are.

Robert: In Buddhism or in the Tibetan text are they actually using the word "gods"?

And again one can look at this in different terms--different ways of interpretation. So to respond to Michelle, the Buddhist role is beating up on the Hindus so they regard Brahma and Vishnu, Indra etc as wordly gods. Indra lives in the heaven with the 33 levels, or the 33-level palace--or whatever it is--and thinks he's lord of the universe. But actually he's just got a hell of a lot of good karma and it's going to last him for a few billion eons. But then he'll be back in the hell realms like the rest of us. And I think it's in the Surangama Sutra--there's a categorization of various forms of meditation and fixations, and the corresponding god realm that you'll be born in. So if you have this kind of fixation you'll become a god who thinks he's the creator of the universe. And if you get this one you'll become a god who thinks he's this, and so forth. And he goes through all of the various notions of deity and tracks them down to coming down from very particular meditation fixations. It's kind of interesting that way--devastating to all the other religions, but that's another matter.

And he definitely uses the word "gods" as something that we regard as higher or superior and has some kind of power to intervene in this. The way that my colleague Michael Conklin and I and a lot of other people now approach this is--well, what are the gods in our society? Well, what are the gods? Beauty, money, thinness, fame. And if you look at Greek mythology, that's exactly who their gods were. Well, there was Aphrodite, beauty, and there was war and some people regard war as a god--Ares that's the Roman name. Mars--Mars is Roman, Ares is the Greek, and so forth.

A mythology consists of the anthropomorphization of our own obsessions. And then it becomes a whole pantheon etc. etc. But that's what our gods are: money, power and so forth. And health is another one. I'm going to be perfectly healthy. A friend of mine who used to counsel people with AIDS--all of these people living such pure lives and in the end they're going to find themselves dying of absolutely nothing.

And when it says "go for refuge" this means where do we go for security? And absolutely in our society people go for security in money. And they think that's where they're going to find security and happiness and fulfilment and it's a bit of a shock that they don't.

In my work in HBO one person left while I was coaching her. And there's a good possibility another person is. So I'm going to have an interesting reputation there. And the reason is, through our interaction they came to, or they're coming to realise that the job they have isn't the sum total of who they want to be. But in the institutional setting, that's exactly what you're trying to sell the person--this job is you. And people are chained into an organization, but it isn't. And one of the things I've found consistently with meditation practice is that after oh about somewhere around 9 months of a consistent mediation practice --sometimes it's a bit longer, sometimes it's two or three years, but it usually begin at around 9 months. People start letting go of their identification of themselves with their job. They still will do their work competently but their job is no longer what they are. And that's a very, very important transition, because it's stopping taking refuge in work, which is exactly what a lot of people do.