Yesterday was quite eventful for me. I was out taking a walk downtown by the river with a friend, and along the way I ran into this guy I know from my sangha. He has just graduated High School, and has slowly began to come around to meditation less and less these days. A lot of it has to do with the fact that he is partying and experimenting with drugs. So we ran into him and his friends and he was very happy to see me, he gave me a big hig and introduced me to all his friends as “a devout Buddhist that he really looks up to”… wow, no pressure hugh? Surprisingly, his friends were happy to meet me and started asking me all kinds of questions about meditation and Buddhism; also, some questions about other eastern religions that they thought were Buddhist, but that I was able to answer anyway since I studied them all.
After a while they said that they had to go to the bar to see this band they really like perform named The Heavy. One of his friends hugged me as well and he invited me and my friend to meet them at the bar. I could not speak for my friend and me so I said that we would finish our walk and consider going to see the band as an option. We parted ways and as my friend and I walked on I told them that I wanted to go to the show. Part of the reason was the whole “living in the moment” thing, but the main reason was that it was very kind of them to invite us and who are we to think that it was beneath us to do? Also, it would really let the guy who has dropped away from the sangha some know that he is accepted, ok, and not judged.
When I was a youth pastor I did stuff like this all the time; I wasn’t “trained” to do it, in-fact… the leaders would get really mad that I did it, but my groups were always the closest-knit and the healthiest. I did it because I care about people, especially the young ones, especially the ones going through a bit of a rough time. It is just ingrained in me, part of my make-up.
We went to the show and had a blast. By the way, The Heavey is really good, and they seemed like nice people. It has been a while since I have been in a show/bar environment, but I had a good time. I left that scene when I quit drinking and drugs, and have not felt comfortable being back in a club for a while now, but this time it was ok. I think that it was because I had a good Buddhist friend with me, and that we were there for a good reason — with good intent. The guy from the sangah was so happy to see us there and we had a great time listening to the band, and that eventually led into some pretty deep talks about where he was at in life, what he is going through, and about the practice.
The night turned into us sitting outside and talking. He feels bad, like he is sinning or disapointing people, because he is experimenting with drugs and drinking. I think it (the guilt) also has something to do with his father who has some addictions of his own. I told him that he is ok, accepted, and to stop being so hard on himself; that would not get him anywhere (guilt, shame, etc.). I don’t really think there is “sin”, but that there is just skillful actions that help us in our practice, and unskillful ones. After making him feel very accepted I then added to it that, “Even though I accept all this I want you to know I would still really rather you stop; that it is not going to help you in the end; that this is all just going to be empty for a while.” Sure it is fun at first, but it ends up hollow and empty, but maybe you will figure that out after tonight, maybe it will take more time, or, maybe you are going to have to hit rock-bottom first? I don’t know, I hope it is sooner vs later, but either way I am your friend.
After the show was over I got invited to go with all the kids to some after party at one of their houses. I decided to go.
Everyone there as very nice to me, and were all very high. It winds up that the house was the home of a local pot and E dealer, and just about everyone there was rolling. The night started with people playing music on guitars, sing-alongs by a fire, and some really deep talks about meditation and Buddhism. Nobody had a bad reaction to it, and I even got to show some people how to sit and explain somethings in-depth. After a while though the drugs degraded the party to a bunch of zombie-kids, grinding their teeth, zoning out, and desperate for water.
The best talk I had with them was about IF there was a valid place for drugs in meditation.
I told them that there are many cultures and religions (especially older ones like in native cultures, shamans, pagans, etc.) drugs do sometimes come into play for certain “satori” experiences. I then described that it basically boils down to the thought that there is body, mind and spirit, and that there is a belief that for some reason the flesh-body is imprisoning the spirit and these drugs will help set it free… for a moment. I then said that the same train of thought applies to practices where people are trying to starve themselves, fast, hurt their bodies, or deny themselves pleasures… all in an attempt to beat the flesh down so the spirit can rise above.
This though, is not Buddhism. Are some of the experiences these people are having legitimate? Maybe. Probably. Who am I to say they are not, and how did so many different cultures come up with similar ideas if there was not some element of truth to it? Does this make the practice a good one though? I don’t personally think so.
I ended the discussion with bringing it back to the life of the Buddha, and also a bit of Dogen. I said that the Buddha tried many different things in his search for enlightenment, some even the things mentioned above, and that he did come to certain “experiences” of awakening during these things. But he was always disappointed in the fact that as soon as the fasting, starving, punishment, denials or in their case… the drugs were over, that the experience was over with it. Disappointed that there was nothing to take with him after that “great moment” had ended that was going to follow him through his daily life and make him a better person on a day-to-day basis in the real world. It was because of that he searched further and found the Middle Way. Dogen had a very similar experience/want out of his practice as well.
I mentioned that a consistent, daily, meditation practice is like having a good marriage. Sure sometimes it may get to be a bit dull or boring; sometimes it is hard, but the long lasting benefits of security and love far-outlast everything else you could find in a temporary romance. Maybe it is fun to run off to a bar and hook-up with some random person you don’t even know and have that one-night-stand; maybe you can have a great time with a hooker, but these things, as fun as they are, will never compare to the long-lasting benefits you will find in a committed relationship. They also will cause you harm after a while, while the marriage will not. So basically, the drug experience may be valid, but it is the one night stand or the hooker, and a daily meditation practice is the marriage that will get you through and actually fill that void instead of causing more of them.
Oh well, that was my night. I was invited to come back tonight for one of their birthday parties and I think that I am going to. Man, I wish someone would hire me to the a Buddhist youth pastor:)
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