Strah i ljubav iz perspektive budizma

Neka uplašeni postanu neustrašivi,
a oni tugom pritisnuti pronađu radost.
Neka se oni koji su zabrinuti oslobode brige,
osete blaženstvo sigurnosti.

Šantideva1 (indijski budistički pesnik i mudrac iz VIII veka)

U svojoj suštini, budizam kao praksa može se nazvati putem spasenja. On pri tome nije zaokupljen bogom ili fizičkim i metafizičkim svetom, već prvenstveno čovekom, njegovim životom i načinima kako je iz tog života moguće eliminisati patnju. Takvo spasenje od patnje ne zavisi od bilo kakvog rituala, ni od neupitne vere, ni od božanske milosti, već jedino od dubokog razumevanja sopstvenog uma i načina na koji on vidi i konstruiše svet u kojem živimo. Dakle, ono što nas oslobađa jeste isključivo iskustveno znanje, razumevanje. Pri tome, možemo reći da dve glavne sile koje dominiraju i usmeravaju naš um, a time i ceo naš život, jesu strah i ljubav, sile odbijanja i privlačenja. Zato je očigledno veoma važno da dobro razumemo te dve emocije, mehanizme njihovog funkcionisanja i način na koji to razumevanje može doprineti našoj dobrobiti.

Suočavanje sa strahom

Buda je posvetio veliku pažnju emocijama kakva je strah, opisujući kako je i sam njime bio obuzet. Tako u svom Govoru o strahu i strepnji2 opisuje kako je sebe vežbao u njegovom prevazilaženju, tako što bi noć provodio na osamljenim mestima, poput nekog svetilišta u šumi, za koja su obični ljudi smatrali da ih noću posećuju natprirodna bića i otuda ih se klonili:

I dok sam bivao tamo, događalo se da naiđe neka divlja životinja, da paun prelomi grančicu ili da vetar zašušti među suvim lišćem. I pomislio bih: ‘Šta ako to dolaze strah i strepnja?’ Pomislio bih: ‘Zašto uvek iščekujem taj strah i strepnju da se pojave? Kako bi bilo da ih savladam tako što ću ostati u istom položaju u kojem su me i zatekli, sve dok ne prođu? Dok sam hodao, strah i strepnja me obuzeše; ne bih stajao, seo, niti legao sve dok ne bih savladao taj strah i strepnju. Dok sam stajao, strah i strepnja me obuzeše; ne bih hodao, seo, niti legao sve dok ne bih savladao taj strah i strepnju…

Bilo je to njegovo direktno suočavanje sa strahom, emocijom sa kojom se i svako od nas suočava svakoga dana. I šta je naša prva reakcija kada nas obuzme strah? Očajnički pokušavamo da ga se što pre oslobodimo, da što pre pronađemo bilo kakvo mesto sigurnosti. Buda je imao drugi plan, gledajući na strah kao na svako drugo iskustvo, čija vrednost se krije upravo u tome što na osnovu njega možemo sebe bolje upoznati. Nije panično okretao leđa strahu, već ga je naprotiv gledao pravo u oči, ostajao sa njim do kraja, nastojao da razume odakle dolazi i šta se sa nama događa kada nas preplavi.

Tako je uočio da, ako poverujemo u ono što nam strah govori, on može biti krajnje destruktivan i parališući. U Govoru Sigali3 Buda strah označava kao jedan od četiri razloga zbog kojeg ljudi čine loša dela. Ostala tri su žudnja, bes i neznanje. Strah kao motiv u našem svakodnevnom životu je dakle destruktivan. Tako, čak i ako činimo nešto dobro, ali vođeni samo strahom, takvo delo se ipak smatra nečistim (avisuddha). To bi mogao biti slučaj ako recimo darujemo nešto nekome vođeni ne darežljivošću, već strahom da nas drugi ne smatraju tvrdicom ukoliko mu ništa ne damo. To što nas pokreće tada nije dobrota našeg srca, već samo želja da se pred drugima pokažemo kao velikodušni. Otuda Buda svako delo nije kvalifikovao u apsolutnom smislu, već samo u relaciji prema motivu koji ga pokreće. Potpuno isto delo može biti sasvim različito po svom etičkom karakteru, jer je upravo motiv koji stoji iza njega ono što ga čini dobrim ili rđavim, vrednim pohvale ili kritike. I tu leži jedan od razloga tolikog insistiranja na razvijanju pažnje u okviru budističkog mentalnog treninga, kako bismo mogli da na vreme prepoznamo motive koji nas pokreću, a onda u skladu sa njihovim karakterom delamo ili odustanemo od delanja.

Za razliku od nekih drugih religija, gde strah od božije kazne igra važnu ulogu kao motivacija religijskih aktivnosti i etičkog ponašanja, u budizmu to nije slučaj, iz prostog razloga što budizam ne poznaje kategoriju svemoćnog boga koji nagrađuje i kažnjava. Ovakav primer ide potpuno u prilog tezi da čovek nije moralan samo iz straha od kazne, već da svako od nas poseduje u sebi biološki i socijalno ugrađen moralni kompas. Ono što budiste „nagrađuje“ i „kažnjava“ su sama ta dela, njihov etički kvalitet koji oblikuje um budista, čini ih zadovoljnim ili potištenim, ispunjava samopoštovanjem ili stidom. To je nagrada koju oni priželjkuju i kazna koje se pribojavaju. Naravno, pri svemu tome presudno je da li smo se oslobodili neznanja, pogrešnog razumevanja šta je tačno to što radimo. Kao što smo se svi mnogo puta uverili, naša sposobnost samoobmane je velika, te su otuda zabluda ili neznanje naši najveći neprijatelji. Zato Buda, opisujući ljude uronjene u neznanje, obuzete konfuzijom, kaže:

Ne plaše se strašnog, a plaše onog što strašno nije.
Kad tako pogrešno vide stvari, bića u mnoge nevolje srljaju.4

Strah kao prepreka i kao motivacija

Ako malo bliže osmotrimo ulogu koju strah igra u budističkoj, pa i u indijskoj religijskoj misli, njegova dvostruka priroda postaje očigledna. Sa jedne strane, strah je prirodno stanje bića zahvaćenog bujicom saṃsāre, večnog kruženja iz jedne u drugu egzistenciju. Bazične, neporecive činjenice života, kao što su rođenje, bolest, starost ili smrt, izazivaju strah u svakom živom biću i tu nema ničega spornog. Ali tu se u svojoj analizi ne treba zaustaviti, već uložiti napor da uvidimo kako je upravo isti taj strah nužni sastojak onog stanja uma koje karakteriše nastojanje da se napusti krug saṃsāre i dostigne budistički ideal potpune oslobođenosti. Za one koji su u tome uspeli, Buda kaže: „Otišli su iza svakog straha i mržnje, umakli su patnji svakoj“.

Tako vidimo da strah ima i svoju negativnu i svoju pozitivnu stranu, on može da nas parališe, ali i motiviše. A kada tvrdimo da je strah loš ili dobar, uvek moramo imati u vidu konkretnu situaciju, ugao iz kojeg posmatramo. To što smo se uplašili u borbi je loše za nas, ali jako dobro za neprijatelje, jer će paralisati našu odbranu i njihov posao učiniti mnogo lakšim. Zato budistička vizura znači nastojanje da prevaziđemo taj nivo dualnosti, nepomirljivo razdvojenih antipoda, tako što ćemo svaku stvar posmatrati jednostavno kao činjenicu života, nešto što je dobro ili loše tek u relaciji, odnosu prema nečem drugom. I upravo se to događa kada vidimo kako naš neprobuđeni um sve stavlja u relaciju prema onom zamišljenom središtu našeg bića koje nazivamo „ja“, „moje“, „mene“. Time tom entitetu ujedno dodajemo jedna suvišan sloj relacije, koji on objektivno nema. Naravno, naš um se tu ne zaustavlja i objektivnu prirodu bilo koje stvari ili pojave obavija sve novim slojevima subjektivnih projekcija: dobro-loše, lepo-ružno, pozitivno-negativno, poželjno-nepoželjno, smešno-tužno, vredno-bezvredno i tako u beskraj. Sve te kategorije pripadaju svetu uslovljenih relacija. Zato, da bi bolje opisali ove različite slojeve našeg unutrašnjeg doživljaja sveta, budistički mislioci govore o dve istine: konvencionalnoj i apsolutnoj. Prema prvoj, strah je recimo nešto nepoželjno, što treba pobediti, eliminisati, uništiti. Prema drugoj, strah je samo to što jeste – činjenica života. Možemo je postati svesni, ali ne i nužno pokušavati da njome na bilo koji način manipulišemo. Zašto? Zato što živimo u svetu koji suštinski definiše činjenica prolaznosti. Tako je i strah samo jedna prolazna pojava, emocija koja se, kada su uslovi povoljni, pojavi, traje jedno vreme i zauvek nestane.Često naše nevešto uplitanje u taj prirodni tok stvari znači samo dodavanje nove energije toj pojavi i njeno veštačko produžavanje.

Ovakvo dvostruko gledanje na strah, kao i na sve druge sadržaje našeg uma, lako je uočiti u budističkim tekstovima. Buda je tu, recimo, neko ko u nama i izaziva i smiruje strah, sve zavisi od stanja našeg uma. On svojim učenjem u neprobuđenim umovima upravo izaziva strah od probuđenja, jer ne želimo da napustimo zonu komfora i ugrozimo same temelje našeg bića kako ih mi vidimo. A radi se zapravo o iluziji da u središtu našeg bića obitava trajno, nepromenljivo sopstvo, to neprikosnoveno „ja“, u odnosu na koje merimo čitav ovaj svet. Buda nam uporno govori da je upravo to „ja“, ta iluzija, najdublji izvor našeg straha i naše patnje. Zato što ga uzimamo kao apsolutnu vrednost i svaki njegov kapric, prohtev, zapovest bespogovorno izvršavamo. Tek svrgavanje tog „tiranina“ sa njegovog trona omogućuje nam da od roba postanemo svoji gospodari, da iz stanja neprekidnih žudnji za zadovoljstvima čula i straha da nećemo dobiti to za čime toliko žudimo, stignemo do sreće unutrašnjeg mira. A to svrgavanje moguće je jedino kada, razvijajući kroz meditaciju kvalitet svesnosti i jasnog razumevanja uvidimo gde se krije naš glavni problem. Kako to opisuje jedan savremeni budistički učitelj, gonjeni sopstvenim egom…

mnogo godina života provedemo u strepnji, brigama, frustraciji i strahu. Kako bi bilo lepo ako bismo bili u stanju da makar smanjimo ove negativne emocije koje nam oduzimaju sposobnost da uživamo u svom životu… Kada postoji svesnost, naš um se održava u ravnoteži. Kad sretnemo osobu koja pati, u stanju smo da joj pomognemo zato što nas tuga i bes neće ophrvati. Uspevamo da sebe držimo pod kontrolom. Kada isto tako sretnemo srećnu osobu, osetimo se srećnim, ali ne moramo da osetimo zavist ili žudnju. Ljudi često osete zavist u takvim okolnostima. Ali ako smo u stanju da osetimo patnju bez besa i radost bez zavisti, onda je to ono što se naziva spokojstvo, sreća unutrašnjeg mira.5

Otvaranje srca

Ravnoteža, stabilnost uma o kojoj je reč u ovom citatu rezultat je razumevanja i uklanjanja straha, ali isto tako i činjenice da našim umom i srcem sada gospodari jedna druga emocija, a to je ljubav. I dok strah znači zatvaranje, kontrakciju, ljubav ima potpuno drugačiju tendenciju. Ona naš um vodi ka otvaranju, brisanju granica između „ja“ i onoga što ga okružuje. Upravo to nam omogućuje da sebe i okruženje vidimo i razumemo na novi, senzibilniji, mudriji način.

Naravno, reč „ljubav“ ima mnoštvo konotacija i koristi se u najrazličitijim kontekstima, u kojima ova reč nema isto značenje. Kada izjavimo: „Volim da gledam horor filmove“, zapravo hoćemo da kažemo da nam se takvi filmovi sviđaju. Razlika je bitna. Slično Hristu, i Buda je govorio o tome da volimo svoje neprijatelje, ali to ne znači da oni treba da nam se sviđaju. Kako bi uopšte mogli da nam se sviđaju? No, možemo da ih volimo, što znači da nećemo učiniti ništa da ih povredimo. Nećemo ostati zarobljeni mržnjom prema njima. Možemo biti dobronamerni prema svojim neprijateljima, poželeti im da bes i bol u njihovom srcu zamene radost i mir. To mogu biti neprijatni ljudi i oni nam se verovatno ne sviđaju, ali možemo da ih volimo u smislu koji smo upravo pomenuli. Ovde ne govorimo o nekakvoj idealizovanoj ljubavi, već o sasvim ljudskoj sposobnosti da jednostavno ostanemo pribrani, dobronamerni, umesto da podlegnemo instinktivnom i recipročnom impulsu besa, ogorčenja i mržnje prema nečemu ili nekome za koga mislimo da nam ne ukazuje dovoljno poštovanja ili se ponaša nefer prema nama. To znači da ostajemo u domenu budističkog razumevanja ljubavi, koja se označava višeznačnim pali terminom mettā (na sanskritu maitri).Metta bi se na srpski mogla prevesti svim ovim terminima koje smo do sada upotrebljavali: prijateljska ljubav, dobronamernost, prijateljstvo, nenasilnost. Buda je u čuvenoj Mettā sutti definiše ovako:

Neka niko nikog ne obmanjuje,
niti vređa bilo kada, bilo gde.
Nek ne poželi drugome da pati,
gonjen besom ili mržnjom.

Kao što bi majka rizikovala život
da zaštiti dete, svoje jedino čedo,
na isti način negovati treba
bezgraničnu ljubav za sva bića.6

Buda, dakle, ovde lestvicu postavlja prilično visoko, a zadatak možda čitavog našeg života biće da je dosegnemo. U isto vreme, moramo priznati da nam u današnjem svetu manjka mette, jer smo suviše razvili svoje kritičke sposobnosti. Ako posmatramo sopstveni um u svakodnevnim situacijama, on je neprekidno u stanju analiziranja i kritikovanja. Iz nekog razloga, vrlo smo skloni da svemu tražimo manjkavost, lavovski deo vremena provedemo kritikujući ili sebe ili druge. Ovaj disbalans u gledanju na stvari kojeg uglavnom nismo ni svesni lepo ilustruje sledeća priča budističkog učitelja iz vremena kada je kao mlad monah gradio novi manastir. Slaganje cigala nije bio lak zadatak za bivšeg teorijskog fizičara, ali je ipak na kraju uspeo da podigne zid. No, istog trenutka kada ga je završio, shvatio je – o ne! – dve cigle u zidu bile su ukrivo postavljene. Budući da je po prirodi perfekcionista, prva misao bila mu je da sruši zid i ponovo ga napravi, ali starešina manastira mu to nije dopustio.

Tako sam mesecima izbegavao da prođem pored tog zida, a i kad bih morao, okrenuo bih glavu na drugu stranu. Jednog dana, posetilac kojem sam pokazivao naš novi manastir zaustavio se upravo kraj „mog“ zida i sa osmehom prokomentarisao: „Baš lepo urađen zid“.

Nisam mogao da verujem sopstvenim ušima. „Gospodine, mora da se šalite. Ili nemate pri sebi naočare. Zar ne vidite te dve pogrešno postavljene cigle kako štrče i kvare čitav zid!“

Ono što mi je posetilac odgovorio, promenilo je čitav moj život. „Da, naravno da vidim te dve cigle, ali vidim i ostalih 998 koje su savršeno postavljene! One daleko nadmašuju te dve greške i zato zaslužuju da ih posmatramo kao širu sliku, kao ceo zid. Tada vidimo da je to jedan jako dobro obavljen posao.“7

Priroda je neuvežbanog uma da uvek u svetu vidi ono što je po njemu pogrešno, umesto da uoči mnoštvo dobroga oko nas. To nažalost često izaziva mnogo depresije i straha u našim životima. Metta, ljubav, međutim, znači ne prepustiti se takvoj averziji, biti blagonaklon i strpljiv, čak i prema onome što percipiramo kao loše, pogrešno, iritirajuće, kao našu ili tuđu grešku. Lako je biti blag prema lepim, umiljatim životinjama, kao što su naši kućni ljubimci. Lako je biti blagonaklon prema ljudima koji nam se sviđaju, prema bakama i dekama, naročito kada ne moramo sa njima da živimo pod istim krovom. Lako je biti blagonaklon prema onima koji sa nama dele ista politička, filozofska ili estetska uverenja, prema onima koji nas ne ugrožavaju na bilo koji način. Ali je daleko teže takav biti sa onim što nam se ne dopada, što nas iritira ili nam je odbojno. Za to je potrebno daleko više strpljenja i istrajnosti u praksi.

A u toj praksi, kao i uvek, moramo krenuti od samih sebe. U tradicionalnom budističkom vežbanju, vežbanje mette uvek započinjemo tako što negujemo ljubav prema samima sebi. To ne znači da ćemo jednostavno reći: „Oh, kako ja volim sebe! Ja sam zaista jedna divna osoba!“ i ostati na tome. Umesto toga, kada praktikujemo mettu, jednostavno odlažemo sa strane averziju prema sebi. Proširujemo blagonaklonost i razumevanje čak i prema svojim nedostacima i greškama koje smo načinili, prema lošim mislima koje nam se ponekad roje u glavi, lošim raspoloženjima, besu, pohlepi, strahovima, sumnjama, ljubomori i zabludama koje imamo. Prema svemu onome što možda ne volimo kod sebe, bilo da je to naš um ili neki delo tela, koji je nekako uvek duži ili kraći, širi ili uži, svetliji ili tamniji nego što bismo to želeli. Umesto da na sve to gledamo kao na problem – da na taj način napravimo problem– prestajemo da stalno inventarišemo svoje slabosti, greške i nesavršenosti.

Pre nekako, neko mi se požalio: „S vremena na vreme me savlada depresija. Znam da je to loše. Znam da ne bi trebalo da popustim, da bi trebalo toga da se oslobodim, ali ne znam kako.“ Ali šta je to toliko loše sa povremenim stanjem depresije? Zar ih nemamo svi ponekad? Očekujemo da nikada nećemo biti u takvom stanju, zbog ideje da ima nečeg pogrešnog ako se tako osećamo. Život nekada nije suviše prijatan, nekada je upravo deprimirajući. Ne očekujmo da će naš uvek biti prijatan, nadahnjujući i čaroban. Proveo sam nedavno godinu i po u Mjanmaru, studirajući budizam. To je bilo ostvarenje mog davnašnjeg sna. Bio sam izuzetno srećan zbog mesta na kojem sam se nalazio, ljudi kojima sam bio okružen i prilike da se zamonašim. Ali život, ipak, nije uvek i samo prijatan, zanimljiv i lak. Imao sam problem sa hranom, koja je bila vrlo jednolična i, za mene, čak neukusna. Nisam neki gurman, ali eto, to je bio moj najveći izazov, zbog kojeg se moj um često žalio sam sebi, priželjkivao ovu ili onu hranu, priželjkivao da sam negde drugde, dakle išao u pravcu depresije. Pošto sam bio izgubio nekih dvanaest kilograma i uz još neke zdravstvene probleme, javio se strah. Možda sa mojim zdravljem nešto ozbiljno nije u redu? Šta ako umrem od iscrpljenosti?

Onda mi je svesnost signalizirala da moj um postaje nestabilan i malo sam se bolje u njega zagledao. Šta se događa? Shvatio sam da sam postao fiksiran na ono što je neprijatno, da oko svega toga stvaram averziju, suviše komplikujem stvari. Uložio sam malo više energije u to da jednostavno budem tu gde jesam, sa tim što jeste, da to ne osuđujem, da sebe ne osuđujem, ali i da ne nastavljam sa žalopojkama i samosažaljenjem, sa priželjkivanjem da budem recimo kod kuće, umesto na tom divnom univerzitetu. Pojačao sam i svoju praksu, meditirao malo više, naročito mettāmeditaciju, hodao po okolini malo duže. Umesto nedostataka, malo sam se više fokusirao na napore tih divnih ljudi oko mene, koji su se zaista trudili da sve funkcioniše u najboljem redu, osetio zahvalnost i stvari su lagano počele da dolaze na svoje mesto. Sve oko mene je zapravo ostalo isto, ali moje viđenje toga više nije bilo isto. Naučio sam da ne pravim problem sam sebi zbog tih prolaznih poteškoća. U mom srcu mettā je nadvladala odbojnost i strah.

Uzvišena boravišta

Ljubav se, inače, može manifestovati na različite načine. Otuda ne čudi da je met, prijateljska ljubav, prvi i temeljni član poznate tetrade u budizmu nazvane brahma vihāre ili „uzvišena boravišta“. Nju čine još karuṇā (saosećanje), muditā (radost zbog sreće drugih) i upekkhā (spokojstvo). Reč je o stanjima uma koja se zasnivaju na ljubavi, a moguće ih je negovati, razvijati. Na svom najvišem stupnju te emocije su bezgranične, obuhvataju sva živa bića, uključujući i nas same. Na tom nivou, one su ujedno i kvaliteti probuđenog uma, uma koji je uspeo da se oslobodi egoističnih tendencija, manifestovanih kao slepa vezanost za čulna zadovoljstva, za konvencije, pravila i rituale, za osećaj nepromenljivog sopstva u nama i, na kraju, za čvrsto ukorenjena mišljenja i gledišta (diṭṭhupādāna).

Možemo reći da sam temelj sva ova četiri plemenita stanja uma jeste – ljubav. Zato što ona pokazuju našu sposobnost da se, u promenljivim okolnostima koja čine ovaj svet, odnosimo prema drugim bićima i prema sebi na jedan balansiran, zaštitnički, neagresivan način. Ako ne uspemo da razvijemo ove bazične vizure iz kojim posmatramo svet oko sebe, tada ga percipiramo i pristupamo mu na potpuno pogrešan način. Način koji je obeležen strahom i nepoverenjem, posesivnošću, uskogrudošću i frustiranošću zbog sopstvenih nezadovoljenih nadanja i potreba. Suprotno tome, razvijajući prijateljsku ljubav kao jednu konstantu našeg bića, nezavisnu od okolnosti, naša sposobnost da živimo oslobođeni toksičnih stanja krivice, strepnje, ogorčenja, ciničnosti, depresije i straha izrazito se povećava. Da bismo to postigli, ključno je kao i u svim vidovima budističke nege uma, a gore sam opisao tek jedan takav slučaj, da uspostavimo stanje svesnosti, prisutnosti za ono što se događa ovde i sada. To nam omogućuje da uočimo sve pokrete uma, ideje, emocije, fizičke senzacije koje on registruje, impulse i navike, ali da nas one ne zarobe i povedu sa sobom.

Slično kao kada na moru ukotvimo brod, u prilici smo da sa njegove palube posmatramo talase koji se valjaju u svim pravcima, ali smo sigurni da nas neće baciti na opasno stenje. To nam daje dovoljno vremena da uočimo obrasce neprekidnih gibanja uma, šta ih pokreće i kuda nam predlažu da krenemo. Na nama je potom da razmislimo da li je stizanje na to mesto za naše dobro i za dobro drugih ili ne. Svesnost i ovakvo mudro promišljanje daju nam priliku da dopremo do mesta mira, koje je uvek u nama, samo nekada zaklonjeno strahovima, brigama, besom, slično suncu, koje je uvek tu, samo nekada zaklonjeno gustim oblacima. To je važno, jer samo na tom mestu mira u stanju smo da sa punom svesnošću donesemo pravu odluku, umesto da po navici i vođeni svojim strahovima učinimo nešto zbog čega ćemo se kasnije kajati.

Ova kombinacija svesnosti, kao osnove za mudro promišljanje koje uklanja strah, i prijateljske ljubavi, kao osnove za smirivanje burnih valova našeg srca, predstavlja idealnu mešavinu, univerzalni protivotrov nepromišljenom, kompulzivnom srljanju u sve nove nevolje i patnju, čemu smo u svom nestrpljenju tako skloni. Otuda ne čudi da se čitava budistička praksa može svesti na razvijanje dva osnovna kvaliteta uma: mudrosti i ljubavi. To su naša dva glavna utočišta, oslonca, koji nas čine spremnim da se suočimo sa svime onim što nam život neminovno donosi.

Beleške

1 Shantideva (2008), str. 140.
2 Mađđhima nikāya (2020), str. 83. Bhayaberava sutta.
3 Dīgha nikāya (1987), str. 462. Sigālovada sutta.
4 Dhammapada (2012), str. 192.
5 Dhammasami (2014), str. 112.
6 Suttanipāta (2017), str. 179-189.
7 Brahm (2004), str. 7-10.

Literatura

Brahm, Ajahn (2004): Opening the Door of Your Heart and other Buddhist Tales of Happiness. Sydney: Hachette Australia.

Dhammapada: Reči mudrosti (2012, prevod Branislav Kovačević). Čortanovci: TBZS.

Dhammasami, Khammai (2014): Meditacija sabranosti u praksi (prevod Branislav Kovačević). Čortanovci: TBZS.

Dīgha nikāya: The Long Discourses of the Buddha (1987, prevod Maurice Walshe). Boston: Wisdom Publications.

Germer, Christopher (2009): The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion. New York: Guilford Press.

Mađđhima nikāya: Budini govori srednje dužine (2020, prevod Branislav Kovačević). Čortanovci: TBZS.

Olendzki, Andrew (2010): Unlimiting Mind: The Radically Experiental Psychology of Buddhism.Boston: Wisdom Publications.

Silva, Padmasiri de (2014): An Introduction to Buddhist Psychology and Counselling. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Suttanipāta (2017, prevod Bhikkhu Bodhi). Boston: Wisdom Publications.

Shantideva: The Bodhicaryāvatāra (2008, prevod Kate Crosby i Andrew Skilton). Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Metta

Priča kaže da je neka kobra bila toliko impresionirana blagošću monaha koji je živeo u šumskoj isposnici u blizini, da je zamolila da postane njegova učenica. Monah pristade i znajući da zmije mogu biti vrlo eksplozivne, pomisli kako je najbolje da je poduči metta meditaciji, dakle meditaciji bezgranične ljubavi. Kobra se pokazala kao dobra učenica, redovno je meditirala i kao rezultat toga postala dobrodušnija. Jednoga dana, dok je ležala na suncu, primetila je nedaleko od sebe neku ženu kako skuplja drva za ogrev. Umesto da šmugne u gustiš ili da se uspravi, raširi vrat i tako je uplaši, kao što je to do tada radila, ona odluči da ostane tu gde jeste i zrači mettu prema njoj. Žena se sve više približavala, sve dok nije nakupila dovoljno pruća, a onda poče da se obazire ne bi li našla nešto čime će uvezati snop. Kad je ugledala kobru, pomislila je da je komad puzavice, te je zgrabi za rep, obmota oko onog granja snažno je uvrćući, te je uveza u čvor. Na kraju natovari svežanj na leđa, pa ode kući. Kad je stigla, razvezala je onu “puzavicu” i zavitlala je ne đubrište. Izubijana, izlomljena i sva u bolovima, jadna kobra se nekako dovuče do isposnice i ispriča monahu šta se dogodilo. “Rekao si mi da negujem mettu, a evo šta sam zauzvrat dobila”, jadala se kobra. Monah na to odogovori: “Samo zato što imaš u sebi mettu, ne znači da ne možeš ponekad i da malo zašištiš”.

Ispričao pošt. Šravasti Dhammika


Knjiga na poklon, i dalje!

Interesovanje za naše poslednje izdanje je veliko, do sada smo distribuirali oko 250 primeraka. Zato nastavljamo akciju, pa ponavljam post od pre nešto manje od mesec dana.

Sa velikom radošću mogu da vas obavestim da je moj prevod Budinih govora srednje dužine (Mađđhima nikaya), jedne od glavnih knjiga budističkog kanona, najzad odštampan. Theravada budističko društvo u Srbiji će svima koji su zainteresovani pokloniti po jedan primerak. Dovoljno je da pošaljete svoje ime, adresu i broj mobilnog na mejl budizam@yahoo.com. Knjiga će vam biti poslata brzom poštom, tako da je vaše samo da platite poštarinu, koja je zbog veličine knjige (1130 strana) između 250 i 300 dinara.

Čitajte izvorne Budine govore, ne njihova prepričavanja iz treće ruke. ☸️


Monahinje iz nužde

Mingalar Thaikti je ženski manastir u Jangunu, Mjanmar, u kojem je utočište našlo 66 kandidatkinja za monahinje, starosti od 4 do 18 godina. Devojčice dolaze iz Palaung etničke zajednice, u istočnom delu Šan pokrajine, gde se već godinama vodi sukob između pobunjeničkih grupa i mjanmarske vojske.

Dhama Theingi, jedna od devojčica, sanja da postane inženjer i u manastiru se priprema za ispit koji je u rangu srednje škole. Dva dana u nedelji, posle jutarnje službe, kreće sa ostalima ulicama Janguna u sakupljanje hrane, kašiku nekuvanog pirinča, ili mali novčani prilog.

Sve više dece tragaju za utočištem u manastirima, što je posledica mnogih konflikata u zemlji između pobunjenika i zvanične vojske. Tako, samo u Jangunu u 2019. zaređenih maloletnika oba pola bilo je preko 18.000.

Pogledajte kratak video o ovoj temi ovde.


Veliko biće

Pun mesec – 26. maj 2021. – Vesak

Za koga ni dalja, ni bliža
obala ne postoje, nijedna od njih,
takvog neustrašivoga, bez ikakvih spona,
ja velikim bićem zovem.

Dhammapada, 385

Svi volimo da se osećamo sigurnim i bezbednim. Pre probuđenja, budući Buda tragao je za sigurnošću preuređujući okolnosti u spoljašnjem svetu, kako bi odgovarale njegovim sklonostima. Ali tek kada je, u dvadeset devetoj godini, zapravo uočio činjenicu da bez obzira koliko god te okolnosti bile prijatne i poželjne, ništa od toga ga ne može zaštititi od neprilika i neprijatnosti starosti, bolesti i smrti. Od tada je ta tri „znaka“ nazivao nebeskim glasnicima, jer su u njemu razbudili interesovanje da traga za sigurnošću kroz negovanje svesti, umesto da samo manipuliše spoljašnjim okolnostima. Ono što je otkrio je da sve dok pokušavamo da nađemo osećaj sigurnosti i zaštićenosti, tako što ćemo se uporno držati za čvrsto fiksirana gledišta ili za ono što posedujemo, uvek ćemo biti razočarani. Kraj razočarenja dolazi kada okončamo traganje za sigurnošću u onome što se neprekidno menja i otuda je samo po sebi nepouzdano.

Sa dobrim željama
ađan Munindo


Definisanje i odbrana

Vežba: Postani svesna kako sebe definišeš i kako braniš sebe i svoju ličnu teritoriju. Na primer, vidiš li sebe kao liberala ili konzervativca? Osobu slobodnih nazora ili tradicionalnu? Kako braniš tu svoju poziciju? Uoči kako šolja, parking mesto ili sedište u autobusu brzo postane „moje“ i kako reaguješ kada ga neko drugi uzme.

Proveri ovaj proces nekoliko puta tokom dana. Naročito kada postaneš iznervirana ili uznemirena, zapitaj se: „Kako definišem sebe i svoju teritoriju u ovom trenutku?“

PODSEĆANJA
Postavi cedulje na kojima piše „Definisanje i odbrana“ na odgovarajućim mestima.

OTKRIĆA
Ova praksa potiče od učitelja u tibetanskoj budističkoj tradiciji po imenu Majkl Konklin. On drži kurs iz budizma na državnom koledžu blizu našeg manastira. Jedan od zadataka koji daje studentima je da provedu nedelju posmatrajući taj proces „definisanja i odbrane sopstva“. Mnogi studenti to doživljavaju kao pravo otkriće. Glavno otkriće za njih je da u tom procesu učestvuju neprekidno.

Taj proces možemo jasno videti kada definišemo neki određeni fizički prostor tako da nam pripada, stolicu, klupu ili učionicu, sto u omiljenom restoranu, stazu, policu u ormanu ili mesto u sali za vežbanje. Ako neko ne poštuje te nevidljive granice teritorije koju smo obeležili u svojoj glavi, reagujemo na to. Već posle nekoliko minuta pošto smo raširili svoju prostirku za jogu, proglasili smo to mesto za „moje“. U našem manastiru, kada jednom počne meditacijsko povlačenje, moramo biti vrlo oprezni sa premeštanjem jastučića za sedenje, ejr to zaista može da uznemiri neke ljude. Je gde god da se nađemo, nastojimo da napravimo malo, sigurno gnezdo za sebe i onda ga branimo.

Taj proces počinje veoma rano u životu. Zen učitelj Šokaku Okamura priča kako je svog sina poveo u park. Poneli su nekoliko igračaka, kako bi ih njegov sin delio sa drugom decom i tako upoznao neku od američke dece. Ako kada bi se druga deca približila, njegov sin bi zgrabio igračke u naručje i izgovorio svoje prve engleske reči: „Ne, moje!“ Tako se sopstvo rađa i brani. To je prirodan proces u okviru čovekovog razvoja, ali da bismo bili zaista zadovoljni, on mora da se modifikuje u kada odrastemo.

DUBLJE LEKCIJE
Pohlepa nastaje kada mislimo kako nam je neophodno nešto da bismo sebe učinili kompletnim i srećnim. To mogu biti neka kola, kuća, hrana, akademska titula i javno priznanje. To može biti neka druga osoba. Ako ne možemo da imamo ono za čime žudi naše srce, postajemo nesrećni. To znači definisati sebe kroz posedovanje nečeg materijalnog, onoga čega možemo da se dočepamo i onda ga čvrsto držimo.

Mi sebe takođe definišemo kroz svoj mentalni posed, pokazujemo znanje i strasno branimo svoja gledišta. Mislimo: „Moje mišljenje o toj stvari je ispravno i raspravljaću se dok te ne ubedim u to!“ To je zapanjujuće i zabavno, ako razmislimo da u grupi od dvadeset četiri osobe postoje dvadeset tri mišljenja različita do našeg. Zašto smo ubeđeni da je samo naše ispravno?

Bes i nervoza su signali da mi zapravo branimo svoje sopstvo. Bes se javlja kada mislimo da moramo da se otresemo nečega ili nekoga kako bismo bili srećni. To može biti neki političar, bol ili bolest, osoran šeg ili kolega na poslu, nesnosan komšija ili njegov pas koji stalno laje. Ako ne možemo da ih se oslobodimo, postajemo nesrećni. Zašto svet ne saređuje na onome što želim da postignem? I opet, to je zapanjujuće i zabavno. Zašto stvari ne bi išle ona ko kako ja hoću, a ne kako hoće ostalih sedam milijardi ljudi na ovoj planeti?

Mi takođe ne znamo šta je naše sopstvo. Ono nije neka postojana, stabilna stvar. Ono je uvek u kretanju. Sve što nazivamo „ja“ jeste jedan stalno promenljiv proces koji utiče na naša sviđanja i nesviđanja, našu odeću, kosu i svaku ćeliju u našem telu. Svaku udah deo e tog neprekidnog toka. Kada pokušamo da zamrznemo taj svoj osećaj sopstva, time samo stvaramo patnju. („u sebi se osećam kao da mi je trideset, ali spolja ličim kao mi je šezdeset i mrzim to!“)

Zaključak: Nema takve stvari kao što je sopstvo koju bi trebalo braniti, jer u stvarnosti to sopstvo je proces konstantno promenljivih senzacija, uključujući i one koje nazivamo mislima.

(iz knjige Jan Chozen Bays: Kako krotiti divljeg slona i druge avanture sa svesnošću)


SOS

S vremena na vreme mi se jave ljudi koji liče na davljenika na sred okeana. „Pomoć! Moramo se videti. Moram brzo da naučim meditaciju! U sred sam razvoda.“ U takvim situacijama ne mogu a da sa tugom ne pomislim kako je, kada je naš brod na pučini potonuo do pola, malo kasno da tek tada počnemo da učimo da plivamo. Bilo bi nam mnogo lakše da smo krenuli makar malo ranije. A možda se, ko zna, ne bi ni našli u situaciji u kojoj smo. Ili ako bismo se i našli, sigurno na nju ne bismo gledali očima davljenika kao sada.

Pri tome mi se takođe čini izvesnim da sve što davljenik želi jeste da ga neko izvuče na suvo i kada se jednom tamo nađe, učenje plivanja postaće mu ponovo poslednja briga. I to je opet potpuno pogrešan stav, jer sve što želimo je poslovična riba, a ne da naučimo da pecamo. Tako gledamo i na meditaciju, kao na alatku koja će nas ponovo učiniti srećnim, ali srećnim po našim starim kriterijumima, starim navikama. Opet greška! Biramo ponovo tek privid mira, umesto onog istinskog, koji upravo podrazumeva da menjamo te svoje kriterijume i navike. Zar je onda čudno što i ako krenemo da meditiramo, to je kratkog daha, jer pogrešan alat koristimo za pogrešnu svrhu. Jedina svrha za koju budističku meditaciju vredi upotrebiti jeste posmatranje, upoznavanje i preoblikovanje uma. Ni manje ni više od toga. Ali davljenik ne želi da se menja on, već da se promeni voda, da postane čvršća, kako bi po njoj mogao da prešparta do obale. I zato, kad se neko javi glasom očajnika, ja ga čujem kako kaže: „Nauči me da hodam po vodi!“

Nažalost, niti sam Hrist, niti verujem da hodanje po vodi jeste ono što nam zaista treba. To ne znači da u takvim situacijama ne želim da pomognem i tražim nekakvo opravdanje, već samo to da stvari treba gledati jasnim očima. A kod davljenika, više nego kod bilo koga, to je ono najteže. I tu je kvaka. Najteži test na samom početku. Baš kao u svakoj priči o heroju, koja je priča o svakom od nas i našim naporima da stignemo do unutrašnjeg mira, nije heroju najteže da napusti sigurnost doma i otisne se u pustolovinu, već upravo to da i pre toga, na samom početku, dobro razume šta je zapravo ta bajkovita blagodat za kojom traga i koja ga poziva na tu zavodljivu avanturu.


Važna knjiga na poklon

Sa velikom radošću mogu da vas obavestim da je moj prevod Budinih govora srednje dužine (Mađđhima nikaya), jedne od glavnih knjiga budističkog kanona, najzad odštampan. Theravada budističko društvo u Srbiji će svima koji su zainteresovani pokloniti po jedan primerak. Dovoljno je da pošaljete svoje ime, adresu i broj mobilnog na mejl budizam@yahoo.com. Knjiga će vam biti poslata brzom poštom, tako da je vaše samo da platite poštarinu, koja je zbog veličine knjige (1130 strana) između 300 i 400 dinara.

Silence (6)

(part 5)

The Life in Silence and Mind Purified

As we have seen so far, there are noticeable similarities between Christian and Buddhist way of liberation observed from the point of view of Evagrius of Pontus and the Buddha, as well as between their use of silence as a skillful mean to this liberation. For both Evagrian and Buddhist way of self-purification and self-transformation, it takes acquiring a deep self-knowledge. “You want to know God? First know yourself”, advises Evagrius. This knowledge is key to eradicating of all egocentric tendencies that torment us. The path goes through a series of steps building atop each other and minutely described by both teachers. These tendencies and everything else that diverts a mind from his goal was also analyzed into details in both traditions, creating a specific map of mind as a safe guide for spiritual explorers. Thus, Evagrius writes lengthily about his scheme of eight thoughts (logismoi) that are the essence of all negative lines of thinking, giving also advice on how to deal with each of them. This classification is similar to the Buddhist set of five hindrances (nīvaraṇa) as initial difficulties to be faced by an aspiring traveler along the Buddhist path. And as, for example, in the Mahā-Assapura Sutta (M 39), the Buddha also gives advice on how to overcome them. Therefore, and that is remarkable, both ways, Noble Eightfold Path and a path of a hesychast, stress the importance of studying functioning and also purification of the human mind. In both cases, it is recommended for this arduous process to be supported by external and internal silence. Time and again the Buddha recommends solitude of a “root of a tree” or an “empty hut” as a place most favorable for practice: “A bhikkhu delights in solitary meditation and takes delight in solitary meditation; he is devoted to internal serenity of mind, does not neglect meditation, possesses insight, and dwells in empty huts.”1 At the same time, it comes as no surprise that Evagrius, like thousands of other hermits, found his “empty hut”, an abundant source of ascetic silence, in the middle of Egyptian desert.

Indeed, I tell you, love voluntary exile, for it separates you from the circumstances of your own country and allows you to enjoy the unique benefit of practising stillness. Avoid stays in the city, persevere with your stay in the desert.2

Once the silent place was found, the long road of the practical life goes through well-defined phases. In the case of Evagrius, this meant growing in virtue (catharsis), the step which strongly correlates with the Buddhist training in sīla. With the final goal of calming passions (apatheia), a state of mind quite similar to the one designated by the Buddhist term upekkhā. This is achieved through cultivating stillness, also observing, understanding and distancing oneself from logismoi (negative thoughts like anger or pride) caused by passions (or demons).

A certain measure of apatheia allows a hesychast to enter the phase of contemplation, together with gradual acquiring of spiritual vision and insight (theoria). This is achieved by maintaining mind focused, the method which resembles Buddhist practice of samadhi, collecting the mind. There are in both traditions a number of objects and methods for a mind to stay focused and contemplative that overlap. For example, well know practice of maranasati has a counterpart mirrored in Evagrius’ instructions: “Seated in your cell, gather together your mind, give heed to the day of your death, and then look at the dying of your body.”3 But in Christian system the greatest importance among different methods by far has a prayer. As with the states of mind starting with the second absorption (jhāna) and up inside the system of Buddhist meditation, Evagrian prayer means complete silencing of thoughts and moving beyond words into wordless contemplation.

This similarity between two methods is underlined by the use of the word mind (nous) to describe what is in us that prays/meditates. Although for most of us today the word “mind” refers to the faculty of logical reasoning, in the Greek tradition, the nous was our intuitive side. It enables us to know and recognize the truth of things instantly, directly, without thinking, like instantly recognizing a beauty of a landscape or a friend’s face in a city crowd. Likewise, for Evagrius, the way the mind silenced by sincere prayer knows God is not a matter of logic or reasoning; it is a direct seeing, direct intuition:

“For knowledge of God, one needs not a debater’s soul, but a seer’s soul.”4

With sincere and persistent practice, a mind starts to uncover its so far hidden potentials. As mentioned previously, Evagrius was puzzled with the experience of inner light while in deep contemplation. This reminds us that the Buddha was also describing pure mind, devoid of mental impurities, as luminous by its own nature:

Luminous, bhikkhus, is this mind, and it is freed from adventitious defilements. The instructed noble disciple understands this as it really is; therefore I say that for the instructed noble disciple there is development of the mind.5

How intriguing these experiences of light were for Evagrius and some of the monks he was surrounded with can be concluded on the basis of an episode described in the famous Palladius’ Lausiac History.6 There he describes how Evagrius and Ammonius on one occasion visited John of Lycopolis, the famed “Seer of the Thebaid”, to consult him on an urgent question concerning certain peak experiences during prayer: “whether the light comes out of the purified mind itself (implying that the mind’s primordial nature is luminous) or whether the light comes from God, whose light in turn illuminates the mind, much as the sun illuminates the moon. John’s answer was a bit coy: ‘It is not in the power of human beings to explain it. Besides, the mind cannot be illuminated during prayer without the grace of God’.”7

Be it as it is, this shows us that the direction of the both ways of practice, Evagrian and Buddhist, was towards development and purification of the mind. As a result of such training, it will unfold its intrinsic luminosity and ultimately an ascetic arrives to the bliss of knowing and harmony with God (theosis) or knowing and harmony with the Truth (nibbāna), which in Buddhist vocabulary would be described as yathābhūtañāṇadassana. In the case of Christian ascetic this act is not possible without God’s help, as he receives transforming grace from the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the entire process is described as a synergy of a human and divine forces. In the case of a Buddhist ascetic, he has got to essentially rely on himself only. In practice, that means emptying the mind of its usual discursive content and entering a place of silence and stillness (samādhi) or the state of hesychia.

As we have also already seen, the type of prayer highly recommended by Evagrius has another important quality. It is constant prayer. No doubts that here we can draw a parallel with the Buddhist practice of maintaining mindfulness in everything one does:

A bhikkhu is one who acts in full awareness when going forward and returning; who acts in full awareness when looking ahead and looking away; who acts in full awareness when flexing and extending his limbs; who acts in full awareness when wearing his robes and carrying his outer robe and bowl; who acts in full awareness when eating, drinking, consuming food, and tasting; who acts in full awareness when defecating and urinating; who acts in full awareness when walking, standing, sitting, falling asleep, waking up, talking, and keeping silent.8

The last step of the training is divinization or union with God, described by Evagrius as „true gnosis of existent things”. This may correlate with liberating pañña or the “seeing things as they are”. Thus, there are a number of points of resemblance in Christian and Buddhist way of ennobling the mind/heart.

However, it should be also noticed that this resemblance is strongest at the beginning, in the domain of moral training, and the weakest with the last element of the triad, the final outcome of the ascetic interior quest. This is quite understandable, as the wisdom element, the final knowledge about the ultimate reality in these two paths directs us to two divergent directions, sometimes labeled as personalistic (in case of Orthodox Christianity) and impersonalistic mysticism (in case of Theravada Buddhism). One aims at meeting the God, Creator of this world, while the other one, completely negating the very existence of such Creator, brings us a vision of a universe as a totality of causally created, conditioned phenomena, but also of what is beyond that – unconditioned, nibbāna. In that respect, although those who arrived at the final point of these two paths, gnostikos and arahant, were so far traveling through a similar landscape, now they arrive at two essentially different points. And both of them claim of seeing directly the ultimate reality. What they saw, they hesitate to explicitly describe, supposedly for the similar reasons: “Do not speak about God inconsiderately and never define the Divinity. For definitions belong to created and composite beings”.9 The Buddha would agree with this claim that Uncreated (asaṅkara) is not possible to fully describe by what is created and composite, by language, that the experience of an awakening is not possible to fully translate into words:

“There is no measure of one who has gone out,
(Upasīva,” said the Blessed One).
“There is no means by which they might speak of him.
When all phenomena have been uprooted,
all pathways of speech are also uprooted.”10

What gnostikos and arahant see, they understand in crucially different fashion. Christian mystic sees a universe, created with a certain goal in mind and geared toward this goal by a divine providence. He observes the universe with a purpose and willed toward that purpose by a force of God’s forethought, at the same time incomprehensible, indescribable and irresistible. This picture is completely opposite to the Buddhist interpretation of the awakening experience, which lack recognition of any intentionality, pre-made plan in the world.

Let us at the end return to our classification of silence from the beginning of this text. After making a distinction between silence of absence, the outer silence of a desert, a forest or a cave, and silence of presence, which follows the end of a dialogue and represents a version of non-verbal communication, we further diversified the latter. Thus, four types of internal silence was postulated: (1) silence of social convention, (2) pedagogical silence, as a teaching tool, (3) ascetic silence, as a skillful mean, and (4) silence about the ultimate reality. So far we pointed out that in the context of spiritual practice in both religions there is a correlation between silence of absence as a necessary external condition for developing the silence of presence, internal peace and stillness. Another observation is that there is a relationship of hierarchy between these four types of silence, one builds on top of another. Starting with the silence of convention as a form of social interaction, we come to the more confined area of relationship between a disciple and a teacher, who uses pedagogical silence to instruct his devotees when deems appropriate. Higher than that stands ascetic silence, as a powerful tool of avoiding all traps of careless words and letting go of deeply ingrained tendencies of verbal actions. Once it is firmly established in a mind of a silent sage, a muni, he is ready for a meeting with the ultimate reality. This meeting, as we’ve seen in both traditions of Buddhist and Christian asceticism, bring an experience that is expressed, in many instances, if not by metaphors or negative terms, that simply by silence. In that respect, silence or stillness, but of different degree, stands at the beginning and the end of the path of practice. It is thus an often hidden treasure of mind and heart which allow us, in words of Evagrius, to “live according to the law”.11

Finally, it should be added that we started by setting a modest goal of comparing Buddhist and Orthodox Christian spiritual path through the use of silence as a useful tool of practice. But it seems obvious that this research uncovered much more points of convergence, which are not historical, not coming from direct contacts, but more psychological, being rather reflections of the basic structure of a human mind and the possibilities of its purification. Such a multitude of similarities certainly beg for further exploration. In that respect, this paper might be just a starting point for more comprehensive research in the future.

Notes
1 Bodhi (1995), p. 308.
2 Foundations, 6. In Sinkewicz, p. 7.
3 Foundations, 9. In Sinkewicz, p. 9.
4 Kefalaia gnostika, IV, 90.
5 Bodhi (2012), p. 97.
6 Palladius, Historia Lausiaca, 35.
7 Harmless (2001), p. 512-513.
8 Bodhi (1995), p. 147. Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta (M 10).
9 Skemmata, 20.
10 Bodhi (2017), p. 335.
11 Maxims, 13.


Literature

Beck, Hermann (1958): Buddhismus: Buddha und seine Lehre. Stuttgart: Freies Geistesleben. Behr-Siegel, Elisabeth (1992): The Place of the Heart: An Introduction to Orthodox Spirituality. Torrance: Oakwood Publications.

Bhikkhu Bodhi (1995): The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha. Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society.

Bhikkhu Bodhi (2000): The Connected Discourses of the Buddha. Boston: Wisdom Publications.

Bhikkhu Bodhi (2012): The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha. Boston: Wisdom Publications.

Bhikkhu Bodhi (2017): The Suttanipāta. Boston: Wisdom Publications.

Bunge, Gabriel (1996): Earthen Vessels: The Practice of Personal Prayer according to the Patristic Tradition. San Francisco; Ignatius press.

Coomaraswamy Ananda K. (1943): Hinduism and Buddhism. New York: The Philosophical Library.

Fanning Steven (2001): Mystics of the Christian Tradition. London: Routledge.

Father Theophanes (Constantine): The Evagrian Ascetical System. http://timiosprodromos2.blogspot.com/

Gillet, Lev (1987): The Jesus Prayer. Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press.

Harmless, William; Fitzgerald, Raymond (2001): “The Sapphire Light of the Mind: The Skemmata of Evagrius Ponticus”, Theological Studies, Vol. 62, pp. 488-529.

Hick, John (1993): Disputed Questions in Theology and the Philosophy of Religion. London: Macmillan Press.

Horner I. B. (1971): The Book of the Discipline – Vinaya-pitaka, Vol 4. London: Pali Text Society.

Karunadasa, Y. (2007): “The Unanswered Questions: Why Were They Unanswered? A Re-examination of the Textual Data”, Pacific World, pp. 3-31.

Kurian George Thomas, Ed. (2011): The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization. London: Blackwell Publishing.

Murti, T.R.V. (1955): The Central Philosophy of Buddhism. London: Allen & Unwin.

Nagao, G. M. (1955): “The Silence of the Buddha and its Madhyamic Interpretation” in Studies in Indology and Buddhology. Presented in Honour of Professor Susumu Yamaguchi on the Occasion of his Sixtieth Birthday. G. M. Nagao and J. Nozawa eds. Kyoto: Hozokan, pp. 137-151.

Olivelle, Patrick (1998): The Early Upanishads: Annotated Text and Translation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Organ, Troy Wilson (1954): “The Silence of the Buddha”, Philosophy East and West, Vol. 4, No. 2, pp. 125-140.

Panikkar, Raimundo (1989): The Silence of God: The Answer of the Buddha. Maryknoll: Orbis Books.

Radhakrishnan, Sarvepalli (1946): Gautama the Buddha. Bombay: Hind Kitabs.

Sinkewicz, Robert (2006): Evagrius of Pontus: The Greek Ascetic Corpus. Oxford: University Press.

Steindl-Rast, David (2016): The Way of Silence: Engaging the Sacred in Daily Life. Cincinnati: Franciscan Media.

The Philokalia: The Complete Text (1983-1995), Vol I-IV. London: Faber and Faber.

Tilakaratne, Asanga (1993): Nirvana and Ineffability: A Study of the Buddhist Theory of Reality and Language. University of Kelaniya: Postgraduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies.

Velez de Cea, Abraham (2004): “The silence of the Buddha and the questions about the Tathāgata after death”, The Indian International Journal of Buddhist Studies, No. 5.

Walshe, Maurice (1987): The Long Discourses of the Buddha. Boston: Wisdom Publications.

Ward, Benedicta (1984): The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: The alphabetical collection. Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications.


Silence (5)

(part 4)

Orthodox Christian Use of Silence

In the Christian world, Orthodox Christianity was following its own way in the Eastern part of the Roman Empire for centuries, even earlier than the formal separation from the West was officially proclaimed in the eleventh century. Thus, it didn’t know much about Augustine, Thomas Aquinas nor scholasticism, preoccupied with its own, quite an eventful history, including a schism with Rome, the fall of the Byzantine Empire, almost five centuries of Turkish oppression (except for the Russian Church), the emergence of national orthodox churches, two World Wars, persecution by communist regimes and, to some extent, secularization. In parallel with all this momentous historic events, Orthodox Christianity has been developing its own cultural, spiritual and liturgical forms, based on the heritage of the Egyptian and Syrian fathers. Among the spiritual ones one is particularly relevant for our topic, and it is hesychasm.

Hesychastic Silence

The term “hesychasm”, in its main meaning, that of silence and solitude, traces its origins back to the beginnings of monastic life in the 3rd century. The word hesychia does occur frequently in the Sayings of the Desert Fathers and the label “hesychasts” has often been given in the Eastern Church to monks who, after spending long years in cenobitic monasteries and leading communal life, decided to live entirely or almost alone, giving themselves to contemplation and prayer.

Conceived in the deserts of Egypt and Sinai Peninsula, the movement would fully emerge much later, in the 14th century at Mt. Athos in Greece and become the centerpiece of the Orthodox spirituality. Further enriched with the help of the Russian theological thought, it is very much alive in the Christian East even today. Its practical part consists of the full-fledged program, succinctly described in the writings of St Gregory of Sinai (1260-1346). According to him, the initial step was developing five virtues, as a foundation on which to build: silence, self-control, vigilance, humility and patience. They are said to affect and consolidate each other. Equipped with these, a monk should further engage oneself into three practices “blessed by God”: psalmody, prayer and reading. In case of those of poor physical strength, manual work was recommended too. Here is how this engagement looks like:

From early morning the hesychast must devote himself to the remembrance of God through prayer and stillness of heart, praying diligently in the first hour, reading in the second, chanting psalms in the third, praying in the fourth, reading in the fifth, chanting psalms in the sixth, praying in the seventh, reading in the eighth, chanting psalms in the ninth, eating in the tenth, sleeping in the eleventh, if need be, and reciting vespers in the twelfth hour. Thus fruitfully spending the course of the day he gains God’s blessings.1

Through a diligent practice a monk gradually discovers that one comes to self-knowledge and knowledge of God through attentiveness and watchfulness (nepsis), but alsothrough stillness and silence (hesychia). Therefore, the hesychastic movement that by time emerged inside Orthodox Christianity put these two qualities in the forefront of the ascetic practice. In that respect, we could here identify an example of ascetic silence we discussed previously.

Hesychastic program also encompassed utilization of various psycho-physical practices, involving so-called Jesus Prayer, but also breathing and physical postures, based on the ancient Judeo-Christian conviction that human beings are created as a unity of body and spirit, put into conflict with each other only by sin itself. Besides Evagrius of Pontus, who is considered one of forefathers of the hesychastic movement, its theoretical underpinnings could also be found in the apophaticism or “negative theology” of such figures as St. Gregory of Nyssa and Dionysius the Areopagite. Their emphasis on saying what God is not was intended to a quieting of thought and a direct experience of God.

Thus, it seems that by the 7th century the word hesychia as a technical term was well established in the confines of the patristic literature, since John Climacus devoted a whole chapter to it in his famous treatise The Ladder of Divine Ascent. But already in the Sayings of a Desert Fathers there are ample references to the importance of a silence and the internal state of hesychia, similar to this short story which illustrates the use of pedagogical silence:

Abba Theophilus, the archbishop, came to Scetis one day. The brethren who were assembled said to Abba Pambo, ‘Say something to the archbishop, so that he may be edified.’ The old man said to them, ‘If he is not edified by my silence, he will not be edified by my speech.’2

Looking at the practice itself, one can discover three progressive steps on the path of a hesychast: catharsis (or purification), theoria (illumination, contemplation, being granted spiritual vision and insight), and theosis (divinization or union with God). The true spiritual goal of this internal journey consists of freeing the mind from its preoccupation with thoughts (logismoi) and desires, and restoring it to its true home in the heart, its natural equilibrium. Hesychastic prayer as a main vehicle of progress along the spiritual path is therefore often referred to as “the prayer of the heart,” being concentrated on some simple word or sentence to be silently and constantly repeated. Usually these are the following phrases, pronounced internally (or being merely a thought in various situations), slowly and with loving affection: “Lord have mercy” (Kyrie eleison), “Jesus,” or in the more formal form of a prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”.3

The effects of this practice are multiple and fundamental:

The name of Jesus, once it has become the center of our life, brings everything together. But let us not imagine that the invocation of the name is a “short-cut” that dispenses us from ascetic purification: The name of Jesus is itself an instrument of asceticism, a filter through which should pass only thoughts, words and acts compatible with the divine and living reality which this name symbolizes. The growth of the name in our soul implies a corresponding diminution of our separated self, a daily death to the self-centredness from which all sin is derived.4

Evagrius of Pontus and approaching Immaterial immaterially

Among the founders of the spiritual tradition within Eastern Christianity, including Hesychasm, the name of Evagrius of Pontus is particularly important for our topic. His approach to the religious life was at once theoretical and practical, with a great deal of attention placed on detailing the monk’s journey toward God. By focusing our research on him, we are trying to distill his ideas related to the role of silence, solitude and stillness in the framework of the ascetic practice and hopefully be able to relate these findings to the examples from the Buddha’s practice already presented.

Evagrius of Pontus (345-399), also known as Evagrius the Solitary, got his surname because he was a native of Pontus, a region in Asia Minor. His father was a bishop and young Evagrius was ordained and studied under the famous Saint Basil the Great in Caesarea Mazaca in Cappadocia. After Basil passed away in 379, he became a disciple of another great theologian, Gregory of Nazianzus. Under these Cappadocian fathers, Evagrius became a skilled exegete and when Gregory of Nazianzus moved to Constantinople to become a patriarch, Evagrius was invited along. There he participated in the Council of Constantinople (381), impressing many with his skill of debating. However, an affair with a married woman and its possible consequences soon forced Evagrius to leave the city and search for peace in a monastic life. Through Palestine, he found his way to the Egyptian desert of the Cells (a colony of about six hundred anchorites), where he stayed until the end of his life 15 years later.

Evagrius was a prolific writer on asceticism, church history, biblical commentaries and letters, who deeply influenced Orthodox Christian spirituality through the works of those who further developed his ideas, like Maximos the Confessor, Dionysius the Areopagite or John of Klimakos. He is also considered a forerunner of the hesychast movement of later Byzantium. Today we have preserved some fourteen authentic works by Evagrius, among which the central position is occupied by the trilogy of the Praktikos, the Gnostikos, and the Kefalaia gnostika. In the first of these, consisting of short chapters, he has expounded his ascetic philosophy intended for less experienced monks. This experienced exegete of the soul knew too well that in the stillness of the desert, memories well up and a young monk can spend long hours wrestling with one’s own thoughts and memories. The Praktikos is thus full of valuable instructions how to win in that battle. The second text is thematically a continuation of the previous work, but this time written for more experienced monks, as describes the practice in much more detail. Finally, in the third and the most important text, known also as the Problemata gnostika, Evagrius makes effort to fully develop his cosmological, anthropological and philosophical ideas. But he was also a master practitioner of the ascetic discipline and one of the famous teachers of the emerging discipline of contemplative prayer, a form of Christian meditation. Thus, he was among the first and the most successful Desert Fathers making an effort to connect ample fruits of Christian ascetic practice with the more metaphysical monk’s itinerary leading him back to the Creator.5

In the framework of Orthodox soteriology, there is a specific goal of restoring our likeness to God, by putting the mind (nous) illumined by God in charge of the whole person. The way to this likeness to God or we might say to becoming the same with the Truth leads, unsurprisingly, from external silence of the Egyptian desert, the silence of absence as we labeled it, to the silence of presence, the internal one, the silence about the ultimate reality inherent to a peaceful mind and heart mirroring the eternal light while facing it. In those moments Evagrius was intrigued by a vision of formless light that he, and probably monks he knew, enjoyed at certain peak experiences occurring during prayer. Where did this light come from? Does it come out of the purified mind itself (which implies that the mind’s primordial nature is luminous) or the light comes from God, illuminating the mind much the same as the sun illuminates the moon? To find the answer Evagrius had to dive deeper into the ascetic silence.

As mentioned, Evagrius was probably the first among Desert Fathers who expounded a full system of ascetic training and this from the angle of the careful study of the functioning of the human mind. In his version, this study consisted of three phases. The first of these is self-purification, cultivating virtues and learning to combat “evil thoughts” (logismoi). His Praktikos elaborates on strategies applied in learning the nature of the different concepts and ideas with which the mind is constantly fed. In this way it becomes able to distinguish between various logismoi, demonic tempting thoughts, as well as to appreciate the beneficial ideas/perceptions (noēmata)suggested by angels or those that arise from neutral sense-perceptions. These efforts are awarded with the birth of passionless love and gift of apatheia. In this process, for Evagrius, dispassion (apatheia) or freedom from control by the passions is more than purity (agnoteta), but less than the full restoration of the likeness to God (kath’homoiosin). This kind of emotional integration of a person marks the end of the first phase of the process by which Christian praktikos, a spiritual aspirant,can mature into a gnostikos, a contemplative and teacher capable of true knowing (gnosis) of existent things, the inner meanings and purposes of God within creation and history. The main path to this goal is also identical to the already mentioned „dispassion of soul“, i.e. calming the mind, liberating from irrational drives, which in their extreme forms would today be called obsessions, compulsions or addictions.

The second phase consists of natural contemplation (theōria physikē) of the existing things, those without a mind (like rocks, plants and animals) and those who possess it (like men and angels). For Evagrius, contemplation is the natural activity of the mind, noticing God’s presence in everything he had created, considering the whole world as a giant book written by God.

In the third phase an ascetic comes into the presence of and contemplates the God himself. This coming to the supreme form of gnosis may be taken as an intuitive knowledge attained through contemplation. It is not discursive theological knowledge in the sense of let say the Thomist theology of the Trinity, but knowledge of God in the philosophically intuitive and mystical sense. The Praktikos point out, right at the outset, that the ultimate goal of the path is an amalgam of the initial two phases:

„The Kingdom of the Heavens is dispassion of soul with true gnosis of existent things.“6

This pedagogy of the soul is complemented with a well-known scheme of eight thoughts (logismoi) that constitute the essence of all negative thoughts young monks tend to struggle with. In the Evagrian system these are thoughts of gluttony, lust, avarice, anger, sadness, accidie (listlessness), vainglory and pride. About two centuries later this list would be transformed by Pope Gregory I into the famous “seven deadly sins”. Relying on the old Stoic idea of the limited scope of our power, Evagrius makes here a very interesting observation, which also resonates some Buddha’s observations:

Whether all these thoughts trouble the soul or do not trouble the soul is among those things which are not within our power; for these to persist or not to persist, or to set passions in motion or not to set in motion, is among those things which are within our power.7

It is interesting where Evagrius sees the main reason for arising of these passions in the ascetic’s mind and if there is maybe something even more basic that initiates them. For him the first dilemma was whether passions are provoked by “conception” (ennoia, thought or notion in the mind) or the vice versa.

One must attend whether the conception sets the passions in motion; or the passions, the conception. For, on the one hand, some have the first opinion; on the other hand, some have the second opinion.8

And in the very next, 38th chapter he gives this decisive answer: “It is the nature of the passions to be set in motion by the senses”. What he seems to claim here is a psychological insight that mind (nous), fed by impressions provided through senses, excites the passion. After seeing some pleasant food, the passion of gluttony may be aroused in me. But what about the very nature of that passion? Does it have some deeper source? Here Evagrius introduces another important point and again quite close to the Buddha, the centrality of (the illusion of) ego in producing all other mental disturbances:

The first of all the thoughts is the thought of self-love (philautia), after which the eight.9

Here the “eight” refers to eight passions/thoughts and self-love, a form of the false conception of self, is designated as the root cause of all the mental pollution that arise. To combat that pollution, in the case of Evagrius, the whole variety of practical devices were prescribed. Reading, vigil and prayer are used to focus a wandering mind. Hunger, toil and the life in solitude contribute to cooling of an inflamed desire. Finally, “chanting of the psalms, long-suffering and mercy put a stop to temper aroused.” “Mercy” here relates to giving alms, caring for the sick and comforting the afflicted ones.But among all these practices there is one above them all that Evagrius highly recommends. That is a constant prayer: “We have not been commanded to work, to keep vigil and to fast continually, but it has been legislated for us that we ‘pray unceasingly’”10 Here he follows what St. Paul had advised in his Epistle to the Romans (12:12).

Once an ascetic has achieved a certain measure of apatheia and virtue through observing, understanding and distancing himself from logismoi caused by passions (or demons), he is ready to enter the state of sincere prayer. What Evagrius consider a prayer differs from the usual understanding of the word as a petition or a praise to God. For him, it is a “contemplative prayer” or “wordless prayer”, denoting more a state of mind, than an activity. Or defined in another way, as an internal journey, a long traveling without leaving a cell even for a moment:

“Prayer is the ascent of the mind towards God.”11

The Orthodox Christian theological tradition posited the mind (nous) as the highest element of the human person, as it actually represents the image of God within us, that which is most like its creator. Therefore, it is among our faculties the one most capable of knowing God. Relying on this line of reasoning, Evagrius acknowledges that for us as human beings nothing is more natural than praying: “Mind… is naturally constituted for prayer.”12

The silent prayer is thus, according to Evagrius, the main road towards achieving the supreme goal of the ascetic’s practice, the knowing of the God, or rather striving towards this goal and never fully achieving it. Also, being able to express that knowledge. And here we come to a long debated issue in the framework of Christian theology: In what respect if God knowable? Namely, even before Evagrius there was a well established line of reflections on the subject of the incomprehensible nature of God. It suffices to mention here Gregory of Nyssa and his Vita Moses or John Chrysostom’s five sermons in Antioch, where he affirms that God “dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see”.13 For Evagrius too, the invisible, immortal and incomprehensible God is above all form and even imagination. In his Exhortation to Monks he writes: “You could not comprehend the nature of God, not even if you flew on wings. God is incomprehensible, just as he is also our creator.”14

Therefore, the best those who intend to meditate on the nature of God could do is to empty their minds of all images or even hypotheses through a process of negation later formalized as an apophatic theology. In his Chapters on Prayer Evagrius gives the following instruction of this silencing the mind:

“When you pray do not form images of the divine within yourself, nor allow your mind to be impressed with any form, but approach the Immaterial immaterially and you will come to understanding”.15

Approaching Immaterial immaterially as the highest experience of pure prayer. This traveling beyond forms and images into deeper dimensions of being, tells us Evagrius, brings us a vision of light without form. But it is also characterized by another parallel process, that of transformation of ascetic silence into a silence about the ultimate reality, as the “perfect silence alone proclaims Him”.16

(deo 6)

Notes
1 Philokalia, Vol IV, p. 233.
2 Ward (1984), p. 81.
3 Kurian (2011), p.
4 Gillet (1987), p. 96.
5 In analyzing his texts, I’ll rely on translations made by Robert E. Sinkewicz in his book Evagrius of Pontus: The Greek Ascetic Corpus, Oxford University Press, 2003 as well as by Father Theophanes (Constantine) at the site http://timiosprodromos4.blogspot.com/.
6 Praktikos, 2.
7 Praktikos, 6.
8 Praktikos, 37.
9 Skemmata,53.
10 Gnostikos, 49.
11 Chapters on Prayer, 35. In Sinkewicz, p. 196.
12 Praktikos, 49. In Sinkewicz, p. 106.
13 1 Tim 6:16.
14 Sinkewicz (), p. 222.
15 Chapters on Prayer, 66. In Sinkewicz, p. 196.
16 Maximos the Confessor. Philokalia, Vol 2, p. 271.