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poverty

To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.religion.buddhism,talk.religion.buddhism
From: tyagi@houseofkaos.abyss.com (Hsi Wang Mu)
Subject: Re: poverty
Date: 27 Jun 1995 16:59:03 -0700

49950627 (also sent to soc.religion.eastern)

|From: tt@wag.caltech.edu (Toshi Takeuchi)
|To: soc.religion.eastern
|Date: 25 May 1995 22:46:06 -0700

|Ava Rosenblum   wrote:
|>How, as a Buddhist, would you explain the effects of poverty on a person. 
|>. .the struggles, and in some cases barriers, it creates. I realize it 
|>creates more compassion by humbling a person; however, I guess I am 
|>looking for something a bit more profound than that explanation or merely 
|>the effects of karma.
|
|The first thing I'd think about is what is poverty?

Agreed!  BIG question too!!

|If we have a place to sleep in away from the elements and we are able to 
|eat food every night, then a majority of the people in this world would 
|say that we are not in poverty.

Not to mention the monastic VOWS of poverty which might mean something
completely different to the monk.

|However, if we grew up in an affluent environment, and we lost our job, 
|and now we are living on ramen noodles every day, then we will probably 
|think that we are in poverty.

|I'm only giving these example to try to illustrate the point that
|in part, poverty is a perception that is created by your 
|expectations or your attachments to a certain way of living.

Indeed, and this merely indicates that 'being in poverty' is a relative
condition of desire.


|One of the ideas discussed in Buddhism is that your attachments to
|various things will cause suffering because all things change
|eventually.  In the simplest scenario, you will be born with
|no possessions, and someday you will die with no possessions to
|take with you.  

Having been born with no possessions it is possible not to form
attachments if one can establish an equilibrium in such a state.
Of course then one may be prone to the evils of ownership, much
like those born in sterile environments are prone to bacteria.


|What helps in this situation for me, is to realize that how you
|live your life will depend upon what your desires are.

This may be convoluted.  OUR EXPERIENCE of life will depend upon our
desires and how these match up with our circumstances.


|The funny thing was, after I meditated, I began to care less and less
|about the way these people felt about me, and I began to make more
|friends who were really my friends.

This says much without saying alot.  'Real friends', it seems to imply,
are those who are not very attached to who and what we are but like
us despite or because of inadequacies and quirks.


|We are retraining ourselves so that we think in a way that is more
|in harmony with the way things really are.

Yes, this is the mystical path, attuning the static-machine of the mind
to the hard world of 'reality'.  Compare this with magick, in which we
attempt to change the harder world of 'reality' to coincide with what
our static-machine predestines.


|...meditation helps us sit and get away from all of these concerns about 
|what we are wearing, where we are living, how rich or how poor we are.

For you, as you are describing 'meditation', it assists you in 'detachment
practice', moving away from the world so that you can live in it satisfac-
torily.


|When we close our eyes to meditate, all of these things don't matter anymore.

This may be a bit extreme.


|Simply by virtue of getting away from it all, meditation allows us to 
|get a better perspective on our lives since we're not always in the
|"thick of it".

I don't think that such detachment practice is the extent of wisdom and
compassion.  I think it can be one important element of practice and
that if taken too far it leads to horrible insensitivity.  I value a
correspondent discipline of attachment practice, dedicating myself to
a goddess, for example, intentionally engaging open sexual relationships,
indulging intentionally with open senses to the true result of the
experience, placing myself within circumstances that lead to attachment,
then balancing it all out with meditation.


Now as far as 'poverty' goes, I'd take Ava's words again:

|>How, as a Buddhist, would you explain the effects of poverty on a person. 
|>. .the struggles, and in some cases barriers, it creates. I realize it 
|>creates more compassion by humbling a person; however, I guess I am 
|>looking for something a bit more profound than that explanation or merely 
|>the effects of karma.

If one takes 'poverty' to be the kind of dissatisfaction which Toshi
elucidates, then I think such poverty IS an effect.  As such the
buddhist cannot describe the 'effects of poverty' since this is an
inaccurate description of the relationship.

What Ava appears to be after is an explanation for the manifestations
of poverty or an explanation of poverty itself within traditional
or crazy fox buddhist frameworks.

I don't know that poverty creates compassion except that it creates
(or consists of) PASSION (suffering) and that we may feel WITH another
if we have felt something similar in the past (com - with; passion -
suffering).  Humility is not something which necessarily arises out
of poverty.  Quite the opposite can also be true.  I think that humility
is just a name for the qualities of a person who does not appear to 
need to play the 'I'm better than' game.

I tend to interpret poverty much as Toshi does within physical and
popular frameworks.  It is the resultant feeling when we are attached
to material things and they move away from us.  This is why I like
so very much the notion that 'wealth' is a feeling of 'having more
than enough', such that those who give things away are the richest,
regardless of how much real property is owned.

However, there is another way to look at 'poverty', and that is as
a monastic vow.  I've taken such a vow (though to me a 'vow' is more 
of a target, a guide, than any restriction) of poverty, and to me it
means 'a right relationship with resources'.  That is, given that I
live in a bloated economy (US), I give things away until I feel that
I'm reaching my minimums.  The less I have and still surviving well,
the better I'm doing at making my vow.  

Of course this challenges all my security-triggers, and so I get to
ride the edge of my emotions and see where my true limitations lie.
Not only have I discovered that I can be satisfied with much much less
than my society (friends, family, media, etc.) tells me is necessary,
but I also get to challenge and in some cases dispell my own ideas
along this notion.  Society is a big webwork.  I am a creative and
clever being.  There are many alternatives to strict ownership and
the amassing of wealth.

It is much different with the orthodox establishment monastics, who
focus upon ownership and a lack of it as their badge of poverty.
There is also an esoteric conception of 'poverty' in which a 'poverty
of the soul' is said to be a very *virtuous* thing, though I am less
familiar with this presumably Christian teaching. 

Please send your response to soc.religion.eastern (sre@world.com).  Thanks.

Mu
---
The notion that mindfulness in action is created most fully and 
completely by mindfulness in sitting is, to paraphrase Alan Watts, 
a crypto-protestant fetish of the Soto school, as equally one 
sided as the attachment to koans of the Rinzai school. Mindfulness 
is not created by "doing" anything, either sitting, contemplating a 
koan, or anything else. Just being works.  And you can do this in 
the midst of any activity. Zen is a lot easier than some people 
want to make it.

Usenet: alt.zen -- Raffael Cavallaro (raffael@tiac.net)
-- 
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