Authentic Happiness: Who Is Going to Wash the Dishes? [Excerpt]


From Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior, by Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche

"The setting-sun point of view is based on fear. We are constantly afraid of ourselves. We feel that we can't actually hold ourselves upright. We are so ashamed of ourselves, who we are, what we are. We are ashamed of our jobs, our finances, our parental upbringing, our education, and our psychological shortcomings.

Great Eastern Sun vision, on the other hand, is based on appreciating ourselves and appreciating our world, so it is a very gentle approach. Because we appreciate the world, we don't make a mess in it. We take care of our bodies, we take care of our minds, and we take care of our world. The world around us is regarded as very sacred, so we have to constantly serve our world and clean it up. The setting-sun vision is that washing things and cleaning up should be the domain of hired help ... Having a nice meal is fine, but who is going to wash the dishes? We would prefer to leave that to someone else.

Thousands of tons of leftovers are discarded every year. When people go to restaurants, often they are served giant platefuls of food, more than they can eat, to satisfy the giant desire of their minds.  Their minds are stuffed just by the visual appearance of their giant steaks, their full plates. Then the leftovers are thrown into the garbage. All that food is wasted, absolutely wasted.

That is indeed a setting-sun approach. You have a giant vision, which you can't consume, and you end up throwing most of it away. There is not even a program to recycle the leftovers. Everything goes to the dump. It is no wonder we have such big problems disposing of our garbage. Some people have even thought of sending our garbage into outer space; we can let the rest of the universe take care of our leftovers, instead of cleaning up our earth. The setting-sun approach is to shield ourselves from dirt as much as we can, so that we don't have to look at it -- we just get rid of anything unpleasant. As long as we have a pleasurable situation, we forget about the leftovers or the greasy spoons and plates. We leave the job of cleaning up to somebody else.

That approach produces an oppressive social hierarchy in the setting-sun world; there are those who get rid of other people's dirt and those who take pleasure in producing the dirt. Those people who have money can continue to enjoy their food and ignore the leftovers. They can pay for luxury and ignore reality. In that way of doing things, you never see the dirt properly, and you may never see the food properly, either. Everything is compartmentalized, so you can never experience things completely. We are not talking purely about food; we are talking about everything that goes on in the setting-sun world: packaged food, packaged vacations, package deals of all kinds. There is no room to experience doubtlessness in that world; there is no room to be gentle; there is no room to experience reality fully and completely.

In contrast to that, Great Eastern Sun vision is a very ecological approach. The way of the Great Eastern Sun is based on seeing what is needed and how things happen organically. So the sense of hierarchy, or order, in the Great Eastern Sun world is not connected with imposing arbitrary boundaries or divisions. Great Eastern Sun hierarchy comes from seeing life as a natural process and tuning in to the uncontrived order that exists in the world. Great Eastern Sun hierarchy is based on seeing that there is a natural source of radiance and brilliance in this world -- which is the innate wakefulness of human beings. The sun of human dignity can be likened to the physical sun spanning the darkness. When you have a brilliant sun, which is a source of vision, the light from the sun shines through every window of the house, and the brightness of its light inspires you to open all the curtains.

The analogy for hierarchy in the Great Eastern Sun world is a flowering plant that grows upwards towards the sun. The analogy for setting-sun hierarchy is a lid that flattens you and keeps you in your place. In the vision of the Great Eastern Sun, even criminals can be cultivated, encouraged to grow up. In the setting-sun vision, criminals are hopeless, so they are shut off; they don't have a chance. They are part of the dirt that we would rather not see. But in the vision of the Great Eastern Sun, no human being is a lost cause. We don't feel that we have to put a lid on anyone or anything. We are always willing to give things a chance to flower."

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