I discovered an exceptionally strong ally in my path during my ten-day retreat which allowed me to sit indefinitely longer than I had in the past and gave me greater resolve to practice and greater confidence. This ally is known in Pali as samvega, or disenchantment, with the ways of the world, with the miseries of sensual living, and with the abominable craving after pleasures here and there, all of which are doomed to impermanence, damning us the wicked to a life with neither rest nor relief. Disenchantment is a good name for this skill because its opposite, the ordinary state of mind, is that of enchantment with all the supposed ‘goods’ of the world, as though a warlock had laid a contemptible spell upon our minds condemning us to ignorance and the suffering resultant from ignorance. We are enchanted as are our children, and perhaps we are in many ways ourselves still children floating aimlessly in the dreams of blissful carelessness and self-absorption. Samvega consists in the bursting of this bubble of delusion and waking up to the reality of the inherent dis-satisfactoriness of every possible sense-object. To a certain extent, it even consists in a feeling of revulsion towards all sense-objects and all striving after these, insofar as this revulsion does not grow to the level of an aversion. In a wider context, samvega should also be cultivated for the worldly life and the habits and actions of all people around us, relations or strangers, who continue to engage this life. Whenever I felt my resolve to practice losing its strength, I would immediately bring to my recollection memories of previous miseries I have experienced as a result of craving and living, as well as memories of witnessing these very same miseries on the countenances of friends or family members. This would remind me of the hopelessness of living on as the rest of the world does, ever moving forward on the train of Inevitable Progress at the expense of all the rest of Nature, sat in the pew of the churches of their favourite gods or goddesses, the racial, familial, nationalistic, political, or economic ideologies that have replaced the dogmatic religions of the past, and which have resulted in just as much war and revolution and social catastrophe. Who in their right mind would wish to continue on this manner, perpetuating the most horrific of sicknesses, handing it down to the coming generations, a most suitable gift for such a wicked race? Better to correct the ailment in myself and by myself, in solitude and isolation from this mass of suffering humans, until I am strong enough to face the world with a sober face, and bring a message of peace to be handed down the generations, a gift suitable to God almighty and the pursuit of Such.
Disenchantment and Motivation
This rant would occur to me in my lax and complacent states and would fall upon my mind as a slap across the daydreamer’s face, returning me to my proper path and revitalizing me with the energy and motivation to walk it. As an added aid, I would try to cultivate this motivation in the form of a specific goal that I would set myself, such as the resolve to sit without changing my posture for the entire hour, and then build this up into a fierce determination to see it through. Sometimes I would think of this determination as a ‘fatalistic determination’ and even more – I would say to myself, in my mind and in the form of a loud and deeply resonating voice: I am willing to stick with it even if it leads to my death and worse. ‘I will stick with it till the world has perished, even if I have to sit through torture and pain unimaginable, even if I am burned alive, or brought face to face with the devil for it, I WILL STICK WITH IT!’ ‘I’M COMING OUT OF MY MISERY AND NOTHING WILL STOP ME FROM REACHING THIS GOAL!’ I would cultivate these inner voices at those moments when my strength was on the verge of waning away, and this proved enormously helpful in the completion of the ten days of meditation. So, I resolve to make use of these two allies in my daily life, whenever I am at a loss and my meditation is ‘drying up’, so to speak. I will cultivate samvega for the worldly way of life, and I will crystallise my strong determination to be liberated in the form of concrete goals that I will set for myself in order to progress patiently and persistently in this manner on this most noble of paths until I am free of all defilements, until I have come out of this miserable existence.
May all beings be happy