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2023, June, Issue 47
If we wish to cultivate Bodhicitta, then we need to see ourselves the way we are. We need to be honest about it when we claim to ourselves that we are taking on this commitment to awaken. It is very important to realize that awakening starts with brutal honesty, no matter how uncomfortable it may make us feel.
Sometimes I have encountered people who claim to be very good practitioners of the Dharma, or maybe they even insinuate that they are highly realized beings. Well, that’s great, if it were true. I’m happy for them, if they are being truly honest. I want all people to awaken; so, if someone is making great progress or has awakened, it makes me very happy. I’ll take them at their word about this. It’s not for me to criticize.
Now, let’s back up the train a little bit. If you are familiar with chickens, you will notice that every group seems to have at least one chicken with feathers missing. The other chickens focus on a certain chicken and peck the feathers off. It is usually a chicken that has experienced some sort of trauma. The reaction of the collective chickens is to attack. When they see one of their own traumatized, it is the natural response of a chicken to peck away, to add to the trauma by picking on that poor little bird, until they eventually die. I’ve seen this with my own eyes many times. It’s truly heartbreaking.
When we observe this behavior, it becomes obvious that chickens do not have enough sense to stop being this way. They are utterly and hopelessly out of control in being a chicken. It does not seem possible that they can be any other way. It’s their nature to be cruel to those among them who can least defend themselves. They will simply pick on the traumatized, until the additional trauma leads to the inevitable demise of that chicken.
Well, as humans, we can say that we have more sense than a chicken. We can say that, but is it an honest appraisal? When we look around our world, honestly looking at every social group we see, political movements, religious institutions, social gatherings, families, we see some sort of hierarchy that is constantly in motion. People do whatever they can to fit it, because they know that, if they don’t fit in, they will be picked on. They also do whatever they can to rise in the social hierarchy.
Let’s be blunt about it. It is fairly easy to see that even humans possess no more sense than a chicken, when it comes to picking on each other, social hierarchy and fitting in. Humans pick on each other, relentlessly. By being this way, even though humans generally think very highly of themselves, it is not having more sense than a chicken. It is instinctual and banal, and stupid; and, it is a big part of what keeps us trapped for all eternity in samsara. It is the primary reason people choose not to awaken. They’re afraid to renounce, or to aspire to awaken.
When I suggest that we should aspire to awaken, to have enough compassion for self to begin this journey to who we really are, it’s not an easy request. Having more sense than a chicken will set you apart from other humans. You will get picked on, it’s only natural. People may shun you or make your life difficult. It’s not easy to become stubborn and deliberate in your determination to awaken. This is something that will most certainly not be met with approval from the groups which keep you trapped. This is even true among groups of Dharma Practitioners, among people who should know better. This is why great masters tell us to keep our own Spiritual Practice private, not sharing it widely with others, even others in your own spiritual community.
Near the beginning of Chapter 13, of The Frog, in the chapter called Millions of Demons, I have a poem that addresses this situation. It is a fairly long poem which mentions the Dharma Police and all the hypocrisy found in those with no more sense than a chicken. Dharma Police is a term that has become prevalent among Western Buddhists. It refers to those who make it very difficult for others to practice the Dharma, preventing many people from aspiring to awaken. Don’t worry about them. Hold tight to your own Spiritual Practice. Be stubborn about it. Disregard the fear. Seek seclusion if you need it.
It is not up to others if you awaken. What I do suggest in my book is that you utilize this bad behavior that will inevitably come your way to super-charge your determination and perseverance with Bodhicitta. See the suffering of those who really do have no more sense than a chicken. See their ego causing so much suffering in the world. This should give you more cause to awaken, not less.
When you look at your life honestly, Bodhicitta will arise. When you see the world as it is, see the futility. It’s plainly evident that the choice is yours to awaken. You will certainly awaken, if you choose to have more sense than a chicken.
Blessings in Light,