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Spirituality late in life is connectedness?

KeromeKerome Certainty is the enemy of wonderThe Continent Veteran

I went to talk to to my uncle yesterday (the one who is dying from cancer), because I had a couple of questions for him. For a long time we had been talking about spiritual subjects over whatsapp and in person, a good year and a half of discussion, but recently this had changed. As he got closer to his treatment being finished, he stopped talking about spiritual subjects. So I started by asking him why.

He said that as death got closer, daily life had become more real for him. A focus on the here and now had taken over. Then I asked him what spirituality had come to mean to him now. It took him some time to come up with an answer, because he said “it required him to think about what spirituality meant at all”. In the end he said it all came down to connectedness.

It seemed to me an interesting answer, that someone who had been so much into Zen would say that his spirituality was about connectedness. Of course he has had a lot of family visits over the last six months, and his son and daughter and their partners and children (his grandchildren, between the ages of 10 and 2) have been a big presence.

But for me from a Buddhist point of view heavily influenced by Ajahn Chah over the past five years, the perspective of spirituality as connectedness is a big change from the ideas of cessation and letting go. I wonder if I will feel the same when I come close to dying.

howmarcitkolobsterShoshin1yagr

Comments

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited January 23

    That's interesting. I think for me, spiritually is both; and seeing the interconnectedness is what leads to letting go and vice versa.

    For example, things like this/that conditionality and dependent co-arising are used to point one towards the interconnectedness of phenomenon and the connection we feel to all things. And that interconnectedness then leads to an understanding of inconstancy and the letting go of what's not self. This in turn it can also lead one to being more present in the present and seeing daily life as something sacred.

    I hope your uncle finds some kind of peace on his journey.

    howKeromeShoshin1yagr
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator

    One thing I've noticed is that some traditions, like Theravada, tend to focus more on the letting go side, while others, like TNH's tradition and Christian contemplativism tend to focus on connectedness. And I think both are valid because one side of the coin leads to the realization of the other.

    Rob_VKerome
  • howhow Veteran Veteran

    @Kerome

    The perspective of identity typically sees renunciation and interconnectedness as two separate directions.
    The degree to which true selflessness can manifest is the degree to which renunciation and interconnectedness are experienced as simple reflections of each other.
    Your uncle's zen sounds admirable.

    Kerome
  • KeromeKerome Certainty is the enemy of wonder The Continent Veteran

    I find it difficult to get past identifying with the body. After all the body gives us our perspective on the world, it is the home of the senses, the initial point of awareness. I wonder if this is colouring my perceptions.

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited January 23

    @Kerome said:
    I find it difficult to get past identifying with the body. After all the body gives us our perspective on the world, it is the home of the senses, the initial point of awareness. I wonder if this is colouring my perceptions.

    I think most people do, which is why it's considered one of the ten fetters that need to be abandoned and uprooted. And how are they abandoned?

    "[W]hen one knows and sees the eye as impermanent, ignorance is abandoned and true knowledge arises. When one knows and sees forms as impermanent … When one knows and sees as impermanent whatever feeling arises with mind-contact as condition—whether pleasant or painful or neither-painful-norpleasant—ignorance is abandoned and true knowledge arises. When one knows and sees thus ... ignorance is abandoned and true knowledge arises." (SN 35.54)

    Shoshin1yagr
  • howhow Veteran Veteran
    edited January 23

    Most folks develop an attention on one particular sense over the others as the means of controlling and promoting our identities storyline.
    To find some reality beyond this story, all it takes is a deliberate gifting of an equal amount of attention upon all of the other senses that we were formally bestowing upon our favorite sense. It requires no particular suppression of our primary sense gate so much as a deliberate elevating of our attention upon the other sense gates that were formally being shunned to some degree. When all the senses are given an equal voice, no one sense gets to set the agenda. Here equanimity has a chance to flower of itself.

    personShoshin1コチシカ
  • Rob_VRob_V North Carolina Explorer

    But for me from a Buddhist point of view heavily influenced by Ajahn Chah...

    One of a handful of sages I consider my teacher

    ...over the past five years, the perspective of spirituality as connectedness is a big change from the ideas of cessation and letting go.

    There's no reason that connectedness can't involve both connectedness with loved ones in the here and now and also connectedness with the Ultimate (Nibbana, Tao, Brahma, God, whatever the goal is for you), also in the here and now. I mean, isn't that the point of the practice?

    I wonder if I will feel the same when I come close to dying.

    How do you know you're not? I drove a truck for many years, believe me, life can end quickly and unexpectedly.

  • Rob_VRob_V North Carolina Explorer

    @Kerome said:
    I find it difficult to get past identifying with the body. After all the body gives us our perspective on the world, it is the home of the senses, the initial point of awareness. I wonder if this is colouring my perceptions.

    Nothing in Buddhism requires that you not identify with your body, simply that you understand at a deep level that your body in this current configuration is not in fact you. This body represents you physically in this plane of existence, like your name(s), and certain sets of numbers probably, represent you clerically.

    Just as the taxing entities see you one way and the motor vehicle entities see you another, so too do others see you in completely different and unique ways. Your body represents you to them in one way and to yourself in another.

    In my own experience I have noticed that when I dissociate from my body that it does in fact take on a different representation to me than it does when we are one. Like climbing into your own vehicle; you know which creaks, groans and sensations are normal and which spell potential trouble. You might even think or feel that it is part of you, but it is certainly not 'you'. Same principle.

    lobsterKerome
  • ... life can end quickly and unexpectedly.

    I knew it!
    Bravo Lama Covid. Such a tiny teacher ... B)

  • DavidDavid Just another unique aspect of the same old thang The Hammer in Ontario, Canada, eh Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    But for me from a Buddhist point of view heavily influenced by Ajahn Chah over the past five years, the perspective of spirituality as connectedness is a big change from the ideas of cessation and letting go. I wonder if I will feel the same when I come close to dying.

    I find that interesting because cessation and letting go of the idea of a separate self gives way to connectedness as does Dependent Origination. In Thich Nhat Hanhs Plum Village Zen school, the monastic community is called the Order of Interbeing.

    Shoshin1yagrKerome
  • DavidDavid Just another unique aspect of the same old thang The Hammer in Ontario, Canada, eh Veteran
    edited January 30

    @Kerome said:
    I find it difficult to get past identifying with the body. After all the body gives us our perspective on the world, it is the home of the senses, the initial point of awareness. I wonder if this is colouring my perceptions.

    I've found the same for the thought stream but neither the thought stream nor the body need to be identified with or rejected. They both must be kept healthy while at the same time acknowledged as fleeting.

    Both the Satipatthana Sutta (4 foundations of Mindfulness) and the Anapanasati Sutta (Mindfulness of Breathing) invite a thorough investigation into breathing and the body. I've found them to be most helpful in this regard.

    lobster
  • KeromeKerome Certainty is the enemy of wonder The Continent Veteran

    @David said:
    I find that interesting because cessation and letting go of the idea of a separate self gives way to connectedness as does Dependent Origination.

    That feels right — a short summary of a longer process, thanks @David. I’ve not come across it so often outside of Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings, but there is a lot of connectedness to our presence here.

    David
  • KeromeKerome Certainty is the enemy of wonder The Continent Veteran

    It’s interesting, connectedness plays on two levels late in life. One is the connectedness of family life, your partner, your children, your grandchildren. As you approach the end of life you naturally start thinking more about what you would be leaving behind.

    In a way that is emotional, and very much ruled by levels of attachment. A Buddhist would say that it exposes areas where you are not yet done with letting go. It’s coming to terms with what aspects of love are about a desire to possess, and what aspects of love are truly altruistic, and how they relate.

    The other side of connectedness is the spiritual one, the idea of non-duality and of Buddhist interrelatedness. But I think for a lot of people that one is more ephemeral, more a concept and not so much a thing of the emotions.

  • ChoephalChoephal UK Veteran
    edited February 27

    When I was a kid I had an interesting book. Depending on which end you started you either went inwards x10 per page or outwards x10. The first picture was a person, so rapidly as you travelled into their skin x10 each time you came to cells then to atoms with particles moving around a nucleus like little solar systems. If you went to other way you found yourself at the limits of our solar system then of the galaxy and so on.
    All this was connected and interconnected from atomic particle to vast swathes of stars passing in and out of being.
    In Buddhadharma a common visual metaphor is Indras Web or Net, which shows all phenomena arising with all other phenomena and each reflecting all others in a vast array of connectness across time and space.
    Buddhist Enlightenment is not an individual event occurring to one person like a kind of promotion.
    Rather it is one part of a whole becoming conscious of itself.

    lobster
  • Shoshin1Shoshin1 Veteran
    edited February 27

    Spirituality late in life is connectedness?

    Hmm reminds me of universal recycling...

    コチシカ
  • コチシカコチシカ Berlin, Germany Veteran

    Kamma recycling itself -over and over-

    Shoshin1
  • DavidDavid Just another unique aspect of the same old thang The Hammer in Ontario, Canada, eh Veteran
    edited February 28

    @Kerome said:

    @David said:
    I find that interesting because cessation and letting go of the idea of a separate self gives way to connectedness as does Dependent Origination.

    That feels right — a short summary of a longer process, thanks @David. I’ve not come across it so often outside of Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings, but there is a lot of connectedness to our presence here.

    Agreed for sure.

    For me, it is reinforced by Thays teachings but I can see it in most teachings now.

    "If your mind is happy, then you are happy anywhere you go. When wisdom awakens within you, you will see truth everywhere you look. Truth is all there is. It's like when you learn how to read - you can then read everywhere you go."
    --Ajahn Chah

    That one works for the truth thread as well.

    lobster
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