three poisons


(photo: Three flower prayer ropes on ice -a Thailand flower market)

In Buddhism as in Christianity and so many other religious traditions, three of the great poisons in life are craving, aggression and indifference. I have found, however, that when one is awake to one’s self, it is painful but not impossible to see when craving and aggression creep into our lives.  Craving is the basis of our economy which is why my written Rule of Life – a chapter of which I read every morning – to remind myself of who I am – my Rule of Life requires that when at home, I watch no television which includes commercials and never surf the internet for pleasure.  This way I am less exposed to cravings-exciters like ads at Christmas time (which began last week….)

Aggression is harder to manage. What I find about aggression is that it has to be managed from both ends to the middle.  From the past I manage aggression by praying with the child in me that was abused by an unwell family system so that when I find myself in them as an adult, I am not triggered.  Well.  Not as much. From the future (the next moment,) I manage aggression by tending to my self-care so that I am able to provide the compassion to my life which defends me from the workaholism of our culture and preserves my calling as a human, a Christian and a priest. I find that the congregation wants its clergy to be kind more than they want us to be impressive or exhausted. So I manage aggression (not always well) from both ends to the middle.  But the last poison – indifference – that one brings me to my knees.  That one I am working hard to work on.

Indifference is like accidie – what the Bible calls the ‘noonday demon” or spiritual boredom; and is a kind of dullness of unawareness.  And that is why it feels so hard for me.  Does it for you too?  Or am I alone?  How does one become aware of not being aware when the “not being aware” is what is blocking the awareness? (That sentence just gave me a headache…but it works.) I am meditation on this poem by a favorite mystic:

The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.
The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference.
The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference.
And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.

Eli Weisel (Oct. 1986)

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