Saturday, January 28, 2012

Imperfection in Buddhism

Nothing lasts,
nothing is finished,
nothing is perfect.

In carrying water,
and chopping wood,
I am at peace. 

I was inspired by Richard Powell's description of wabi-sabi, Feng Youlan's five main points of Ch'an, and Thich Nhat Hanh's description of apranihita to compose this very short verse.  I hope, if you read it from a Buddhist perspective, you recognize that the subject is not resignation, but liberation.  It addresses pervasive performance anxiety.  (But who can find peace under those conditions?)  Not the best analogy, but it's something like finding a calm in the middle of a storm, or maybe like the concept of "flawed beauty" (though I'd argue that all real beauty is flawed).  Carrying water and chopping wood is a metaphor for any kind of work that is never finished and whose benefits are only transitory, but if not engaged in (as the need arises) can result in considerable stress and anxiety.

Living in the moment is the key to happiness.  To be a child, to marvel at the beauty of the world and see it new for the first time, pure and unstained, without cynicism, without pessimism, without judgement of any kind.  I watched Nature: The Himalayas last night; every exceptional scene brought this to mind.  Reminding myself that everything is transient and fragile allows me to better appreciate it while it lasts, and yet not regret overmuch when something new inevitably takes its place (this sentiment is also called “mono no aware”).

See also Camus' The Myth of Sisyphus.

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