by Nick Andrea
Inner peace is not dependent on conditions.
Today I found myself contemplating the comedian Ron White, famous for his role in the Blue Collar Comedy Tour. Every time he gets up on stage he’s got a glass of scotch in his left hand. He slurs body movements and speech and tells a lot of stories about being drunk.
Since my main goal in life is inner peace I tend to see the world through those eyes. “Is his apparent lifestyle conducive to such?” I contemplated. Normally, I wouldn’t think so, for alcohol clouds the mind and can seriously harm the body over time. In reflecting, however, upon numerous stories of great Zen and Buddhist masters like Ko Bong Sunim or Chogyam Trungpa, who have carried their dharma (teaching) forth with absolute clarity despite their drunkenness, I realized that judgment was all mine. While something like alcohol, for example, can cloud the mind and harm the body, deep peace is not dependent on the conditions of body and mind, but is a decision in every moment to embody an undivided state. It is the decision to drop thinking (doing) and embrace being, to “forget the self,” as Dogen advises us.
Does that mean we should all go become alcoholics or uninhibitedly pursue every bad habit we have the urge for? Nope. Though our souls be ever free, these bodies are subject to conditions. Chogyam Trungpa died at age 48 of cirrhosis of the liver. His high level of enlightenment did not spare him from the rules of cause and effect in the conditional world. So, that peace is not subject to the conditions of body and mind does not mean we shouldn’t take care of body and mind to the best of our ability. I mean, I don’t know about anybody else, but I want to be healthy. However, it does mean we should never judge ourselves or others, when we do not live up to our own standards, for that judgment, itself, divides us from that state of deep peace. Seung Sahn Soen Sa Nim, student of Ko Bong Sunim, said that although his master’s actions were “very bad,” he did them with 100% mind. That is why he was a great Zen master.
We are all creatures of conditioning. With alcoholism in particular, it is a well established fact that it is an illness with inherited genetic and behavioral influences. Most of us can control our conditioning as much as we can control the weather. That is why it’s important not to judge ourselves by it and not to identify ourselves with it, but to remember that there is always something deeper. And, that something deeper, that something beyond ourselves yet within ourselves, is the source of lasting satisfaction.