Posted by David on December 16, 1998 at 11:27:07:
In Reply to: Buddhism - a Devotional Void. posted by david rose on December 16, 1998 at 02:15:08:
I'll be the first to take a go at the issues you're bring up.
First, about 9 years ago I went through what I can relate to as a "devotional void". I could not escape this great feeling of an emptiness, or lacking, where I felt there should be something special (or at least something!), within myself. I then began studying Christianity (the Bible and the Philokalia) and Hindusim/Yoga. The Chirstianity gave me something I could hold in there, but I had to hold it in there. I didn't really click with Hinudism too much I guess, but I learned a lot about the nature of mind and about aspects of the practical approach to spirituality through the various Yogic teachings (karma yoga, jhana yoga, bhakti yoga, kundalini yoga, hatha yoga, etc.). So many, but each one established to suit a different personality type.
Anyway, I went on to somehow come across the book by Thich Nhat Hanh, "The Miracle of Mindfulness" and then Joko Beck's book "Everyday Zen." (I think that was it's title). When I read the first of these, I knew I was home. Now, maybe I just don't know how to find this kind of "fulfillment" in other approaches - the Yogic teachings came closest for me before - or maybe it's just not my fate to do so, but that's the way it is.
The special thing about the approach I picked-up from these teachers, and have sense continued to develop studying under my current Master and also my local teacher, was the lack of need to fill anything, or you could say the lack of substance of this percieved "void" even though I definitely then percieved it as void (and still can, actually). There's guy (Stephen someone?) who sells some tapes about "The 7 Habits of Effective People" (a gift from my father, but turned out to be very intersting and useful) who talks a lot about our mental paradigm and how how we think shapes "what things are to us." This is quite in line with Buddhist (and probably much of) psychology. And one way or another, these first two books changed my paradigm such that I no longer felt I had to hold anything in the void, nor try to destroy it.
It became a very intersting "getting to know you" process of becoming first familiar then comfortable with this feeling of "lacking something." Once that was accomplished, the Buddhist teachings have laid out the way to understand the nature of this feeling, it's causes, it's potential disappearance, bring about it's natural dissapearance). It's kind of like that old Christian prayer about give me the patience to endure what I can't (now) change, the strength to act on what I can (now) change, and the wisdom to know when each is appropriate.
So, I think I do know what you're feeling. But I wouldn't worry too much about it if I were you; if you do, you may only go grab onto something else to to fill the hole which will only fall "out" again sometime in the future. A book that you might find conceptually and practically useful is by Ajahn Sumedho, called "The Mind and The Way: Buddhist reflections on life." I have found Ajahn Sumedho's teachings very helpful for the practice of "just be with it and get to know it," which may be your best current option for beginning to develop a lasting solution to this feeling of unsatisfactoriness, or unfulfilledness, you are having. Of course, once you are able to stop trying to fill that one, other (usually smaller) "voids" will present themselves. But they can all be dealt with in the same way.
As for devotional and non-devotional Buddhism, if you're not ready to sit with and investigate and come to know and understand the "void" in you right now, you can use devotional practices to help you until you are. They can bring a lot of peace and joy. Devotional practices are also useful for developing humility and for drawing closer to a mind set similar to that of the one you show devotion to. Devotional practices definitely have their uses.
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