What would a Bodhisattva do about loud neighbors? And the resulting Anger? And Self-Cherishing? Living Buddhism

Living Buddhism

What would a Bodhisattva do about loud neighbors?

And the resulting Anger?

And Self-Cherishing?

Bodhisattvas cave muralYeah, I’ve been kvetching about the loud neighbors but rest assured I’ve been not only externalizing a solution but internalizing one too.  I’ve used the scrape-your-fingers-down-the-chalkboard type of setting your teeth on edge irritation as charnel ground meditation; but even there one knows the exit or path that takes one away from that graveyard—in case it becomes too much, we need an escape button, don’t we?

Is it any co-incidence that as I consider those matters, I’m also contemplating death, dying in such a way that one can be liberated while still living and breathing?  Well, as much as one can anyway.  And I’m having a more serious look at The 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva.  Factor that into the loud Indian neighbor situation, the contemplation on death—stir well and sprinkle with a generous handful of Practice #20.

Most blog readers will know the meaning of the word Bodhisattva but the short version of a definition is spiritual practitioner—practice of compassion for altruistic benefits.  The 37 Practices describe the enlightened qualities of an aspirant (my own words) which come about due to causes.  (Causes such as loud, boisterous, inconsiderate neighbors?)  And in the list of the practices we see definite references to those types of situations and how to integrate these difficulties of earth living into spiritual practice.

I clearly realize the ‘enemy’ if there is one in my situation with the frustrating irritations of the neighbors is within me, totally, entirely, and completely.  I got that part; so no finger-pointing please.

Do I run from it, push it away or go toward it or do nothing?  I’ve sat with it and the aversion is so great that I think I may cry if I do not put on the white noise so I cannot hear it.  I’d be the first one to run down the path and back to the monastery if I had do to real live grave-yard charnel practice!

I don’t think there’s any teaching that says that the thing that drives you the most crazy you should go seek it out just to see if you can handle it—or maybe there is and I’m wrong about that.

If you want to talk about aversion for a second—let’s do.  My aversion is to myself for having the reactions of intense, acute and profound irritation to their voices in the first place.

Before you start thinking it, let me say that I know it all comes from self-cherishing and self-grasping and attachment to an idea that my living quarters should be completely free from gawd-awful vocal intrusions. Got that too!

The wisdom teachers say that when we cave and just “can’t deal”, to use the situation to bring up compassion for all others who have the same situation in life. One great comfort is that if we reflect for even a nano-second we realize we are not alone in our suffering, whatever it is, no matter what!  With (what is the number we hear others give?) something like 6-million –or is that billion?–people on earth, there has to be at least one (and usually thousands) who are going through that exact same situation right at that exact same moment.

This brings comfort—we are not alone.  So then we bring up the ole’ catholic training and say I will suffer this and for all who suffer for the suffering souls including myself.   It gives the suffering (which is plainly everywhere on Earth, look around) a purpose, a meaning and brings it into a workable (at least for me) and relative perspective.

There’s a certain surrender in that—grant me the serenity to deal with what I cannot change.  I’ve changed what I could already—speaking to them directly (which was like speaking to a wall that is in denial that it’s a wall – for lack of a better example), and I’ve tried speaking to the management and one night I took the management’s suggestion and called the police to give them the word.  They were screaming after all and it was well after midnight and I even brought the altruistic reason into that one—“I do this act of calling the police for all the neighbors, not just myself.”

Oh, sure I can have compassion for the couple—of course.  I think they drink or drug a lot especially if you consider loud never ending conversations a drug.  And they are in a strange country – from India and you know we all have problems.  It’s not hard for me to feel compassion in those ways.  But sometimes my own frustration and self-cherishing and attachment to how I think my life should be when it isn’t gets the best of me and it seems a simple thing not to have un-welcomed human voices permeating my living space.

So yeah, I crank up the white noise (see my last blog post) as my escape valve.

But what about death? I mean that’s one experience where there IS no escape valve really.  I mean we have to deal with it and can’t go anywhere else then or we can’t turn up the white nose to drown it out.  It’s intense and frightening and irritating and we have to really let go of self-cherishing at that time, don’t we?  Well, if we don’t we suffer more.  I’m reading The Tibetan Book of the Living and The Dying (again) and this is my 2nd go at the modern version of the text by Songyal Rinpoche.  It’s more a text about living but the stages of dying are fully described both from the perspective of the dying person and the family and caregivers.  Really useful stuff for when a family member dies or we ourselves—our time will come.

How can I let go when I really need to if I cannot let go in this situation with my neighbors?  I’m working on all that.

Meanwhile, I do love the references to the point in the death process when we reach such a state of luminosity of mind that the – well, the Buddhist call them the 3 poisons leave us completely.  We can get there in this life and do if we’re successful with our meditation practice.  We reach a state where there are no attachments, and it is give a name by the wisdom teachers:  sky consciousness.  The three poisons (anger, ignorance and desire) —gone!  Have you been there to that place? A peaceful lifestyle helps and a crazy couple from India who rocks your world doesn’t!

Let me take a breather to say that I’m grateful they go to work during the day and I’m grateful for when they run their central air unit (even if they have it on fan which I’ve enlightened them about doing).  For when we both have it running, I barely hear them.  I say barely and again it’s not their fault or mine this building that we over-pay in rent to live within is so poorly insulated (paper thin walls).  I’m grateful for electricity and I’m grateful for the fact that they’re gone during the day; thank you thank you thank you thank you!  Amen.

I don’t like my inner reaction and if I’m honest it’s the first of the 3 poisons that most Buddhist text refers to—anger.  Their anger triggers my own?  Maybe?  I don’t know exactly.  But I don’t like that intense feeling that makes me feel like I’m about to lose control.  Like fingernails down a chalkboard I want to cover my ears and run; but HA, I live here!  Some things you can’t run from and this situation as well as my own eventual death someday down the line is another something that I cannot run from.

All this is preparing me I’m sure; everything is somehow always inner-related.  I looked up The 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva online (http://www.dharmadhatu-center.org/the_37_practices_of_a_bodhi.html).  I’m sure I have a Book on the 37 Practices here somewhere on my bookshelf; later today I will try to find it.  (Note to self to do that!)

I should blog my way through the 37 practices as I deal with the hell realms below me (downstairs neighbors).  In the end, it may help me to be able to die well and use that moment-of-death that they talk about to enhance enlightenment.

So anyway for now, for today, OM MANI PADME HUM, what about Practice #20?

Practice 20
Taming the mind
If you have not tamed the enemy of your own anger,

Combating outer opponents will only make them multiply.

Therefore, with an army of loving kindness and compassion,

To tame your own mind is the practice of a Bodhisattva.

Generally we think we must defeat outer opponents. If only we could get rid of them, we would be happy. Or so we believe. But we cannot overcome all adversaries, and when we try, their numbers just increase. At first we have one, then two, then many. So what are we to do? The only solution is to tame our anger, tame our mindstream through bodhichitta. Armed with the attitude of loving kindness and compassion, we naturally no longer have any external enemies. Because the Great Teacher, the Buddha, the Bhagawan, had tamed his mindstream, he prevailed against the Maras who tried to distract him as he sat meditating beneath the Bodhi tree in Bodhgaya. The Buddha was armed with the forces of the samadhi of loving kindness, and the Maras could not harm him. The Great Yogi Milarepa tamed the enemy of ego-clinging with the force of the wisdom that realizes selflessness. And he conquered the enemy of anger with the army of bodhichitta. Because he defeated his inner foes of ego-clinging and anger, he became so skillful that even his bitterest enemies eventually became his disciples.


Maybe in my next blog post, whenever the neighbors are ranting below me (which is usually the same time I’m blogging as a coping mechanism), instead of kvetching, I’ll blog about one of The 37 Practices of the Boddhisattva.  That’s the lose plan, time permitting — stay tuned?

Let’s see if blogging my way through this can help others, I’ll do my best.

“Namaste!” which is what I said while giving a slight bow to my downstairs neighbors about 3 weeks ago (sigh!)  Meanwhile, reaching for my copy of The Tibetan Book of the Living and Dying, lifting it to the sky, making a bow to you and the wisdom teachers who have gone before us…. I bid you good day!