"I welcomed this inquiry about what I said about Buddhism because some people have reacted very strongly to the things which I said. They used my "wrongness" about Buddhism as an excuse to throw out everything I said. To throw out the baby with the bath water. . . . Ironically, the quote above and the quote immediately following are separated in the book by an example about how twisted and distorted interpretations of the Bible have been. Later in the book I talk about how many so-called "Christian" teachings today are the very opposite of the teachings of Jesus. Some Christians have dismissed my book (thrown out the baby) for the very same reasons some Buddhists have."
***"I have had many clients who have practiced sitting in meditation for many years, who were taught to use meditation as a way of repressing the feelings - "observing" the feelings is not the same as owning and feeling and experiencing. Just as some "new age" or Metaphysical people use Spiritual Truths as another tool to deny the feelings . . . so too have meditation practices of observing the feelings been used by some to avoid feeling the feelings."
"Buddha - who was obviously an important messenger in setting up this defense system - taught that the fourth great truth is that one must control conduct, thinking, and belief by following the eight-fold path of right views, right speech, right conduct, right effort, right etc., etc.
Buddha could have been the patron saint of Codependence with that teaching. Always trying to be in control and do the "right" things is Codependence (as is going to the opposite extreme). It is a defense system for survival in a hostile environment. It is based on beliefs that are backwards, reversed."
"I had observed that the Japanese cultural customs in relationship to the concept of "honor" and "saving face" were established in such a way as to prevent individuals from having to set boundaries. When everyone is always making great effort to not say words that hurt or put others down - then no one has to set boundaries. A great deal of effort and energy goes into avoiding any conflict that might cause another discomfort.
Unfortunately, this dictates emotional dishonesty and loss of self. Setting boundaries is how we find out who we are - if I never have to stand up for myself then I never have to define myself as an individual."
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The Web Site of Spiritual Teacher, codependence counselor, grief therapist, author, Robert Burney and Joy to You & Me Enterprises
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Robert is the author of the Joyously inspirational book
The Dance of Wounded Souls
This page was written as part of a Question and Answer page on my original
web site. I have wanted for some time to add it as a regular web
page on this site. To read the original page go to Q
& A # 8
|Most of what is written on this page was first
published online on November 2, 1998 as part a Question and Answer page
of the Joy to You & Me web site. I have wanted for some time
to add it as a regular web page on this site.
This page contains some excerpts from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls and from e-mails from someone who was questioning his view of Buddhism.
A new friend who recently ordered my book shared her feelings about it in several e-mails while reading it. One of the things she questioned in the first e-mail was my perspective of Buddhism.
I'm into the third chapter and as these feelings and reflections arise I would like to communicate with you before they fade. I have a different perspective of Buddhism than the one you presented.
I was actually quite happy to have this question raised. In the third chapter of my book I use an interpretation of Buddhism which I had run across, as a tool for making some points in my explanation of the dis-ease of Codependence. I am going to quote some of the my sections about Buddha's teachings here for anyone who has not read my book.
And we are not going through a cycle of lifetimes simply because that is all there is - or as Buddha supposedly taught, of which the goal is to cease to exist.
One of the things that I was very happy to see was that the person raising the question about Buddhism was able to express her reaction to what I said and then read on until she came to an understanding of my perspective. One of the sad things for me to watch in the reactions that people have had to my book is that some of them let the disease dictate their reactions in exactly some of the same ways that I describe as the disease dynamics. One aspect of Codependence is black and white, right and wrong, thinking. I talk in my book about how important it is to learn discernment so that we can pick the baby out of the dirty bath water. There is Truth all around us in different religions, philosophies, Spiritual practices - there is also distortion and twisted belief in all of them. It is vital to learn to tune into our inner channel in order to feel which teachings resonate with us - while knowing that we don't have to accept that which does not resonate. Many wounded humans - because they have learned not to trust themselves - want someone else to tell them what is right and wrong because they are terrified of doing life "wrong." So they look for all the Truth in one place and reject anything that doesn't fit with that way of seeing things.
I welcomed this inquiry about what I said about Buddhism because some people have reacted very strongly to the things which I said. They used my "wrongness" about Buddhism as an excuse to throw out everything I said. To throw out the baby with the bath water. As I state very clearly (seems clear to me) in the continuation quote below - the interpretation I use of Buddha's teaching is a tool to make a point. And as will be seen in later quotes (which the person who sent the e-mail had not gotten to at the time she wrote) I mention an interpretation of Buddha that aligns with what I am saying in the book. Ironically, the quote above and the quote immediately following are separated in the book by an example about how twisted and distorted interpretations of the Bible have been. Later in the book I talk about how many so-called "Christian" teachings today are the very opposite of the teachings of Jesus. Some Christians have dismissed my book (thrown out the baby) for the very same reasons some Buddhists have.
Now to get back to Buddha. We are told - by writers who wrote all of it down long after he was dead, of course - that Buddha taught that there were four Great Truths. (This is one interpretation of Buddha's teachings which is being used here as a tool. It is not meant to diminish or negatively reflect on the Spiritual value of other versions.)I do not practice a formal training but was raised in both the temple and in the Christian church and everyone spoke Japanese in both so I don't know what really went on. The essence of it is in my genetics and mutated into a blend of paths that suited my needs better. The past 28 years I have studied a Tibetan teaching. They do sometimes sound harsh and the precepts have appeared to be rather masochistic in the emphasis on suffering. I have perceived it to be no different than the recovery process worded in a tight and specific way maybe for a different culture.
I agree with your perception there - recovery or Spiritual healing or any path can be worded in right and wrong language that is harsh and can be shaming. One of the nice things about alcoholism for someone new in recovery is that it is very black and white - you don't drink no matter what. Many alcoholics have used the black and white thinking of their codependence to help them stay sober. Some of the alcoholics that I have seen that are suffering the most (and can be the most black and white and shaming) have been sober for many years - 30 or 40 in some cases. One of the main reasons I still attend AA meetings is to carry the message of Codependence Recovery to the suffering alcoholics in AA.
To continue the Buddha quote:
Buddha - who was obviously an important messenger in setting up this defense system - taught that the fourth great truth is that one must control conduct, thinking, and belief by following the eight-fold path of right views, right speech, right conduct, right effort, right etc., etc.The Eightfold path of "right" things - maybe like the 10 Commandments was to guide some pretty barbaric people and give them the idea that we create "great unhappiness" by saying words that hurt and not being mindful of the tone we use, putting down others to make ourselves right, or will not be as fulfilled if we take on a livelihood that is not an expression of our gift and the love we have for it, etc. Maybe "right" is a misleading word. I wonder what the original one was.
I wonder what the original was also. Going back to the original language can often be very enlightening. As an example, the word Jesus used in Aramaic to describe God was not a masculine noun - it could have been translated as source or foundation as well as father. The choice of translation was made out to the belief systems of those who transcribed and translated what they had heard that Jesus had said.
As you discovered in reading the rest of the book - I later put Buddha's teachings into the context of today's healing.
Buddha carried Truth and served as a messenger for teaching people how to protect themselves until it was time to awaken. [In the context of today's healing, it can be seen that Buddha's fourth great truth (one must control conduct, thinking, and belief) can be interpreted as referring to developing internal and external boundaries, practicing discernment, choosing an enlightened perspective, and having an honest, balanced emotional relationship with self. The need to choose right views, right conduct, right effort, etc., in this context can be seen to refer to integration and balance - not right versus wrong.]The veil of conflicting emotions that creates pain was to be "experienced without repressing, evoking or transferring them....." or in other texts to "make friends with the demon" or "put one's head in the demon's mouth". I felt it to mean that no matter how great the conflict to look for the underlying sameness and bring it into a harmony. I thought it to mean there is no original badness but a "soft spot" that we make armor over when hurt. Or that it's is our wound that we must heal - Boddhicitta awakened heart.
Your interpretation here makes good sense. I can read your words "make friends with the demon" as being the same dynamic that I describe in the book as "we need to surrender to traveling through the black hole of our grief."" . . . look for the underlying sameness and bring it into a harmony."is to me the same as integrating Spiritual Truth into our process. " . . . no original badness but a "soft spot"is to me the wounded inner child parts of us that we need to learn to Love and parent in a healthy way. And of course the journey is all about awakening to Love.
Unfortunately what a lot of people I have encountered and worked with were taught was not to experience "without repressing, evoking or transferring them....."- but to "observe." I have had many clients who have practiced sitting in meditation for many years, who were taught to use meditation as a way of repressing the feelings - "observing" the feelings is not the same as owning and feeling and experiencing. Just as some "new age" or Metaphysical people use Spiritual Truths as another tool to deny the feelings (I have worked with many people who thought they had no right to be angry at their parents because they "chose" them - that choice was made in alignment with the need to settle Karma, not of totally free selection, and in no way negates our need to own our right to be angry about how their behavior affected us. Just the other day a friend told me that her boyfriends mother refuses to take any responsibility for what happened in his childhood because he "chose" her.) so too have meditation practices of observing the feelings been used by some to avoid feeling the feelings.
(Being able to observe ourselves is a very important tool in the process but like any other tool - acceptance, forgiveness, honesty, etc. - can be taken out of balance and applied dysfunctionally.)
I dated a woman for a while who had been practicing for many years - it was very interesting for me to observe (I was at a point in my process where I was working on letting go of rescuing and needing to change the other person - so I was just observing) how she ignored conflict. We never did any processing of difficulties which arose because she would act as if it never happened. Avoiding conflict also denies intimacy - we cannot be emotionally intimate with someone we can't be angry at. Conflict is an inherent part of relationships and is to be worked through to grow from - it is the garden out of which deeper intimacy grows.
More on Buddha:
Buddha's second great truth is that it is "the craving," the "thirst for life," that causes suffering. That it is our desires and human needs that cause us suffering.I understood craving to mean addiction and it was described as a demon with "a belly the size of a mountain and mouth the size of an eye of a needle" and to understand it we had to make friends with it and not fight it. I really think it's saying the same thing you are. The exercise I do is to "turn poison into gold" - spiritual alchemy of taking the rough stuff of living and turning it into growth and discovery. Like bad relationships and experiences being opportunities to stand up for myself and overcome my fears and that limiting certain experiences by being motivated by "conditioned existence creates a deadening effect on life." That's what I thought Dharma meant. Facing and embracing all the messy stuff that we try to avoid. If I'm in denial of something please tell me.
You are right on! Your phrase - a demon with a belly the size of a mountain and mouth the size of an eye of a needle reminded me of the AA saying "one drink is too many and a thousand never enough." The craving for something outside of us to fill the hole within is a bottomless pit - because we are looking outside for something that can only be found within. It just plain does not work to try to fill the hole in our soul with outside or external manifestations.
The snake medicine people of the shamanistic path or medicine wheel beliefs are taught to transmute poison into power. That is exactly what we do in recovery - by owning our wounds we can embrace the wounded parts of our self and turn those wounds into strength and power. True compassion and Love cannot be achieved without accessing Love and compassion for ourselves.
As you said - spiritual alchemy of taking the rough stuff of living and turning it into growth and discovery. Or in my words "I don't have any problems - I have opportunities for growth." That is what life is all about - growing and learning. It is so important to see our life as a learning process instead of as a test or punishment. Changing our relationship with life by seeing life events and other peoples behavior as opportunities changes our whole experience of life. Unfortunately just knowing this Truth intellectually is the first step and doesn't change things that much in our most intimate relationships. Until we go into the void / demon's mouthof our wounds and own and feel and experience the feelings - we cannot change the subconscious programming, we cannot change our relationships with the people we care the most about. Codependence is a reactive disorder the effect of which is dysfunctional - and could be described as you did: limiting certain experiences by being motivated by "conditioned existence creates a deadening effect on life." - if we are reacting out of our childhood conditioning, we are limiting our life experience - we are not Truly alive.
Dysfunction in Japanese Culture
Here is another quote from my book that relates to this:
I want to make a couple of points of clarification at this time.Japanese culture has been out of balance (in my opinion) in terms of discounting the individual in favor of the larger system. This is, of course, changing slowly as the dysfunctional Western Civilization type of individualism invades the East - but the tradition has been that maintaining the honor of the larger system - family, country, corporation - was more important than any individual rights.
What you said about your interpretation of Buddhism that we create "great unhappiness" by saying words that hurt and not being mindful of the tone we use, putting down others to make ourselves right, makes something I had been thinking make perfect sense. I had observed that the Japanese cultural customs in relationship to the concept of "honor" and "saving face" were established in such a way as to prevent individuals from having to set boundaries. When everyone is always making great effort to not say words that hurt or put others down - then no one has to set boundaries. A great deal of effort and energy goes into avoiding any conflict that might cause another discomfort.
Unfortunately, this dictates emotional dishonesty and loss of self.
Setting boundaries is how we find out who we are - if I never have to stand
up for myself then I never have to define myself as an individual.
And as I said above - we cannot be emotionally intimate with someone we
cannot be angry with - emotional intimacy by definition is being able to
express all of our emotions. That does not mean that we have to express
them in destructive ways or put others down - but it wasn't until I started
learning how to set boundaries that I started to learn who I really am.
Until then I was defined by all those outside things - what I did, what
I owned, who liked me, if you thought I was attractive, etc. As long
as we are defining ourselves by outer or external influences we are set
up to be victims. So the dysfunction in Japanese culture is in some
ways the other extreme from the "ugly American" type dysfunction - and
neither work to help us reconnect with our Spirit so that we can tune into
the Love that is the True heritage of all of us.
May 14,2000 - I wrote the above in October of 1998 - which seems like eons ago. On the Question and Answer page which this material was a part of, I got off into some other topics and never really summed up my views of Buddha.
I believe that Buddha was one of the great Master Teachers in world history. As I say in the quote from my book above, I believe that Buddha was teaching about integration and balance. The thing that I see missing in the ways that Buddha's teachings have been passed on, is feeling the feelings. Actually owning, experiencing, and releasing the emotional energy, is to me a vital part of the healing process. The more that we detach from the feelings - that is, adapt a Spiritual perspective that: helps us to not take them so seriously and personally; helps us to take any toxic shame out of the process; - the less power they have. But it is still vital to feel and release the energy and not just approach our emotions from an intellectual perspective.
What we are seeking is a balance between emotional and mental, between intuitive and rational, along with an integration of Spiritual Truth into our emotional experience of life. (The later being what makes the preceding possible.)
Perhaps it was not possible or wise to encourage people to experience and release their emotions in the times that Buddha lived in. Perhaps, feeling and releasing the feelings were part of Buddha's teachings that got lost over the years. Whatever the cause, the effect of Buddhism has been that a large part of the world's population has had several thousand years of cultural training in being stoical, of detaching from their feelings. This is part of the dysfunction in Eastern Civilization. In not owning our feelings we lose our self.
I am going to end this article with another quote from my book that mentions Buddha. This is one of the very few places in my book that I would make a slight change if I could do it over. Instead of saying Buddha had it half right - I would say Buddha was accurate on one level. That level being how important it is for us to let go of our attachment to the Illusion. In letting go of attaching our self worth to the material world we live in, and getting in touch with who we really are - then we can become free to truly start to enjoy this remarkable boarding school we are temporarily attending. It is a Cosmic Amusement Park that can be exciting and fun when we start remembering that we do get to go home - that in Truth, a part of us already is home.
There is a reason that we never felt at home here. It is because we have felt disconnected, and then when we made all those attempts to reconnect, we were dialing the wrong number. We were looking outside for the answers.
This writing of Robert Burney was first published November 2, 1998 as part a Question and Answer page of the Joy to You & Me web site.