Dealing with Flaws and Lapses

A forum for discussion of Buddhist ethics.
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Wayfarer
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Dealing with Flaws and Lapses

Post by Wayfarer » Wed Dec 27, 2017 7:46 am

Sometimes I feel that the Mahāyāna is a vehicle for persons who are far superior to myself. Typically this is because of ethical lapses that I am subject to from time to time, by which I fall short of the precepts.

Now in Christian circles, the fact of falling short is frequently noted. ‘We have all fallen short’, is a Christian saying. So I sometimes feel that Christian teachings have a more realistic view of human nature than do Buddhists. After all most of us here are not ‘forest-dwelling sages’ but live complicated lives in an urban culture with many distractions and indeed temptations. The Great Perfections of the Mahāyāna path seem more attainable for spiritual Olympians rather than suburban householders with moral failings. So sometimes I wonder if Christian principles might not be more suitable, (although whenever I think that, I then realise that going back to a Church and participating in their services is not for me, even though I still feel some affinity for my Christian forbears.)

So sometimes I do become a bit disconsolate about this, as I have been practicing earnestly for quite a long while but am subject to backsliding and poor behaviours. My general approach is to acknowledge my shortcomings and then to keep on practicing, as I can’t see anything else that could be done. I mean, you could stop practicing, but then the hindrances have actually won, rather than simply obstructing. But I would like to do better in future. And I suppose, this being the last week of 2017, that I will make this a New Year’s resolution.

But I would like to hear If others grapple with these issues.
Only practice with no gaining idea ~ Suzuki Roshi

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Kim O'Hara
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Re: Dealing with Flaws and Lapses

Post by Kim O'Hara » Wed Dec 27, 2017 7:58 am

Wayfarer wrote:
Wed Dec 27, 2017 7:46 am
My general approach is to acknowledge my shortcomings and then to keep on practicing, as I can’t see anything else that could be done.
Absolutely right.
:thumbsup:
I don't know that I "grapple" with the same issues - it sounds a bit too serious for me :tongue: - but I do encounter them often enough. :emb:
And I recall that the Precepts are guidelines, not commandments, and that there are no penalties (other than the normal operation of karma) for lapses, and I keep on muddling through.

:namaste:
Kim

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Wayfarer
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Re: Dealing with Flaws and Lapses

Post by Wayfarer » Wed Dec 27, 2017 8:54 am

Yes well said Kim, I sometimes feel that I am still dealing with some of the Christian baggage of my cultural heritage. Christian samskaras!
Only practice with no gaining idea ~ Suzuki Roshi

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Vasana
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Re: Dealing with Flaws and Lapses

Post by Vasana » Wed Dec 27, 2017 9:05 am

This is completely normal. All we can do is keep going forward and learn from the habitual patterns that don't seem to shift. If we arm ourself with more study reflection and meditation then we can go beyond the set backs. Recognizing our hidden and recurring faults can be a pain but is nessacary.

It is impossible to be at your best or your worst at all times. Who is always consistent? Everyone changes according to different situations and as they go through life’s different phases. There is no point in feeling great pride or great shame simply because of temporary circumstances
~HH 17th Karmapa O.T.D

When you refrain from habitual thoughts and behavior, the uncomfortable feelings will still be there. They don’t magically disappear. Over the years, I’ve come to call resting with the discomfort “the detox period,” because when you don’t act on your habitual patterns, it’s like giving up an addiction. You’re left with the feelings you were trying to escape. The practice is to make a wholehearted relationship with that.
~ Pema Chödron
'When alone, watch your mind. When with others, watch your speech'- Old Kadampa saying.

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Wayfarer
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Re: Dealing with Flaws and Lapses

Post by Wayfarer » Wed Dec 27, 2017 9:49 am

Well said Vasana. I think ‘addiction’ is definitely a relevant description. I will take those quotes on board.

:anjali:
Only practice with no gaining idea ~ Suzuki Roshi

Simon E.
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Re: Dealing with Flaws and Lapses

Post by Simon E. » Wed Dec 27, 2017 9:49 am

Well first off I think we are often too quick to blame our Christian backgrounds..
Some of the most self-accusatory and guilt ridden Buddhists I have met are from Asian backgrounds and have never been near Christianity in their lives.
What we all have in common whatever our cultural and religious conditioning is the tendency to define ourselves by our memories and experiences. To create a person from assembled bits of perception , cognition and so on.
Secondly there are behaviours that we all, me, you, all of us regularly indulge that we SHOULD repent of if we want peace of mind for ourselves and those around us.
I think one of the reactions against the Christianity we have probably never actually practised is to go the other extreme and let ourselves off too lightly. I know that is a very unpopular pov in western Buddhist circles.

The thing is to acknowledge our failings fully..and then let them go.
That might have to be done many many times.
We are works in progress.
We might have 'Buddha Nature' but most of us at most times do not live there.
If you use the word 'mind' without defining your terms I will ask you politely for a definition. :smile:
This is not to be awkward. But it's really not self-explanatory.

shaunc
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Re: Dealing with Flaws and Lapses

Post by shaunc » Wed Dec 27, 2017 10:06 am

I could relate a lot to the OP. As you said, very few of us forrest dwelling sages or monastics. The vast majority of us are preoccupied with making a living and feeding our families. I try not to dwell too much on my short comings but at the same time not to ignore them completely. When you do, do well, remember to silently congragulate yourself although the real reward is in the karma. The other thing that I try to remember is that the reason I follow buddhism is to make my life better, not harder. Also, and this is only my belief and I can't back up my next statement with any quotes or references but some traditions are much better suited for a family man with limited time and resources at his disposal.
But what you said is also true, if you stop now you'll never get there and the time will pass anyway. Remember slow progress is still progress.
Good luck and best wishes.
Namu Amida Butsu.
Shaun.

Jeff H
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Re: Dealing with Flaws and Lapses

Post by Jeff H » Wed Dec 27, 2017 4:31 pm

My take on my Christian background is a little different. I loved the core teaching about loving my neighbor as myself, but I never heard how to do that. One of the things that drew me to Buddhism was the extensive explanations about why it is so difficult, and yet so crucially important, to equalize and exchange self and other, followed by instructions in how to create the causes that enable us to do so. That combined with the teaching that in the long term we are fully responsible for our own experiences (as opposed to being held eternally responsible by an unseen judge for our actions in this one life) means, for me, that I need to apply diligence to the best of my current ability without losing heart over my current shortcomings.

What’s more, I can’t really compare my involvement with Buddhism to my Christian experience because I was just a regular parish attendee. Although I don’t have direct experience with any societal Buddhist cultures, I suspect that there is a direct correspondence with similar lay Buddhist practitioners –- those who more or less passively attend the ceremonies and celebrate the holidays, mainly because they and their families always have. I think my Buddhist experience is closer in kind to Christians who feel a direct calling –- a personal tuning-in to the underlying message –- and who pursue that with a sense of religious or laic avocation. (I had tried to join the Third Order of Saint Francis, which is a society of lay people who make a formal commitment and write a personal Rule of Life, but it didn’t “take” because I never really felt like I fit.)

By the way, Shantideva does indeed “grapple” seriously with exactly this issue in chapter seven. His response is to think about the alternatives to Dharma practice, then choose the Dharma tasks he has reason to think he can complete, and (in verses 49-62) apply strong resolve using the three steadfastnesses: of action; of abilities; and against afflictive emotions.
We who are like children shrink from pain but love its causes. - Shantideva

SunWuKong
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Re: Dealing with Flaws and Lapses

Post by SunWuKong » Thu Dec 28, 2017 2:13 am

Wayfarer wrote:
Wed Dec 27, 2017 7:46 am
Sometimes I feel that the Mahāyāna is a vehicle for persons who are far superior to myself. Typically this is because of ethical lapses that I am subject to from time to time, by which I fall short of the precepts.

Now in Christian circles, the fact of falling short is frequently noted. ‘We have all fallen short’, is a Christian saying. So I sometimes feel that Christian teachings have a more realistic view of human nature than do Buddhists. After all most of us here are not ‘forest-dwelling sages’ but live complicated lives in an urban culture with many distractions and indeed temptations. The Great Perfections of the Mahāyāna path seem more attainable for spiritual Olympians rather than suburban householders with moral failings. So sometimes I wonder if Christian principles might not be more suitable, (although whenever I think that, I then realise that going back to a Church and participating in their services is not for me, even though I still feel some affinity for my Christian forbears.)

So sometimes I do become a bit disconsolate about this, as I have been practicing earnestly for quite a long while but am subject to backsliding and poor behaviours. My general approach is to acknowledge my shortcomings and then to keep on practicing, as I can’t see anything else that could be done. I mean, you could stop practicing, but then the hindrances have actually won, rather than simply obstructing. But I would like to do better in future. And I suppose, this being the last week of 2017, that I will make this a New Year’s resolution.

But I would like to hear If others grapple with these issues.
Yes I do grapple with these issues. Today i feel stronger LOL. But anyway i think for people from a culture which is greatly Christian in orientation, to follow the Christian ethical guidelines is advised, in some areas it falls short of the Buddhist parallel suggestions, but in others it exceeds them. The idea is to not become too attached to what the worldly life has to offer...when i get home from my typical day, 9 hours of work, 3 hours of commuting, i often find concentrated practice hard to do. So I opt for the easy does it less concentrated practice, and move on to the next day. Practice is supposed to make us more skilled, more joyful, more harmonious, so making it painful to do seems unwise.
"We are magical animals that roam" ~ Roam

Punya
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Re: Dealing with Flaws and Lapses

Post by Punya » Thu Dec 28, 2017 11:02 pm

Wayfarer wrote:
Wed Dec 27, 2017 7:46 am

So sometimes I do become a bit disconsolate about this, as I have been practicing earnestly for quite a long while but am subject to backsliding and poor behaviours. My general approach is to acknowledge my shortcomings and then to keep on practicing, as I can’t see anything else that could be done. I mean, you could stop practicing, but then the hindrances have actually won, rather than simply obstructing. But I would like to do better in future. And I suppose, this being the last week of 2017, that I will make this a New Year’s resolution.

But I would like to hear If others grapple with these issues.
You are definitely not alone in these struggles Wayfarer. Personally I find various slogans and quotations helpful.

Although Pema Chodron is considered lightweight by some, I think her writings are inspirational on this topic. Also, certain lojong phrases come back to me in particular situations. In addition, I just came across this:
It is most important to recognise that the Buddhists notion of, does not in entail ridding ourselves of bad karma in one fell stroke. It is much more a matter of wearing things down. If we persist and are not too impatient in what we are trying to do and keep an eye on what will benefit us in the long run, then we will see the benefits, however small they may be initially. Small benefits should not be underestimated as greater benefits follow from them. Even the very attempt to work with ones past karmic traces and dispositions itself creates new positive karmic propensities gradually one builds a different kind of propensity. Indeed the long range view needs to be kept, as Buddhism holds that until one attains enlightenment they will always be certain things we need to overcome.

Traleg Rinpoche in Karma: What it is, What it isn't and Why it matters.
Best wishes for your journey.
We abide nowhere. We possess nothing.
~Chatral Rinpoche

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Wayfarer
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Re: Dealing with Flaws and Lapses

Post by Wayfarer » Thu Dec 28, 2017 11:10 pm

Thanks to all for the sage advice and reminders.
Jeff H wrote:
Wed Dec 27, 2017 4:31 pm
By the way, Shantideva does indeed “grapple” seriously with exactly this issue in chapter seven
Thanks, Jeff - that is one of the texts I intend to study in 2018. By the way, have you discovered the excellent recitation of this text on Bodhisvara website? It is here.
SunWuKong wrote:when i get home from my typical day, 9 hours of work, 3 hours of commuting, i often find concentrated practice hard to do.
I can imagine! I'm lucky enough to have some time on my hands right now, the key thing is to make good use of it.

@Punya - thank you. :namaste:
Only practice with no gaining idea ~ Suzuki Roshi

Ricky
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Re: Dealing with Flaws and Lapses

Post by Ricky » Thu Dec 28, 2017 11:15 pm

Wayfarer wrote:
Wed Dec 27, 2017 7:46 am
Sometimes I feel that the Mahāyāna is a vehicle for persons who are far superior to myself. Typically this is because of ethical lapses that I am subject to from time to time, by which I fall short of the precepts.

Now in Christian circles, the fact of falling short is frequently noted. ‘We have all fallen short’, is a Christian saying. So I sometimes feel that Christian teachings have a more realistic view of human nature than do Buddhists. After all most of us here are not ‘forest-dwelling sages’ but live complicated lives in an urban culture with many distractions and indeed temptations. The Great Perfections of the Mahāyāna path seem more attainable for spiritual Olympians rather than suburban householders with moral failings. So sometimes I wonder if Christian principles might not be more suitable, (although whenever I think that, I then realise that going back to a Church and participating in their services is not for me, even though I still feel some affinity for my Christian forbears.)

So sometimes I do become a bit disconsolate about this, as I have been practicing earnestly for quite a long while but am subject to backsliding and poor behaviours. My general approach is to acknowledge my shortcomings and then to keep on practicing, as I can’t see anything else that could be done. I mean, you could stop practicing, but then the hindrances have actually won, rather than simply obstructing. But I would like to do better in future. And I suppose, this being the last week of 2017, that I will make this a New Year’s resolution.

But I would like to hear If others grapple with these issues.
You ever looked into shin buddhism?

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Wayfarer
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Re: Dealing with Flaws and Lapses

Post by Wayfarer » Thu Dec 28, 2017 11:19 pm

As a matter of fact, yes - I discovered Shin through David Brazier's books earlier this year. There is a Shin Buddhist association not too distant from where I live and also an interesting Shin association with an online newsletter. Thanks for reminding me - something I must study again.
Only practice with no gaining idea ~ Suzuki Roshi

Jeff H
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Re: Dealing with Flaws and Lapses

Post by Jeff H » Fri Dec 29, 2017 1:20 am

Wayfarer wrote:
Thu Dec 28, 2017 11:10 pm
... have you discovered the excellent recitation of this text on Bodhisvara website? It is here.
I was not aware of that resource. It looks good, I'll check it out. Thanks.
We who are like children shrink from pain but love its causes. - Shantideva

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daibunny
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Re: Dealing with Flaws and Lapses

Post by daibunny » Fri Dec 29, 2017 2:17 am

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
~Leonard Cohen

The lotus doesnt bloom without the mud and all is Mind, even the parts that dont smell so good :)
Nothing remains
Of the house that I was born in--
Fireflies.

- Santoka, 1882-1940
Mountain Tasting: Zen Haiku by Santoka Taneda, 1980, p.48
Translated by John Stevens

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