Islam

Do you know what is better than charity and fasting and prayer?

It is keeping peace and good relations between people,

as quarrels and bad feelings destroy mankind.

- Prophet Mohammed

7/5/10

Day 5

So, it's Monday night and I am pretty much starving. Not really, but I was only offered one thing to eat today and that was this morning by my wife. It was a solid meal (rice, veggies, soup, tofu, etc...), but I'm missing volume. I'm taking multi-vitamins, calcium and omega-3 (for my blood pressure which is almost at a normal level by the way) and drinking all the juice that is offered to me. It's the best I can do. During my Buddhist month, I couldn't eat after 12:00pm. That was hard. This month, I can eat after that time, but not at night. The catch is that I'm not really around people who can offer me food that much. It makes for a tricky situation. Have any food for me?


On top of that, I've noticed that there's a very fine line between begging and waiting for an offering. A Jain is not a beggar. Even though it is the way of the Jain monk to roam around the  country with no permanent home, they are never supposed to ask for shelter. They must rely on others to offer it. This afternoon, an elementary school student had a few delicious looking pastries. I was quite hungry and my instinct was to ask for some. As a teacher, I am almost always offered food here, but this little boy was not so inclined. My stomach was growling with hunger as they snacked away. Only a bite was all I wanted; one simple bite. What could it hurt? 


This is the struggle. This entire month I will be locked in a battle with my own willpower and the passion and desires of my body. 


***


Are you strong willed? I'm not. The fact that I've somehow managed to do pretty well in that department for the past few months is beyond me. Glossing over the years where the need for a strong will would be necessary, I honestly see nothing more than a schmeer of failures and compromises. The troubling part of the whole thing is that I don't think I'm alone on this one and since will is something far more complex than simply abstaining from bad habits--my only use for it so far--I wonder just how pervasive my lack of will is within greater society and, furthermore, whether it could end up damaging society. 


Willpower is simply defined as "energetic determination". The longer I live on this earth, the more I'm starting to realize that willpower and determination are actually hard to find in daily life. Sure, there are tons of grand examples of willpower in the world. I can't deny that, but I can shamefully admit that I have had very little determination in my life. In its place, I have substituted its evil cousin: desire.  However, desire has a much different meaning than "willpower". Meriam-Webster defines it as "to hope or wish for" something. This descrepancy--I feel--is leading to a more restless, agitated world where people seem to have lost the true value of their own self-worth. 

The word that seems to be floating around the purgatory of the modern human is "purpose". As a former student and now teacher, I can honestly say that students have no real purpose to study. They certainly have a desire, i.e., wealth, status, comfort and luxury, but when it gets down to it, many people have no clue what the real goal of their own education is. Parents and teachers even have a hard time articulating as well. Pinpointing whose fault it is is well beyond the scope of my knowledge or this project, but perhaps Emerson could enlighten us.
"The aim of education is to keep the child's nature and arm it with knowledge in the very direction in which it points."
He continues on in great length and chides the teacher for hindering individual growth by not allowing each pupil to flourish and focus on their "gift".  I agree that mass education is very troublesome, but the logistics of having a such system where individual creativity is always untapped is more than daunting. And while I get a bit down when I hear that most young students desire to be a celebrity, sports star or millionaire, I can't blame the teachers.

In fact, I'm not sure if anyone can be blamed. Blame doesn't solve anything anyways. Parents know their role as do social institutions, yet the current state of society has become so self-gratifying that even the best parents--like the two that I was lucky enough to have--can't compete. Willpower is not taught, but learned through failure. Desire is easy. Anyone can desire. The difference is that if you fail with willpower, then you'll get back up full intact. If you fail with desire, then you'll just move the goal post.

A society that desires first is a society destined for failure. I know that I am not the only person who can admit falling into the deep traps of lust, greed and envy and it seems that there is enough genuine willpower to keep the train on the tracks for awhile, but once that engine derails, the rest of the cars are sure to follow. It's never too late for reflection and self-improvement. I might have desired myself through this life so far, but I'm trying to change. I'm trying to ensure that my will cannot be broken at the first obstacle.

And while people chat casually about the need for others to truly have a purpose in their life and to cherish the gift of willpower, there are glaring guides and examples readily available to us. I am slowly trying to learn willpower, but am still battling my body rather than my mind. I must first get through my body. Jain scripture is certainly supplementing my strict regiment this month and the following story really helped me.

A man believes himself a hero as long as he does not behold the foe, as did Sisup├óla (before he beheld) the valorously-fighting, great warrior. They go forward to the head of the battle; but when the fight has begun the mother will not recognise her son, and he will be mangled by his foe.So a novice, who as yet has not suffered pains and is not yet used to a mendicant's life, believes himself a hero till he practises austerities.
When during the winter they suffer from cold and draughts, the weak become disheartened like Kshattriyas who have lost their kingdom. When they suffer from the heat of summer, sad and thirsty, the weak become disheartened like fish in shallow water. It is painful never to take anything but what is freely given, and begging is a liard task. Common people say that (men become monks) because they will not work and are wretched. Weak men who are unable (to bear) these insults in villages or towns, become disheartened like cowards in the battle.
Perchance a snarling dog will bite a hungry monk; in that case the weak will become disheartened like animals burnt by fire. Some who hate (the monks), revile them: 'Those who lead such a (miserable) life (as monks do), atone but (for their sins in a former life).Some call them names, as 'naked, lowest of beggars, baldhead, scabby, filthy, nasty.Those who behave in this way and do not know better, go from darkness to utter darkness, being fools and shrouded in delusion.When bitten by flies and gnats, and unable (to bear) the pricking of grass, (they will begin to doubt), 'I have not seen the next world, all may end with death! 
Some weak men who suffer from the plucking out of the hair, and who are unable to preserve their chastity, will become disheartened like fish transfixed by a spear.Some low people who lead a life of iniquity, and entertain heretical opinions, being subject to love and hatred, injure a monk.Some fools in outlying countries take a pious monk for a spy or a thief, bind him, and insult him with angry words. A weak monk being hurt with a stick or a fist or a fruit, remembers his (kind) relations, just as a woman who in a passion has left (her husband and house). All these hardships are difficult to bear; the weak return to their house (when they cannot bear them), like elephants covered with arrows (break down).
Thus I say.

1 comment:

  1. The Scripture 1 Peter 1:15 pops into my mind. "But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect..."

    Hope to me equals purpose, or rather it gives me purpose. If I have purpose and eternal hope then it's easier to maintain will-power. Even so, it's only through the grace of God do I have that.

    Ephesians 6:12 says, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." This leads me to believe that even if we do all we can to have will power, it's still a spiritual war, not just one of the flesh. Paul said in Romans 7:15....and beyond, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do....", which leads me to the conclusion that it's our sinful nature that makes it an eternal battle to do good and not what the flesh wants us to do. God help me!

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