In continuance of the thread I started in part 1 of this post topic, I wanted to share a little bit more about right and regular.
Sister Dieu Nghiem mapped out this chart (image above) in a talk she gave back in October at Plum Village. Simply put, this chart represents the equation of what it means to have and develop right diligence. Right diligence involves: not watering the unwholesome seeds that lie in our consciousness, stopping to water the unwholesome seeds once they rise up and become a mental formation (or active state of mind), watering the wholesome seeds that lie in our consciousness, and continuing to water the wholesome seeds once they rise up and become a mental formation.
So, what then is regular diligence? Let’s say that someone has been meditating for a long time – we’ll say 5 years. And for those 5 years, they’ve been sitting every single day in the morning for 20-minutes. This equates to this person having sat a total of 36,500 minutes in meditation. However, despite the fact that they’ve been diligent in sitting every day for 20-minutes, they don’t really feel as though they’ve benefited very much at all from their practice (and neither do their loved ones, by the way). They are still just as restless, agitated, stressed out, overwhelmed at work, and short-tempered with their partner as they were when they were driven to starting a daily habit of meditation in the first place, 5 years ago. Yes, this person has been diligent in sitting but we couldn’t – and shouldn’t – consider this to be right diligence because it hasn’t increased this person’s ability to transform and heal.
As a recap from part 1: I recently watched a talk by Sister Dieu Nghiem on Youtube and she described wholesome habit energies as leading us in the direction of transformation and healing and unwholesome habit energies as that which leads us in the direction of suffering. And I think this explanation applies here, with the word wholesome equating to the word right. So we could say that right stands in accordance with a thought/word/action that propels us in the direction of transformation and healing.
In the Discourse on Youth and Happiness, it states:
Beings produce wrong perceptions concerning objects of desire. That is why they are caught in desire. Because they do not know what desire really is.
For our purposes here, I would translate this as there being an important difference between regular desire and right desire. In consulting with my old pal dictionary.com, desire is defined as such: to wish or long for; crave; want. In our current and modern time, I would define regular desire as incorporating the energetic components of craving, grasping, and attachment and right desire as incorporating such things as being realistically driven by determined will and being governed and propelled into action by a sovereign foundation rooted in solidity and ease. I regard right desire as enfolding the premise of what this meme offers, which I recently shared in a post a few days ago and is serving as my newly held encouraging anthem:
There is a right and a regular way to do pretty much anything I think. We can be a regular sangha member and show up every week to our home group without actively engaging with anyone or sharing/contributing or emotionally investing or we can be a right sangha member and show up every week and really show up; with our full presence, in the spirit of connection and openness.
We can develop a regular mindfulness practice in the Plum Village tradition: reading Thay’s books; maybe attending a retreat once in a while; posting Dharmic quotes on our social media of choice; and situating a lovely Buddha statue to greet visitors at our front door, all while calling ourselves a practitioner. When in reality, we’re not actively engaged in generating and strengthening the true spirit of the teachings – we’re not actually doing any of the work, we’re just sort of reading and posting about the work, which is not at all the same thing.
Or we can invest ourselves in cultivating a right mindfulness practice in the Plum Village tradition by: regularly attending, and dynamically investing in, a sangha group with the energy of curiosity and friendliness; investing time and energy into learning and studying the Dharma from seasoned, skilled teachers and mentors; prioritizing the incorporation of mindful breathing, mindful walking, and sitting meditation in our daily life; regularly attending retreats and days of mindfulness organized and led by members of our sangha family; and using the tools we are given to actively transform our suffering.
Here’s another example:
There is a difference between cultivating regular joyfulness and cultivating right joyfulness. Regular joyfulness involves chasing after microbursts of pleasure, which fade like a flash, and hinging our state of well-being on them, despite the fact that part of us knows that it will be super temporary. Microbursts of pleasure can include such things as: drinking alcohol, smoking pot, watching Netflix, shopping, flirting with someone for a quick fix of self-validation, playing video games, going on a trip, attending a party, having sex, etc. Now, it’s worth mentioning here that right joyfulness can also include many of these same activities, however, the difference is that our state of well-being is not hinged on them. With right joyfulness, we are not running and chasing after microbursts of pleasure and using them to validate or placate our self – and we’re also not using them to hide from reality or from difficult emotions or to delay tending to elements of self-care. Regular joyfulness is fast fleeting. Right joyfulness is steady and supportive; it underpins how we engage with our self and the world around us despite the outer circumstances unfolding. Right joyfulness is a quality of being that travels into any and all situations that arise. No one can rob us of right joyfulness because we’ve placed the general state of our well-being into no one’s hands other than our own. Regular joyfulness is the kind of joy we’ve turned over responsibility to others, or something else, to manifest for us.
My hope is this commentary on right and regular will inspire others to investigate their own individual ways and methods of deciphering the differences, as it pertains to their own practice and direct experiences in their life.
And if nothing else, it’s assisted me in the art of being able to put to words rather complex teachings in such a way that will hopefully be the cause of less confusion and misunderstanding for our fellow practitioners on the path.
Much gratitude to you dear blog readers, for supporting me along the way.