Saturday, March 17, 2007

It's a Monk's Life

My cell in RochesterMore thoughts on the whole issue of employment and industry. Watching all of the people around me in this country makes me realise that it really isn't a fair criticism to say that we homeless monks don't work as hard as the average lay person. We don't require nearly as much as the ordinary lay person. Even in the monastery in downtown Rochester, I sleep on the floor, eat once a day, wear the same set of robes day in and day out, and have none such amenities of the lay person as a TV, car, stereo, alcohol, etc. Really, when you look at it, most people out there aren't working out of responsibility, but simply in order to pay for their extravegencies. And to afford vacations from their own industry.

I am sure I would not be so bold in writing this if not for two points. First, that I am most certainly acting on the defensive; so many critics deserve a good response; if they choose to read my weblog, of course. Second, that I am in good company with my thoughts. I stand with the likes of Thoreau, one of my favourate quotable authors:

Most of the luxuries, and many of the so called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hinderances to the elevation of mankind. With respect to luxuries and comforts, the wisest have ever lived a more simple and meagre life than the poor. The ancient philosophers, Chinese, Hindoo, Persian, and Greek, were a class than which none has been poorer in outward riches, none so rich in inward.

Another point I should make is regarding the monk life itself. For many say what an easy life it must be. It never ceases to amaze me how otherwise intelligent people can be so unthinking in their prejudice. I have undertaken many thing in my life, as my friends and family can attest. I have more or less met with success in every thing I have done, but have always quit before reaching any sort of consumation (I did, in the end, get my high school diploma, but took it more as a release from bondage than a certificate of achievement). I could have been a scholar, a musician, a rock-climber or a computer tech. All of those things are easy to do. Normal. Safe. Easy. Not for me.

Being a monk is easily, without contest, the single most difficult thing I have ever done, probably in any lifetiime. Simply remainin celibate would have had me climbing the walls ten years ago. But no music, no games, no alcohol, not even any supper? What is easy or lazy about this lifestyle? Not that I am boasting; surely my performance as a monk is nothing to brag about. Only in defence of my seeming lack of industry - why I am not out there inventing something new or building something useful. The truth is, I am. I'm building me.

I am making use of my life. I am making myself useful. While others work to pay for their luxury and thus come out more our less at the zero mark (some more, some less), I will be sitting or walking, living in complete poverty on the outside, and inside ever wittling away at my cravings, without fretting or hankering after the world (vineyya loke abhijjhadomanassam). Safe, normal, and at peace with myself and the world. Not an easy thing to do, so please...

...leave me alone, I'e got work to do.