A Blog A Day

It\’s a blog where I write about the extraordinary and the ordinary things going on in my life.

Enlightenment In The Shower

T’ien-t’ai (538-597) says in Great Concentration and Insight, “The ignorance and dust of desires are enlightenment, and the sufferings of birth and death are nirvana

I had another one of those ‘Eureka’ or ‘Aha’ moments but this time it was in the shower. I just started thinking about how my life has progressed since I became a Buddhist. I started crying tears of joy mixed with sadness. I just never thought that my life would completely make an unexpected turn. I would have died by now.

Several months ago, my psychotherapist told me that she was going to prescribe me anti-depressants.

” I think you’re depressed. You need to take anti-depressants.”

” I don’t want to take it yet. Isn’t there some sort of alternative? Something that isn’t that drastic?”

” Well, we could put you on brain vitamins. It will keep you active. Let’s see how you react to it. But if that doesn’t work, we have to try the anti-depressants.”

” I’ve heard so many negative things about it.” I was very unsure. ” I don’t want to be dependent on any drugs.

The doctor explained to me that I’ll only be taking it for six months up to a year. She assured me that it wasn’t habit forming. But she warned me that during the first few weeks, my symptoms would get worse. Then when my body has gotten used to the drug, I will start to feel and get better.

” For the first few weeks, there’s a possibility that you would be suicidal. But after that, you’ll brain chemistry will start to change. And you’ll feel better, ” she explained. She sounded very business-like about it. ” But for the first few weeks, as your brain adjusts to the drugs, your symptoms will get worse. You might even be suicidal. But it will get better in the end.”

My doctor really wanted me to start taking the pills but it didn’t feel right. I didn’t want to end up like one of those people who are desperate enough to find happiness in a bottle of pills. I knew it wasn’t the answer. So I asked her to give me more time. She prescribed me brain vitamins. The kind that would make me feel active and better. But it wouldn’t be a cure to depression. It would only delay it. I took her prescription and bought the drug.

Once I started taking the brain vitamin, my symptoms got worse. I did become more active, but whenever I sat still, the thoughts would just come racing into my head. By just sitting still, a thousand thoughts would come rushing into my head. I had no power to stop them. I just sat there and allowed the thoughts to rush in. It was as if a dam had burst. My thoughts were like a powerful wave of water that would inundate my head. No one can stop water from flowing. I had no way to stop my thoughts from entering my mind. If that had persisted, I would have lost my sense of self and lost my sanity.

I thought that I would kill myself. I was sure of it. I was no longer happy. I was unhappy. And I was in pain. I wanted to end my pain. Just when I thought I had lost all hope, my cousin gave me a most wonderful gift. My cousin who is my original best friend, gave me the gift of Buddhism.

When I started, I didn’t know what to think. I had read about Buddhism. I have read Buddhist texts. But I never really practiced or lived it. I was one of those people who felt that Buddhism was beyond ordinary people like me. Buddhism is for monks and priests. I was an ordinary human being and I felt that Buddhism had nothing to do with daily life. I’ve heard that Christianity has saved lives. But I never heard that Buddhism could save lives. I never thought that it could save my life.

When I started practicing, I resisted. But I felt that I had nothing to lose. I was already among the walking dead. How can you kill someone who is already dead? And so, I tried practicing and tried reading about it. The first few months were the hardest months of my life. I had to fight with my inner demons. But I persisted. And soon enough, I started to understand the nature of my life. And soon, I started living again.

I am no longer depressed, although there are times when I allow myself to feel sad and desperate. But I no longer have this urge of ending my own life. I respect my life. And for the first time, I started embracing all the hurts and all the pains.

I thought that Buddhism is all about denying yourself– denying pleasure, denying desires, denying one’s body. But I was wrong in that assumption. Buddhism is about accepting oneself. It’s about accepting that we have cravings, and that we have desires and we have needs. It’s about accepting our humanity. I thought that Buddhism was about ignoring the pain. I am wrong about this too. True Buddhism is about accepting the pain and understanding the pain.

Buddha once said that life is suffering. Some writers say that this is a misinterpretation. Perhaps, they say, Buddha said ” That in life, there is suffering.” There lies the difference. When you take the first phrase that ‘life is suffering’ you limit your experience to that. Life isn’t all about suffering. There is great happiness, joy, love and kindness. Life is filled with many other things aside from suffering. But when you say, ” In life, there is suffering,” it’s like you are acknowledging that in life, we do suffer. But there is a path that leads to the eradication of suffering. And that is through understanding the nature of suffering. Buddha added that desire leads to suffering, and only through eradicating desire, can you be free from suffering.

I do disagree with this part, and perhaps again, this is another misinterpretation. During my bath when I took a shower, I realized that desire doesn’t have to be negative. I agree that the ‘want’ and the ‘craving’ creates so many complications. But I realize that desire in itself isn’t bad. Why should we shun our very nature? To be human is to have desires. Why should we ignore that part of our very nature?

There’s a Buddhist sect in Japan called Nichiren Buddhism. Unlike the other branches of Buddhism, this one is different. According to Nichiren, ” Desire is enlightenment.” It took me a while to understand it because it somehow went against the other Buddhist schools. Then during my bath, I realized what he meant.

When we allow ourselves to desire or to want, we can achieve enlightenment when we look behind the reason for wanting or for needing. When we try to understand why we crave or want, that’s when enlightenment comes in. And by enlightenment, I don’t mean the realization of the nature of life in general. By enlightenment, I mean the realization of the nature of one’s own life.

Mahayana Buddhism unlike Theraveda Buddhism doesn’t dismiss everyday realities as unnecessary or devoid of meaning. Not everyone can give up their lives and become a monk. Although it is a noble pursuit to find enlightenment by being a monk or by isolating oneself from the world, one need not find sanctuary inside a Buddhist temple to find enlightenment. By living one’s life, one can find enlightenment.

Desire itself is noble. Desire leads one to be a better person. If Buddha didn’t have this desire to understand the nature of life and of suffering, he would never have started this movement that completely revolutionized humanity. It was desire that led Buddha to seek out the truth. And because of his desire to find greater meaning in his life and in life in general, he founded a movement which allowed millions to free themselves from pain and suffering.

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3 Comments»

  Brandi wrote @

I found your blog while doing a Google search for “denying desires, Buddhism.” I’m searching for spirituality to help me combat forces of my mind that are causing me stress right now, and the path of Buddhism seems like it may be what I’m looking for. I’d love to talk with you more about how it’s helped you and your opinion on how it may help me if you’d be willing to discuss it. Please let me know.

  Brandi wrote @

Just in case it doesn’t show…brandimmuller@hotmail.com

  tototch wrote @

i talk to myself in the bathroom haha actually, i love to just sit in the toilet i could stay there for hours and not do anything but think and talk to myself. been like that since i was a kid. ive had most of my “aha” moments/realizations there!


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