“If you pursue pleasure, you enchain yourself to suffering. But as long as you do not harm your health, enjoy without inhibition when the opportunity presents itself.”
Principle of Valid Action Six. Pleasure. Week 4
Last time: Neither the Carrot nor the Stick.
This Time: A Look Ahead.
Perhaps after meditating on these general aspects of the principle you can provide us with a new version of the principle, or some aspect of it, and give it a name that captures its essence. How about a very short story, saying, images, or jokes etc that illustrate some aspect of the principle.
This is an the old story, related to the principle of pleasure (The version I first heard was as a Zen story).
This story tells of two monks, a novice and his teacher who had set out on a pilgrimage. During their travels came to a river where a young woman stood on the bank, distraught because she was unable to cross. The monks, as was the custom for the Buddhists, were not only sworn to celibacy but also not to touch or even look directly at a woman.
Without missing a beat the teacher picked up the woman and carried her across the river. The novice monk wa speechless in his embarrassment and shock. They continued their journey but didn’t speak for quite a long time. Finally the novice monk spoke and asked how his elder could have broken his vows by touching that woman. The senior monk replied: “I put her down back at the river. Why are you still carrying her”?
The Principle of the Trap.
The problem is less in the objects or situations we crave, and more in what we believe about them and how we relate to them.
If we get the pleasure we pursue it leaves us satisfied for only a moment, and enchained to a new quest for what we believe will make us happy. And if we don’t get what we are pursuing, we are left doubly enchained first with our initial cravings, and then with our new dissatisfaction.
Over the last three weeks we considered this principle in general: what it means, how it fits in with the others, etc. We also looked at how we did, or didn’t use this principle in past situations and how it applies to the present. This week we’ll try to understand how we might apply the principle in the future.
General Considerations and Personal Reflections:
Here are some personal reflections. I offer them in the spirit of dialogue and exchange, and look forward to hearing your thoughts about, and experiences with, this principle.
This week we turn our focus to the future. It is there, in the times ahead, that I hope to reach the desired pleasurable objects, persons or situations. Even if I seek to re-live, or re-create, or re-experience something from my past, it is in the future that I place this hope. And it is in the pursuit of that future pleasure that I can become trapped.
One of the participants in our first week of conversation on the principle of pleasure pointed something about which many of us have certainly wondered. It’s not just that the pursuit of pleasure seems natural, and automatic, but also if we don’t pursue what we desire how will we ever accomplish anything?
This very basic question reminded me of how these proposals so often cut to the root of things in novel ways. For example, what is being suggested here is a very different attitude or way to move through “the world of people and things” than the habitual. It seems to suggest that there is another way of doing things or perhaps it’s like a challenge to find a new way of relating to the things (people, situations, etc) to which I’m drawn — like in the story of the Magic Cake (related in Week One of this Principle) neither avid in pursuit, nor fearful in enjoyment.
As the Bengali Baul poet Bisha Bhunimali says of the bee and the flower:
The bee is avid
and unable to leave.
So, you are bound.
And I am bound —
Where is freedom then?
There are certain principles, this is one, that remind me of the radical nature of Silo’s suggestions. With this principle, it’s both because of its implicit challenge to find a fundamentally new approach to living, and for it’s affirmation of radical freedom. It only places one restriction on our liberty saying: you can do things “…if you do not harm your health…” As we’ll see next week other principles clarify or add limits, or clarify direction, by reminding us that our actions are valid only if they “…treat others as you wish to be treated…” Finally they make explicit where the limits of legitimate freedom are to be found, telling us, “If you do not harm anyone, you are free to do whatever we want.” Just as this principle is a long way from my normal, habitual, automatic ways of facing life, it is also a very long way from conventional moral codes, commandments and regulations.
Unlike such traditional references, this one doesn’t pretend, based on whatever authority, to answer all our questions. Rather it purposely invites more questions. For example, what do I mean by pursuing, what defines my health, and so on. That is necessarily so because the laws behind these principles are known directly only in what we call valid action and through ones own registers of unity and contradiction.
Every phenomenon that makes suffering recede in others is registered as a valid action, as an act of unity, in the one who carries it out.
Silo_ Internal Landscape Chapter X
This document is meant as a support for our practice of focusing on one of the 12 Principles of Valid Action each month. Next week we will use our fifth week to go a little further afield.
This principle is a challenge to find a new way of relating to the things (situations, people, etc) that attract me. Can I find a way to be neither avid in pursuit, nor fearful in enjoyment of pleasure.
These notes have been posted on WWW.dzuckerbrot.com, Facebook (Community of Silo’s Message Toronto Annex) and sent to our email list.
General information about, the principles, materials, parks, etc can be found at www.silo.net or www.silosmessage.net
There are currently 2 Parks of Study and Reflection in North America. These are Red Bluff (www.redbluffpark.org) in California and Hudson Valley (www.hudsonvalleypark.org) in New York. The Parks of Study and Reflection are projects built and paid for by individuals inspired by Silo’s teachings. More information is available on their respective websites.
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