Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Choose Joy

Living an enlightened or holy life involves making a choice to do so. This choice needs to be made over and over again when you find yourself not doing so. Making the choice results in an experience of joy, compassion, and freedom. In Buddhism this experience can be understood as the cessation of suffering (from the 4 noble truths). In Zen, the experience of sudden enlightenment is one's first clear conscious experience of doing this.

There are two parts to this way of life, the first is having the experience along with an understanding of its causes. This is the realization that it is possible for you to choose this. The second part is sometimes referred to as stabilization in Buddhism. In this part you practice making the choice over and over and in different parts of your life. Although the choice seems obvious, this is not very easy. This stage is marked by a mixture of struggle and joy. It is a struggle because in any given situation we are likely to go with our old way of processing the information and forget that we have a choice. The religious life, understood in this way, is about creating a lifestyle where it is less likely that we will forget, i.e., by having lots of reminders and avoiding things that we know will distract us. Also, the choice will not always result in the experience. When the choice does not result in the experience (known in Christianity as the dark night of the soul) it is important to make the choice anyway. 

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