While reading Tanahashi’s book on the Heart Sutra, mentioned here, I found a great passage I wanted to share:
The word “freedom” often suggests that we can do anything we want, including being unethical and destructive. But there is also another kind of freedom, one that may prove to be more truly free. If we fully follow rules and ethics, we no longer need to think or worry about them. Thus, we are completely free from rules and ethics.
Banging on a piano keyboard without practicing is one kind of freedom that doesn’t get us anywhere. By diligently practicing the piano, however, we come to play beautifully and improvise freely. That is the kind of freedom the Heart Sutra calls for.Pages 14 and 15
Being a dickhead is easy. We all do it to some degree or another. Most of us manage to suppress this tendency enough to function in society, but some people can’t even manage this. Further, as we get older our minds break down, and those restraints break down too. Thus, many elderly become mean, paranoid or say off-color things.
The root of this dickheaded-ness is of course at the heart of Buddhist teachings. In a previous post, I talked about Japanese Buddhism and “bonnō“, but TL;DR this dickheaded-ness extends from ignorance of how things are, anger when things don’t turn out our way, and greed by putting our needs first and foremost. Worse, like bucket with a small hole in it, when you try to satisfy and appease these urges, it only lasts for so long before you feel empty again.
This is where the training side of Buddhism comes into play. It’s tempting to want the more exotic mantras, thought-provoking teachings, or the faux-Zen quips that blow your mind. But if you really want to get some mileage, you should consider getting your house in order by studying and applying basic Buddhist teachings include personal conduct, such as upholding the Five Precepts. As these basic teachings and practices sink in, and internalize, it opens up many other things. Time and patience are good foundations in religious practice.
P.S. Really had trouble coming up with theme picture for this post because there are plenty of example dickheads in the world, but also didn’t want to make an example of anyone, or any country’s flag.