Enlightened or Addicted?
Q: Through daily meditation and mindfulness I have begun to see my emotions as if they were controllable objects and I now recognize and let go that which I used to foolishly hold on to. However, In doing this and practicing non-attatchment to mind-made emotions or worldly objects, I have come to a dilemma. I have been married seven years. My wife is seeing large and what she says are "scary" changes in me. By "scary," she refers to how she thinks it is beginning to affect our relationship. I see it too. I now only feel compassionate love, but only used to know romantic love. I now see my desire for sex as a mind-made emotion and find that it is a meaningless form of attatchment and have let it go along with many others. She says it is an important part of our relationship and does not know if she can handle not having sex. I no longer enjoy it, I see it only as a hindrance to achieving my ultimate goal, and have let it go. But my personal happiness is causing my wife pain because she does not understand my direction, nor does she want to. She feels that everything I am doing is selfish and I see it as selfless.
With this in mind, my primary point is how does a Buddhist-minded society perpetuate? Is it based on, "I choose you, let's have sex until we have a child, but don't attatch to me emotionally?" It appears to me "family" is only a hindrance to enlightenment, but it is an essential aspect of "life". I have a beautiful two year old son and a lovely wife, but now only feel compassionate love for them, the same as any other person I come in contact with. If anyone you know has delt with a simalar situation, I greatly look forward to hearing about their course of action. I feel like need to be free from this marriage to continue my path to enlightenment. But I also want to be a part of my son's life, so I can provide true and pure direction in his life. But this again is attatchment on my behalf. I "want" to be in his life. I am beginning to spin in circles.....
A: My friend, it seems to me that you have developed a subtle yet formidable condition known as "attachment to non-attachment," which has plagued meditative practitioners for untold centuries. It also seems that you have developed a strong aversion to things like sexual relations and romantic love. Instead of accepting them for what they are and acknowledging their inherent beauty, you seem to have cast them in the role of obstacles, barriers, things to be avoided. This is a strong indicator that you are still mired in the realm of the dualistic mind. You said that you see your emotions as controllable objects. To this I pose to you one important question: if they are seen as controllable objects, this means that there is someone who is controlling them, does it not? This means that subtly (or not so subtly), you still regard yourself as a discrete entity and the emotions as other discrete entities. As long as there is a concept of "myself" and "other" (the objects that "myself" is controlling), dualism, and thus illusion, still exists.
You say that you only feel compassionate love.....but would true compassion bring about the suffering that your wife and yourself are currently experiencing? True compassion is a state in which, through the cultivation of wisdom, one sees accurately and acts accordingly to end suffering and create harmony. In practicing true compassion, one cannot help but act so that another's suffering is ended, because one sees with crystal clarity the inherent unity between one's self and all other things.
It appears that you are becoming addicted to Enlightenment, or at least the promise of it; and in doing that you are becoming more and more distant from your wife and child, whom you say you love dearly. I would say that if the pursuit of Enlightenment means leaving suffering in your wake, you should call off the search immediately and try to live Enlightenment through everyday things, through your family, through your job, through your life, etc. If all things have the Buddha-nature, if the basis of all phenomena is the enlightened Mind, then how can anything be seen as a "hindrance" unless one is caught up in the illusion of this-and-that. Since you are not able at this point to perceive the Ultimate in everyday things, you seem to have branded them as unworthy of your time and effort. What you are really doing is hiding from your own ignorance, burying it deep in your subconscious mind. And as we know, the deeper one buries something in the mind, the stronger it resurfaces at a later time; so not only have you caused suffering for your wife and child, you are setting up the conditions for your own suffering down the road.
You said it yourself: "My personal happiness is causing my wife pain. (note the emphasis on "my" happiness)". "She feels that everything I am doing is selfish and I see it as selfless (note the presence of self-and-other, "I" think this, "she" thinks that)." You are stubbornly, steadfastly holding on to "your" position versus "her" position.
How does a Buddhist-minded society perpetuate? Like any other society perpetuates. The "flavor" of a Buddhist-minded society is one of balancing compassion and wisdom in order to attain understanding so that all beings may benefit. It is most decidedly not one of ascendng toward Enlightenment on the backs of the suffering beings we create. Mahayana Buddhism came about because laypeople realized that the teachings of the Buddha were for all beings, not just monastics. You may be familiar with the famous layperson Vimalakirti, who was regarded by the Buddha as having more compassion and wisdom than most of his disciples!
There is a lovely quote from the Vimalakirti Sutra that I'd like you to consider; Vimalakirti, sick in bed, is speaking to the Venerable Manjushri:
"Were all living beings to be free from sickness, I also would not be sick. Why? Manjushri, for the Bodhisattva, the world consists only of living beings, and sickness is inherent in the living world. Were all living beings free from sickness, the Bodhsisattva also would be free from sickness. For example, Manjushri, when the only son of a merchant is sick, both his parents become sick on account of the sicnkess of their son. And the parents will suffer as long as that only son does not recover from his sickness. Just so, Manjushri, the Bodhisattva loves all living beings as if each were his only child. He becomes sick when they are sick and is cured when they are cured. You ask me, Manjushri, whence comes my sickness; the sicknesses of the Bodhisattvas arise from great compassion."
My friend, it pains me to say it, but whether you realize it or not, you have fallen in love with yourself, or at least your idea of your "self," a man on a holy quest. In my humble view, which you may take or leave as you so desire, you need to take care of your family.......now! You say you want to provide true and pure direction in your son's life......then do so!! Live a normal life according to the Buddhist teachings, continue your meditative and scriptural studies, LOVE your wife so that she's happy, LOVE your son so that he grows up strong and pure. Please don't indulge in extremes........there are two people in your household who love and need you; the Enlightened man would care for them so as not to cause them to suffer needlessly, not abandon them and their needs in order to further his own ideas and concepts.
You can find Enlightenment through living a family life according to the Noble Eightfold Path. Shakyamuni Buddha taught this to us. I dearly hope that you will give him, and your family, the benefit of the doubt. I will ask the Bodhisattva of Compassion to hear your suffering cries and to assist you in any way possible so that this confusing situation in which you find yourself may be resolved.