Polishing the brass on the Titanic

A discussion on all aspects of Engaged Buddhism
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Dharmasherab
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Polishing the brass on the Titanic

Post by Dharmasherab » Sat Oct 20, 2018 11:24 am

The RMS Titanic was one of the greatest passenger liners of all time. It was an engineering masterpiece. The functions and features that it had were ahead of its time. But that did not stop her from sinking in the Atlantic on her maiden voyage. No matter how well it catered to the luxurious standards of the rich and famous, it didn’t account for anything given her final outcome. When the sinking of the Titanic was found to be inevitable, evacuation procedures were taken with immediate effect yet most passengers did not survive. We can’t really speak for those who accepted their fate, but it is not unreasonable to say that there comes a point when you give up in life and accept whatever that is coming to you. During such a time it didn’t really make a difference as to whether the ship that they were in had curvy staircases or chandeliers of sparkling elegance. Any sane person in such a situation would not waste their time arguing as to whether the restrooms should have had more comfortable toilet seats or whether the cutlery should have been made from silver instead of steel.

Our Samsara is also like this Titanic; it will only be going down. No matter whatever the efforts we put to make a better Samsara, they are all impermanent and unsatisfactory. We can come up with ways to make the lives of people better and say which ways are better than others. Some of us may even get into debates and arguments as to how to make the world free suffering by using worldly ways. But no matter what, this Samsara we are in will only be going down the drain along with everything that's in it. It is time we realized that this is what is truly happening.

This is why we should never be arrogant and self-righteous about our opinions about what is best for others. We may have our views about social justice, about how those who are underprivileged should be treated such as the homeless, single mothers and refugees. We may have disagreements whether our politicians should support state-funded facilities with welfare for the community or not. No matter what the views we have in terms of making a better community, we need to realize their limitations. It is to understand that all these samsaric problems, as well as the samsaric solutions we come up with, are all results of causes and conditions. All things which are conditioned are impermanent therefore neither the samsaric problems nor the samsaric solutions are permanent.

This is not to say to say that we should avoid helping each other in worldly ways. Of course, it is important to help the poor, to provide shelter for refugees, to give better welfare for single mothers etc. But we should never think that any of these solutions are ideal and perfect. Hence we should never judge those who have different views from the way we look at how society should be shaped. Some misguided individuals may even say that we shouldn't sit on our cushions and do meditation whiles there are so many problems happening in the world. Actually doing one’s practice is the greatest expression of compassion noticing that this Enlightenment is the only thing which will liberate all beings from Samsara and that all other forms of solutions outside of the Dharma, despite having some effect for a short time, they are all impermanent, unsatisfactory and insubstantial.

When you realize that the Dharma is not for a better Samsara then you become more humble and respect the opinions and views of others. Because in the grand scheme of things our practice to transcend this Samsara is what truly matters. Providing welfare and shelter to the underprivileged may give them some temporary benefit from their suffering, but it is not going to make them Enlightened either. Therefore whenever you are doing your practice of meditation or reading Buddhist texts always think that this is the greatest form of compassion you give towards all beings. We may engage in helping others outside our sittings and study, but we should not settle for that either. We should never take pride in our view as to what is best for others because as deluded beings we look at the world through the lenses of delusion.

Contemplate that we are all in this sinking Titanic of Samsara. The danger of being on a sinking ship is that we will drown and die if we don’t take the effort to do what is right. All those nice brass ornaments in the Titanic did not make a difference to those who faced their fate as well as those who survived. Because when you taste the freedom of Nirvana then whatever that Samsara went down with does not matter anymore.

Don't waste your time trying to polish the brass on the sinking Titanic. Try to escape while you can. Be good to others but don't waste time trying to make a better Samsara. Never forget that the Dharma is not a for a better Samsara.

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lyndon taylor
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Re: Polishing the brass on the Titanic

Post by lyndon taylor » Sat Oct 20, 2018 2:48 pm

A very cynical attitude!!
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk.

http://trickleupeconomictheory.blogspot.com/

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Kim O'Hara
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Re: Polishing the brass on the Titanic

Post by Kim O'Hara » Sun Oct 21, 2018 3:03 am

lyndon taylor wrote:
Sat Oct 20, 2018 2:48 pm
A very cynical attitude!!
Perhaps. More than that, a very selfish attitude.
Dharmasherab wrote:
Sat Oct 20, 2018 11:24 am
... Contemplate that we are all in this sinking Titanic of Samsara. The danger of being on a sinking ship is that we will drown and die if we don’t take the effort to do what is right. ... Because when you taste the freedom of Nirvana then whatever that Samsara went down with does not matter anymore.

... Try to escape while you can. Be good to others but don't waste time trying to make a better Samsara. Never forget that the Dharma is not a for a better Samsara.
The irony is that selfishness is the exact opposite of the path to nirvana. The dharma teaches, repeatedly, that the way to escape samsara is to abandon the self, abandon clinging to the "me" and "mine". Focusing solely on the practice in order to save the "me" from more samsara is like pushing a door shut in order to go through it.
Dharmasherab wrote:
Sat Oct 20, 2018 11:24 am
Providing welfare and shelter to the underprivileged may give them some temporary benefit from their suffering, but it is not going to make them Enlightened either. Therefore whenever you are doing your practice of meditation or reading Buddhist texts always think that this is the greatest form of compassion you give towards all beings. We may engage in helping others outside our sittings and study, but we should not settle for that either. ...
This attitude says that compassionate action in the world is an alternative to practice. It isn't. It's a part of practice.

:meditate:
Kim

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fwiw
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Re: Polishing the brass on the Titanic

Post by fwiw » Sun Oct 21, 2018 8:11 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:
Sun Oct 21, 2018 3:03 am
This attitude says that compassionate action in the world is an alternative to practice. It isn't. It's a part of practice.
Nailed it! Thanks
... in my opinion

chownah
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Re: Polishing the brass on the Titanic

Post by chownah » Sun Oct 21, 2018 10:04 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:
Sun Oct 21, 2018 3:03 am

Dharmasherab wrote:
Sat Oct 20, 2018 11:24 am
Providing welfare and shelter to the underprivileged may give them some temporary benefit from their suffering, but it is not going to make them Enlightened either. Therefore whenever you are doing your practice of meditation or reading Buddhist texts always think that this is the greatest form of compassion you give towards all beings. We may engage in helping others outside our sittings and study, but we should not settle for that either. ...
This attitude says that compassionate action in the world is an alternative to practice. It isn't. It's a part of practice.
I don't see that dharmasherab is saying that at all.....it seems to me that he (she?) is in fact saying that the things which are usually taken to be elements of practice (meditation and study) are essential for our engagement in the world to be part of our practice. My take on this is that without meditation and study one can be engaged in the world but the risk is that one will not develop discernment, compassion, morality, and equanimity......I think that equanimity is the thing that is too often missing in engaged buddhism.
chownah

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Kim O'Hara
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Re: Polishing the brass on the Titanic

Post by Kim O'Hara » Sun Oct 21, 2018 12:00 pm

chownah wrote:
Sun Oct 21, 2018 10:04 am
... My take on this is that without meditation and study one can be engaged in the world but the risk is that one will not develop discernment, compassion, morality, and equanimity......I think that equanimity is the thing that is too often missing in engaged buddhism.
chownah
Yes, I agree with that.
chownah wrote:
Sun Oct 21, 2018 10:04 am
I don't see that dharmasherab is saying that at all.....it seems to me that he (she?) is in fact saying that the things which are usually taken to be elements of practice (meditation and study) are essential for our engagement in the world to be part of our practice.
Certainly parts of the OP can be read that way, and perhaps I was a bit harsh about it (sorry!) but the bottom line echoes the top line (the title), saying, "Don't waste your time trying to polish the brass on the sinking Titanic. Try to escape while you can. Be good to others but don't waste time trying to make a better Samsara." (Emphasis added.)

:namaste:
Kim

justsit
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Re: Polishing the brass on the Titanic

Post by justsit » Sun Oct 21, 2018 12:17 pm

Seems a bit ironic to me that OP decries "wasting time polishing the brass on the Titanic" while writing sermons and preaching to the choir on Buddhist websites. :shrug:

chownah
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Re: Polishing the brass on the Titanic

Post by chownah » Mon Oct 22, 2018 2:22 am

justsit wrote:
Sun Oct 21, 2018 12:17 pm
Seems a bit ironic to me that OP decries "wasting time polishing the brass on the Titanic" while writing sermons and preaching to the choir on Buddhist websites. :shrug:
Viewed that way it does seem a bit ironic.
On the other hand the OP can be viewed as just a reminder that it is very easy to get so focused on our engagement with the world that we forget to do the things which benefit ourselves and in so doing benefit our attempts when engaging with the world.....we need to keep our tools for engagement in good order so it is good to remember to maintain and upgrade those tools.
chownah

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Aloka
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Re: Polishing the brass on the Titanic

Post by Aloka » Mon Oct 29, 2018 2:04 pm

justsit wrote:
Sun Oct 21, 2018 12:17 pm
Seems a bit ironic to me that OP decries "wasting time polishing the brass on the Titanic" while writing sermons and preaching to the choir on Buddhist websites. :shrug:
:goodpost:

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Dorje Shedrub
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Re: Polishing the brass on the Titanic

Post by Dorje Shedrub » Mon Oct 29, 2018 4:43 pm

Feeding the hungry, giving clothes to the naked, providing shelter to the homeless welcoming the stranger, teaching the unlearned, etc. is not polishing brass on a sinking ship. Our ship of samsara is not sinking - it is on a long, long journey. Yes we all die, but even the dying need comfort. The band on the Titanic played on to give comfort to the other passengers.

Those on the Bodhisattva path vow to ease suffering of other sentient beings, and to remain in samsara untill all other sentient beings have achieved enlightenment.

The hungry, naked, homeless, etc. are not interested in Dharma at the present; first they need food, clothing, and shelter, then they may be open to the Dharma.

DS
"As far as social economic theory is concerned, I am Marxist. " ~ HHDL

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Aloka
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Re: Polishing the brass on the Titanic

Post by Aloka » Mon Oct 29, 2018 6:28 pm

Dorje Shedrub wrote:
Mon Oct 29, 2018 4:43 pm
Feeding the hungry, giving clothes to the naked, providing shelter to the homeless welcoming the stranger, teaching the unlearned, etc. is not polishing brass on a sinking ship. Our ship of samsara is not sinking - it is on a long, long journey. Yes we all die, but even the dying need comfort. The band on the Titanic played on to give comfort to the other passengers.

Those on the Bodhisattva path vow to ease suffering of other sentient beings, and to remain in samsara untill all other sentient beings have achieved enlightenment.

The hungry, naked, homeless, etc. are not interested in Dharma at the present; first they need food, clothing, and shelter, then they may be open to the Dharma.

DS

:goodpost: :heart:

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Dharmasherab
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Re: Polishing the brass on the Titanic

Post by Dharmasherab » Mon Nov 12, 2018 5:49 pm

chownah wrote:
Sun Oct 21, 2018 10:04 am
Kim O'Hara wrote:
Sun Oct 21, 2018 3:03 am

Dharmasherab wrote:
Sat Oct 20, 2018 11:24 am
Providing welfare and shelter to the underprivileged may give them some temporary benefit from their suffering, but it is not going to make them Enlightened either. Therefore whenever you are doing your practice of meditation or reading Buddhist texts always think that this is the greatest form of compassion you give towards all beings. We may engage in helping others outside our sittings and study, but we should not settle for that either. ...
This attitude says that compassionate action in the world is an alternative to practice. It isn't. It's a part of practice.
I don't see that dharmasherab is saying that at all.....it seems to me that he (she?) is in fact saying that the things which are usually taken to be elements of practice (meditation and study) are essential for our engagement in the world to be part of our practice. My take on this is that without meditation and study one can be engaged in the world but the risk is that one will not develop discernment, compassion, morality, and equanimity......I think that equanimity is the thing that is too often missing in engaged buddhism.
chownah
Well said Chownah. Appreciate it. :namaste:

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Dharmasherab
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Re: Polishing the brass on the Titanic

Post by Dharmasherab » Mon Nov 12, 2018 5:58 pm

Engaged Buddhism is an extension of the Dana aspect of Buddhism. Dana is an important aspect of Buddhism and this feature belongs to all three major traditions of Buddhism - Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana. However, the Dana is only one aspect of practice compared to the various aspects of Buddhism in terms of Buddhist theory and practice. Sometimes it is important to take the wider view of Buddhism and appreciate the full repertoire of its teachings and practices, whiles not only focussing on Engaged Buddhism.

Given that Dana is an important part of Buddhist practice, it is important to give charity, attend to the homeless, the poor, the hungry/starving people, refugees, single mothers and all other forms of underprivileged people. It is important to have the right motivation where we understand that helping people in worldly ways will not help their situation forever. Because all things arise from causes and conditions, and therefore they are all impermanent. Therefore the results from the benefits of our Dana are also impermanent. So whiles realizing that these benefits are impermanent we may engage in helping others. This helps to ensure that we won't get into the pitfall of using Engaged Buddhism to create a better Samsara. Nowhere in Buddhism the Buddha taught about creating a better Samsara.

When we are in a burning house, we do not try to re-arrange its furniture. But instead, we try to exit the house before getting burnt.

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