February 4, 2015 full moon

BCBS stupa in snow with bench

The Buddha doesn’t do "cozy"

A conversation with John Peacock

Insight Journal spoke with John Peacock when he taught at BCBS in November 2014. John has been an academic and meditation teacher for 30 years. Currently he is Co-Director of a Masters degree in Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) at the University of Oxford and teaches the Buddhist psychology component on the course. He is also on the Guiding Teacher Council of Gaia House in the UK.

You can watch the video of our interview by clicking on the image below. The print version of the interview (which includes some material not in the video) starts just below that.


What do you mean that the Buddha’s teaching isn’t meant to make us feel cozy?

A lot of what we hear in Dharma talks makes it sound like coziness is the point.

You’re interested in the Nikayas but not academically. What do you mean by that?

What are your thoughts on the role of ethics?

How can we understand these texts in our secular culture while respecting the traditions they come from?

Krishnamurti never let you feel too cozy–not a Buddhist, per se, but an inspiration to many Western teachers.

Insight Journal: You recently taught a course using the Dhammapada as the main text. How did you incorporate a text like that which doesn’t have the explicit meditation instructions of a text like the Satipaṭṭhāna, for example?

John Peacock: The first thing to say about it is that the Dhammapada is an extremely well-known text. It’s the most translated of all Pāli texts, including some recent translations by American teachers, such as Gil Fronsdal. People know about it and they will dip into from time to time.

It’s a very famous text because it’s one of the very first texts that was translated into English at all, back in the nineteenth century. In fact, its first translation was into Latin, believe it or not, in 1855. So it’s got a very, very long history.

But as you rightly say, it’s mostly used for particular quotations like the house-builder quotation and the opening paragraph: "Mind is the forerunner of all things."

So I took this extremely well-known text, and said let’s have a look at it, and see how it can guide practice. How does it fit in with the things that the Buddha was doing, both doctrinally and practically? How does it relate to other texts? Particularly, how does it relate to the question you’re asking, what is its relationship to practice?

I often take some of these small texts and run courses on them, as a way to get us into the teaching without having to go in depth into one of the major tomes of early Buddhism such as the Nikayas. As you probably know, the subtitle for that course was "The Dhammapada as a Guide to Life."
Your comment about Satipatthāna is accurate in that it is one of the most practical of the Suttas; well, in many ways this text is about as good as it gets in relation to anything unequivocally practical.

There was no attempt to go through the whole of the Dhammapada in four days of teaching. I took people through some of its sections, and jumped around a bit. We took the whole of the first section, the Yamakas (The Pairs), in quite a lot of detail, particularly "The mind is the forerunner of all things" quotation and everything that unfolds from this statement. It is a way of unpacking the Buddha’s teachings, and giving people a little bit of background on early Indian culture.

IJ: Stephen Batchelor talks about having a conversation with the texts, which I find very helpful, given the inevitable limits of all the translations that we have. He suggests having a conversation with the texts, to actually go to those places that seem like contradictions and let that be a guide to enhancing your understanding–comparing translations, asking teachers, and so on.

JP: This is a very valid approach and one that I adopted with the Dhammapada. I actually had a table full of different versions of it, and often I would read three or four different translations and then comment on them from a philological perspective. Some would appear be saying the same thing, whilst others would bring out other nuances within the text. The problem is canonical languages, and particularly Pāli, are polysemic; they have many, many different meanings within them. Sometimes the Buddha is choosing one meaning, but other times he is actually letting a word fire on all cylinders of the different meanings, so that you are asked to hold all the different meanings in your head simultaneously. So inevitably you have to look at lots of different translations. So yes, have conversations with the texts. It’s one of the things that I was emphasizing to the students at BCBS. Have a go and see how it relates to anything you have understood with regard to the Buddha’s teaching and your life. In addition, relate it to other Dharma talks that you’ve heard. People who’ve been here, or at Spirit Rock often have a body of knowledge that they can bring to bear on these texts–which actually aren’t that impenetrable if you bring that body of knowledge to bear on them.

I think there always has to be that caveat that you’re not always going to get it right, and that these meanings that are coming to you are not necessarily the ones that are meant within the context of the Buddha’s teaching. I do, however, encourage people to try learning the languages, or at least gain a working knowledge of them. However, I realize that this is not always possible. But even to have a working knowledge, say, of something like the Pāli dictionary and the way it is organised, will allow you to look up the range of meanings a term may have and thus guide you in the ‘conversation’ you may be having with the text.

But I would stress that it is a conversation and not a monologue from the text outward. You’ve got to actively engage with a text for it to become meaningful. If I use a philosophical phrase to describe what we are engaged in I would call it call a ‘hermeneutical process.’ Hermeneutics is concerned with meanings transmitted from texts and about digging out the meanings, sometimes hidden, sometimes overt, that can be found in any textual material. What exactly the right meaning is is open to debate. From a scholarly point of view we can try to start to piece some of the evidence together for a correct meaning, but even that is often conjecture, although well-informed conjecture, a lot of the time.

How does a text work on you? What does it do? Is it the grit in the oyster that produces something in your way of relating, your way of practice, your way of understanding the Buddha’s teaching? I suppose that’s what I’m looking for in what Stephen [Batchelor] would probably relate to as a conversation with the text; seeing how that text works on you and what it produces.

path through snow, behind BCBS Farmhouse

IJ: I’ve always enjoyed when I’ve had a chance to attend your courses how you unpack the texts in terms of the culture of the Buddha’s time. How he was obviously speaking within that culture and how that might cause us some difficulties in understanding some of the key points he was trying to make. What are some of those points that you find are most difficult for us to get our minds around, if you will, and how do you unpack them?

JP: Once you begin to understand the Buddha’s cultural milieu, even if only to a small extent, then you begin to understand some of those difficult topics that the Buddha speaks about, and his usage of certain terms. I had an email earlier today from somebody who, in the context of a text that they were looking at, finds the Buddha using the term ‘Brahmin’ to describe a practitioner. What’s he actually meaning in this?

Well, as you may probably know, ‘brahmin‘ is a key term in ancient Indian culture. It was a culture that is often described, certainly by many scholars, as a ‘brahminical culture.’ It was, to put it as simply as possible, the culture of a religious elite; it was also a culture of intellectuals; it was a religion of a particular people, and so on. When you begin to understand a little bit about that, you being to understand some of the metaphors, also, that the Buddha is drawing on from that cultural context.

So as a thinker, as a practitioner, as an ethicist, it is worth pointing out that the Buddha obviously didn’t work or teach in a vacuum. Just like you or I, we’re having to relate, like it or not, to the contemporary culture that we inhabit. Indeed, part of our job as teachers is to try and make, without distorting the teaching, what the Buddha has to say relevant to this culture.

The last chapter of the Dhammapada is entitled "The Brāhmana." "Brahmin" is an Anglicization of Pāli Brāhmana. This obviously makes sense within the context of Indian culture, but what could we discern in Western culture that might begin to look even remotely congruent? Good candidates might be: High status, class systems, wealth, the feeling that you think you’re somehow something special because you were born into a particular social or educational group? Or, were born into great wealth and are surrounded by material possessions? This may be simply the feeling you’re kind of "top of the pile" for some reason. Now the definition as to why you think you’re at the top of the pile obviously differs from that found in ancient India. However, even then, we may find some degree of overlap between differing cultural horizons and traditions separated, as they are, by time. Nevertheless, despite obvious cultural differences, we appear to be dealing with something intensely human, in fact, a very human ‘problem’. There is a tendency for people to somehow think they’re something special because of the social context within which they find themselves, such as being born into a certain strata of society, or a privileged group. There is a propensity for us to define ourselves from the external context within which we find ourselves. If that happens to be privileged then we can think of ourselves as being a cut above the rest of the populace. This is exactly the problem the Brahmins had.

Understanding this makes this final section of the Dhammapada much, much more approachable in terms of what we’re doing today and hopefully relevant. I think people are often very surprised when you start unpacking the metaphors, which even in the history of Buddhism have got lost over the centuries, you know. For example, in the Buddha’s teaching we have "the three fires" of greed, aversion and delusion–absolutely familiar to most practitioners. You go to the Tibetan tradition, they’re called "the three poisons." Why are they called "the three poisons"? This is because the Tibetans have lost, or forgotten the metaphor of ‘three fires’. In fact in the ancient Indian social context, "the three fires", referred to by the Buddha, is related to three sacrificial fires that Brahmins kept burning in their temples. To give another example, the Pāli and Sanskrit word for clinging, upādānā, literally meant "to fuel the fire." The term sankhāra or samskāra (Skr), was "to perform a ritual action," which the Buddha uses for habitual actions and patterns, which is included as part of the five aggregates, for example. So he’s hijacking his culture for a particular usage and sometimes inverting terms, or giving them new meanings.

One other particular term I was exploring with the students here–it doesn’t actually come from Brahmin culture, it comes from another rival group, the Jains–is the term āsava. This term in the Jain context referred to the ‘dust’ that weighted the soul down and kept it within the cycle of rebirth; it is what flowed into you and kept you bound to samsaric existence. The Buddha cleverly reverses the direction: This, in contradistinction to the Jain use of the term, is what flows out of you, with a sort of radical incontinence, and keeps you bound to patterns of unwholesome behavior and thought. These are a few simple examples, but understanding the cultural context can radically illuminate the teachings and make them strangely relevant to the contemporary world.

IJ: At the secular Buddhism conference you said that you’re interested in Nikāya Buddhism, but you’re not interested in purely academic studies. How would you describe your interest in the texts then, if not purely academic?

JP: Nikāya Buddhism, well, what does that mean? We’re floundering around for terms to describe a Buddhism which is pre-tradition Buddhism. I think there are many of us attempting to think outside of those traditions. That doesn’t mean not taking any cognizance of those traditions at all, it means trying to think in a way that isn’t always taken down the track that the traditions have laid down, for example. Particularly the Theravādan tradition when we’re talking about the Pāli material.

The Buddha’s teaching is both rich and profound and sometimes can be correlated almost directly with some of the early Indian texts like the Vedas, Brahmanas and the Upanishads–material that the Buddha is obviously cognizant of and drawing upon in different ways. To often make these connections apparent takes time and energy and can be seen as an extremely fruitful academic endeavor.

However, my reason for being in academic work was somewhat different. I wasn’t primarily interested in doing cultural and textual detective work–although this can be great fun!! Primarily I was interested in helping to develop a language whereby the richness of the teachings could be preserved and communicated to Westerners, but understanding what was being said also involved some serious work by practitioners. This is very different from what I term ‘popular Buddhism’ which at its worst doesn’t actively ‘engage’ the reader/ listener, but can simply be about confirming things already known. This kind of approach will hopefully stimulate the listener/ reader, but will also bring them up against some of the many erroneous ideas derived from and perpetuated by popular Buddhism. What I am engaged in is not purely academic, but is academic in the service of what we are practicing.

I must admit when I first started doing this I was very hesitant. I think even when I first started teaching at BCBS I used to say things like "You possibly wouldn’t be interested in things like this, but I’ll mention it anyway." I used to be very hesitant about it, very English actually, and suddenly found that people were absolutely fascinated by a lot of this material, and how it cast some light on what we were doing. And that’s exactly what I wanted, but initially I was a little unsure about its reception.

woodpile, wheelbarrow and chair full of snow

IJ: On the role of ethics in Buddhism, what are your thoughts; how is it different than in other religious or spiritual traditions?

JP: Well, I think you heard me say that the Buddha could be viewed as an ethicist. Richard Gombrich, the great Pāli scholar and Sanskrit scholar, would go even further. Gombrich, in one of his works, makes the claim that the Buddha is the first person to bring ethics to Indian religion. That’s an interesting statement. What’s going on in the Buddha’s time is that if there is an "ethics," it’s more around duty. It’s not an ethical inquiry, as such. If we look at ethics as it’s understood in the West, clearly up until the nineteenth century, then ethics is related to monotheistic religion. God is the guarantor; he is the insurance underwriter for those ethical traditions, and all you have to do is obey.

We don’t have any such luxury in Buddhism, and in fact the West in with the decline of religion has migrated towards to a much more secular approach around the question of ethics. This process was started in the nineteenth century when Nietzsche posed the question about the grounding of ethics in the absence of a monotheistic God as guarantor of ethical traditions. Now the Buddha answered that, I think–I was going to say "quite simply," but I think it’s actually quite complex–by looking at our psychology. What is it within our psychology that leads to wholesome action or leads to unwholesome action? So Buddhist ethics is primarily a psychological ethics.

Take the five precepts. I find my little introductions about them at retreats getting longer and longer and longer. I think at some point it’s going to turn into a fully blown Dharma talk!

Often within Dharma center retreats, the precepts are given very short shrift. They become a bit like a very amended version of the Ten Commandments. Instead of having ten, you’ve reduced them to five. And instead of Ten Commandments that say "Thou Shalt," we get something like "don’t kill," "don’t steal," "don’t engage in sexual misconduct," etcetera. So the precepts become very prescriptive. This prescriptivism is the default option that is available if you cannot use them in any other way.

My surmise is that this not the way the Buddha originally formulated them, or intended them to be used. What the Buddha is actually trying to encourage us to do, it appears to me, is to engage us in ethical inquiry. Just to give an example, the first precept really becomes more about inquiring into relationships of harm. Because it’s a rule of training to ‘refrain from harming living beings.’ Of course that implies not killing. But it implies an awful lot more than not killing. So it’s actually beginning to look at our relationships of harm. I’ll hazard a guess that most people who go up to IMS are not looking to even kill the creepy crawlies that are around, unless they get really frightened.
If you inquire, what made me engage in that action of killing? Well, it’s actually the psychological dimension of fear arising. And fear is related to aversion, and so on and so forth. So even if you "transgress," to use a strange term, even if you transgress the ethical precept, it still doesn’t mean you stop engaging in ethical inquiry. To have inquired and understood why we have transgressed leads us to understand that many actions have fear and aversion as their root. Therefore, we can watch out for the arising of these psychological factors and hopefully refrain from actions driven by them.

When we don’t engage in looking at the ethical dimensions, we’re somehow reducing the Buddha’s profound system, the toolbox that he gives us to live our lives, down to something like "meditation." Buddhism isn’t just meditation–this is worth shouting out aloud! It isn’t just what we do at the retreat center, or in our daily practice! It’s what we’re engaging in: hearing, listening, inquiring, and reasoning for yourself: a form of total engagement with living. If you feel it’s something important, then go and inquire into it–this is also what we call practice. It is also a path of cultivation in that if we establish the value of something through interest, curiosity and enquiry then we have a firm ground for cultivation. For example, if you establish through inquiry the importance of and the nature of compassion, or mettā, then try and cultivate it.

As you probably know, people get into arguments about Buddhism being simply a system of meditation: is it jhāna, is it vipassanā, is it Dzogchen. That’s not Buddhist inquiry. I’m not a great fan of Buddhaghosa as you probably know [fifth-century synthesizer and compiler of commentaries, credited as author of the Visuddhimagga], but one of the things I think he’s absolutely right about is that ethics is the bedrock, the foundation. If you haven’t got some sort of foundation in ethical inquiry, forget about the other stuff, forget about the paññā, forget about the cultivation side of it, the samādhi side of it, ’cause you ain’t going anywhere unless you have that as the bedrock.

IJ: It’s been a couple of years since we had the conference on secular Buddhism here. The outcome seemed to be more defining the questions that need to be answered to find out what secular Buddhism might be, rather than to answer them. Have we made any progress since then?

JP: My own reflection is, I don’t think we’ve made much progress. I often doubt the efficacy of the term "secular." It seems to have alienated as many people as it possibly attracts. I completely understand Stephen’s [Batchelor] redefinition of the term "secular." Just literally that, in other words, "suitable for our age." I think this is a very good definition, and he makes many other other points about it as well.

But I think when we’re getting that much resistance from the term and we have to educate people into understanding what a possible "secular Buddhism" would be, I suppose I’m beginning to wonder whether it’s a useful term at all. I don’t know what we can replace it with; this is the only problem.

I think there’s a whole host of questions around what exactly are we trying to do here? Perhaps one of them is related to the question you asked earlier on, about our conversation with the texts. It’s about the plausibility of readings of the texts, trying to take the filters of the tradition away so we can get a little bit clearer view about what’s going on. I think Western scholarship has a big part to play in that. Interestingly enough, Buddhaghosa, at a distance of a thousand to nine hundred years after the Buddha’s death, is probably less likely to be able to see some of the stuff that we can see at a distance of two-and-a-half thousand years.

Western scholarship has got a big part to play, in reorienting our understanding of these texts. But for me, I think the chief thing would be, is there another reading that we can give of the Buddha’s teaching–I’m saying texts, but I mean the Buddha’s teaching. The Pāli canon is the only place we have got a complete set of his teachings in an ancient Indian language, where we can reread some of this material, and perhaps find things that are equally as plausible as anything the tradition may be able to offer. And in its plausibility–and I’m not saying "rightness" or "truth" or anything like that–but in its plausibility or coherence, might have a way of reorienting us in the contemporary world into forms of practice which are much more suitable for this age.

I suppose what I’m extremely worried about is that we don’t take on board huge edifices of Asian culture. I think I know this because I’ve been there myself in my early practice years, particularly in the Tibetan tradition. We have to beware of somehow trying to turn ourselves into imitation Tibetans, or imitation Thai Buddhists, or whatever form it may take. And the point is, we’ve got such an interfusion of culture with the Buddhism it’s very difficult to disentangle; so people take on the whole lot. There’s a lot that’s different about Western Buddhism to the way that those traditional forms of Buddhism have grown up. We are in a very different position, because most cultures have got one form of Buddhism, two at the most. We have a shop window, particularly in the urban environment, on virtually all forms of Buddhism. If you go to Boston, if you go to London, you will encounter most forms of traditional Buddhism.

So I think we’ve got to rethink our relationship with those traditions, and even if you are drawn to them and want to practice them, I think you can’t just take the whole thing on board the way it’s been traditionally conveyed. We need to get into a dialectical relationship with it as twenty-first century Westerners in relation to traditions that possibly stopped growing in the nineteenth century, and in some cases a lot earlier than that. We need to be thinking beings in relationship to these, not just sponges. That’s why I teach in the particular ways that I do. I want people to think through this material rather than just accept it.

That’s one of the big things about redefining whatever secular Buddhism becomes, even if we abandon that word, is coming into a thinking relationship with the teachings. I think that is what the Buddha is really encouraging us to do, and to me, a lot of the traditions pay lip service to that, but never actually do it. There is a particular Tibetan saying that has the Buddha encouraging us to take everything he says as being like gold, in that, we should assay it, weigh it and see if it has meaning and rings ‘true’ in our lives. To then say with regard to the teaching, "you should believe this’ leads to a blatant contradiction. I would personally much rather go back to those teachings and see, radically, where they fit in with our experience, living the lives that we live in the twenty-first century.

The other great determining factor in Western Buddhism is that most people are lay people. Monasticism is a very, very small part of what’s going on in the Western tradition and plays a very small part in the development of Buddhism in the Western context. People feel drawn to it, but it’s only going to be a miniscule part of what we call Western Buddhism, Nikāya Buddhism or secular Buddhism.

IJ: People need permission to see this not as a choice between completely accepting a tradition as is, or on the other hand making up something completely out of whole cloth. They need to be participants, and not just consumers of something that already exists. Is that it?

JP: I suppose the first response I have is that Buddhism shouldn’t become comfortable. It shouldn’t be just about confirming things that you know. And actually that’s a lot of what people approach Buddhism for, is consolation in some form or another.

There’s a social critic called Slavoj Zizek, who’s got a point when he says that it becomes just another aspect of capitalism, another bourgeois capitalist thing that salves the conscience of the middle classes. I think there is a very great danger that it could go down that route although it certainly was never intended for it to go down that route.

What I often say to people is if this stuff isn’t disturbing you, it’s not working. If it isn’t shaking up your coziness, it’s not working. All you’re hearing is the bits you want to hear. Now there’s always a danger of that happening and we can’t legislate against it. But I think it’s the job of teachers not to make it just readily assimilable and to tell people what they want to hear. Part of the integrity of teaching is being able to say what people will find uncomfortable.

I still really adhere to the importance of the dana tradition in the West and some of the consequences of that tradition. Teachers don’t get paid fees for doing this stuff, in general, which gives them a degree of license to say things that are often uncomfortable–not simply for the sake of it, but because it is important in helping us to transform our lives. You’re not paying me a fee for this, so I’m not going to pander to what you want to hear. I’m going to tell you the way I see it. I will personally own it and say often "this is my interpretation." This might actually be what’s going on in the text, but I have a license to be able to make it as disturbing as I can, because some of your growth emerges out of that uncomfortable feeling. You’re not going to change if you feel comfortable! And in many ways meditation, the mindfulness movement itself, has the danger of becoming just a panacea for Western ills and simply there to make us feel a little bit more comfortable in this difficult world. That is never what it was meant to be. I would really hate to see Buddhism going down the route of just being all things to all people–and being nothing, in a sense, to anybody of any use.

If you feel you’re being sold short in this way by your teachers, you should tell them. There ought to be quality control, and the quality control comes from the people in the front, if they feel they’re being sold short. I think there ought to be a bit more pro-activeness on behalf of those who are involved in the Dhamma, not just to take everything that the teachers are saying, particularly if it’s anodyne, as so much of it can be; it can be just made too deliberately inoffensive. It really, really should make you feel a little bit uncomfortable.
The teaching of not-self, for example, if really understood, can be hugely liberating. But for most people, embedded as they are into their egos and their ways of supporting that ego, it should be actually a very uncomfortable experience to hear about the teaching of not-self. Rather than, "oh yes, I understand that, just another bit of information I’ve got now," "I’m not a self." So I think we’ve got to keep it sharp, we’ve got to keep it with its bite.

Now, I say these things with a degree of historical awareness, in that, people were trying to make the Buddha’s teachings anodyne in his own lifetime. They would come up to him and say things like "Oh, you’re really saying this," and he would say "No, absolutely not," particularly when they were trying to place it in some category they already understood, or something that felt a bit cozier or more comfortable. He’d say no, that’s not what I’m saying. "You haven’t heard me"–he would actually say to people: "Have you ever heard me say this?"

IJ: I’ve just been reading Larry Rosenberg’s book, his second book from about a year ago, and he has a wonderful appendix about his relationship with Krishnamurti. I’m reading one of the books by Krishnamurti that he recommended. The thing that leaps out at me is what he left as his last advice to Larry, "Look at your life as it’s actually lived."

JP: Someone just gave me a copy of that last night, and I looked at the section on Krishnamurti. Up until his death, I used to go to Brockwood Park [Krishnamurti’s international educational center, in Brockwood, Hampshire, U.K.] every year and see him.

Krishnamurti was incredibly challenging. He was challenging sometimes to the point of appearing to be slightly aggressive. Yet, I always thought there was a point to this. At a lecture–he used to sit on his hands because he had Parkinson’s–he’d look across at you and say "You’re here just to be entertained, aren’t you? I’m not going to entertain you. If you want to be entertained, leave." Imagine someone saying that from the dais at IMS! Very, very direct, and some people actually would say it’s bad manners. I personally never thought that at all.

I thought yeah, that’s what a lot of people come to these teachings for. They want confirmation, they want consolation, they want a bit of spiritual entertainment. Perhaps I’m being very hard here, but I think there was something about Krishnamurti that was so hard-hitting and that was very useful. The Dalai Lama always used to call him the contemporary Nāgārjuna. Because he would take anything that you said and he would deconstruct it, in front of your eyes, to try to get you to come into a different relationship with it. That "live your life," don’t take on board people’s ideas–don’t even take on the Buddha’s ideas as a belief system.

I don’t think there’s much at odds there with the Buddha’s teaching. I really don’t. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they’re absolutely identical, but I think there is something about Krishnamurti that still is very applicable in the Western world.

I know I’m sounding quite cynical here about some aspects of Dharma practice, but I don’t think it ever should be cozy. It should be that irritant that gets you to want to change things, to look at life, to see how you live your life as it occurs in the twenty-first century.

When I came back from Asia and first starting teaching, I used to be very idealistic, because you’re immured in the tradition, and the tradition says you should meditate, and you should do it so many hours a day, and that’s what you do. And I used to tell people, if you really want to get anywhere, you have to do at least two hours a day. That’s not the way people live their lives anymore. I actually say to them these days, ‘do what you can do,’ choose the minimum you can do, but do it regularly. Do it every day, even if it’s only ten minutes. It’s not about length of time, it’s about the regularity.

The same applies to other areas of study, such as language learning. Half the reason people drop out of Pāli language classes or Tibetan or Japanese is they give themselves an overly idealistic idea of how much they can fit into their lives. But if you learn two words of vocabulary a day, one word of vocabulary a day, or do half an hour a day, you will learn that language. It will take you a long time, but it’s cumulative.

We live in a quick fix culture and expect things to occur instantly–real learning is not like that. Coming back to the teaching, that rapidity that we crave can be seen as the very opposite of the teaching of satipatthāna [establishing mindfulness]. Satipatthāna is about slowing things down, because in slowing down, you can recollect what’s actually going on. It comes back to that basic word sati, which is about memory. Can you remember what you’re actually engaged in at this moment in time? If you’re acting with speed, chances are you won’t. If you start to slow things down by having more realistic expectations–if your job is demanding, or your family is demanding–and trying to integrate it into your life, then there’s more chance of succeeding. And I think Krishnamurti was very much about that. Weaving it into whatever you’re doing, so it’s not "here’s my spirituality hobby" on one side, and here’s my life on the other. It’s about total integration.

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