Friday, December 13, 2013

Of Mindsets and Monkeypots

Petr Karel Ontl, "Of Mindsets and Monkeypots" (BPS/ATI); Dhr. Seven (ed.) Wisdom Quarterly
I'm going ape over your dancing, baby. Dance, baby, dance! (
Monkey King
In rural India, I am told, there are people who earn extra money by trapping and taming monkeys to be sold into slavery as pets.
Over the years, through trial and error, several ways have been devised to capture these clever but greedy/grasping primates. But the simplest method is said to be THE MONKEYPOT

Hey, monkey, it's a trap. Just let go! (redxb9)
In a clearing, the trapper fastens a short piece of cord or chain to a stake or tree-stump. To the other end is attached a small pot with a narrow neck. Into this pot are dropped several nuts, fruit, or a clump of precious salt, and a few more are scattered on the ground. The trapper then hides out of sight.
Soon a band of monkeys arrives and descends to feed. Before long, one of them discovers the contents of the pot. It puts its hand in the pot easily enough. But having grasped the enticing treat, it cannot pull its clenched fist out through the narrow opening no matter how hard it struggles. 

[Why? Its narrowed hand can go in the neck, but its full hand is too big to pull out -- and, due to its grasping nature, it never thinks to let go.]

Lust is the strongest manifestation of SENSUAL CRAVING, tanha and lobha or thirst and greed, just as VIEWS are the mind's obsession (Williams/
It panics in fear and the trapped monkey creates a ruckus, which brings the trapper running with net and cage or skewer. The monkey's fate, for all its cleverness, is sealed.
At first glance it would appear that the villager is the trapper, the baited pot his trap, and the poor monkey his victim. No doubt the villager sees things this way. The hapless simian, were it able to speak, would probably agree. 

However, a closer look shows a different perspective. The villager is NOT the trapper, nor the pot the trap, because there is nothing holding the monkey:

It could very easily remove its hand from the pot and rejoin the free monkey in the treetops if only it would let go of the nuts, the fruit, the salt. If it would only let go!
Monkeys only? 
I just want more and more love and...
The monkey in this anecdote does not suspect that it is being held prisoner solely by its mind. It has found some treat. 

Greed -- unreasonable and unreasoning desire -- has arisen. Though the jungle abounds with nuts and fruits and salt and all kinds of foods, the monkey's conditioned reaction dictates that it must have these as well.
Its narrow mindset is the only thing that imprisons it, that prevents it from letting go, from seeing the absurdity of this predicament, this enslavement, this "trap" -- or the obvious way out of it.
Now, before anyone makes any smug comments about the monkey and its intelligence, or the apparent lack thereof, and before we congratulate ourselves on our vastly superior reasoning powers, let us see where we ourselves stand.
This business of letting go is so easy, yet so hard, for monkey and for human alike. We are both caught up in the same predicament. The details may differ, played out on higher levels of sophistication or complexity [and higher ones where celestial beings are caught up in more alluring space worlds], but the end result is the same: enslavement by concepts and conditioning. 

While the monkey is done in by its greed for a few nuts, we humans are done in by our greed for wealth, fame, power, status, pleasure, and shiny trinkets and toys which we believe we absolutely must have and cannot live without. 

You're still not getting it! I want what I want when I want it, and I expect you to know what that is without me having to explain it every single time. I don't think that's too hard!
Even more fundamentally, we become enslaved by our attitudes and feelings toward them.
We endlessly seek gratification for the senses: pleasant things to look at, to listen to, to touch, to taste, to smell. Moreover, we are spurred on by thoughts or concepts created by our ego-driven minds. 

These last can be the hardest to satisfy since we cannot just please our senses and be content. Rather, we strive to fulfill fantasies of outdoing our peers, of turning them green with envy by having the biggest, the costliest, the latest, the shiniest. We are caught up in competition, in a game of one-up-manship. 
It cannot even be said that we are materialistic: We don't know how to be! We do not genuinely enjoy and appreciate the material things we have, much less life itself. We don't even know how to relax. More
  • Petr Karel Ontl was born into a Bohemian-American family in Prague, Czechoslovakia, in 1942 and emigrated to the USA in 1949. He has been a Theravada Buddhist for the past 20 years affiliated with Bhavana Society, West Virginia, USA.

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