I’m a Lot Freer Than You Are

Luang Por Pasanno • June 2012

Yesterday, a group of us went over to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas for a commemoration of Master Xuan Hua’s fiftieth anniversary of coming to America. This morning while I was sitting, I remembered something said by Doug Powers, a longtime disciple of Master Hua. He had mentioned yesterday that Master Hua would both tease and challenge the students who came to study with him in the sixties and seventies, because at that time there was a strong ethos of people seeking freedom in many different ways. Master Hua would say, “You think you’re free, but I’m a lot freer than you are.” Our ways of trying to measure freedom—by trying to do what we want; as well as when, how, and where we want to do it—assumes that these ways will result in our experiencing freedom. In putting forth that challenge, Master Hua was questioning how people can measure freedom when they are still following their greed, hatred, and delusion. How can they be free when that’s the case?

For all of our attempts to be free or peaceful or whatever, we still let greed, hatred, delusion, clinging, craving, and confusion not only follow us along, but push us from behind, conditioning how we react, respond, and interact with the world around us. If we spend our time scattered, impulsive, compulsive, and then sit in meditation a few times a day hoping to be peaceful or free, what we find is that the whole juggernaut of our daily actions dogs us around, and we get completely swamped with the flow of our habits and reactions in the mind.

By using the Buddha’s path of practice, bringing mindfulness into our day-to-day activities, we encourage a certain clarity, precision, and circumspection with the things that we do. By doing this, we bring some measure of freedom from greed, hatred, and delusion into the little activities we engage in everyday. For example, when we clean up after the meal or after teatime, what is the first impulse? Sometimes it’s simply to get up and move on to the next thing, engage in conversation, or whatever. We get swept up in our habits of mind. We need to create a container for our habits, so that we can see them more clearly and understand how we can circumvent or relinquish those tendencies. The tendencies of our trying to get what we want, following our views and opinions, reacting out of irritation or aversion—all of these tendencies are lacking solidity. But as long as we keep reinforcing them, believing in them, and following them, then these unwholesome habits grow and sustain themselves. We need to learn how to use the skills of mindfulness and wisdom to put a wedge into the wheel of our habitual unskillful tendencies, to slow them down, see them clearly, and recognize that we have options. We have a choice and we can either relinquish those habits or go against their grain.