In Buddhist terms sloth is one of the temporary obstacles on the path of liberation.
No matter how we look at it, sloth is definitely not something we aspire towards. Yet it is easy to “fall into.” Too easy.
I always thought sloth equated with laziness, a giving up, resigning from the effort of working towards something worthwhile. I saw it as being careless, uncaring, and lacking of an energized pursuit of the good.
But after coming across a definition of sloth in A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough, by Wayne Muller, I now see it differently.
Muller quotes Saint Thomas Aquinas’ definition of sloth as “a refusal of joy, a sadness in the face of spiritual good.”
That stops me cold! Why would I refuse joy? Why would I be sad in face of goodness?
There is the question! A very important question.
Einstein is quoted as saying that the function of receiving an answer is the ability to ask the right question.
I ask myself why I persist in being upset, angry, sad, bitter and cynical when I am living in Essential Goodness, the very essence of the energy of God (which is what I tell myself God is.)
My first answer to this vital question is that I don’t always recognize the Essential Goodness that is everywhere present. I forget. I judge by appearances and I focus on what I want but don’t seem to have.
Yet, it is Pure Radiant Mind that fills all space, is in continual flow, and gives energy to whatever is believed.
This is what is breathing me right now, for it is all there is. It is what is real, though totally invisible to the senses. Therefore I make up stories about what I think is here, or not here.
These stories cause suffering.
How much time do we spend time expecting, hoping that things will be different—soon. Or how often do we judge there is not enough?
Isn’t this a refusal of joy? Being sad in the face of essential Goodness?
This is what St Thomas Aquinas called sloth.
When I forget that Pure Radiant Mind is here every moment, and that I’m living in it, I feel alone and frightened. I feel separated, disconnected, vulnerable, as if I am about to lose whatever it is I’m trying to grasp.
This pretty much describes the “tribulation” that Jesus made very clear we would find in the world.
“In the world you shall find tribulation, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Tribulate: Webster defines as thrash, beating, misery or distress.
This is suffering!
And let us remember that Jesus said “to be of good cheer” because he had overcome the world.
Yes, there is another world, and it’s right here.
In order to experience the world of joy, the real world, we need to shift into an entirely different perspective from that of believing what our physical sensations tell us as “the truth.”
The truth is that everything is impermanent.
When we recognize it as impermanent, we can live in joy and equanimity, for it’s here only for a nano second. Only our story about it remains. But the story is not “what is.”
Even this sense of who I think I am is impermanent. Whatever I have attached myself to, identified with, I am not that!
Tribulation is the world of comparison and self-image that I have created through thinking that I am “so and so.” When I believe this image is true I must defend it. What a burden this is. No joy here.
And the irony is that I’ve done it to myself! Others can tempt me into believing that I am separate, a free-floating self that has lots to fear, because it’s a dangerous place out there. I might get lost. In fact, I probably am! But I must accept this belief. It’s up to me.
So how am I to see this world? If I’m not a self, what am I?
All is impermanent—including every “self image.”
What are we? And are we willing to engage life in a manner that engages “what is” and relates to “what is” without identifying with it or agonizing how awful it looks, or romanticizing about how wonderful it is, and that things will always be easy now that we know this?
These are just thoughts, opinions, and if believed, they will cause suffering.
Nothing lasts, including my opinions about life.
When I make the effort, (and yes, it is effort to remember) that the way things are today are the way they are, and that they will change, I allow myself to flow into the next moment, accepting it as just what it is, nothing more, nothing less.
Placing myself in the middle of the stream of life, I do my best to notice when I begin to expect something to be different from what it is. For I will suffer.
I am not this, and not that. Simply a part of all that is. I don’t need to take myself and the conditions of this life so seriously. For they are not what I am imagining!
Anything I can think or imagine comes from past information.
The real world is not past. It is present. It is here in this unknown moment. It is here in this present breath.
All I need do is let go. Let go, breathe, smile, and allow the happiness of trusting what is.
And when I’ve done what I can do, I don’t need to do more. Just let go again and again.
My intention is to use my effort in this direction, follow the breath as best I can, and give thanks that I am being guided.
Herein lies joy.
It is enough!