Day 350: Buddhist Vices & Other Fun Distractions From Enlightenment

originally published December 15, 2012

As a professional societal critic (remember, I got paid in beer once; that counts), I am always happy to help my fellow humans to realize what specifically is wrong with them. When today’s Wiki-cube plunked onto the category of Vices, I was intrigued. I know a thing or two about vices. I used to smoke a pack a day, drank more alcohol than water every day for several years, rented two apartments (one just to store all my drugs), and one time I bet three of my fingers on an inside straight.

Alas, my topic is not the vices of the western world, but Buddhist vices. That’s okay, I can make this work.

In the Sarvastivadin tradition of Buddhism (which might be the mainstream, Walmart-variety form of Buddhism, I honestly don’t know), there are 108 vices which are prohibited. Some are – of course – more fun than others. Let’s pick a few and see just how doomed we might be.

Kausidya is a ‘spiritual sloth’, related to ‘unwholesome activities’ like lying down, stretching out, procrastinating and not being particularly enthusiastic about digging into some virtuous activity. Okay, this is a bad start for me. I treasure the three or four times a year that fate allows me the luxury of an afternoon nap. These have been particularly scarce this year. Not that I’m mentioning any names, damn writing project…

I don’t always lie down and stretch out, but I suppose watching Judge Joe Brown for an hour whilst sipping a delicious Big Rock Winter Spice strong ale is probably not considered ‘engaging in virtuous activity’, even if I offer to share my beer with one of my local bulldogs. Okay, I’ll cop to this one.

Matsarya is the inability to enjoy one’s possessions, clinging to them and being unwilling to share. This one isn’t me – I enjoy my possessions immensely: my TV, my laptop, my Xbox, my battery-operated hairbrush, my talking Jim Varney puppet that repeatedly calls me ‘Vern’, my plastic houseplants in their chocolate graham-cracker fake dirt, my collection of authentic medieval pornographic etchings, my engraved rosewood sushi spork, my copy of Duran Duran’s Seven And The Ragged Tiger, autographed by some guy who claimed to be Larry Linville, and my antique juggling orbs.

They are all precious to me, and I’m willing to rent each of them out for a nominal fee. I think that frees me from the vice of Matsarya.

I guess we all have the tendency for a little Pradasa. Resentment, spite, and other such derivatives of anger are the heart of this vice. I have done my best to free my spirit of this nastiness, but I’ll admit, there are times when it still catches up with me.

Mostly in traffic. Honestly, can the true adherents of Buddhism, those who devoutly make a conscious effort to steer clear of each of these vices, remain calm in the midst of the vile treachery and selfish displays of utter narcissism on a rush-hour freeway? Or are they the ones who cause all the trouble? Maybe true enlightenment on the inside just looks like an asshole on the outside. Maybe I’m totally over-thinking this.

If you are the type who effectively tries to conceal your shortcomings, you may be one Sathya-tastic bastard. Specifically this refers to hiding your faults for the sole purpose of achieving honor or some kind of material gain. I’ll fess up to this one too. Lying on my resume must have been an act of Sathya. Sure, I claimed I’d been employed for three years at my local Safeway, when in fact I merely spent three years visiting local Safeways, counting the number of juice boxes on the shelf, yelling that number out loud then bolting for the parking lot. More a hobby than employment, but so what? What’s a resume without a little Sathya?

In fact, I think I’m pretty forthcoming about my faults. I’m no good with home repairs, useless under the hood of a car, I struggle like hell with opening those goddamn cartons of milk for the first time, I will only shower by torch-light, I can only cook if bacon is one of the ingredients, and the last time I tried to set up a home network, I somehow caused a power outage over most of western Poland for about two and a half days.

At least I’m honest about it.

Now we’re getting back into some classic deadly-sins territory. Mada is the Buddhist term for self-satisfaction. And not the kind of self-satisfaction enjoyed by oneself in one’s bathroom with the latest issue of Boobs-Akimbo magazine. This is ‘mental inflation’. ‘Self-infatuation.’ Pure unadulterated vanity.

I’d like to believe that my having overcome the Sathya that used to surf through my blood should keep me clean of falling victim to Mada. But then is my over-confidence in my ability to be honest about my faults just another fault? Am I vain? A Mada-maniac? Could be.

But look at the wording: “…having excessive pride or vanity based on attachment to one’s own good fortune (well, I have been very lucky in life but I try not to be a dick about it), such as possessing youth (not anymore), good health (except for that weird creaking sound whenever I breathe), or material wealth (I do have that sushi spork).”

I think I’m in the clear on this one.

I’m going to try not to take this one back to traffic. Vihimsa – and I must apologize for not nailing all the funky accent lines and under-letter dots in these words, but I don’t feel like switching up fonts for one article – is defined as ‘malice’ or ‘cruelty’. I think I’m pretty safe as far as this one is concerned. I try to treat others fairly well, though I don’t know if I’m doing that for spiritual enlightenment so much as I don’t want to put in the effort of defending myself, or perpetually engaging others in exchanges of hostilities.

I do have a neighbor who deserves a little Vihimsa on my part. The kind of weasel who calls the city about his neighbor’s weeds instead of just talking to the guy about it. But am I malicious? Do I superglue his doorbell or tuck a smear of dog feces up inside his car door handle? Not yet.

But is that because I am free of the vice of Vihimsa or just overwhelmed by my own crippling Kausidya? I’m going to have to lay down a while and figure this out.

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