Deluding ourselves

A story: A parrot came to stay in the hermitage where a bhikkhu meditated-a very peaceful place with many fruit trees. The bhikkhu tried to teach the parrot, saying to it, "Oh parrot, there is a danger here. A hunter will come and scatter some grains; you will be attracted to them. He will throw his net; you will be caught in it. A great danger; you must be very careful. The grains that he scatters are very dangerous, because through them you will be caught in the net. A great danger. Oh parrot, the hunter will come. He will throw some grains. You will be attracted towards the grains. He will throw his net and you will be caught. Be careful. Oh parrot, be careful!"

The parrot learned to repeat these words. It would keep on reciting, "Oh parrot, be careful! Oh parrot, be careful! The hunter will come and scatter grains. Don't be attracted to them. He will throw his net and you will be caught. Be careful! Be careful!"And exactly as the bhikkhu had warned, one day the hunter came and scattered some grains. The parrot was attracted to them and the hunter threw his net, ensnaring the parrot. The hunter caught hold of the parrot, which still kept on reciting the same words: "Oh parrot, be careful! The hunter will come. He will scatter grains. He will throw his net. Be careful, be careful!"

A Vipassana meditator who relishes the grains of the hunter becomes entangled in Mara's net. And these pleasant sensations on the body are the grains. This is Mara's snare. When you start relishing them, you are caught. Yet you imagine that, because you are practicing Vipassana, you are becoming liberated, you are approaching the experience of nibbana. Instead you are running in the opposite direction.

This is how the wheel of misery keeps rotating. It always starts with pleasant sensations and with craving towards them. Aversion simply follows. One is not entangled in Mara's snare by the unpleasant sensations. So long as you have craving and clinging for pleasant sensations, you will have aversion towards the unpleasant. The root is your craving for the pleasant. And when free flow occurs you face a dangerous situation. This is the stage at which a subtle craving will start. At the surface of the mind, at the conscious, intellectual level, you will keep saying, "This is anicca, anicca." But deep inside you will start clinging to the experience. You will behave exactly like the parrot that keeps repeating, "Oh parrot, be careful; oh parrot, be careful!"-even after he has been caught because of his craving for the grains scattered by the hunter. You have craving, and as long as the craving exists you cannot come to the end of vedana. (From The Snare of Māra by S. N. Goenka)

I was really struck by this story today. It humbled me, because I've been feeling like I'm on the right path, but I'm really doing the same damned things over and over again. I've gotten really sucked into this idea lately that if so-and-so just behaved a certain way, and xyz project fell into place, that all will be well. Of course, in my clinging to the hope that external events will change, I'm ignoring what I do have control over and responsibility for, namely my own thoughts and actions.

This was a good wake-up call. I cannot follow this path by rote repetition or intellectualizing. That is like standing beside the path and saying "Look, there's the path, and if only so-and-so would get out of my way, and I had some new shoes, and the weather was sunny, I'd walk it!"

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