Meditation is not about the silence
Most of us have heard of silent meditation, laughing meditation, insight and breathing meditation. But how many of you have ever heard of screaming meditation? Probably none of you, because I have just discovered it myself this morning.
You see, my fifteen year old dog Tammy has been going downhill physically rather rapidly. And while we are doing all we can to make her comfortable, it seems that even very high dosages of pain medication are just not offering her any respite. She has a very difficult time walking due to advanced arthritis, a broken bone in her back leg, and possibly a pinched nerve as well. On her underbelly she has a huge tumor that prevents her from laying down comfortably, thereby standing, walking or laying are all severely painful for her.
This has all caused me to wrestle with the idea of euthanasia. And several of my Family members are actually upset with me that I am not doing what they believe to be the kind thing, and put her down.
The thought of this has not set well with me, as not only does it not seem right to me to kill any other being, but it is also the first precept to do no harm. (I undertake the precept to refrain from destroying living creatures)
But the pressure from loved ones to do what they feel is the right thing, cause me to research the suttas. I wanted to know if the Buddha ever gave instruction about situations like this. To know if compassion could mean that there were exceptions to taking a life. What I found was a teaching which made it crystal clear to me.
The Buddha said:
Killing is never skillful. Stealing, lying, and everything else in the first list are never skillful. When asked if there was anything whose killing he approved of, the Buddha answered that there was only one thing: anger. In no recorded instance did he approve of killing any living being at all. When one of his monks went to an executioner and told the man to kill his victims compassionately, with one blow, rather than torturing them, the Buddha expelled the monk from the Sangha, on the grounds that even the recommendation to kill compassionately is still a recommendation to kill — something he would never condone. If a monk was physically attacked, the Buddha allowed him to strike back in self-defense, but never with the intention to kill.
Not only did this clear my mind about Right Action, Right View and Right Intention, but also it offered an awareness about this life. The First Noble Truth, that there is suffering. And our powerful desire to eliminate this suffering is only further cause to suffer if we fail to understand and accept this. Putting my dog to sleep is perhaps more about eliminating my mental suffering than it is about hers. We all suffer, we all have aches and pains, and chances are that we may also experience a slow painful death. This is the nature of life, and one that only produces peace once it is understood and accepted.
So what about screaming meditation? Well, as I sat this morning, my little Chow (Tammy) would not stop screaming and crying the entire time. A good reason for most to just give up on meditating for the day. But instead, I saw this as a gift once again from my sweet little girl. This practice is not about learning to have peace when everything is quiet and calm. This practice is about witnessing and understanding life exactly as it is without clinging or aversion. This “screaming” meditation allowed me to observe my mind and body in a profound way. To have acceptance for this situation, to understand my own physical body, and to offer a deep and unconditional love and compassion without any expectation or desire for result. And I observed that while I was doing this, at times she would quiet down, and I would immediately think that my blessings had eased her pain. But moments later, the screams and cries would begin again. And I understood that I was initially hoping for a result from my loving thoughts. The wisdom arose that it is not pure and unconditional if done with this intention. I can only offer genuine goodwill and loving-kindness when it is given freely without goals.
Thank you my baby girl, for teaching your Daddy so much about unconditional love, acceptance, devotion, impermanence, suffering and dying. What a blessing you have been to me for these past fifteen years. I love you Chow Chow.