I was meditating on renunciation today, and I realized how much my mistaken view that I can find pure happiness in an impure world has in common with the Twilight books. Now, that comparison helps me develop renunciation because I think those books are completely ridiculous… and so, therefore, am I.
First, let me have a bit of a rant about why I hate Twilight. They encourage completely unrealistic expectations. For example: there is someone out there who is fated to love you; they will love you forever without ever changing; and, oh yes, you will never get old or die. If you don’t get to be with this perfect specimen, it is quite appropriate to become suicidally depressed. As I said, ridiculous. It’s the Romeo and Juliet syndrome: if the outside world would just leave us alone, we would be blissfully happy (yes, I hate Romeo and Juliet too – why do we romanticise a teenage suicide pact?).
Yikes, teenagers are so melodramatic. But, now let’s have a look at how we relate to our world. Aren’t we basically developing the same sorts of minds when we expect external conditions to fulfil our wishes? We do hold onto the delusion that things won’t change, that we will not get old and die. We do think that if things don’t go our way, we have a justification for feeling miserable. We’ve actually bought into a whole load of unrealistic expectations ourselves. Samsara is the experience of a mind controlled by delusions; until we can change these mental habits, we can’t find real freedom or peace.
Another parallel: although the books were complete pants, I felt compelled to keep reading. In just the same way, I keep turning the pages of my ordinary life, waiting to find out what will happen in the next chapter: it’s quite addictive. I kept trying to put Twilight down, but a little bit of me thought, ‘but what if it’s about to get better?’ Doesn’t that sound familiar! Every day of our ordinary samsaric life we’re waiting for things to improve, but because we’re so caught up in the story we’re not actually doing the things we need to do to make it better. Renunciation means taking a step back from our lives, seeing the mental habit-patterns that keep us trapped, and making a determination to let go of the causes of our suffering. We can’t do that until we break the addiction to thinking that it’s going to get better on its own.
The image of samsara that we have created for ourselves is like a sparkly vampire: a complete lie. Vampires (if they existed) are bloodthirsty creatures who kill you. Samsara is a bloody mess, and it kills you too! We need to stop being a passive reader and start authoring our own life by changing our mind.