(Continued from page 12)

Roman Catholicism, devotional writing, the piety, the religious sensibility or insights of an
individual . . ."  In Buddhist thinking, the term "spirituality" has no equivalent, since the concept of an eternal soul is not recognized.  But many Buddhists do use the term "spiritual progress" to
indicate one's growth or development away from worldly attachments that bring suffering, and
toward "enlightenment."  The Handbook Of Tibetan Culture defines "enlightenment" as "a state beyond suffering."   Thus "spiritual progress" in Buddhist terms must be understood as
something rather different to what that means in other religions -- particularly the God-based
religions which recognize the concept of an eternal spirit-soul.  To arrive at a better
understanding of what "spiritual progress" means in a Buddhist context, I will quote Pali scholar Richard Hayes, "The Buddha said of himself that he taught only the nature of dukkha [the
impermanent and unsatisfactory nature of life], the cause of the arising of dukkha, the cause of the disappearance of dukkha and the methods of eliminating dukkha. In other places he said that whoever sees dependent origination sees the dharma. This, I take it, is the minimum core that cannot be dispensed with. Everything else -- the ghosts, the hells, the paradise realms, the gods, the doctrine of rebirth -- is disposable and still qualifies as solid Buddhism. Note that I do not think that one MUST dispose of them; they are undoubtedly helpful to some people. But if one does not find them helpful and just focuses on the basics, then one is surely still being a Buddhist in the fullest sense of the word, especially if one goes for refuge to the Buddha, the Dharma [teachings] and the Sangha [monastic community]."  Thus for a Buddhist like Bodhi, "spiritual progress" means developing one's understanding, knowing and awakening to the true nature of life (dukkha), and the method of it's elimination (The Buddha's Eightfold Path)..
C) What does "living absolutely in the moment" have to do with spiritual progress?  The only way to become fully awakened to the true nature of life (dukkha) is to live mindfully, with one's
awareness alert and fully engaged in the present moment, as opposed to
being preoccupied with thoughts or vagueness.
D) Where does study fit in with this practice of living in the moment?  Study can initially point us in the right direction to focus our minds, it can describe practices which we can follow by describing the Path we must take, and it can give us a place to start our journey from.    However, those are merely starting points, and the rest is up to us.   Once we know the right direction to
focus our minds, we must then practice that until we gain fluency with it.  Once we know about the practices to follow, we must then walk the Path ourselves, not merely read about it.  So one must achieve a balance between practice and knowledge.  But eventually one reaches a stage where has accumulated enough ideas to last a lifetime, and the emphasis on practice then takes precedence.
E) Are animals actually more "advanced" in this respect (living in the moment)
than humans?   In a word -- yes.  The do not have the distraction of concepts, guilt, long-term
objectives, time pressure etc.  However, they also lack the capability of forming ethical judgments and intentions, so despite their advantage of living in the moment, unfortunately they can't apply state to making spiritual progress, as can humans. But Dharma The Cat is wise enough to
recognize that Bodhi is out of balance on the intellectual side, for a monk who is trying to "live
absolutely in the moment."  Perhaps Bodhi has fallen into that common trap of becoming hooked on books.  Reading great-sounding concepts and beautifully expressed ideas is stimulating and enjoyable, but one must not become attached to stimulation and enjoyment, even when it's
related to the dharma.  It's time for Bodhi to take a lesson from The Coolest Of Cats!   

David Lourie is an artist who lives in Whale Beach, Australia with his wife and cat. He has graciously allowed the use of his work in our newsletter. Illustration is by Ted Blackall, a commercial artist who lives north of Sydney, Australia.