Abandoning offspring, spouse, father, mother, riches, grain, relatives, & sensual pleasures altogether, wander alone like a rhinoceros.“KHAGGAVISANA SUTTA: A RHINOCEROS” (SN 1.3), TRANSLATED FROM THE PALI BY THANISSARO BHIKKHU. ACCESS TO INSIGHT (BCBS EDITION), 30 NOVEMBER 2013, HTTP://WWW.ACCESSTOINSIGHT.ORG/TIPITAKA/KN/SNP/SNP.1.03.THAN.HTML .
As a layperson, we would probably push-back or object to this verse. “woah! That’s not for me. It’s for the monks” I think that is understandable. If we can follow this verse, we become a renunciant monk or nun.
However, let us not write-off this verse without due consideration.
The Buddha walked out of his family, status, and country to pursue a solution that ends all sufferings. After he attained enlightenment, he continued to advocate this way of life. Thousands of men and women followed his footsteps, leaving their home and countries behind to devout their lives to attaining enlightenment.
Naturally, not everyone is capable of renouncing their lifestyle. Giving up family and friends being the most difficult for most people. Many of us imagine that such renunciation is a state of “heartlessness”. How can we renounce our parents and siblings? In our limited wisdom, we imagine that one can only turn their back on family out of hatred or “heartlessness”
Yet, the Buddha and the enlightened masters exhibit a persona that is full of love and compassion. They treat everyone as their family! When they renounce their personal family, they are not turning their back on love, kindness, and compassion. Instead, they are removing the fence around their heart and cultivating a greater heart. Loving everyone as their family.
Therefore, renunciation is not for those who are “heartless”. Renunciation is for people who have a big heart.
Separately, it is important to avoid attachment and be ‘stuck in the mud’. Although our family are precious people in our life, we should avoid attachment to them. As a layperson, we can also benefit from some detachment.
Foremost, tell ourselves that they are not our properties. When we say “my husband, my wife, my kids, my parents.” Etc. We subconsciously believe that they are objects that we own. That we are inseparable or “stuck” with them. That they are part of our existence. That is a terrible mistake in life and is a state of ignorance in our minds. It creates frustration because we think they should conform to our expectations and belong to us. That the quality of our existence is tied to them . When they don’t meet our expectation or aspiration, we become frustrated and sometimes anger may arise too. That usually leads to an unhappy ending.
What else can we do? just walk away. Isn’t it simple? If Buddha had the same mentality and remains stuck in his position as a crown prince to his country, then we won’t have a Buddha today.
In reality, we own nothing in life. Upon death, every relationship and everything else turns into emptiness. This statement is not meant to make us become disheartened with life. It just shows us the truth and we should learn how to take things easy. Learn to chill and be cool about situations in life.
According to Buddhism, our human life is extremely precious because we are equipped with the necessary senses (or ‘tools’) to breakthrough. To become enlightened and be freed from the helpless rebirth in unenlightened state.
Therefore, instead of being troubled by relationship, status, riches, food, career, entertainment, and sensuous enjoyment, Buddha advised his disciple to shift their focus to gaining enlightenment. That is why we have this verse.
In short, let us shift our priorities in life to practicing instead. As a layperson, we can try to balance our life. Although we are not “big-hearted” and our love is limited to our circle of families and friends; let us try to walk a ‘middle path’ by refraining ourselves from attachment. Know that we can walk away if we want to. We are not stuck in life. While we choose to live life as a layperson, let us not loose sight or enlightenment. Let us learn how to be independent and be capable of walking alone like a rhinoceros. Be chill and not be angry with life.
The art of loving without becoming ‘stuck’. That is the Buddhist’s way of loving.
May all be well and happy.