Dropping Out, Like The Buddha

Jane Brunette

listen_btn

Awakin FeatureIn an age where being super busy is a badge of honor and accomplishing tasks the greatest virtue, where some activists promote rallies by quoting Martin Luther King saying, ”For evil to succeed, all it needs is for good people to do nothing,” I did the unthinkable. I dropped out.

I didn’t like fighting, and I was getting depressed. One day it dawned on me: if I wanted peace, I had to stop making enemies. So I quit.

I’m in good company. The Buddha dropped out, too. He was the original hippie.

The Buddha was a prince who had it all: power, prestige, money, sensual pleasure, but all of these coveted things of the world seemed insignificant when he finally faced the reality of suffering, death, and impermanence. So he threw away his fabulous clothes and wandered off into the forest in search of deeper meaning.

I’m sure there were those in his kingdom who judged him, who thought his dropping out was selfish. Couldn’t he do more good as a king than as a wandering yogi? What a waste. But the Buddha was looking for something more radical than helping the people in his kingdom achieve temporary prosperity. Like me, he wanted to end suffering.

So he dropped out and wandered. He tried all kinds of things to discover the truth. He was so passionate in his search, he even tried extreme austerities, fasting until he was skeletal, hoping it would push him to realization. Finally, when he was nearly starved and delirious, a milkmaid came by and said the obvious: “You’re making yourself sick. Have some porridge.”

I wonder if the milkmaid knew that her simple offer of comfort food provided the means to the Buddha’s key insight. Maybe she promptly forgot about it -- just did a little kindness for a stranger, then went back to her cows. I don’t think she gets enough credit. If the milkmaid hadn’t stood firmly in her perspective and offered her humble truth, then the Buddha, in his dogged pursuit of the highest truth, might have ended up just another strung-out hippie, dead from his excesses.

But lucky for us, the Buddha had some self-doubt. He listened deeply when she spoke, open to the possibility that she might know something he didn’t. And then he ate the porridge. In doing so, he had a deep insight on which he based his philosophy of The Middle Way: it doesn’t help to go to extremes. Better to cultivate balance. [...]

I don’t enjoy self-doubt, but I think it’s probably a good thing because it keeps the inquiry alive: I know that I might be wrong. That alone is an achievement, considering how convinced I used to be that my perspective was always morally right and the most true. In fact, [now] I’m pretty sure that deep down, none of us really knows if what we are doing will ultimately help or hurt. Can we admit that and still do our best with what we have?

Excerpted from article here.

Seed questions for reflection: What does "dropping out like the Buddha" mean to you? Can you share a personal experience of a time you dropped out of extremes to find your peace? What helps you cultivate balance?

Add Your Reflection:

17 Previous Reflections:

  • link
    On Sep 13, 2018 josef smith wrote:

    I totally agree with author opinion about this subje ct 


    Post Your Reply
  • link
    On May 22, 2018 Kz wrote:

     I've been reading "The Meaning of Mary Magdalene, " by Cynthia Bourgeault.  From this book's perspective Mary was crucial to Jesus' development, insight, blossoming. This perspective resonates with me in a deep way, as yet another truth forgotten (concealed?) by those who write our histories.  Thank you so much for pointing out the crucial role of the 'milk maiden' in the Buddha's journey.  Neither Mary nor Buddha's unnamed 'nurse,' are given proper credit.


    Post Your Reply
  • link
    On May 3, 2018 walter doege wrote:

     Meditate on death is a free wisdom


    Post Your Reply
  • link
    On May 2, 2018 paul wrote:
    I think we have to be clear that "dropping out" in these terms is actually applying strong effort to move in an alternate direction, a direction that would infer an alternative approach to the one we are habitually take. We can "drop out" anytime we are approached with adverse conditions (even as mental thoughts and feelings approach) and see out habitual fears, anxiety, stress, and anger arise. We can "drop out" by stopping instead of reacting and coming back to our breath, a neutral and therefor calming element. We have to become very aware in order to do this and be clear how the current conditions are affecting out body and mind. From this clarity, this understanding, this discernment, and this awareness we then have an option because we are aware and not caught. We can now disengage in whatever way we can in order to come back to our immediate needs and begin the process of balancing ourselves. Far from "dropping out" however, this is actively engaging and looking adversity and s... [View Full Comment]

    I think we have to be clear that "dropping out" in these terms is actually applying strong effort to move in an alternate direction, a direction that would infer an alternative approach to the one we are habitually take.

    We can "drop out" anytime we are approached with adverse conditions (even as mental thoughts and feelings approach) and see out habitual fears, anxiety, stress, and anger arise. We can "drop out" by stopping instead of reacting and coming back to our breath, a neutral and therefor calming element. We have to become very aware in order to do this and be clear how the current conditions are affecting out body and mind. From this clarity, this understanding, this discernment, and this awareness we then have an option because we are aware and not caught. We can now disengage in whatever way we can in order to come back to our immediate needs and begin the process of balancing ourselves.

    Far from "dropping out" however, this is actively engaging and looking adversity and suffering right in the "eye". Standing up, not backing down, being strong and not turning your back in fear or habitual reactivity.

    [Hide Full Comment]

    1 reply: Me | Post Your Reply
  • link
    On May 1, 2018 rahul wrote:

    The most dangerous man is the one with no self doubt.  WIth a little bit of material prosperity in one hand, and enough of a feel of dharma in the other, such a man declares that which he doesn't understand to be either irrelevant, non-existent, or colored wholly with the shade of his own wrong view.  The result is to re-injure the world in the ways one is broken because of the inability to confront the blind spot that self-doubt points toward.  How to wake up such a man before his actions drive past the point of oblivion?  This kind of man is a metaphor for a slightly awakened western civilization as well, possessing prosperity and a little bit of understanding of the subtle, while unconsciously destroying everying it does not understand.


    1 reply: Amy | Post Your Reply
  • link
    On May 1, 2018 Michael Mark wrote:

     Hi - wonderful sharing, thank you. "Dropping out" could remind us to not immediately/mindlessly react to what we perceive as real, that could be a person we think we know, an emotion we are experiencing, a static view. An impulse we feel very strongly about and want to act on can be unwise action. "Dropping back" I think is more the middle path - to 'drop out' seems to imply completley - to withdraw all the way when we know that this is delusional - interconnectiveness/interbeing includes us and we are needed and need to be connected but connected to wisdom. Droppingout like the Buddha means going deeper - afterall he shared and so is present with us today, 2500plus years later.   


    Post Your Reply
  • link
    On May 1, 2018 Mish wrote:

     BALANCE.....in ALL things.

    _/\_


    Post Your Reply
  • link
    On May 1, 2018 vic smyth wrote:

     The only Way to save the world is from the inside out. Start by saving your self (for most of us that in itself is a life's time of work), then work your Way outwards toward your family, then your friends, relatives, neighbors, co-workers...


    1 reply: Jo | Post Your Reply
  • link
    On Apr 30, 2018 Jo wrote:

    Matthew 6:24 tells me that I cannot serve two Masters.  From this, Isaiah hits the homerun for peace and balance.  (Isaiah 40 says it all!)  To make straight my personal highway to God (Who is Peace) I try to keep Him the center of my attention.  Going from extremely Catholic to extremely Christian ... cultivated the peace I have in the balance of the two.
    When my husband and I were were in the dating phase of our relationship. My focus was on him.  When my husband and I married 34 years ago, my focus was on him.  As a lover of God, my focus is on Him.  Any distractions are meant to be cut away.  In God, the pressure is taken off of me "to perform", In Him I can go anywhere and do anything as HE leads me.  I have GREAT balance when I keep my focus on HIM.     


    Post Your Reply
  • link
    On Apr 30, 2018 Jagdish P Dave wrote:
     Middle path provides a transcendental perspective and vision. Either or is a dualistic perspective causing split, divisiveness, imbalance, separateness and disharmony. These are the ingredients of pain, suffering and destruction. Religious, political and ideological wars have been wedged through out history by holding on to the bipolar extremist  and rigid positions.The perspective which mindfully relates to opposite perspectives opens an avenue of inclusiveness and connectedness. I have a few friends who hold  the extremist view"our way is the only right way" for every one's salvation. Sadly, such a view excludes others like me who have a different spiritual orientation. It is my position that Truth is one which is realized and expressed in different ways by different people. Dalai Lama calls it "secular spirituality". According to Dalai Lama anyone can follow their chosen spiritual path without  judging and putting down other's spiritual path ways. This is the m... [View Full Comment]

     Middle path provides a transcendental perspective and vision. Either or is a dualistic perspective causing split, divisiveness, imbalance, separateness and disharmony. These are the ingredients of pain, suffering and destruction. Religious, political and ideological wars have been wedged through out history by holding on to the bipolar extremist  and rigid positions.The perspective which mindfully relates to opposite perspectives opens an avenue of inclusiveness and connectedness.

    I have a few friends who hold  the extremist view"our way is the only right way" for every one's salvation. Sadly, such a view excludes others like me who have a different spiritual orientation. It is my position that Truth is one which is realized and expressed in different ways by different people. Dalai Lama calls it "secular spirituality". According to Dalai Lama anyone can follow their chosen spiritual path without  judging and putting down other's spiritual path ways. This is the middle way, a way to create universal harmony.

    May we relate to others who are different from us with mindfulness, open -mindedness and open- heartedness!

    [Hide Full Comment]

    1 reply: Jo | Post Your Reply
  • link
    On Apr 28, 2018 david doane wrote:
     Martin Luther King advocated nonviolence.  Speaking truth doesn't mean violence or even anger.  We can object and speak truth nonviolently.  The Buddha didn't face the reality of suffering -- he faced the reality of pain.  The point isn't to end suffering; the point is to end suffering that is ineffective and creates unnecessary pain.  He learned, possibly precipitated by the milkmaid, how to suffer pain efficiently, in a way that is in harmony with life rather than fighting life.  We never know anything for sure.  We definitely can do the best with what we have --  we can do right action.  Dropping out is action, it's not doing nothing.  Dropping out can mean accepting one's truth, not accepting the given story.  I have dropped out of the company line and dropped into my line, and found my peace.  Life is made of opposites or dialectics, such as life and death, individuality and belonging, right brain and left brain, r... [View Full Comment]

     Martin Luther King advocated nonviolence.  Speaking truth doesn't mean violence or even anger.  We can object and speak truth nonviolently.  The Buddha didn't face the reality of suffering -- he faced the reality of pain.  The point isn't to end suffering; the point is to end suffering that is ineffective and creates unnecessary pain.  He learned, possibly precipitated by the milkmaid, how to suffer pain efficiently, in a way that is in harmony with life rather than fighting life.  We never know anything for sure.  We definitely can do the best with what we have --  we can do right action.  Dropping out is action, it's not doing nothing.  Dropping out can mean accepting one's truth, not accepting the given story.  I have dropped out of the company line and dropped into my line, and found my peace.  Life is made of opposites or dialectics, such as life and death, individuality and belonging, right brain and left brain, role and personhood, and an important part of my truth is finding balance in the dialectics, not by rule but by discovery.

    [Hide Full Comment]

    Post Your Reply
  • link
    On Apr 27, 2018 Kristin Pedemonti wrote:
     I needed this so very much today, thank you for the perfect reading and reflection. I currently live in Washington DC which given the current political administration is incredibly challenging. Nearly everyone I know is deep in their activism to the point of exhaustion, constantly claiming, "we cannot stop, we cannot rest, we must resist." I am observing them (and myself who chose to sit in compassion for all sides and honestly, that space can come with exhaustion too) I see how so many of the people I care about are sick and tired and need a break. My own Depression returned 2 weeks ago and is the deepest I've felt in quite a while. It was my mind and body reminding me to take a break, to "drop out like Buddha" and to self-care, reflect, sleep, go for walks, and sit in quiet. It was also a reminder to reach out to others for support rather than so often being the source of support. I am moving through one day, sometimes one hour at a time, seeking to be gentle with myself and s... [View Full Comment]

     I needed this so very much today, thank you for the perfect reading and reflection. I currently live in Washington DC which given the current political administration is incredibly challenging. Nearly everyone I know is deep in their activism to the point of exhaustion, constantly claiming, "we cannot stop, we cannot rest, we must resist." I am observing them (and myself who chose to sit in compassion for all sides and honestly, that space can come with exhaustion too) I see how so many of the people I care about are sick and tired and need a break. My own Depression returned 2 weeks ago and is the deepest I've felt in quite a while. It was my mind and body reminding me to take a break, to "drop out like Buddha" and to self-care, reflect, sleep, go for walks, and sit in quiet. It was also a reminder to reach out to others for support rather than so often being the source of support. I am moving through one day, sometimes one hour at a time, seeking to be gentle with myself and seeking to return to center. Cultivating balance is a process and for those of us who are "recovering overachievers" or living in a society/culture where "crazy busy" is worn like a badge it can be an even bigger challenge because of judgment from others. What also helps me are habits like Awakin's readings and meditation, Daily Good which is how I start every day, taking time to simply be and breathe and when the darkness comes, to know the light returns and it is more than OK, it is Necessary to drop out like Buddha in order to be of service for anyone and to be healthy for myself. <3 Thank you again for exactly what I needed today. <3 

    [Hide Full Comment]

    Post Your Reply

Search Awakin Readings

Or search by year or author.

Subscribe to Weekly Email

Every week, we send out a digest with a reading and inspiring stories to our global community of 92,073 people. Subscribe below.

(unsubscribe)

Contact Us

If you'd like to suggest a thought or want to drop us a suggestion, drop us a note.