It has been a while since I have updated this blog. Lots going on, life and work, the death of a friend, and an upcoming trip abroad. I have been trying to write about dharana, or concentration for a while now, and interestingly, I have not been able to concentrate!
Today I had some time to spare and went to a local coffee shop for my favorite double breve. I sat outdoors at one of the cafe's tables and was right next to a book display from the book store next door. There was a sign there that read:"Please Pay Upstairs. Remember that Stealing Wreaks Havoc with your Karma". This really made me laugh and I thought it was a great deterrent to anyone thinking they might just take a book and keep on walking. It's a little bit like, "God is Watching", which frankly, despite one's religious views, is probably a better deterrent than "Violators will be Prosecuted".
Once the caffeine kicked in, my mind was off and running with asteya: non-stealing. (If I laid off the caffeine I might have a better chance at getting around to writing something interesting about dharana). I began to think about whether "borrowing" one of those books while sitting there sipping my coffee might in fact be a form of stealing itself. After all, we've all seen people at Border's making themselves comfy in one of those arm chairs while reading an entire book only to put it back on the shelf when done. The book I was eying did not belong to the cafe. It belonged to the used-book store next door. But the cafe's tables were right next to the book display. Oh, the temptation! I could reason that, of course there is no harm done in just taking that book down and reading the jacket cover, and maybe the first page or two. However, if everyone did that, how long before someone spills their coffee on one of those books? They are already devalued as "used" books. If we spill, we devalue the book further, in effect stealing from the merchant. My mind really does get going on caffeine. In fact, I may be stuck on pratyahara forever.
Well, I did what I thought would not leave me with "bad" karma. I stood up, read the jacket cover, put the book back on the shelf and then sat back down to finish my coffee. And guess what? No regrets!
I was still buzzed with caffeine, though, so my mind jumped on over to how different people would answer the question: is it a form of stealing to sit and read one of these books while being a customer of only the cafe? If I had had more time and more guts, it would have been fun to do a street survey, asking everyone who passed by. Some people, I am sure, would think it a perfectly harmless act, while others might not. This then would be a good example of the chaos of democracy. Uh-oh. The brain was off and running with that one.
The idea of karma is that every action is linked inextricably to another. If we do not put enough thought into our actions we may suffer undesirable outcomes. There will be an outcome and we do not always have control over it, but mindfulness goes a long way toward avoiding unnecessary suffering. The karmic effect of the caffeine was a hyperactive mind. However, that mind has gotten good over the years at following a train of thought for a long distance. One might even argue that a gentle state of pratyahara is reached when the stealing issue is discussed internally at the expense of all other subjects. Alright, that may be pushing it a bit, but it was a beautifully written sentence, was it not? Withdrawing all other issues from the table to concentrate on non-stealing. At least that is how my mind is working today!