What is the measure of a right life?

I struggle to get it right. But what is right?

What will determine whether I had a good life or not. Is it to be a spiritual analysis? Did I abide by the Golden Rule, or pass the test of a karmic challenge, or was I properly restrained by religious dogma? Will it be an IQ test or economic analysis? (Historically I am a good test taker.) The Buddha said that a right life is to develop insight into the truth of reality. The eight parts of the path to liberation are grouped into three essential elements of Buddhist practice—moral conduct, mental discipline, and wisdom.

Here is a synopsis of what has happened. I lived fast, tried to die young and have a good looking corpse. The strategy failed for a couple of reasons. First, I outlived the time frame of die young. I lost some of my delight with the idea of dying. I created possibilities and achieved them. There became this idea I could affect not just my life positively, but others.

I got addicted and from my recovery I found salvation. I lost salvation. I created effects but they were not always positive. I created exes, like ex-wives and ex-lovers. I did good, but I didn’t know how to do better. I gave up trying to be better but never gave up trying to be good. I took a road less traveled. I went against advice of counsel. There became little tolerance for pain. Intolerance led to escape and escape led to spiritual and financial ruin.

Now, I have trained myself to accept what is. I have practiced being better and I am better. I have embraced the counsel of others. I have given permission to teachers and guides to lead me. I became a mentee, a student, a sponsee and a client. It began when I accepted a teacher to give me a program of recovery.

A second man/teacher guided me up the mountains. Over and over, time and again, at the break of dawn, without question, I followed him up mountains and through canyons, dodged rattlesnakes, and along the paths, shared our life stories.

Then another of my teachers ordained and wrapped me in the saffron robes of a Buddhist monk and assigned me a small bed to sleep in. Like religious men from centuries ago, I rose early, every day, for months, to chant and sit in silence.

I went on meditation retreats and opened my heart and mind to new ways of coping. And I became willing to hope for change. I became the teacher, the mentor and the sponsor.

Today, were I called into eternal sleep, would I go with the acceptance of someone who has lived right? Pain is in resistance. My body is feeling the effects of aging. My financial fortune has evaporated. My mountain mentor committed suicide. I have few financial prospects and my daughters while wonderful are growing up and away. Affection is rare from these kids who once hugged and kissed me often.

Now the daughters are interested in things I have no interest in and vice versa. Their mom, Rachael and I divorced.  A 17 year life together gone in a matter of minutes.

Is it enough to strive to be good? Is it enough, even as you fall short in the eyes of those closest to you? When the grade-books come out for the semester in the class of life, will I get any points for effort or will it all be based on the final exam. I once thought I was willing to go to any lengths to be better. Sometimes, now, it is all I can do to not be worse. Despite going to bed early and early to rise, I have yet to be healthy, wealthy and wise. The good news is I am not unhealthy, poor and stupid.

Salvation is a fleeting possession. I want to acquire it but I don’t know if I am willing to give chase. It is a moving target which I should have hunted more rigorously when I was fleeter of foot and mind.

But at the end of the day, my belief system has at its core, that my best efforts are all that is required. And in my heart I have tried to be a good man, father, husband, friend, counselor and adversary. If I were told my time was up, the thing I would most regret is that I didn’t spend more time in acceptance of life on life’s terms. I would have had a lot more serious regrets if this same question had been asked of me years ago.

Please feel free to send me a copy of the test of life and the corresponding answer key. (How much harder than law school could it be?) It isn’t that I am looking to cheat. It is just that I want to see the correct answers so it will become clear if I passed or failed.

 

2 thoughts on “What is the measure of a right life?

  1. Ken, did you really try to die young or like many youth feel invincible? As we age we become wiser or at least I think we’re suppose to. Sometimes I’m not so sure. I still find myself acting in ways that seem so immature. I have an anger issue and it never fails when I think it’s under “control” it rears it’s ugly head. I know I hurt others and it makes me feel like such a horrible person. I keep striving to do better, to be a better person.
    I want to enjoy my life. Explore new things do things that make me happy. Sometimes it becomes very lonely. For many years you encouraged Rachael to get into shape to get her degree and now she is. Aren’t you proud of her? You allowed for this to happen.
    You sound beaten and so exhausted as if you are trying too hard. The girls are teenagers. I believe they are acting as teenagers do. They are trying to exert their independence and I think they are playing it by the book. You also taught them to be independent. They are trying to discover who they are and what they want. You can introduce them to all of the things you feel are important and stimulating but in the end they will choose what feels right for them. You have given them and you will continue to give them guidance and that may be the best you can do. You can force them to study hard and you should expect them to get good grades that is your job as a parent.
    I listen to a lot of parents talk about their kids. One thing that seems common is preteens are cool with you but once they hit 12-13 they want their space and may rebel in a number of ways.
    Know that you are a good parent and that they may not ever tell you this. They do love you and they probably have a great deal of respect for you.

    Doesn’t salvation come after one dies. I’m puzzled.

    1. I was ready, willing and able to die young. I did things I believed could lead to death or prison but did them anyway. I consumed drugs with no regard for my well-being. I didn’t think I was invincible as I saw many around me die. I just was busy being rebellious and in the action. I am not beaten, but I am tired. I struggle to provide financially without success. But I am not beaten. I am resilient. I practice acceptance of all things. I do not know when salvation comes. I have no frame of reference.

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